We All Have a Story to Tell
September 25, 2017
I have been thinking a great deal lately about what we ask our students to do daily. Particularly what we ask them to do that would be stressful, difficult, or embarrassing (see future for Tom Newkirk’s amazing book Embarrassment). This week and last, this thinking centered around the launch of the writing workshop and everything about new teacher/ new expectations/new peers. How can we help students (and their teachers) bridge that chasm. The beginning is the hardest part for so many.
Three books come to mind that ease that chasm in the elementary classroom. Use these liberally with a healthy dose of “giving it a go yourself.”
In A Squiggly Story, Andrew Larson explores a early learner’s journey as a writer. So often students are searching or expecting that stories (for others) just magically come out of the end of our writing tools. With some excellent peer coaching from his sister, our young author explores the writing process from idea to lead, to peer editing. A wonderful book for kindergarten and first grade writers.
Ralph Tells A Story centers around the problem many writers young and old have… “AHHH! I have no story!” Ralph looks around and EVERYONE especially the girl next to him is writing away. He looks everywhere for a story. When given ideas, he can’t think how to develop them. When the teacher calls on him in share, he tentatively starts…”I was at the park. An inchworm crawled on my knee.” Then the questions begin rolling in, and Ralph realizes that he does, indeed, have a story to tell.
Recently in the third grade in a school near here, a teacher read this book and produced this wonderful anchor chart.
I can’t wait to see what happens next in that class.
The last book, Bear Has a Story to Tell leads to my favorite advice for writers and other learners in response to “I don’t know”. It answers the age old response, I forgot, with what would you say if you remembered. It’s important in all story generation to have the conversation first. As Lucy Calkins and others so beautifully state in the Crafting True Stories unit for third grade writing, we should help our students visualize possibilities, instead of initiating writing, we should initiate dreaming.
Dream away, writers. Dream away.