Where Can Ideas to Write About Come From?
At the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, a small group of dedicated writing teachers in my school district began to meet in a professional development class. Our focus was to improve the writing of our students, and the text that we chose to study and implement was Units of Study for Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins.
One of the lessons that I taught from this mentor text asked the students to think of a person who mattered to them and to then list small moments they’d had with that person. They were to then write a piece about one of those small moments that they remembered with “crystal-clear clarity.”
I began by sharing with them a person who was very special with me, and I talked about a couple of different times that I especially remembered sharing with them. I “wrote out loud” for them as I recounted my special moments. Then I asked them to make a list of a few people who were very special to them. Under each name I had them write a time or two that they especially remembered spending with that person.
We talked about choosing the one time that would enable them to write an interesting piece. The results were rewarding, and in many cases quite touching. One of my students wrote about an older sister who had died. He wrote of how he remembered her giving him his first tamale when he was one and she was six years old. Another student wrote of an afternoon spent baking a cake with Grandma.
Below is a piece written by one of my students describing a special time spent with a younger sister:
A Moment With a Sister
by Celeste, fifth grade writer
There is moments I had with my mom, my dad, my cousin, my grandparents, and even myself. But the contented moment I cherish was with my sister. It all started on a night at Atlantis where my whole family came and had some fun! We all went up to the game room to entertain ourself to see what kind of modern games they had. My parents found the glowing air hockey game and they both rushed to go play it before anyone did. My sister and I wondered about the game room until we stopped by this game that really got my sister’s attention. The game looked dull to me because it was tall, red, had numbers up to ten, and it had a stop button. When my sister inserted a token, a yellow line kept passing the numbers and right when my sister pressed stop, it landed right on the ten. Out came ten green tickets which gave a sign of what the game was about. My sister inserted another token, paused, slammed the button and landed right on ten again. She did this for about six minutes and had 424 green tickets. I enjoyed this moment because my sister was good at the game.