Education, Lessons Learned In Combat, Literacy

An Important and Magnificent Day

Today is an important and magnificent day. Today marks the day that Ms. Wright, kindergarten teacher extraordinaire, launches writer’s workshop with her students.

The scene is expertly and purposefully set. Reams of paper sit patiently, waiting to be filled with swirling colors, bold lines, and grand ideas. Brand-new markers gleam. Pencils capped with bright pink erasers lean side-by-side, freshly sharpened, in plastic cups.

Students. Freak. Out.

“But I don’t know HOWWWW to write books!” one student wails, his coffee-colored eyes brimming with tears. Another sits staring at Ms. Wright with wide eyes, mouth hung open in shock. A third, so startled by the revelation that today he will be the author/illustrator of his very own book, comes thisclose to wetting his pants.

“I’m going to throw up,” Alex* announces.

Ms. Wright smiles. [A brief conversation regarding the threat of vomit ensues.]

Crisis averted, she holds up a copy of Gail Gibbons’ Monarch Butterfly, a text with which her students are familiar. “What do you notice about this book?” she asks. “Tell me what you see.”

“A title!” Laura exclaims.

“A title!” Ms. Wright echoes breathlessly. “So when you write your book, will you eventually have a title that tells your readers what your book is about?”

Several students nod their heads.

“Super! What else do you notice?”

“A picture!” someone cries.

“I could draw a picture of throw up,” Alex comments. “I could–I could write a whole BOOK about throw up!”

“Yes, you could!” Ms. Wright replies.

“POOP!” someone next to me shouts.

“Do you see the author’s name on this book?” Ms. Wright asks, pointing to it. “When you write your books, you will want to write your name on it so that your readers know that you are the author and illustrator.”

“I’m going to write a book about my cat Elsie!” Shawn says.

Ms. Wright and I exchange excited glances.

“Do you want to get started right now?” Ms. Wright asks him. She holds up two packets of blank paper that have been stapled together to form a perfect, blemish-free book. “Do you want a book that opens up the tall way, or the short way?”

“The short way!” Shawn decides, trotting off to start composing.

“I’m ready to write my book about throw up!” Alex says. “I want a book that opens up the tall way.”

“Who else is ready to write his book?” Ms. Wright asks, handing a blank book to Alex.

Within minutes, every student has an idea for a book, has made a decision about the book’s format, and is eagerly working at a table.

No one vomits. No one wets his pants**. No one shows any indication that he can’t.

Today is an important and magnificent day.

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*Student names have been changed to protect the nauseous and innocent.

**During writer’s workshop, anyway.

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