"Artists often say, ‘"[It] is the journey not the destination that is important.'"We say this so we do not become attached to the end product but rather enjoy the process of painting itself. When you worry about the outcome, the painting becomes tight and forced rather than spontaneous and free. When thinking about children's creativity it’s important to emphasize this idea. The child should enjoy the (painting) process, play with the media, experiment, make mistakes (there are none), be inquisitive, ask 'what if,' and just be curious." - See more at: http://www.creativitypost.com/education/what_drives_childrens_creativity.
Never has this been more true in my teaching experience than this year! I am creating a kindergarten writing curriculum as we go, teaching writing in a first grade classroom for only the second time, and designing a brand new unit of study on graphic narrative writing for first grade to be taught in the second semester and shared through a grant project. I feel very much like I am flying by the seat of my pants most days on this writing journey. Each and every day, I ask 5- and 6- and 7-year olds to be writers. To be authors and illustrators who have ideas and to share them through text and pictures with readers.
Such a lofty goal...but maybe, on the other hand, really just a simple and authentic invitation to "be inquisitive, ask 'what if', and just be curious". I absolutely love Rina Gottesman's words!
Today I read, What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page to the students. This is a wonderful book in which the authors present parts of animals on one page (tails, noses, mouths, hands, eyes, ears, etc.) and ask the reader to imagine what the animals who belong to those body parts do with them. When you turn the page, the animals are shown in their entirety and there is text to teach the reader how each animal uses their tails, noses, mouths, hands, eyes, ears, etc. in unique ways. The students loved hearing the book read aloud, and I challenged them to try using a variation of the craft move in their own books about a season.
Above is the work of some brave writers who weren't afraid to ask "What if?"
I am including the plan for this lesson that we worked on today. Our first grade writers are so engaged in this work that we are seeing writing that far exceeds our expectations in terms of composition and craft.
Lesson 5 - Interactive Features
Objective Students will create texts that engage and entertain readers, but that also inform about a topic. In this session we will consider how we can present information to our readers by writing an illustrated interactive guessing book.
Materials What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?, Steve Jenkins, Robin Page
Literary Nonfiction class chart
Connect Remind students of our discussion yesterday when we read and talked about Supermarket, by Kathleen Krull. Refer to our chart where we added:
Bat Loves the Night
- a story about a bat
- facts about bats
- gives topic (ocean) a voice
- fact page at the end
- information presented as text written on the illustrations
Teach Tell students that today you are going to read and study another book, What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Invite students to first listen to the book as readers, listening for information about animals, and then as writers, looking for techniques and strategies Jenkins and Page use to entertain and teach. Read the book twice. During the second reading, remind students to be on the lookout for writer moves.
Active Engagement When you have finished the second reading, invite students to turn to their neighbor and share something that they noticed the authors try in the book that helped either entertain or teach their readers. Listen in on student conversations to find some ideas that you want the whole group to access from this book. Call the group back together and ask a few students to share, making sure to include all the points you wanted made. Add these to your chart.
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?
- questions to engage the reader on one page/answers on the next
- written like a riddle
Link Tell the students that the new idea you added to the chart today is something they may try in their writing, too.
Share Walk around the room as the students work and choose one or two writers to share their work at the end of the session. Be sure to highlight the good writer and illustrator work they are doing.
Assessment You may want to carry around an anecdotal note observation sheet upon which you can keep notes on what you see the students are trying as you begin this new unit. These notes can inform your teaching going forward.
Jenkins, S. and Page, R. (2003). What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company.
"Parents and teachers can help children learn to trust themselves, to take sensible risks, and do what they love to do. They can encourage children to be innovative and playful with pen, paint, crayon, paper, stone, clay, musical notes, sand, or whatever medium for creativity they choose. This will empower children to want to create—fueling that initial spark with a variable mix of passion, chaos, and clarity so it can ignite and become creative expression."
In the classrooms in which I am privileged to teach, I want innovation and playfulness and passion to be more than just present. I want those things to drive all that we do with our students. Every single child deserves that.