Slice of Life Story Challenge March 4 - Heroes &Villains and Literacy Warriors

I have spent a lot of classroom time so far this year with our youngest writers. It has sharpened my awareness of how much they have to deal with as they struggle to gain power over print. It’s  a bit like attempting to juggle elephants actually.

 At first, their efforts are driven by what they think print represents; using it in ways that make sense to them. They are faced with the challenge of making sense of all those squiggles on the page. It’s like untangling a fishing line.

There is so much for the young writer to consider. They must endeavour to control the context, the direction, and the time dimension of the piece. They have to learn to control the writing of the text across a flat surface.  If the paper has lines, that’s a constraint they face as well. They have to quickly work out what writing can do and know the relationship between sound and symbols. They have to quickly become acquainted with twenty six magical shapes and begin to appreciate the infinite possibilities they possess.  They must learn to consistently form those symbols as well as placing them in a particular order.  They compose messages using a medium where the audience is frequently absent at the time of writing. Many have no concept of audience at all, unless teachers raise this as a consideration.  Wow, so much to juggle in their heads!

 Little wonder these tiny learners are so tired at the end of that first month of school.  Summer days persist, and the routines and rituals surrounding school days set a high expectation for conforming.  Teachers work to build confidence, awareness and that all important stamina for learning tasks.

 This task is not made easier by the fact that children live in a world that constantly pursues the celebration of ‘moments.’ It is the stimulus of moments they are taught to crave. It caresses them from every angle. At other times it is less subtle – like a slap in the face with a wet fish. A mass of people exist who work tirelessly to implore children to buy their messages; their sometimes questionable merchandise and ideas. Messages that are sometimes deceptive.  When I observe the children in our classrooms, I see them scrambling and striving to navigate their way through a complicated world; a world not of their making.

All these factors conspire against students producing sustained meaningful writing pieces. Sometimes the writing produced by developing writers appears to have been mindlessly constructed in an effort to push out sufficient words to placate the teacher, or merely stretch to the end of the page. -Writing controlled by pre-determined lengths in order to satisfy arbitrary word limits.

So, both teachers and the young writers they work along side, face many challenges.  The biggest being,- how to make writing meaningful in a fast paced, often superficial world. It is this challenge that makes literacy warriors out of so many teachers of writing.


Comments

  1. Great metaphors, "untangling a fishing line," and "Slap in the face with a wet fish." I work with gifted students, but still, they struggle to make meaning. Maybe harder than others because they set their expectations so high. They want to create a masterpiece on the first try. And often their vocabulary is higher than their ability to spell and this frustrates them. We must be diligent in our efforts with these young ones. And honor the work they do. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret, you make a good point about gifted students and their expectations. I agree.

      Delete
  2. I love the comparison to juggling elephants. It is very apt. Thank you for the reminder of all the conflicting tasks confronting young readers and writers. It is easy to forget how hard it was to learn something that is easy for me now. When I was learning to ride a unicycle my teacher kept reminding me "Do you remember learning to ride a bicycle? It was hard to do, but you did it. A unicycle is just as hard, but you can do it."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all need support to continue to strive; to learn and grow.

      Delete
  3. You have hit every point I marvel at as I watch young writers creating. There is so much for them to juggle in their mind as well as their dexterity. I may have to use the analogy of juggling elephants as I work with teachers who are impatient with students. Great piece to remind us of what learning looks like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Elsie, feel free to invoke the elephants.

      Delete
  4. Your thoughtful post about the tiny learners makes me wish I would remember what it was like to learn to read and write. I like that you call the writing teachers literacy warriors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terje, thank you for remarks. It would be great to travel back and revisit your younger self as a reader and writer, particularly armed with the knowledge we now possess.

      Delete
  5. I kept replacing young writers with English language learners as I was reading your post. My ELL students are trying to make sense both a new writing system and a sound system. Many of mine struggle with the directions of print as well. I am always on the lookout for better ways to teach them writing. Any suggestions?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yes to juggling elephants! I word with 4th and 5th graders and feel I am doing just that.
    Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular With Other Visitors

Writers Need To Go Rummaging Occasionally

Some Conventional Wisdom About Writing

New POETRY Book Release!

Teaching Poetry- Not For The Faint-Hearted

Slice of Life Story - A Small, Yet Awesome Moment