So I am writing these in a mild sleep deprived state. Public Service Announcement: do not save all of your grading, paper organizing, thank you note writing, grade book organizing, desk cleaning and goodie bag stuffing for 9:30 on the night before the last day of school. You will only get 3 hours of sleep. Thank you. For non-sleep deprived Quick Takes go see Jen at Conversion Diary.
1. As a capstone to the end of the year in our little classroom, I had my students write some stories. Big whoop you might say, but this involves copious amounts of explaining that it can't be a word if it doesn't have any vowels, it can't be a sentence if it doesn't have any verbs, and it won't really be a story unless there is a conflict and a solution. Add in starting sentences with a capital letter and ending with the appropriate punctuation mark and that sums up first grade composition. See, like I said, capstone. Since this blog is hardly anonymous, I don't feel comfortable showing you copies of the stories, but I can sum some of them up for you with my slightly meaningful observations.
2. Everyone knows kids' stories are ridiculously cute, but even more than that, you learn so much about them as people, how they approach challenges, what they view as noble, what makes them feel safe. You can practically tell if they are generally happy little people by the kind of pictures they draw.
3. For example, I have one student who always plays it safe. She likes to have the most exact instructions, wants to know exactly what color crayon to use for each apostle's hair when we are coloring pictures about Pentecost, you know the type. Needless to say, conflict and solution were very scary for her. Why would you complicate your life like that? Can't the story just be "Two puppies played in the park. Then they went home and were happy. The End." If you add "Once upon a time" it makes it a story right? Which is why I was so proud of her when she wrote a story that involved a dragon stealing her pet cat's toy ball, and then the pet cat getting it back. Of course the dragon didn't wake up when the hero went to get the ball, and really the cat's mother was the one that came to the rescue. But really, isn't that fitting? When you're seven, your mom is the one who comes to the rescue.
4. Another story was written by my lovable little class tattle-tale. I don't think she is vindictive, she just notices everything and has that strong sense of justice so characteristic of the age of 7 (It is unconfirmed as to whether or not I had similar character traits at that age).
In her story, eight friends incidentally all bearing the names of the girls in the class (she's also a sanguine in case you were wondering) are the victims of a theft. Our author, the main character, called the police, had the thief arrested, the thief was also bitten by a dog, and all eight heroines took a trip to Hawaii. Justice was served.
5. One little boy is one of those boys who was just not made to sit in a desk, and given the highly "structured" nature of our school (sigh) he has a lot of pent up energy that spills out in negative ways. Combine that with afternoons and summers of daycare and the results aren't pretty.
In his story, the conflict was that a bird wanted to smell the flowers in a garden but a boy was there as well, and it was making her nervous. To solve the problem, the bird started pecking the boy, and the boy started hitting the bird. The end. After turning in this draft, he and I talked about how it seemed he ended with a problem, not a solution. So he tacked on another ending; the boy made the bird come back and apologize. This pretty much sums up the resolution almost every single playground conflict he was involved in this year. I should have talked to his guardian angel more.
6. This next student's story writing experience was very dear to my heart. She would write a first draft and give it to me. We would go over it together and find what needed to be fixed. She would then go back to her desk and write a completely new story, not at all based on the previous draft and in need of proofreading just as much as the one before. Even though I explained that I wanted her to recopy the old story, fixing the mistakes, even though I used small patient words while maintaing eye-contact, she did this FOUR times. I was tired of looking over her stories; she was tired of writing them and finally she said to me "I want the first time I write a story to be the last time!" I just wanted to give her a hug, because that's exactly how I feel most of the time about most things. I like being good at things right away. Everyone does. But when we stick to our first tries, our efforts look pretty mediocre when they could be spectacular. Her final story featured my favorite sentence of them all, "She was the prettiest crab in town."
7. If you have read this far, you know I was lying when I said quick takes, but I hope you don't hold it against me. I know I've been saying that I was so ready for this school year to end, and I really am, but when you give your students a worksheet with the question "What will they miss most about school?" and almost all of them write "Mrs. Bazin" and draw pictures of you, it's really hard not to tear up.