Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time and my writing program

Long ago I remember reading an essay in Time magazine that said time would be the luxury of the future.  And since I never seem to have enough time, I have often thought about this.  I was just flipping through a couple of teaching writing books and moaning about my writing program.  I have always loved teaching and facilitating creative writing.  At least from the time I spent one summer in New Hampshire at a writing course for teachers begun by the amazing Donald Graves.  It was definitely a game changing experience.  I started a new job that September as a Learning Assistance Centre teacher and my program centered on writing and I ended up teaching creative writing in a couple of classrooms on a regular basis as well as making guest appearances in others.  My remedial students learned to love writing and their reading improved as well.  Students in the regular classrooms absolutely amazed me with their creativity.  One highlight was a visit with famous Canadian poet, P. K. Page, who had written her first children's book, A Flask of Sea Water, and when she heard the students were writing quests she asked that we short list them and send them to her and she gave the "winners' copies of her book and some great feedback.  What an amazing lady!  I often connected my writing "lessons" to wonderful picture books that gave us all inspiration.  I spent seven years doing Learning Assistance at two different schools and writing always was at the core of my program.  Also during that time I began teaching at Simon Fraser in the Education Department reading and language arts methods courses.  And writing became an important element in these courses as well.  I began each course with the students doing a piece of writing of their choosing.  It was a fabulous way to get to know them and also for them to become aware of the power of writing, especially if you had never seen yourself as a writer.
The next 11 years I spent teaching mainly grade six at the same South Vancouver school. But of course I didn't just teach reading and writing, there were all the other subjects, as well as all the other duties of being a regular class teacher, but writing still was an important part of my program, and I generally did creative writing with a grade seven class as well.
Then I moved into a district position where my job was to help other teachers with their writing programs.  It was a great learning experience for me as well, learning about the six traits of writing, and bringing that piece into the equation.  I also still got to spend time in classrooms, especially bringing the oral piece into writing.  Several classes enjoyed being involved in "poetry slams".
And then once again I went back to my "own" classroom.  I often was glad I had all those files of ideas!  And writing in my room occurs every day in different ways, but today as I glanced at my books, and last week when I was at our Literacy Day and chaired sessions given by Lori Jamison and Adrienne Gear, I certainly was finding many "holes" in my writing program.
What am I noticing?  Most of my girls write passionately!  They love to read and write.  My boys generally like to read, but probably not as much, and their writing to me needs some elaboration.  There aren't many what Adrienne calls "triple scoop" words!  I know it may be time for some poetry!  Poetry always improves word choice!
The classroom teacher juggles many balls.  Currently we are in the midst of Ancient Egypt projects!  And then there are Science review and learning about how to find the area of a circle.  Occasionally I seem to work in some French and I am trying to look at some new Ipad apps.
Time, time and yes, I have marking!  I always have marking!  But tomorrow I am going to find time to let them really enjoy their writing and their results.

(First picture from a report, a sample they wrote about author, Melanie Jackson's visit.
The second, is taken when my students were writing with their grade one buddies about going skating)

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