Tuesday, August 12, 2008

the writing lesson that wasn't

yesterday, a monday, the beginning of the third week of kindergarten, after the children's classroom teacher was out sick thursday and friday, i smugly thought i had a great idea for a writing lesson. in my mind it was going to go like this: gather children in circle on rug, using my quiet 'writing is the most exciting thing in the world voice' i would pull the children into the world of story telling by telling a class story of an incident that happened when the substitute was here. the children would become so involved in the story that they would be ready to take turns telling the next part of the story, they would turn the pages of the imaginary book, read with their fingers along the imaginary lines, and repeat the story again and again, proud of themselves for creating this group story.
that's not quite how it went. just getting them to the carpet was a feat in itself. then trying to explain that we were sitting in a circle and not how we normally sit for writing workshop- looking at the easel. this took physically going around and moving them since quite a few are learning english and had no idea what i was saying to the class as i explained the circle. over and over again. but every time we went to a child to show him where to sit in the circle (i should mention we sit in a circle frequently, it wasn't the first time) another child would decide to go wander around the room. we had one child crying quietly and one stubbornly refusing to sit anywhere but on one rather inconvenient spot. great. i decided to start anyway, hoping that as we got going i would pull them into the story and they would forget that at that very moment they really wanted to be talking with their friends.
they didn't.
at first i actually had a few children on board, but we stopped so many times for distractions... at one point i pulled a child onto my lap who was trying to crawl away. i asked one child to go sit with his head down. he looked at me, hurt, and then planted his head into the carpet, bottom in the air. oops. that one needed a bit more explanation. i kept teaching the entire time and expected the kids to keep learning despite the chaos that was clearly ensuing.
silly me.
we even stopped to sing a dr. jean song. they loved the song, but the minute the writing lesson started again, i had lost them.
at the end i asked them to show me a thumbs up if they liked telling class stories this way. i didn't even say 'thumbs down if you didn't like it'. i couldn't. nobody put their thumb up, except the teachers in the room, which i thought was gracious since i certainly hadn't enjoyed the lesson. i got the idea from lucy calkins and while i'm sure it is a great one, and one that i will try again at another time, i think i'm going to have to put a lot of space between this experience and the next class story in an imaginary book. it will happen i'm sure, but just, not this month while we're still learning to be in kindergarten.

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