From One Baker to Another #sol21
January 12, 2021
I take my time in the proximity of young writers any way I can these days. This past week it came in the form of helping a struggling writer in a second grade class. As I write struggling, I should say that I was assuming prior to working with him that he was struggling, but… well, I’ll let the story illuminate what I discovered.
P. was working on some expert writing in this class. As I approached, I asked if he would like me to talk over his writing with him today. His face lit up. Yes, you can write with me. I asked him what he was writing about though I could see his title. Baking cookies! he said. Lovely, I replied. I enjoy baking cookies myself. What’s your plan?
I’m not sure what’s next, he said. His writing was meticulous. His pages each had a heading. He had a word wall list nearby and a ring of cards with some collected words on them as well. He was well into his first page. I paused for a moment. Where would I be helpful? ‘What kind of help would you like? I asked. Miss G. usually writes down my sentences and I copy them. Oh, I said. Why don’t we begin with you reading what you have so far? And so it began, him reading to me, Do you want to know how to make chocolate chip cookies?
So there we were, discussing our crispiness preferences, what ingredients we put in our cookies and in what order. Soon we were planning the next page. I think we should tell them what they need to make them, he said. What do you put in yours? I asked. He answered butter and chocolate chips, but not too many. Hmm… what else? We settled on eggs, flour, butter, chocolate chips and vanilla. He wrote each word carefully on his page. He may not have spelled each word correctly, but all the sounds were there. When he got to the last ingredient vanilla, he said, I love that smell. I do too, I said. We paused and smiled together, the memory of vanilla between us.
As the teacher moved past us, she said, “I love when two bakers can chat with each other.” My young writing friend beamed. Here we were, sharing our baking secrets. I didn’t write any of his sentences for him to copy that day. I just talked to him about baking cookies. He used his word wall and his cards. He sounded out some words and use some that he had already written. In the end of our time together, about fifteen minutes, he had written four strong pages.
I wrote four pages! he said. What do you have left to say? I asked. Just how to cool them, then eat them. He smiled… and I smiled. He was proud of his work. Did he emulate a mentor text? Not really. Was his writing more of a “how to”? Possibly. But his writing was his and he share his process with me. Maybe he was more successful because of the adult proximity or maybe he was because he has made a lot of cookies and he knows how it works.
I wish I had that writing to treasure and reread. The memory of his success makes me smile. His generosity, the gift of the time with him, through plexiglass, but still together is a treasure.
This is a small, small slice. Such a small amount of time, but exactly what I needed at the moment. That little writing conference, so much more important to me than my young writing partner. You know if you keep the cookies in the oven for another minute, they will get crispier, but you can’t keep them in any longer or they will be TOO crispy. This is a tip from a real expert baker, age seven.