Sunday, September 10, 2006

The First Six Days of School

(Disclaimer: I am a looping teacher. One of the joys of the second year of the loop is that there is a weave of connectedness to everything that happens in our classroom right from the start.)

The first book I read aloud this year was DOOBY DOOBY MOO by Doreen Cronin. Last year we read Click Clack Moo, Giggle Giggle Quack, Duck for President, Diary of a Worm, and Diary of a Spider, so predictions and connections were numerous and were rich with background knowledge about the farm, the farmer, and the duck. The kids loved how Cronin uses asterisk footnotes that sound just like the fine print in real life.

The asterisk footnotes led me to read WOLVES by Emily Gravett next. (Yes, this is the one I stole out of Franki's pile at Cover to Cover.) I won't spoil it for you, but the end of this book is similar in tone and style to Cronin's asterisk footnotes. My students were touchingly distressed by the first ending, and laughed hysterically at the sarcasm of the second ending. 10 years old and already so jaded!

After two picture books, I was ready for a novel, and we jumped right into GOSSAMER by Lois Lowry. I say "jumped right into" because we usually spend time doing what readers do when they choose a new book -- studying the cover, reading the blurbs on the back and on the flaps of the cover, thinking about all we might know about the author's other books. All I told them was that they should expect to be confused, but that one of the main characters was also confused and would be asking lots of the questions they would have. As I read the first 10 pages or so, we stopped often, trying to piece together the clues about who these creatures are and what they are doing. The way Lowry writes with such authority about these imaginary (??or are they real??) dream givers reminded us of the way one of the students in our class wrote about the alien cultures in the lunar system that she invented last year.

I'm still making my way through Katie Wood Ray's STUDY DRIVEN, but I have read enough to know that our first study in writing workshop will be of the interesting things punctuation can do in our writing. (Ray writes about such a study in a first grade class. Why re-invent the wheel, eh?) It seemed natural to use Cronin's asterisks as the example that would send some students off to gather other anchor texts for our study. They went right to Cronin's other books, so it looks like we'll be doing a combination study of how Cronin uses punctuation, and, oh, yeah, how a few other writers use it, too.

I tabbed this important statement in Ray's STUDY DRIVEN: "When students are just writing on their own in writing workshops, they must learn to answer this essential question, 'What have you read that is like what you are trying to make?' " As we reviewed what a writer needs to think about when planning a piece, one student offered up, "You need to know what you're going to make." (goosebumps) So as I circulated around the room and asked students what they had read that they thought their writing might be like, one student said she was planning to make a story that would be like DOOBY DOOBY MOO, set on a farm, with a farmer and some farm animals for the characters. Two boys have attempted to write humor in the style of CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, but I'm going to send them back to Pilkey's books for more study. Their funniest joke so far is the one about the Barbies vs. Barneys: The Ultimate Battle video game that is rated M for Mature. The rest of the humor is gratuitous bathroom humor. Maybe they need to get some peer reviewers to look at their work, too. I could be way off on the bathroom humor.

Enough for tonight. I have to go make lunches for the week and then fall into bed and hope to get enough rest to tackle our first, full, five-days-in-a-row week of school, which will include both the unveiling of our science museum and curriculum night.

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