This is the week before Thanksgiving and the past several days have been busy – very busy. My students turned their narratives in Monday and they all look great. I did a quick scan of what was turned in and it seems my students learned from my instruction and did well with their writing. I will begin grading them this weekend with plans to return them after Thanksgiving Break. It takes time to read and respond to writing and I want to make sure I have time. This week has been too busy to even start grading.
But, I explained to them that it seems rather odd that we would work so hard to write a story and have only one person read it.
Last Friday, I had just finished reviewing formatting instructions for their narrative and was explaining what we would be doing this week in class. I told them we would be sharing our narratives with the class Monday when they handed them in. A few students froze, literally froze and were concerned that they would have to share what they were writing. I had been up front with them to start and cautioned them to choose topics they were comfortable having other students read; in fact a few students changed their topics after my cautionary warning. Stunned, I thought for a moment and then asked the class to describe the writing process and we began to discuss it as a large group. Writing starts with identifying a topic and gathering information in the brainstorming phase, then drafting, as I did last week with my posts, last week. After a complete rough draft we go back to revise, this step can take the longest of all of the steps as we revise and revise, again. In this step, the focus is structural and we look at the meat of the writing: content and organization. Also, during revision writers look at improving voice and adding more description to the story to make it come alive. Proofreading comes after revising and it is fixing the spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors that were not fixed in the revising process. The final step is publication. Publication means turning it in or having someone actually read it. In the context of an assignment in my class it refers to finishing the writing either by word processing it or neatly handwriting it in blue or black ink to be handed in to me. But, I explained to them that it seems rather odd that we would work so hard to write a story and have only one person read it. Writing is meant to be shared. We write to communicate a story to teach a lesson, or explain point of view, or simply have our voices heard. It is truly the human condition of wanting to be heard and listened to.
I shared a story about a former student who wrote a narrative about the passing of his grandmother during the fall of the term I had him in class. After he wrote it, his parents read his story and urged him to send it to the local paper where his grandmother had lived. It was published and I have a copy of the essay and the newspaper article. The narrative followed the same format and finished with the thought:
My Grandma was an amazing person and made a difference in the lives of others… as well as mine. Bye Grandma, I love you!
I read the story to the class to illustrate that writing is meant to be shared. We want to tell our story, we want others to learn from our lives, and we want to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes as those who came before us.
So on Monday, when my students filed into class and sat down at their desks, which are organized in groups of four. I instructed them to clear their desks and pull out their narratives. I asked them to move to a table away from their group and meet with a three different students whom they do not normally sit. It was a challenge and it really got them up and moving around the room. We were able to complete three full rotations of sharing before we had to move on the next part of class. It was a good day and it counted.
Now, I will have to make time to read them, score them, and coach my students to grow as writers. Some are on their way, while others are just beginning to explore what it means to be a writer. There are four class days until Thanksgiving Break with much to be thankful for – Making the Days Count, one day at a time.