My daughter started kindergarten two weeks ago. She seems to be enjoying it tremendously (the most frequent descriptor being "awesome"). On the social front, to my horror, she has been eager to tell us who knows which Lady Gaga songs. (I do not let my 5-year-old listen to Lady Gaga, I swear.)
Academically, she was fairly mum until about the third day when she said, "Mommy, I have a big problem. You know those composition books we bought with the Redskins on the cover? We have not used them at all." At her Montessori preschool, journal writing was a BIG DEAL for the kindergarteners, and I think coloring the letters of the alphabet has been a bit of a letdown. However, she came home proud as can be on Friday with news that, not only had she written in her journal, but she'd completed her first poem!
She went on to explain that she got to cut and paste (excitement!) a computer printout and fill in one blank. The poem, she tells me, goes like this:
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, dear Kate, Happy Birthday to you
Never mind that her birthday is in April. As far as she's concerned, it should be her birthday every day. She was pleased as can be with her accomplishment, and she is tremendously excited about writing her next poem because the first one was so simple. Kate thinks that writing is easy and fun. Yay! May it always be so!
My three-year-old, meanwhile, is working on tracing his letters in shaving cream. He, too, is learning to love to write.
My husband and I are in the process of easing our new students into a writing-intensive semester. I caught a glimpse of the sixth-grade curriculum and was (somewhat naively) surprised to note that many of the objectives and outcomes were the same as those for my first-year college students taking English 101.
Our education-major baby-sitter was here last night. She is extremely bright, is terrific with our children, has several part-time jobs, and is taking 13 credits as a college junior. She said that she is enrolled in two writing-intensive classes that were going to "kill her." Now, I've read one of her papers in Spanish. She is a very good writer. She added that she loves the text (Zinsser's On Writing Well -- one of my faves, too) and the teacher, and she was very positive about how much she feels her writing will improve as a result of the class. It was the actual work that freaked her out. As a professional writer, I can totally relate. Can't we all? What to do? The first rule I teach my students: Butt in Chair, baby!
Don't forget to enter our biggest contest yet! The prize? Win either a 30-minute Skype visit from a TeachingAuthor or a set of six autographed books—one from each TeachingAuthor! Your entry doesn't have to be long. See the Carmela's post (updated 9/12) for more details. -- Jeanne Marie
Our babysitter did turn me on to an awesome website that, I'm sure, many of you teachers out there are familiar with: http://thisibelieve.org/. This site offers curriculum for teachers of students from middle school through college. It offers an opportunity for publication (an important motivator for serious student writers, in my opinion), a supportive forum, numerous inspirational essays, and specific writing prompts that are bound to generate passion from even the most dispassionate writers.
In college, I frequently find students who have been told that they may never use the first person in their academic essays. While I don't care to read the words 'I believe' in a research essay, the first person is certainly justified and yes, even preferable in some circumstances.
Asking student writers to distill their most personal and cherished beliefs, to edit, to do peer review, to put themselves out there for the world to see, to figure out what's most important to them... what better assignment could there be for writers who need a little dose of confidence and excitement at the beginning of a long year?
Just as important, of course, is the obvious fact that everything we write -- even the most outlandish science fiction -- stems from our core being. Sometimes we don't even consciously realize what we want to say until we take the time to examine what we truly believe.