For the next 31 days (Well, really 32 since I always start a day before the Challenge and then write the entire month of March.) my posts will be devoted to the Slice of Life Story Challenge, a challenge I co-host with seven other educators over at Two Writing Teachers. Some of my posts will be about raising a literate human (aka: my daughter), while some will be about small moments from my life.
If you haven’t committed to writing daily, but want to, I hope you’ll join us for the 9th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Click here for more details.
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I have regrets about the way writing time went in my daughter’s classroom today. I did too much heavy lifting. Not physically, of course. I didn’t lift more than a pint-sized chair to move it across the room to the meeting area. I’m talking about the level of support I provided my child. I think I prompted her too much.
Like previous visits to Isabelle’s classroom, I started talking with her about my upcoming visit over breakfast. I asked her if she knew what she’d write about today. She came up with an idea that wasn’t really a story. (It went like this: “Allegra and I watched the Maccabeats together at synagogue.”) There was no beginning, middle, and end (or b-m-e). Therefore, I told her to think of something that had a true b-m-e. She wasn’t sure what to write about so I told her how I was going to teach the class about writing about people we know, places we go, and things we do. I also told her I’d be reading Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee to help her and her friends think about things they do.
Of course, in true preschooler fashion, she jumped on the idea of writing about a roller coaster, specifically about the time she went on LaffTrakk at Hersheypark. (She went on once with my husband and hated it. However, she still talks about it because she “didn’t cry” even though she was scared.) I thought that was a great idea so we rehearsed it several times while we ate breakfast. She was able to able to sequence the story, but needed help adding details (e.g., where she made the silly faces, how she was feeling, how the ride moved). However, she seemed to have a good handle on it so we cleared the breakfast dishes and got ready to head to her school.
Isabelle didn’t come over to the writing center right away. In fact, she came over and I was working with three of her peers so I asked her to come back when one of them got up. She complied. However, by the time she returned, there was only 15 minutes left. I had her rehearse her writing, touching each page, as she retold her story aloud. Just two-and-a-half hours after we had initially practiced, a lot of the details were missing. I asked her questions and nudged her to add more details. She retold the story orally across pages again. Good enough. She was ready to draw.
Once her pictures were finished, we labeled them together. Things were going well until it was time for her to tell her story aloud to me one final time. She wasn’t elaborating. There was nothing about the fun house mirror on the first page of the story.
By the time we got to page two, I was feeling frustrated. All she said was “I went in the seats with Daddy.”
“Where were you?” I asked.
“Hersheypark,” she responded.
“But where?” I asked.
“The roller coaster,” she replied.
“Which one?” I asked. I really wanted her to name it.
“LaffTrakk!” she said in an exasperated voice.
“How did it move?” I asked.
“Then it went backwards,” she added on.
“How did you feel?” I asked.
“Scared,” she replied.
I pressed her. “Can you say it in a sentence?”
“I was feeling surprised because it was faster than the video,” she replied.
“What was faster?” I asked, wanting her to say LaffTrakk.
Isabelle looked at me — annoyed — and turned to the third page of her story.
“I walked out,” she said.
“Where did you go? I asked, knowing exactly where she went.
“Out,” she replied.
I kept going. “But where?”
“I walked out to see Mommy.”
“How did you feel?” I inquired.
I gave up. I felt frustrated she wouldn’t elaborate like she had during breakfast. And I found myself realizing I was becoming too invested in her story. She had said all she wanted to say. I wasn’t going to be able to pull any more out of her, nor should I.
But I am who I am. I said something more to her since I regretted doing too much of the heavy lifting today.
“Isabelle,” I paused and waited for eye contact. “I feel like I had to do a lot to get you to tell your story this week. I hope next week, when I come in, you’ll do more of the work. Okay?”
We shall see what next Monday brings…