Slice of Life Tuesday: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing TeachersThe Great Thanksgiving Listen

It’s mostly quiet in our writing workshop this morning. Except for…

…the occasional giggles, the sighs, the laugh out loud moments, and the thoughtful “hmms”.

My students are listening in, hearing the voices of their grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles, the subjects of their Great Thanksgiving Listen of 2016.   Some listen to what they have recorded on their phones over the Thanksgiving Break, and some have their ear buds in.  So, we can also hear the low buzz of Grandpa Joe and Great Aunt Louise reminiscing,  pausing to guffaw here or blow their noses there.

I move around our classroom and through the hallway where they have spread themselves out in order to work in comfort, and to listen.  I watch their faces closely, and am moved by the way my kiddos are moved by their family stories, by these voices taking them down paths of distant memory.  Stories move us, and teach us, and connect us.  We need to make time to hear them, we need to listen in.

When my students first returned to school, this is what they said:

“I never knew…”

“I learned that…”

“It was amazing to hear…”

“I was so glad that I asked…”

They listened.

Today, they are listening again, writing down what they most want to remember, and thereby writing these family stories, most of them unknown, into their memories and their hearts. This is how we come to know who we are and what our place in the world is:

“My grandmother brought a box of tissues to our listen in, and boy did we need them…”

“I had never really talked to my Uncle Al before, but this Thanksgiving I made a point to ask him all the questions I’d secretly always wanted to ask…”

“I thought my Maryland grandpa was so boring, but then I starting asking him questions and found out that he had done so many amazing things in his life…”

It is mostly quiet in our writing workshop this morning…we are listening in.

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23 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

  1. Love everything about this — you gave a common (often boring) interview of a relative new purpose. I love the focus on listening – truly listening – not to report but to understand. Stories rather than facts. Conversations rather than a Q & A. These words: “Stories move us, and teach us, and connect us. We need to make time to hear them, we need to listen in.” make all the difference in the tone and purpose. Thank you for sharing and always bringing your authentic voice into all you do!
    Clare

  2. “Stories move us, and teach us, and connect us.” Bravo for this project! And amen to the power of story in all of our lives.

    On Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 8:30 AM, A Teaching Life wrote:

    > Tara Smith posted: “Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing > Teachers It’s mostly quiet in our writing workshop this morning. Except > for… …the occasional giggles, the sighs, the laugh out loud moments, > and the thoughtful “hmms”. My students are listening in, hearin” >

  3. This made me want to cry. I guess because it’s easy to let the past be the past, but we lose so much when we do that. I want to call my mother right up and ask her to tell me a story. Thank you for this.

  4. Your post reminded me that I taped an “interview” with my Dad many years ago and haven’t listened to it for decades. Maybe it’s time…. Listening is such an underappreciated skill…one that we all need to practice more. Thanks for sharing such a valuable activity with your students.

  5. Wow! What an amazing learning experience. More than that it is a wonderful life experience, strengthening the family connections through memories.

  6. Oh, Tara! Thank you for sharing this. It is such a neat idea, even if it’s not executed at Thanksgiving time. I really believe everyone likes to tell their story and share their story. Such a great activity all the way around!

  7. Tara, I agree with Tammy and Claire that your words are so memorable and what we truly believe: “Stories move us, and teach us, and connect us. We need to make time to hear them, we need to listen in.” It is wonderful that you are passing on to your kiddos the experience of truly listening.

  8. Those conversations you “helped” them have is a gift they won’t forget, Tara. I loved when I had my students gather stories. What a wonderful teacher you are!

  9. What a beautiful, purposeful assignment that changes thinking and feelings within families. You are a master teacher, these children are blessed to live as Smithlings.

  10. It’s so easy to miss the stories that are right there in our midst. I love that you are teaching students to not only ask questions and listen to the responses, but also to value the stories they learn.

  11. This is beautiful! Years ago I planned a project like this… and years before that a colleague used to do something like this… Thank you for bringing this idea back to me – in a much more beautiful way than I would have been able to frame it.

  12. What a beautiful opportunity for your kiddos and their families. This is much more than writing, or school. These memories will live in their hearts. A perfect Thanksgiving gift.

  13. Terrific, Tara! So much good can come from a project like that.

    I was just reading my mother-in-law’s childhood memories this morning and learned things about her grandfather that I had never heard. It’s never too late to listen.

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