Friday, February 3, 2012

Lessons From Little Authors

Last week I had the invitation from a kindergarten teacher to stop by her room when I visited that school and see what her students had been doing with the current Unit of Study: Authors as Mentors.  I was able to work that visit in on Monday morning.

I viewed the papers in the hall.  There were stories written with punctuation using Ezra Jack Keats as their "writing teacher" for the study.  The books they had read were posted along with everything they had learned from that book.  It was amazing.  I couldn't wait to meet the little authors.

I squeezed in behind the teacher as she greeted her students that morning.  As they hung up their coats, grabbed their journals and made their way to their tables, I could see they had purpose in the routine.  When they got the journal opened, it was time for me to make my move.  I would sit beside someone getting ready to write and ask, "What are you going to write about today?"  They always knew. 

Then I met Anthony.  He already had a snowman on the top of the page with a big red scarf colored brightly.  When I asked  him about the snowman he said, "This is a perfect snowman.  Oh, wait!  I forgot the stick arms."  He quickly added the arms with his brown crayon.  Now it was time for the words.  He wasn't as sure about that part.

Anthony decided he wanted to say: "The snowman is perfect."  We worked together to form the letters and sounds using the Word Wall and the alphabet sheet.  We did a lot of thinking and approximating.  I love watching these small kiddos as the thinking process takes place.  I could sit and watch that for a long time!  And sometimes, I do!

He had all the words on the paper.  I then said, "What comes at the end?"  Anthony thought for a moment, then in his thoughtful voice said, "Either a period or exclamation mark."  He wasn't asking me which, he was thinking about it....making a decision.  He picked up his pencil and drew a line at the end of the sentence that went from that line to about three lines down.  I asked him if that was how authors made exclamation points.  He said, "She lets us do that."  

"Okay, but let's look and see what authors do."  I picked up a book he had been reading and we found a one line exclamation point.   "See."  I said.  He replied: "But she lets us do that."   I simply looked at him and he looked back at me.  I said, "Okay, it is your book."
He made the LONG exclamation point and left it....closing his book with a satisfying look.

Before I left the room, I stopped to chat with the teacher and thank her for allowing me to share her students.  I told her the story of Anthony.  She laughed and said, "Oh, yes, they are having a lot of fun with those marks.  We saw Ezra Jack Keats do that in one of his books.  They knew it was because he wanted his readers to know how important it was.  Now they want to do that, too."

Once again I went away amazed at how much children teach me about writing!!!!

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