After many years in education, it has finally occurred to me that I really need to market the idea of reading and writing to my remedial reading students. Reading and writing has always been difficult for them and at the ripe old age of 9, they don't choose either as free time activities.
Despite my encouragement of, “practice will make you better” or my pleas:“you’d never say this to your football (basketball/soccer/dance etc) coach," reading and writing remain on the NOT TO DO list for these children.
So, I decided that I would bring sketch books back to the reading room this year. My goal: Let the kids discover for themselves that they ARE creative and DO have great powers of observation and ideas. For the first 15 minutes of each reading class, the students sketch, write and share ideas.
Guess what??? They LIKE it! They are beginning to buy into the idea that they are smart…just in a different way from some of their peers.
Very quickly, after the first 3 sessions, I had students requesting sketching/writing time. In the beginning, I collected images from the YCBA collection, book illustrations, and online images from various art museums. I am storing them in what is becoming a rather large power point. Each slide is an image with several writing invitations.
Van Gogh: Shoes 1888
Students sketch and write for equal amounts of time.
JWMTurner; The Morning After Deluge 1843
Two important observations over the past month:
1) Kids get right to the writing. Not one student (grade 3-5) has uttered the dreaded words, “I don’t know what to write.” Or better yet, “How many sentences does this have to be?”
2) The kids are starting to notice that their writing is getting longer and more detailed. There is pride in their voices when they share. They are excited with the language they are using and making links to literature. They are applying figurative language and making inferences (and actually know what both of those terms mean now!)
This takes very little planning. Just give students time and opportunity and they will amaze you and, more importantly, amaze themselves.
I sketch and write with my students to model and practice what I preach.