It was also beginning to look a lot like holiday break when I returned to Underwood. What was I thinking working in December? I wanted to return for the kids who, after weeks of my absence, kept asking Karen “When’s Ms. Wilde coming back?” I missed them and wanted to create a 1st draft before winter break.
On my first visit, Karen’s classroom was as fun and festive as it was wild. She has an affinity for the drama of the season, is in touch with the children’s passions and knows how to channel their crazy energy. My first visit was on a “free choice Friday and I got to see a wonderful range of greetings.”
There was hump greeting (usually used on Wednesdays to mark getting through the middle of the week)
One of the students had come up with “Turkey Greeting” around Thanksgiving.
When I returned for a 2nd visit during the following week, seasonal celebration had cranked up even more. Karen met students with a choice of a curtsey, or a snowman greeting. For the latter she rotated as if snowbound and high fived kids.
“If you curtsey,” one student said, catching onto the metaphor, “you can only go to the side because that’s all a snowman can do.” Karen’s magical wondering reaches out to captivate students before they even enter her classroom.
Once inside, Karen continued the theme, as we blew imaginary soft flakes from our palms on an out breath.
Then students connected through singing. What else would one sing but Frozen’s “Do you want to build a snowman?” That song has a enormous power. Catie knew all the words at age 2 (like so many toddlers) and those 5th graders belted out the lyrics, the girls complaining when they couldn’t sing the whole song.
In groups of three, they built a snowman. The oldest mimed making the bottom, biggest snowball and then each student, in age order, added an imaginary snowball.
I questioned the madness of reading aloud with our limited number of December dates. The disappointment on Karen’s face made me rapidly decide differently . So on each date, we read and discussed books in every class. The students had two obvious favorites. As usual, they preferred the most intense read alouds. Not the cheeriest books, perhaps, but we had great a discussion about death because of Nancy Wood’s Old Coyote (Candlewick, ages 8 to adult). The glorious illustrations by Max Grafe aid the spare text that relates the final days and last goodbyes of an old coyote.
They also loved Mem Fox’s Feathers and Fools (Houghton, ages 8 to adult) an allegorical story that shows how imagined threats between peacocks and swans leads to war and near annihaltion.
During writing sessions, we added colorful bits of dialogue, similes, description using the senses and vivid verbs as we “Slurped Horrible Fish Juice” during Candy Game: Part 2. I developed this acronym years ago with a teacher as we discussed and decide on which writing elements would lead students to writing success. Then we determined a way children could remember those with a disgusting acronym: Slurping Horrible Fish Juice. (Slurping=what you can see , Horrible=what you can hear, Fish=what you can feel and Juice=integrating juicy words.)
The students came up with some wonderful expressions for each scene. Each of these fit the characters, settings, plot and science. Example: Chirps’ cercis trembled like a violent earthquake.
I returned for the third and last time on the last day of school. I wasn’t foolish enough to meet with entire classes; besides, the easiest way to write up a draft is with small groups who combine turn the collaboratively-devised supporting details into a Draft 1.
Next week, I’ll return for the first time in 2015 with our “Pukey First Draft” (a student-appropriate version of Ann Lamott’s “sh—-” first draft”).