Writing to Entertain

It’s Wednesday, time for Kindergarten writing workshop. I have a hop in my step as I walk down the hall towards the Kindergarten classroom. I open the door, and the teacher rushes over to tell me that she desperately needs my help. The girls are sitting at small tables immersed in their speech bubble stories – all except the girls at the kidney-shaped table. At that table, three little girls are “writing:” Abbie is tossing her eraser in the air; Maddie is hopping up and down and writing at the same time, and Kelly is sitting backwards in her chair looking at her friends at the next table. Of course, the teacher sits me at the kidney-shaped table and says, “See what you can do.”

I smile at the girls. “Okay everyone, let’s keep writing,” I proclaim cheerfully. Kelly promptly get sup and sharpens her pencil. It is a long journey and I have to call her back to her story. Abbie is staring at her pictures. She has one more frame to finish. I encourage her to write an ending. “I’m thinking,” she says quietly. Abbie thinks for a long time. I periodically coax her along.

Maddie, the hopping one, has finished her story. She shows it to me. There is a happy drawing in six frames. The first one has a picture of a boy, a girl, and a house. The girl is saying, “Let’s go!” the boy is saying, “OK!” The second frame has me stumped. I turn to Maddie and say, “Can you read this to me?” Random words are scattered around the frame encircled in a speech bubble. I cannot figure out the order, but Maddie can. She promptly moves up and down, right to left and reads, “Hey Jack, it’s time for school.”

I smile and take a deep breath. Children never cease to amaze me. Maddie is hopping again. I ask her to quiet her body. She giggles at me like that is the funniest request she has ever heard.

“Maddie,” I say in my most writing workshop teacher voice, “When we write, we need to write the words in order.” Maddie giggles and bounces in her seat.

“Why?” she asks. “Because your readers need to know where to start and where to end.”

“I can read it,” she says proudly.

Yes,” I agree, “but I can’t”. If I follow the way you wrote it, it would say, ” Hey school, it’s Jack time.”

This sets Maddie into a gale of laughter, sprawling herself across the table. We erase her bubble and start again. I make light guide lines and Maddie begins to write her message. She stretches out each word. It takes a long time.

Meanwhile, Kelly has finished her story. It is in order, and she reads it aloud confidently. She begins to color her pictures. Abbie is still sitting staring at her paper. It is half done. I ask her to tell me the story. It is about a butterfly and a snake, and they are looking for their friend, a girl named Red. Abbie has imaginative ideas. Pictures are easy. Words are hard. Each character says just one word. It is easier to be quiet.

Maddie starts shouting, “How do you spell Nona?”

We stretch the word out together. I look at her picture frame.

“I thought you and Jack were going to school?”

“We are,” she declares boldly.

“Then, how come you are at Nona’s house?”

She sticks out her bottom lip and looks at me like I am the most dense person in the world.

“Because,” she says very slowly, “We go to Nona’s house after school.”

“Oh,” I say, “then you need to write that here,” I say pointing to her picture of Nona’s house. I remind her to put the words in order.

Maddie hops in place, finishes her words, and begins to color her drawings. I’m glad to report that Maddie, Jack, and Nona live happily every after. I am looking forward to my next session in Kindergarten writing workshop. I can just imagine what entertainment Maddie and her classmates have in store for me!

A Time for Apples

I don’t know whether it’s because my mom was a teacher or because I became a teacher and have been doing this for the last forty years… but I LOVE apples.  I keep an apple collection: marble, ceramic, crystal, brass – all kinds of apples to remind me that school has just started and like the crisp, fall apples – the year is full of sweetness and possibility.

One of my most favorite things to do in the fall is bake with children: picking, washing, peeling, slicing and incorporating apples into pies, cakes, and muffins.  It is not fall to me until the classroom is filled with that apple, sugar, cinnamon scent.  And it’s those memories students are fond of the most, the ones they want to repeat no mater how old they become. As the years pas, it has become important for me to provide apple memories to our Kindergarten students by reading the book, Apple Pigs by Ruth  Orbach, and making the aforementioned apple pigs.

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The book was first published in 1978, the year I graduated college.  When I became a nursery school teacher, I read the book to my young students.  They loved the rhyming text and the multitude of creatures who came to the apple feast.  At one point, Apple Pigs went out of print, and I couldn’t find it anywhere!  Even my local library had lost their rag-tagged copy. However, last year I decided to try one more time to find a copy. I was happily surprised that Apple Pigs had been reprinted in England. I quickly bought a copy and read it aloud to the Kindergarteners.  They loved the story and rejoiced in making the pigs.   Throughout the week, many children would find me to thank me for reading. They’d ask me when I was coming again and what we were going to make next.  Even older students, remembered the pigs and asked to make them again. It always amazes me how important good stories and good food stick in children’s memories.

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I think this activity is so appealing to children not only because they get to eat marshmallows, but because they take simple ingredients are able to quickly make something beautiful and delicious.  They want to make it again.  They go home and tell their family and friends.  Apple pigs  has become a tradition.  It is a tradition I gladly share now with generations of students.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year