Sunday, May 10, 2009

Creatures of Habit

Today is Mother’s Day. I had grandiose visions of sleeping in till 9:00 and eating breakfast in bed off a tray filled with flowers and adoring letters from my children. But, here I sit at 6:30 AM dressed in my sweats and sneakers ready for my morning walk—why? Because that is my routine. That is what I do every day.

I visited a kindergarten this week. I taught a brief lesson on what to do when you are stuck and don’t know what to write. After my lesson, I took a risk and simply said, “Now, I’d like you to go get started on your own writing.” In a classroom of five and six year old writers, you might have expected chaos—a mad dash to the folders, confusion until everybody found something to write with, but no, that is not what happened. It was quiet and orderly. The children quickly gathered their materials and sat down to write. As I began to confer with them about their work, they talked to me about their “drafts,” “stretching out words,” and “brainstorming their planning pages.” They easily sustained twenty minutes of independent writing and could have gone longer except for the fact that I stopped them because I was leaving and wanted time to share.

Such language, organization, and stamina during writing workshop. How is this possible? I wondered. And then I realized. In this classroom, writing is valued by the teacher. Every day since the first day of school, they have had writing workshop. Their language is so impressive because the teacher uses this language when she teaches them. The transition from mini lesson to independent writing time is so smooth because each day for the 150 odd days that they have come to this classroom the teacher has set expectations for how to gather their materials and get started in order to make the most out of the time they are given. They can sustain long periods of writing because they have practiced and because they have been taught that their words matter. They know that they have important things to say. Writing Workshop is an integral part of their day. It is a routine is ingrained into their being—just like me and my sneakers.

No comments: