I have never, ever been so excited about a school residency. Why?
1. I get to work with Karen Fichter-Venners, whom I’ve known for decades. She’s a brilliant 5th grade teacher who cares about emotional and intellectual growth equally. I posted about her last year twice. Once when I discovered her I Can Cans and read Suzanne Collin’s picture book memoir with her class. (see http://ignitingwriting.com/thoughts-perceptions/hungry-for-conversation). She is the funnest, most thoughtful teacher I know!
2. We are truly going to collaborate on leading a story that blends our two passions—her’s for science and mine for writing (though Karen loves writing and reading as well.) I write truly because we two ham-it-up teachers are sharing a stage equally. For example, I read a book aloud and lead discussion about the writing and she talks with the students about the writing.
3. We had four fabulous discussions (one in each class) when I went on Tuesday when we read books that we’d pre-chosen because we thought they paired science, literature, and emotion:
Katherine Applegate’s Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla (Houghton Mifflin, ages 6-10), a book that had particular meaning because these students have studied the book deeply with their Language Arts teacher.
Tony Johnston’s Sequoia (Roaring Brook, ages 6-10) a lyrical book with striking illustrations by Wendell Minor that personifies a tower tree who begins a day as he watches “the clearing quietly fill with deer” and “ the sky burn blue at the rim.”
Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s (Simon and Schuster, ages 5-10), the humorous story of a hen born with arms who makes surprising adaptations.
Alan Rabinowitz’s picture book memoir,A Boy and a Jaguar (Houghton Mifflin, ages 6-10) a stutterer who finds comfort only when he speaks to animals and grows up still “broken” inside, but ends by setting up the world’s first and only jaguar preserve.
4. We created a list of wild characters—the strongest being the ones that came from the children’s experience of studying the biomes they’d constructed and been observing. And because we are truly collaborating, Karen’s been carrying the project forward in my absence.
And that’s just the intellectual content of our day together. I can’t wait to blog about the fun and power of the emotional environment Karen creates and I got to witness and play in. Blogging will keep me happy until I return in two weeks.