Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Teamwork in Revision or Awesome- Yet Incomplete- Writing Conference While Getting Ready For Hockey

As you know, this is The Reading and Writing House. I am a reading and writing teacher. I love reading and writing workshop. I love working with readers and writers. I love reading. I love writing. I love teaching.

My son loves math. And chess. And sports. He likes to read (mostly fluff and stuff and some "real" books, too), but numbers are his thing. He is practically famous for being very concise with his written assignments.

Today, Fran and I were discussing his revision of a narrative he's writing. Lucky kid, I know! It went like this:

M: Hmmm... (turning page over- anything on the back?) Fran, your revision on the car section was- well- short. What do you think you should do next?
F: I should work on it more.
M: How?
F: Well, I could add more words.
M: What kind of words could you add to tell more that matters?
F: (Confused).
M: Like- you could add dialogue to say more.
F: Yeah- talking!
M: And actions.
F: And add more memories! (Zipping hockey bag.)
M: And feelings, too, like you used in your ending. Hmm... You have lots of way to elaborate- or add more that matters: actions, dialogue, memories, and feelings! Wow- I should write those down so we don't forget them....Actions...(writing)
F: Dialogue. Memories...
M and F: And feelings.
F: Hey, mom! (Face brightens, looking generally excited.) Put that in my writer's notebook with the writing tips! (Rolling hockey bag to the porch.)
M: That's a great idea, Fran.

This may be what I am thankful for this year. That my kid can think of ways to tell more that matters and that he wants to keep his list of strategies in his writers notebook to help him remember ways to tell more today and in the days to come. And he can add to this list as he notices more ways that other writers and storytellers elaborate.

Concise is nice as long as you are careful to tell enough about what really matters.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

We Missed This

I'm the mom that was so busy writing report cards and doing parent conferences that I forgot to get tickets to see the Wimpy Kid author. It's a three hour book event. With snacks. And a DJ.
At least my kid doesn't know. Well, until he goes to school tomorrow.

But I did write insightful, detailed reports.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We forgot to tell you about Christopher Paul Curtis

There is nothing better than hearing Christopher Paul Curtis in person. We heard his stories. We talked with his family. He signed our books- and he even gave Francis "Bud, Not Buddy" and signed it, too. I even subjected the poor man to my famous "The Watsons Go to Costco" story*.
It was the perfect way to start our summer. I felt ready to notice and truly experience my days and I was excited to read. It made me miss teaching with writer's notebooks.

Fran and Christopher Paul Curtis!

I nodded so many times while he was talking that I was worried that my head would fall off and roll across the floor. I am pretty sure I looked crazy- but I wouldn't have it any other way. I think CPC was pretty lucky that I had not yet read The Mighty Miss Malone, because then I think I would have seemed even crazier.

We almost missed this!  But I saw this sign at school:

and I was interested because the sign had dogs on it. Thank goodness it was a dog sign- we would have been sad to miss it!

* This story will be shared at a later time. It is a story to be savored. And it really reveals WHO Mr. RWH really is...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Too Much Technology is Too Much?

I have some Luddite tendencies, but I still get it. Technology sucks you in. I waste plenty of time "reading" snippets of nonsense on-line or checking Facebook or Weather.com. I google stuff I used to remember. I respond surreptitiously to a ding or a buzz in a faculty meeting.

I like to think I am more courteous than most modern-day tech users. My phone is off when I am teaching. It's in my purse when I am at home, hanging up on a hook in the closet. (Call the house phone, we still have one.) The only people I usually text are babysitters. And sometimes Zingerman's delivery-girls for an emergency Zang bar or Sesame Semolina delivery.

But- I have noticed that lots of kids- and adults- have trouble just sitting with themselves, by themselves.  They seem to crave action, wanting something to catch their attention quickly rather than personally choosing where to focus their attention. There's a lot of bells and whistles. Luckily, I have a theatrical flair as a teacher so I don't think this is heavily impacting my instruction, but even so- I do like being still sometimes. I am just as annoyed with a grown-up fiddling with a tech device instead of enjoying human interaction as I am with a young child screaming, only to be made happy with an I-phone app rather than real people (except in cases of long airport delays, extended waiting room stays, etc).

I do think it's too much media, too many screens. The RWH is a fairly low-media environment for kids, almost to the point of making the children weird.  I still remember my shock in the 80's in the 4th grade when a fellow classmate, a somewhat odd girl, told me "We don't have a TV." after I asked her if she saw The Family Circus Christmas special.  I felt so badly for her- it was awesome. Also, this particular girl later developed an unhealthy (and unfortunate) addiction to patterned Keds sneakers in high school- I am not sure if these two things are related. So we don't want it to go *that far* with the RWH kids. But we have noticed that Little Miss RWH is a bit cranky after her Saturday PBS-spectacular. It's just too much coming at her.

I thought the The Family Circus was awesome because it was on TV  and in the newspaper.
It would not be there if it wasn't awesome, would it?

But still, it's too much. I found myself nodding obnoxiously while reading this article about teachers refining classroom practice with today's media-infused students in The NY Times.  Not that I want to hark back to the days of the Waltons, but it's enough to make me think. If your screen time logs enough hours to be a part-time job, is it too much?  I think even as an adult, I need to limit mine more. I'd get more real-stuff done.

I think The NY Times article sums up my thinking well in its closing sentence with a quote by Dmitri Christakis, the Director of the Center for Child, Health, Behavior, and Development at Seattle Children's Hospital: "The heavy technology use...makes reality by comparison uninteresting. Which is a shame, because real-life is pretty amazing.