21st Century Email and Writing ‘Til Your Hand Breaks

Posted by debraallenellis July 11, 2017

As always, summer break is flying by much too quickly, but I'm having that wonderfully lazy summer I've always dreamed of having—one in which I'm staying home—mostly—and getting some things accomplished, with enough time to actually RELAX before school starts up again. Staying home means I've had hardly any frantic last-minute packing or unpacking to do at all, which has been nice. But, by the time July comes to an end, I'll have celebrated several various occasions with family and friends, as well as attended 3 classic rock concerts (one of my favorite hobbies). So, it's been a moderately fun summer, which has allowed time for more productive endeavors. For example, I managed to watch the new seasons of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black within days of their release on Netflix. Currently, I'm spending a lot of time on HBO, revisiting old seasons of Game of Thrones, so I can catch up on the parts I previously slept through, before the new season begins next week and I can nod off through some of those episodes as well. I've cleaned closets, dusted baseboards, polished cabinets, cleaned the pantry, cooked too much, attended a writing training with some other teachers, read two books, and have played more Words with Friends than I will likely ever play again in my entire life. Also—I'm proud to say—I have FINALLY made most of the necessary notifications to permanently switch from our old AOL personal email account to the Gmail account we've had for—at least—5 years. Don't laugh. I think I've been quite successful in that bit of procrastination, wouldn't you say?  {#emotions_dlg.tongue}

In the midst of all this progress, I've been doing my absolute best to ignore any thoughts of school that manage to seep in, and I have rolled my eyes SIGNIFICANTLY at a variety of Facebook posts by other teachers who already have their classrooms in order—some since June. {#emotions_dlg.unamused}  Geez! It's SUMMER BREAK, ladies! Get off Pinterest and go hang out at a freakin' pool! For another week or so, I refuse to feel guilty about the untouched piles of stuff that need attention in my own classroom. Probably, it would help if I take defensive action and unfriend those neat-freaky overachievers straight away.  Wink I'm trying super hard to successfully end ONE lousy summer break without any regrets about too little time to de-stress, and that peer pressure is really starting to annoy me. Soon, the chaos of a new school year will be upon me and I'll be darned glad I simply stayed home and didn't get all caught up in the busyness of a typical summer. You bet I will! Yay for me—no school work, no school shopping, no packing, no unpacking, no random road trips, no cruises, no trips to Florida, no travel anxiety at all! Right?

Yeah . . . well . . . SOoooo—between visits to numerous travel sites to figure out what I'll be doing to exhaust myself next summer, I've been a little bored, have been missing the kids at school, and am thinking a lot about the writing training I attended in June. I can't seem to get it out of my head and have been reflecting on my writing instruction with students, as well as my own personal writing.

I like to write, so I usually enjoy teaching it. After being away from a workshop teaching model for a couple of years, I'm excited at the prospect of teaching that way again, as was encouraged in my recent training, because I think it suits kids' creativity best. Basically, the way it works is that teachers instruct students through the writing process in small, well-planned doses (mini lessons) and most of the writing time is spent with kids actually writing, often about self-selected topics. Sounds great—right? In theory, it's quite effective, but there is one teensie tiny little problem. You may be shocked to learn this, but some students don't exactly love to write. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year, when some of them stop to rest their hand after every word, whining, and contorting their fingers into something you'd normally see on the hands of arthritic 90-year-olds. It takes a while to convince those kids that writing is not mercilessly planned daily torture and that they actually are physically capable of writing more than only their names. Thankfully, others aren't quite so dramatic and truly enjoy writing time. But, the procrastination of the tortured lot can lead to interesting conversation and situations. Here are some of my favorite and very typical moments with my second grade authors:

"I love writing. My favrit writing is a dook. I want to do writing ever day. I want you to make writing ever day. Please make writing longer like a hour longer. Thank you for reading this note."{#emotions_dlg.halo}  

"Ugh . . . I gotta put my name on this paper too?"

This afternoon, I was reading through a stack of "how-to" writing assignments in which the kids were supposed to explain the steps in playing a favorite game. Apparently, in "Call of Doody," one important step is, "Don't kill your teammates." I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty good advice for almost ANY game.  Surprised

"So? You want me to akshely WRITE that?"

Excerpt from a princess story in progress: "Her chestnut hair was blowing in the warm breeze and she was as hot as a piece of bread in a royal toaster."  {#emotions_dlg.princess}

"Can't write. Pencil's not sharp."

Our writing focus in summer school is on persuasive pieces and the kids are currently writing letters to persuade a parent or other person into changing or doing something. One little boy wrote to his mother that he wants her to buy him an iPad. Then, he can play lots of math and reading learning games. He explained that, if he does this, he'll become a better reader and math student, which means that he won't need to go to summer school next year and will be free to spend more time with HER. In the future, that kid is either going to be a fabulous salesperson or politician! I thought it was brilliant!

"We gotta write the date? AGAIN?"

A weather cinquain (5 line, non-rhyming poem) about hail:           

Scared, Harm
Dangerous, Huge, Frightened
Hard, Flash

"But, you said dat pencil sharpener makes too much noise, so I GOTTA write wif dis pen now. You said."

My student teacher has had our students writing their own versions of the "Three Little Pigs" story for the past few days. Today, they were sharing their drafts and some were fabulous! We complimented, giggled, and laughed throughout. One of the last writers read something about, "the big, fat, ugly wolf." Apparently, another had had as much of this nonsense as he could take. Suddenly, there was a loud groan, followed by, "Aargh! I weally wike wolves! Why do they always get such a bad wap?!"

"What side do da holes gotta be on da paper?"

LOL! Here's the story of "Scardy Pig:" 

"Wunsaponatime on a farm ther was a pig and he shor liked backin. One morning when the pig was haveing backin for brekfast he herd something coming from the backin and it sonded like this 'Hay remember me I'm your freind . . .' The pig got so extremele scard that he never ate backin agin!"

The best thing about this story is that it comes from one of my most hesitant writers. So, as far as I'm concerned, he blew it out of the water this time! Yes, we need to work on spelling and adding detail, but look at that FOCUS!

            "How many words gotta be in my sentence?"

I was supporting a small group of students as they began writing their first draft of an informational piece on an animal. I reminded them that they needed to begin with a good "hook" in the introduction that would grab the interest of their readers. We were going around the table, sharing ideas and one kid pops up to say, "Well, for my hangin', I'm gonna write . . ." 

"So, now, I HAFTA write wif a pen. OK?"

 He/she will be a very fortunate little brother/sister:{#emotions_dlg.halo}  

"How many sentences we gotta write?"

We made get-well cards for a student who is out for a couple of weeks. Stacking them together and securing with a rubber band, I couldn't help but chuckle. There's always that one, wonderful kid who marches to the beat of a different drum; making that single hotdog fold in a world filled with hamburger folds.Kiss 

"Why do they call it a period instead of a dot?"

The assignment was to write an informational paragraph about things people can do to keep their bodies healthy: "Do you know how to stay healthy? Well heres some tips. You can stay healthy by exersising on a tredmel 2 times a day for half an hour. If you want to be really healthy you have to drink alot, eat alot, and sleep in on saturdays and sundays. If you arent healty you will get really sick or even sometimes people die. You better stay healthy or it might happen to you." Why can't this be a good health plan for adults, as well as kids?! I think I'd be really good at drinking a lot, eating a lot, and sleeping in!

"So, how many sentences gotta be in my paragraph?"

Students were to write a "How-To" article on something they knew about and could teach. First, they had to list the materials needed, followed by the directions. I don't even want to know where she thinks you would go to "Get a baby."

"Can't erase. I writed it in pen."

This is one of my favorite writing pieces ever! The first 3 photos are of his quick-sketch plan for the story. His first draft follows. I think I love the sketches more than the story. They say it all, without need of words! Please note that I'm not always a meanie. He IS allowed to write about video games, just not every day.

First, he's sitting at his desk, looking over his shoulder to see if I'll notice that he's writing about a video game.

Next, I catch him, red-handed.

Last, he's really "angre" that he isn't allowed to write about video games today.

Notice how the clever little guy makes this a story about a video game after all. He got me!

"How ‘pacific those details gotta be?"

This assignment was to write a letter to your parents, trying to persuade them to either allow you to get something you want or to convince them to allow you to make some other change. I promise that I didn't suggest anyone threaten to leave home.{#emotions_dlg.grinmacing}  

"Do I even know what details are?"

The fall after I moved back to KY brought some interesting encounters with the mailbox at our new house. I posted photos of everything on Facebook as the events transpired, but knew my students would enjoy seeing them as well, so I shared the photos with them at school too.

One afternoon, I opened the door to find a tiny field mouse inside, shredding our mail. We thought it might be fun to plan a story about it.

Not long after that, I discovered tiny frogs living inside the mailbox, so we added a little more action and another chapter to our mailbox story plan.

After we plugged up the entrance hole they were using, the mouse left and the frogs stopped hopping in. Unfortunately, my students and I never got around to drafting our story. Suddenly, though, the next chapter just, sort of, happened, and couldn't be ignored:

So, maybe having frogs and mice living in our mailbox, shredding our mail, isn't the worst thing that could happen to it. The story my students and I are planning to write about "The Mouse in the Mailbox" is getting more interesting. This chapter will be called, "The Time the Guy From the Water Company Backed Into It." Gotta laugh!

Eventually, the water company paid to have the mailbox rebuilt and we planned a chapter about that. Still, we never quite got around to completely drafting that story. Just too busy with other writing pieces. Such a shame. Surely, it would have been a bestseller.  Smile

 "OK, so, my hand is BROKE. Can I PLEASE stop writing NOW?!"

Teacher's Writing Confession  :{#emotions_dlg.crying}


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