It has been a busy start to May though fortunately, it has been sunny (so far!). The end of April was not any easier though with the severe weather in the south, it seemed far worse. I do not want to speak to soon, but we could use a bit of sunshine and respite from the rain.
Last weekend was whirlwind, filled with kid’s activities and my own. It was capped with the news of Osama bin Laden’s death late Sunday night and an all-day conference Monday. I came home Monday afternoon with time to take Ivy for a walk, meet Olivia at the bus stop and take her to a high school girls’ softball game. It was a fun, though the chill of the early spring afternoon and wind got to her and we came home early. It is fun to watch Olivia at a softball game; she pays attention and watches every pitch. She is playing softball again this year and I am hoping she has as much fun as she did last year.
I am behind, again, with some of the tasks I need to do: grading, planning, balancing the checkbook but instead of those jobs, I am writing. It will have to be short. This week in language arts, we are writing a persuasive paper. It is the last of the writing for the year, or at least serious writing. With a few more than twenty days remaining, I need to make all of them count, more than ever. Persuasive writing is difficult for a seventh grader as they grapple with taking sides on an issue. Often, I get a paper that defends both sides of the issue and ends asking the reader to decide. That will not work! The topics students have to select from are prompts about The Giver and whether Jonas, the protagonist (how’s that for a literary word?), made the right choice or whether the community is a true Utopia. The prompts center on the novel and allow the students to go deeper with their thinking about the ideas and theme.
Yesterday, in my absence, the substitute got them started writing their introductions. Today, I will be following up by helping some kids improve their thesis statement and attention getters, while assisting others as they move forward with the body paragraphs. To prepare the sub, I spent time writing a model for them and will continue writing along with them, today and until the paper is complete. It is fun, challenging, and time consuming, but very satisfying when kids get it right.
Teaching kids writing, involves a lot of writing and I am working along with them. I am responding to the prompt and making a case for the idea that the community in The Giver is not a true utopia, but really a dystopia. Yesterday I, rather the sub, shared there are several ways to start a persuasive paper: a statement, a quote from the text, a challenging question, or a quote from the real world. I chose to use a quote from the real world by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said,
“We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.”
I do not know the context of the quote, but it fits with the question I am modeling with the students. Often, we begin with great, grand ideas and they get muddled with details and often in the end, what is produced is far different from what we originally envisioned. After the attention getter, class focused on the thesis statement. I wrote three and finally settled on:
The community where Jonas lives appears to be a utopia where everything is perfect, but it is actually a dystopia, where the elders control every part of community life.
Finally, I put it all together and added background from the novel and finished the introduction paragraph:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the United States of America, said, “we have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.” In the novel The Giver by Lois Lowry, Jonas lives in a perfect community where there are no emotions and the Elders decide its citizen’s lives for them. The community’s weather and the landscape are modified so there are no changes or differences. We all hope for a better life, a better place, but of our own decisions and making. The community where Jonas lives appears to be a utopia where everything is perfect, but it is actually a dystopia, where the elders control every part of community life.
As I re-read it now, it screams for revision. Which is okay, I will get there eventually.
Today, we tackle the body paragraphs and look at organization of ideas. Class will start with the whole class discussion and instruction and then shift to working with small groups and finally helping individual students with their writing. It will be an exhausting day, but very rewarding.
And that thought leads me back to where I started. I had originally started writing with the idea of a short post, posing this month’s presidential question and it is:
Question for May: Which President had the first name Stephen, was married to the youngest First Lady in U.S. history and presided over the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty?
It is a challenging question and I had to think before I answered it. Do you know who it is? Let me know or what you are thinking. Today is gonna be a great day, no matter what! Today and tomorrow are sunny, but my weather is internal, though sunshine is nice. I have much today before the day is completed, Making the Days Count – one day at a time!