Tuesday slice of life, Aug. 16, 2011
The Words, The Words, Where Are The Words?
Sometimes the words
The labor is too intense.
No poem is born.
I think I may wait
until the words
come a bit easier.
I wrote this poem, trying to find one way to share my feelings with students when I can’t get started with a writing idea, and to let them know that sometimes I can’t get started, too.
Sometimes in the classroom when we have writing time, I see students fiddling with their pencils, getting up to get a drink or another writing instrument. I see they are struggling with finding an idea that that editor in their heads will approve. How I help depends on the student. When I know that they usually don’t struggle, and have plenty of ideas percolating in their notebooks, I leave them alone. When it’s a student who muddles through consistently, and I’ve seen the slim entries in their notebooks, I try to intervene in a variety of ways. Sometimes my aids work, sometimes not. I do believe that as a teacher, I should try, but I also believe that there are students who are challenging to help, even resistive. Here are a few ideas I use with those students.
I have conversations with students that include questions about life outside school, sports played, musical pursuits, current status of friendships, etc. Just talking can help a student begin an opinion about something, and then I encourage the writing about it.
There are lots of poems to use for student response, but the one that can be fun, because anything goes and it works for all ages is Judith Viorst’s poem “If I Was In Charge Of The World”. If the student will begin just listing all the changes he or she would make, sometimes one thing on the list is what I respond to with “how would you do this?”
And finally, one topic that works well for me is to ask about other people. What has the student noticed that indicates that a person is having some kind of problem? It may be a friend that’s had a recent disappointment, a parent that is stressed about something at work, or someone at school this particular student knows has struggled in some way. Helping the struggling writer think about someone else can motivate the writer to describe the person, the problem, and even to project further into a ‘what if’ scenario. Here again, I’m just digging deeper into what this student knows, to help her or him see that they have indeed a wealth of interesting things to write about.
I wonder what you do when a student struggles?