Thursday, October 12, 2006
Inspiring Young Writers (of all ages!)
I wish that I could have the vanity of my 1st grade niece and the confidence of my pre-school niece, the swagger of my 3 year old niece and the giggles of my 2 year old nephew – but those days are long gone. Now I have the bluff of a cough-cough year old teacher!!
I “force” my writing workshop participants to write – and sometimes draw -because I believe that you can’t really teach writing unless you participate in it as well. But I realize, particularly when it is after a very long school day when a bazillion other things are on their minds and they are in front of their colleagues and out of their comfort zone, that coming up with something to write about is not as easy as it seems. And so it is for our students!
The book that (at least temporarily) gives me writing confidence is The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, and even more the companion book Ish. First, The Dot!
Vashti struggles with in art class proclaiming “I just CAN’T draw!” Her inspirational teacher has her begin with “just a mark – and see where it takes you.” Before long – Vashti is the inspiration to a little boy who just “can’t” draw either. Along the way, Vashti experiments and finds her own “voice” in her work. The colorful artwork inspires the reader, while showing the real value of persistence and effort. I love this book and it inspires me to “make my own mark.” Imagine what sharing this thought to the struggling writer might do – to just make a sentence and see where it takes you. Or draw a picture and see what it inspires. To just put something down, feel free to experiment with words, play with them and make them your own – the liberation that writing can bring!! I love this book!! (Have I mentioned this already?)
And then came “Ish.” Quite the opposite of Vashti, Ramon looooves to draw. “Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.” (You’ll be amazed at the anywhere!) Then, as fate would have it, his confidence is crushed by his older brother who laughs at his drawing of a vase of flowers. After many months of trying and reams of crumpled paper, Ramon gives up. He’ll never draw the perfect vase of flowers. But his little sister has been collecting all the discards and created her own “crumpled” gallery. When Ramon protests that it doesn’t look like a vase of flowers, she replies “Well, it looks vase-ISH!” Ramon found his –ish; more drawings happened, even poems happened. This made me think about all the hullabaloo about cursive writing and penmanship. Does it matter whether a letter is formed perfectly? Is it acceptable to be just “legible” and not perfect? I value the creativity – the risk taking – of writing. As long as I can read it, the letters don’t need to be formed perfectly, it’s the word behind it that counts.
Think about these books as you work with aspiring (or inspiring) writers – how can we encourage writing and show them what really matters?
(Friday's post a little early - I have a superstitious streak!)