Thursday, February 11, 2010

Book Labs

Exhausted from nearly two hours of snowball fights and fort building, my six year old son and his six year old friend settled into my basement for some quiet time. Nathan and Emily are in the same class with a teacher who LOVES Mo Willems. These two children have fallen in love with Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie. In fact, they love these characters so well, their coveted day off became a time to write their own “Mo Willems” stories. For nearly three hours, they toiled at the work of writing. They borrowed Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie as characters for their own books. They introduced these beloved friends to Icey, a character from their own imaginations and crafted storylines and plots about friendship that Mo Willems might want to borrow.

As they wrote, they babbled to each other about this and that, and shamelessly, I eavesdropped. Emily talked about how “Pigeon really changed in her story.” Nathan talked about how he wasn’t sure how to spell words like “talk” and “sacrifice” but he was “saying them slowly” and “writing them the best he could.” Their books included blurbs on the back inviting readers to “read more to find out” and dedication pages. They wrote notes to each other responding to what they thought about each others’ books.

And at some point during this flurry of creation, a sign appeared on the entryway to my basement. It read: Book Lab.

Laboratories are places that value experimentation. In laboratories, questions are investigated and techniques refined. It is a place that has all of the tools that inquisitive minds need in order to follow their inquiries and take their learning to new heights.

I think Emily and Nathan coined a new phrase that embodies the heart of writing workshop: Book Lab. I think we could all benefit by learning from these young writers and create environments that invite the same curiosity, observation, and inquiry about writing.

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