Slice of Life Tuesday: Where did October go?

Slice of Life Tuesday is hosted by Two Writing Teachers

Where did October go? I asked myself this morning, as I tore it off my office calendar and came face to face with November.

What had happened to October? I wondered, as I put a great big red “X” through it on our classroom school calendar.

Then, the first of my students began walking into our classroom…two ballerinas, one robot, Minnie Mouse, and a pirate…yes, Halloween is here and October is definitely over.

The question remains…where did it go?

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We read Some Kind of Courage, and learned about being brave and staying true to the best in ourselves, the “best” we weren’t even sure we had.  And, somewhere in the listening, and turn and talking ,and note jotting, we became a community of readers.  Our read aloud gave us one story to gather around, experience, and learn through. We came to know  Joseph and Ah-kee, and our journey to learning about them was also a journey of learning about each other: what makes us laugh out loud, what moves us to tears, and what lies between.

At one point in the story, Joseph and Ah-kee trade mementos:

We looked at each other a minute, then we both put the other’s memory into our own pocket.  They were new memories, now, but they were tied up and bound to the old.  That’s how memories work, I suppose; you just go through life collecting them, never let go of the precious ones but leaving room in your heart for more.  Pg. 172

And that’s how great stories shared in readalouds work, too…we’re going through our school year together collecting them, loving them, and leaving room in our hearts for more.  So, there was a piece of October…

…which was also spent exploring our stories and writing our own personal narratives.  We dug into our writer’s notebooks and took some ideas for a spin all the way from a seed idea into drafting, revision, editing and publishing.  This anchor chart became our workshop reality, bit by bit, as we learned together that writing is purposeful, sometimes joyful, work:

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And October ended with a Halloween themed writing celebration: kids in costume munching on sweet goodies, sharing stories.

We made room for silliness, too, it being Halloween and all.  When the last bell rang, Batman collected writing folders, Alice in Wonderland helped put things away, and a long-tailed, tutu sporting mouse assisted in sweeping away leftover crumbs.   Writing workshop involves many shared tasks.  So that was another piece of October.

Reading and writing, learning and sharing, doing the work of building community…that was our October.  It was a month, all in all,  well spent.

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Our read aloud project: great thinking and some arts and crafts

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Celebrate with Ruth Ayres @ ruth ayres writes  …. because, we need to celebrate moments in our lives every chance we get!

Last Monday was Red Kayak project day, so my kids walked through our classroom door laden with bits and pieces of their projects – the parts each one was responsible for.  There was great excitement in the air as groups came together on the reading rug and in various spots around our room and put their projects together.  Some were elaborate, and some straightforward, but everyone was pleased.  It entailed a lot of work, and I loved listening in to the conversations which went into the production of this project – as I do every year, for this has been a cornerstone project for many, many years.

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We fold so much into the read aloud that forms the basis for our project – thinking  aloud Notice and Note sign posts and what they mean, growing theories about character and plot, wrapping our heads around symbolism and theme, trying to figure out the arc of a story.  It takes time, and even though there is never enough time to get done what we want to get done, I’ve always felt that this project justified the time invested.

So often, we ask our kids to write about their reading without giving them meaningful ideas about what to write about.  Last summer, along with some amazing teachers, I read and kept notes on Lisa Graff’s Lost In The Sun.  It was such a revealing experience, for I came to understand just how much my own writing about reading depended upon my knowledge of the reading experience, through all the pedagogical material I had read as a teacher, and because I was a Comparative Literature major in college.  When I stepped back, and looked over my entries, and tried to see them through the eyes of my sixth graders, I began to see some of the challenges they would encounter when asked to write about their reading.  Front loading the “stuff” of literature gives them a whole structure and vocabulary with which to write.

In the lead up to project day, I loved listening to the way my kids took that “stuff” and challenged each other in discussing the novel, and the way the different components of story map and Notice and Note interacted and intersected.  Here’s the project template:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1q0mG8o40kvAZ3ApyyWfyda9u6eO98AxEIYOuJjBVtVY/edit?usp=sharing

 

I think what I enjoyed most about these discussions was the fact that my kids felt so confident about their thinking, so invested in the idea that they had important things to say.  On project day, they were able to show just such thinking in their presentations, moving fluidly from one idea to the next, and making critical connections between (for example) why a Memory Moment figured at a certain point in the story and how it impacted the plot.

Even though there was a certain arts and craftsy element to some parts of these presentations (I am forever mindful of this post by Donalyn Miller about such projects), like this one for Notice and Note signposts:

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the thinking was strong, and meaningful:

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Now, we move on to realistic fiction book clubs, and  I can’t wait to listen in to these discussions.  So, today, I celebrate the readers and thinkers in my classroom!