Why Do You Write?
On Thursday I sat down beside a young writer to talk about his story. The writer seemed to be going through the motions. Sadly, he didn't look at all interested in what he was doing. His book had one sentence and an illustration on each page about different plants he had. I quietly sat beside him and began a conversation with him about his piece. He'd picked an interesting topic and I especially wanted to know more about the cactus.
I noticed, as I started asking him some questions, his body language changed. He sat up, his voice raised a bit, he smiled, and he started telling me all these things about cactus. He was so excited the students around him got caught up in the conversation and had questions as well. I noticed the change and said something to him about it. After leaving the conversation I wondered if students write because they have something to share or because they have to write. During share I bravely asked my students, "Why do you write?".
Taking a Challenge
As we talked, I told them about the Slice of Life Challenge I would be taking in March. Right away one of my students said, "I want to do that." Before I knew it the room was buzzing. I was listening to them and wondering if first graders participating in a challenge could work. I'm not always known for having the best judgement. I sometimes jump in and, then after I'm in over my head, try to figure my way out of a situation. So, of course, before I knew it we were developing a plan for them to join.
As we were talking and the excitement was building, one of my students looked at me and said with sincerity, "It's going to be hard, isn't it." The room fell silent. I looked into his eyes knowing from years of writing, and as someone going into year three of the challenge, it would be hard some days. It would be very hard some days. I looked at him and replied, "Yes, some days it does get hard, but think about it; you already write every day in writer's workshop. You can do it."
A boy across the room suggested, "You can always write about how hard it is."
"I've done that," I confessed. We all laughed.
|Please excuse the messiness of this|
chart. It was created quickly to
organize our brainstorm.
I wanted participation to be a choice because 31 days of writing is a lot of commitment. Additionally, the challenge was starting on a weekend and our spring break would fall during the month. We decided we would have lunch in our classroom every Tuesday to talk about how it was going. Students tried to decide how they would participate. Some thought they'd use their blogs, others thought their writers' notebooks, and others thought paper would be perfect. Some weren't sure and committed to a mix. I'll be curious to see how they work it out.
Yesterday was the starting day and I'd had to pass the baton to the parents. I checked my email hesitantly, feeling a bit bad about having to throw this in the parents' laps. I found this note from a parent:
I just had to share something with you. [___] was so excited about Slice of Life, that she got up and got dressed in a skirt and shirt. I told her she was pretty dressed up for a Saturday, and she said, "It's the first day of Slice of Life!".I had to smile. Another parent was joining the challenge with her son and hoping to get friends to join too. Last night I spent some time approving posts and writing comments. I was quite proud of those who had decided to join the challenge and were making it happen. I know more "paper posts" will come in on Monday as students return from the weekend. Hopefully parents will forgive our insanity.
I'm not sure where the journey will take us. I'm not sure how I will manage to link all of their work or how I will keep up with comments and my writing. I'm not sure how they will handle the hard parts, but I'm hoping together we can figure it all out and perhaps some day the memory of this event may bring one of them back to their writing.