Family Literacy night at West Elementary School was a huge success last week. Classrooms were bulging with 350 students, siblings, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. With a theme centering on the Olympics, students were going for the "gold" in reading.
Skipping from one classroom to another, we heard and saw many ways to promote literacy in the home. The five components of the literacy program at West are similar to the five Olympic rings: read to self; read to someone; listen to reading; writing; and, word work.
In one of the classrooms I heard Mrs. Saxton explain a procedure that "unlocks the fear of writing." She said, "Good writers become good readers."
Since writing is my job, I had never given much thought to a "fear of writing." Even at a young age, writing seemed the natural thing to do...including a journal of our summer vacation, starting with packing the suitcases in the trunk, hitting a skunk only a few miles from home, and every other tiny detail on the 500 mile trip to our grandparents' resort at Lake of the Woods. I think it was the "tiny details" that drew a few frowns as I proudly read the journal upon arrival.
Today's teachers encourage writing from the first day in school, thank goodness. Here is the method Mrs. Saxton was describing: On the table, students have a sheet of paper with 20 examples under the heading "What Can I Write About?" The students write and write and write, she says.
Here are my brief thoughts on the 20 topics:
Friends -- My friends and I were born to go shopping.
Family -- Members of my family are my best friends.
School -- School is where we learn to read and write and have fun with our friends.
Special Place -- Our special place is Lake of the Woods.
Books --Have you read The Hunger Games trilogy?
Bugs -- Bugs can be our friends...really.
Animals -- We used to get colored baby chickens from the hatchery at Easter.
Food -- Everybody loves chocolate...right?
Holidays -- Holidays are a time for families to be together.
Toys -- My new favorite toy is a Nook Color.
Favorite Things --
Birthdays -- You're never too old for birthdays.
Pets -- My favorite pet was Alaska, a long-hair German Shepherd dog.
My Teacher -- Our teachers are good friends and great mentors.
Vacations -- Oh, the Places We'll Go.
Boo-Boos -- Paper cuts hurt!
Recess -- Is recess the same as a coffee break?
Cars -- Nice day. Time to head to the car wash.
When I Grow Up -- I want to become a writer.
Me -- Every day there is something new to learn.
What can you write about?