I love this book–Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Austin Kleon probably wrote it for adults, but I think it would be a great to use in the classroom. What kid doesn’t steal from other artists? It’s what we DO. It’s a quick read, has lots of inspirational quotes (for when you need something get you through the day), and contains some cool artwork, too.
I was in Lebanon Township, NJ doing a demo lesson in Marybeth Pupa’s Kindergarten class yesterday. Since the kids were making books, Marybeth put out the pencils and crayons. Some kids used pencils, then added with crayons. Some used pencils and never picked up the crayons. Some stuck to crayons and could not be convinced to use a pencil. There was a discussion afterwards about what’s “right,” pencils or crayons? Would kids write more if they had only pencils? Would they refuse to write if they couldn’t use crayons? Marybeth’s thinking is this: they’re five. Some of them just turned five. They’re learning how to be in school. She wants them to LOVE school and to love writing time. And if crayons will help them do that, she’s all for it. I agree. My belief is that they’ll all get there (wherever there is) especially with such a thoughtful, loving teacher guiding them. For lots of K kids, the drawing IS writing. So it all goes together anyway. Let them have fun. The letters and written words will surely come.
I just spent two weeks teaching in Trenton, NJ. I had a ball with some excellent K-2 teachers. (Thanks, you guys!) The thread that ran through the two weeks was doing meaningful activities with kids. We came up with the following list to remind ourselves that all writers (and especially little kids) need a purpose for their writing.
Real World Purposes for Writing
- Invitations to parties, events
- Birthday Cards, Thank You cards, “I’m Sorry” cards, “I Miss You” cards, Holiday Cards
- Letters to express your feelings
- Signs for the classroom/school (something is lost, found, broken, new, going on in your class)
- Signs that explain your work in centers (i.e. a sign to let everyone know you built a bridge in the block center)
- Telling a story about something interesting that happened to you
- Writing a story for someone you love
- Writing a poem for someone you love
- Writing to get your feelings out
- Writing that shows what you know about a topic
- Teaching somebody how to do something
- Making lists for planning or remembering things
- Writing to express how much you love (or hate) something
- Writing to recommend a place, movie, book
- Writing to discover what you really think
- Writing to discover what you’re trying to say
- Writing to make your voice heard in the world!
A few weeks ago, a teacher asked me what to do about a daydreamer. He was a bright student, new to the school, but always had his head in the clouds, she said. I suggested she “dream alongside him.” I’m not sure where this idea came from, exactly. It kind of appeared on the screen in my mind, and felt like the right thing to say. So she tried it and got some insight into the way this student thought.
Last week another teacher asked me the same question, but with more urgency–she understood the daydreaming, but she wanted the student to get to work already, so that she could carry on with her conferences. For her, my suggestion was different: bring the child with you during conference time. Let the student know this is not a punishment, it’s free help. She said something like, “I’ve noticed you do better work with somebody to nudge you once in awhile. So here I am nudging.” Happily, it worked. She brought the daydreamers to her conferring spot, and reported back to me that they worked harder than ever.
Pretty soon those daydreamers probably won’t want to sit next to her. Hopefully, they’ll still daydream, but they’ll also be used to working every day. Learning as they read or write, and becoming more independent in the process. Which, of course, is always the goal. (For more hints see Tips for Working with Student Writers.)