Jewish · slice of life · writing

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Over the weekend, I encouraged Isabelle to do some writing. I’m one of those parents who makes sure their child reads every day, but — despite what I do — I don’t ask her to write daily. Therefore, I invited Isabelle to pick the genre (She choose personal narrative.) and the topic (Attending Junior Congregation on Saturday morning at our synagogue.) so that the writing would have meaning and value to her.

I helped Isabelle orally rehearse her story using the video selfie feature on our iPad. This is an idea Deb Frazier gave me awhile ago since it helps kids see and hear themselves as they rehearse their writing. Once Isabelle settled on the way her story would go using the video selfies, I supported her as she touched each page as she retold the story. Next, she began sketching. I stepped back, giving her the space to create sketches that reflected the story she rehearsed. Finally she wrote.

Here’s the thing… even though I sat on the couch in her play room and put together my grocery list while she wrote, I witnessed some frustration. She wanted me to sit with her to help her do things like spell words. (As someone who believes in invented spelling, I couldn’t do this for her.) However, as anyone trained in workshop teaching knows, you have to walk away for the magic to happen. Therefore, I wouldn’t sit beside Isabelle since I knew she was capable of working independently.

Isabelle was less than thrilled with me. Therefore, I started texting Betsy Hubbard, since she was a K/1 looping teacher for over a decade. I lamented about how well Isabelle was doing as a writer, but that she didn’t wasn’t proud of what she accomplished on her own. That’s when Betsy gave me an idea: Show Isabelle her writing from last year so she could see how far she’s come as a writer.

I went down to our basement and located Isabelle’s keepsake box. I shuffled through it and found her Kindergarten drawing and writing book. I thumbed through it and smiled. Just a year and a half ago she was barely writing! I brought it upstairs. Even though I couldn’t wait for her to see it, I showed it to her the following day. Once I did, SHE was amazed. She looked through it and said things like, “I didn’t even know how to spell mommy last year!” and “I only wrote a line or two on this page!”

“Last year you only wrote a few lines at a time and you were finished. Now you’re writing a story across pages. In fact, you wrote four pages today. You should be proud of yourself, Isabelle.”

She looked up from her Kindergarten writing book on a page where she was laughing about a story she wrote that insisted she drove Ari to Hersheypark. She smiled and said, “I am.”

It was clear that looking back at her previous writing was a fantastic way to show Isabelle how far she’s come as a writer. But you know what else is clear? As corny as it sounds, it takes a village to raise a child. I have come to rely on my PLN for advice when it comes to raising literate humans. Knowing I have friends I can call upon for advice is one of the most reassuring parts of this parenting journey.

Page 1: First we got to synagogue. Then we saw Allegra and Jenny. More kids came. Page 2: Then mommy read a book to us. Then we prayed. Page 3: I sang “Adon Olam.” I felt scared. I felt good because I could do it. Page 4: When we were done we sang the Kiddush and the Motzi.

NOTE: The big story here really happened on page three when Isabelle volunteered to lead everyone in one of the songs, “Adon Olam.” This is something she wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a few months ago. Not only did she sing it, she sang loudly for the duration of the song. I wish she would’ve written about how amazing that moment was, but, again, it was her writing, not mine. (However, this is my blog, so I get to brag for a moment, right?)

7 thoughts on “I get by with a little help from my friends.

  1. It does take a village! As a school community we’ve been studying mid year writing and looking for growth from the fall. It is so amazing how quickly kids grow as writers. We had been discussing ways to share this with students. Your piece reaffirms the power this can hold.

  2. I always love your Isabelle stories. It DOES take a village and I am so glad you have people you can call on. She is lucky to have a mom who reminds her of the growth she has made!

  3. I can just imagine Isabelle’s face when she was looking at her “old” writing! What a great moment you’ve captured, along with an important reminder about noticing and celebrating our growth as writers.

  4. Yay Isabelle! My favorite line is “I stepped back, giving her the space to create sketches that reflected the story she rehearsed. Finally she wrote.” Giving her that space to draw also gave her time to think which is an essential habit to a writer! I believe is she continues to have these experiences with drawing/sketching/observing aka thinking – she will begin to listen to the voice of her ideas not the voice of “how do I spell?” – AND I would love to read the moment of her leading the congregation in song through your eyes – brag away! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I learned a lot from your post today. I will use some of your ideas on my favorite two-year-old who lives next door when he’s old enough to try something like writing. Even a retired teacher can learn new tricks! Thanks for sharing to you and Betsy.

  5. You have every reason to brag, Stacey. I like this idea of looking back. It works for all age levels. I would have my sixth grade students look back in May at something they wrote in September. They never failed to amaze themselves and how their writing progressed.

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