Someone reading these blog posts might think I'm a wee bit obsessed with the writing process. I'm not! Perhaps it is the authors we should be looking at for answers. Perhaps so inspired, authors feel they need to inspire a new generation of writers?
Patricia Polacco - I've heard her speak and it was memorable, as are her stories. She writes what she knows and what she has experienced. This is the golden rule of writers! Don't try to fake it, your readers will see right through you.
This is a newer book of Polacco's. From my research it seems it is biographical. I think every writer has inspiration and someone who held the bar high. This teacher in this book seems to be quite hard on our heroine, but we know that she is going to be worth the effort in the end.
What I'd like to concentrate on with this post is how I would use this book as a language lesson. The teacher in the book gives the same writing assignments as I would give although I would not give them entirely for homework. I think a great first assignment is for students to write about their family and home life. Not only is this in keeping with the rule, 'write what you know', but it's also great for you to learn something about your students early in the year that will help your instruction later.
I love this teacher's use of the thesaurus for her students! I think teachers sometimes forget about these tools because of the influence of the internet, but there are online thesaurus's. It is important for writers to research and use a variety of rich words. I also love the assignments where the students have to use their senses in their writing. They listen to sounds of nature and they listen to conversations. One workshop I went to suggested that you take readers on 'field trips' to watch cars to by the school and to listen to students talk without them knowing. The teacher's use of the senses reminded me of this workshop! Great ideas!
The story goes on as well as the assignments. More writing tasks are given, such as describing objects and their uses other than their intended purpose. This reminded me of a conversation I had with another teacher who loved writer's workshop. She would get students with writer's block to list all the things in their fridge from memory. Writers can always write SOMETHING.
Finally, I loved the assignment where they had to interview someone and an object that meant something to them. This is when the story gets sentimental as Polacco is famous for her touching stories. Keeping on with the writing theme though, I love this assignment too. What a great opportunity for a community connection for your students. You could assign them to an elderly person from the community and they could learn about a generation that they may not have otherwise had access to. It could also be a family member which would be a rich assignment as well.
If all this writing process stuff has you bored, rest assured! This is a fantastic story, a great read aloud for all ages AND a lovely example of the impact that one person can have on someone else.