The good thing about writing every day in March is that I will remember how to use my blog.
The bad thing about writing every day in March is that I will forget and neglect many other things in life.
The good thing about writing every day is that I will be a good role model for my students.
The bad thing about writing every day is that I will not have time to grade their papers.
The good thing about writing every day is that I will not have time to grade their papers.
The bad thing about writing every day is that I won’t have time to work out my plan for alternatives to grading.
The good thing about writing is it heals and keeps me sane.
NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program is a growing part of my eighth grade curriculum. We wrote rough drafts in November. In February, we started on what I thought would be a one-month journey of revision and editing, but it is turning into more like two months. That’s three months in all, and the jury is still out on whether this has been a good use of our time, so I needed to do a little reflection.
Previously with Novel-Writing 8th Graders
Three years ago, NaNoWriMo was a voluntary assignment, with about 2/3 of the class participating. The rest of the class did other writing assignments. A bit more than half of the novelers chose to continue with the work of editing, most of it on their own. Proof copies were ordered in the summer.
Two years ago, 100% wrote first drafts in November (it became an assignment for everyone that year), and 85% edited (much in a short exploratory course and then some on their own). We ordered proof copies by the skin of our teeth, and celebrated our accomplishment the last week of school.
Now, this year, with three months on the line, is the experience worthwhile enough to take English time to get the process done for everyone?
Noveling and the Common Core
I compared the noveling, revising and editing curriculum to the Common Core standards in Language and Writing, and the students have really grown in the standards I looked at. The following five images are the complete standards for eighth grade in Language and Writing. I made notes in red regarding student work on this project:
Language Common Core
Writing Common Core
More than the Common Core
Clearly, with this project they are doing the work of writing and developing written language skills. In addition to these important skills in the Common Core, the 8th graders are also learning to…
follow their dreams
believe in themselves
recognize their creativity
know they are a genius, and the world expects their contribution*
make decisions about what to do in school
develop passion for their own assignments, not mine (On an aside, one of my greatest sadnesses as a teacher is when a student says, “Is this what you want?” I can honestly say, in three years, no one has ever asked me that question regarding their novel. It is strangely theirs from start to finish, even though I have many benchmarks, requirements, and, come editing time, I comment all over their Google Doc like an overachieving street tagger! I am constantly having conferences and mini-lessons with individuals. [Note to self: Next year bring in backups–parents and retired teachers who can help.] BUT, they do the work and want to. They know they are getting a proof copy and want it to be good. No student has ever said, “That’s OK, I’ll just keep this plotless wonder with all its mistakes.” I back off when I realize I’m asking too much. When one has 339 errors of the same kind, it can be a bit daunting, so I help as much as possible and we’re becoming pros at using the find and replace feature.)
and so much more
Maybe the jury is closer to a decision than I thought! I’ll let you know after we get all the books ordered!
The roads were 100% snow covered in some areas, and I had precious cargo in the van with me–students on the way to a quiz bowl meet. There were dozens of photographs jumping out to be taken, but I had precious cargo and I couldn’t stop–we would have been late and there were several cars in the ditches.
Since June, I have been taking many more photographs. Most of them with my point-and-shoot camera, and I am no expert. However, I have gone from the one who didn’t have a camera, or if I did, the batteries were dead to one who is always prepared and on the lookout for photos.
Last summer I received a tweet from Sheri Edwards inviting me to participate in the June, July, and August Project (#JJAProject) which was started by some fellow teachers. After that was over, a few of us continued with the Teachers’ Foto Friday (#TFotoFri) once a week group. Now, about 20 teachers and I are attempting the #T365Project, a picture a day in 2012.
But back to my snowy road trip. This was the first snowy day of the year and only the second of the whole winter! I was so taken with all the beauty, finding photographs everywhere I looked — from the quick sparks and snowy powder shooting up from the blade of the heavy snow plow in front of me to the gentle, intricate flakes falling and melting onto the warm windscreen of the van.
Today, instead of taking the pictures, I could only talk to myself about them.
Some more photos I missed…
Powdered sugar snowfall sprinkled evenly on the oxidized railroad bridge.
Hay bails lined up in formation with uniform helmets of snow.
Festive and frosted evergreens, missing during Christmas, now found interspersed among the bare deciduous trees.
Thin ice, now snow-covered, proved to me it was at least thick enough to hold the deer whose tracks ran down the middle of the river.
After a long day, we turned around and retraced our steps, the snow mostly gone after a sunny winter day. However, the images continued to come.
Reflective tape danced in the sun as the box cars and tankers rumbled by at a train crossing, train art graffiti occasionally broke the rhythm.
Golden grass, bent in the breeze, absorbed and reflected the late afternoon sunshine.
Without my camera, I discovered that my year-long photography adventure is making me a better observer, a better describer, and a better writer. As a literacy teacher, I couldn’t help but wonder if taking photos would have the same effect on students’ writing. What do you think?
Will a photography challenge help students observe, describe, and write?
When they find themselves unable to get a shot they long for, will they take pictures with words?