With the first real week ending, I am one day away from completing a single rotation through our ridiculously convoluted schedule. So it has been six days of work out of the seven day routine. Thus, I have had a chance to meet with all but two sections five times. I have surprised myself at how quickly I am learning the names of students. While we have only interacted a handful of times, I am encouraged by the crop of ninth graders that I have in my charge, more so than usual. Already, they have begun proving that they have a lot to offer and some strong potential.
For the last three years or so I have opened the year with a brief, introductory exploration of how reading and writing are similar and reciprocal. It is basically a workshop approach, primarily riffing on a bunch of Writing Project bits I have cobbled together and amended. Admittedly, it is a little abstract and probably a bit of a stretch for a bunch of new high schoolers at fourteen. Nevertheless, I persevere every year trying to refine my approach.This year I may have finally had a breakthrough that I am hoping will pay dividends later.
Through a few short fictional readings, we examine some reading strategies and how they cross over into writing almost seamlessly. I then have them use a fictional short story with an unexpected plot twist as the premise for an exercise where the students re-write or re-interpret the story in three different non-fiction modes. From their observations about the process of writing something new and different inspired by the story revealed some great collective insights. By asking them to consider what “universal” rules or truth we might derive from each of their observations and a some minor assistance in the phrasing, they came up with the following:
- Reading and writing are often social acts
- Re-reading and reviewing aids understanding
- Discussing readings and writings aids understanding
- Purpose for reading and writing matters
- Audiences have expectations that make a difference
All in all, I was really pleased with their work, observations, and evolving understanding. At times, it required more questions and perhaps a little more effort to draw answers out of their uncertainty, but like I mentioned what I was chasing is a stretch for them and might even be just a little out of reach for some of them. Nevertheless, the results above were pretty exciting, particularly their intuitive recognition in the final two bullets. I can’t help but feeling that it all bodes well for some of the future learning I hope to steward.