Writing in the Real World

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Don’t you just love when kids write cause they want to communicate?  Nobody tells them to–they just do it!  Up at the top of the Space Needle, kids (and probably adults) write each other notes and put them on the window ledges.  When the revolving restaurant revolves by, people can read and answer each other’s letters.  Love it, Seattle!

Making Fiction Fun

One of my favorite third grade teachers, Cindy Piano, of Bogota, NJ has a few tricks up her sleeve when it comes to teaching fiction.  She used to struggle with the genre.  No matter how much she taught about character, and tension, it just didn’t take.  Forget about beginning, middle or end–the kids didn’t really know which was which, and nobody had a good time.

So Cindy changed the way she taught.  She decided she would have the whole class write about one character to start.  This year her students decided to write about her pin!  Cindy always wears a pin, usually in honor of a student, and her kids know that.  So why not adopt a pin character and use him in a story?  The kids loved this idea and set about creating an adventure for the little mouse Cindy wore.  They were having a great time and then… the mouse disappeared!  Cindy lost him on the way to work one day and had to tell the kids.  But that didn’t stop them–some of her students made up stories about how much fun the mouse had being on the loose.  The mouse miraculously reappeared and that worked as a plot point, too.  The kids all loved having this character in common, and each one had a blast writing an individual adventure.

The other technique Cindy uses when teaching fiction is this: after the kids decide on who the character is and what he/she is like, they write the adventure part.  THEN, they go back and create the beginning of the story, creating a little set-up for the action.  She has the students write the adventure part on one colored sheet of paper, and the beginning/set-up on a different color.  When the kids are ready to write an ending, they write that on a third color.    The different colors really help the students think about the different parts of the story and how each part fits into the whole.

The kids learned a lot and the best part is that everybody had a great time!

Catching What?

Guess what I did last night for “homework”?  Made a trap for a leprechaun.  I love my son’s teacher.  Really, I do.  But I just can’t fathom the reason for this creation.  I’m not against leprechauns.  And I’m not against building.  I just wonder if it’s teaching my son all the wrong things.  His first ideas for capturing the little Irish all involved guns.  Then dynamite.  I had to explain to him that the zero tolerance rules at school are really starting to kick in and that kids are getting thrown out for even saying the word gun.  But truthfully?  Is catching something and holding it hostage any better?  My son thinks leprechauns are real and that one might actually end up in the trap.  I said, “Why not the Easter Bunny?  Or Santa?”  The next plans involved ropes and pulleys, like something you’d see on Scooby Doo and I didn’t have the patience (or the knowledge) for any of that.  Finally, Ari came up with the idea to have the leprechaun swing toward a rainbow, then fall into a canyon.  He’s presenting at school tomorrow.  Check out his trap below.  (The leprechaun has to mount the spiky bommy-knocker thing, then swing to his destiny.  Not the rainbow’s end, I can assure you.)

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Bubbles, Bubbles

My eight year-old, Ari, finished taking the Terra Nova test a few weeks ago.  It was grueling for him, even though his teacher allowed the kids to chew gum and take their shoes off during the testing hour.  Every night my son would come home and tell me how he thought he did.

One day he said, “Mom, I know I got one of the questions wrong.”  So I said, ”What happened?”  It seems the testers had asked, Which of these items doesn’t belong here? The picture showed a banana, an orange, a baseball and a globe.  My son chose the baseball.  I said, “What was your reason?”  He explained that you don’t throw food, so it couldn’t be the banana or the orange.  And you wouldn’t throw a globe, either.  ”The baseball is the only thing you would throw.  So I picked that.”  So I said, “Did you get a chance to explain your choice?”  To which my son answered, “Mom, you know it’s only bubbling in, right?”

Which has me thinking…they’re only bubbles.  Bubbles pop.  Bubbles are temporary.  Here one second, gone the next.  They don’t carry any weight.  Yet we revel in those bubbles.  But who will revel in the creative thinkers like my son, and probably thousands like him, who never get a chance to explain their choices?  Who think outside the box or don’t even know there is a box?

I complimented Ari for having such a good reason and for being so reflective.  He shrugged and said, “Thanks, Mom.  I’ll choose the banana next time.”