Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not So Stinky No More

Since I was so quick to out my 4th grade writers when they were being the Stinkiest Stinkers ever, I should be just as quick to praise them when they are the Loveliest Lovelies who ever sat writing in a little room. Since their Stinky episode, they have joyously tried their hand at writing a 12-line pantoum. In fact, most of them wrote several. One kid said, "Wow, almost no matter what you do, these turn out good." Hahahahahaha! Oh, and here's an actual exchange between the spousal unit and your Nesting Ground Mistress (NGM):
Spousal Unit: What're you doing?

NGM: Typing a pantoum.

Spousal Unit: What's a pantoum?

NGM: A...poetic form.

Spousal Unit: Oh. [pause] Tell me again: why did you marry me?

Hahahahahaha! My 4th grade writers also stepped up and did a fantastical job with my Where Are You From lesson, which I adapted from something I saw on the Teachers & Writers Collaborative site. First I asked them where they were from, and they offered up typical answers: from Stanford Hospital, from my mom, from San Mateo, etc. etc. Then I showed them this video I found on YouTube:

They were really into this video. I think I need to do this kind of thing more often, as they are, after all, the Childrens of the Internets. Afterwards, I passed out a hard copy of the poem, and we read it together. Then I asked them if they felt like Hughes' poem answers the question, "Where are you from?" Lots of chattering ensued. And then they wrote.

This little girl has moved around a lot, and she became visibly upset while writing. Her classmates were supportive, though, and she ended up with this:
I am from the hot dogs of New Jersey
I am from the colorful, spotted peacocks of Arcadia
I am from the fresh air of North Carolina
I am from the humid temperature of Simi Valley
I am from my friends and family
I am not from the crowds of San Francisco
This girl is obsessed with fighting with her brother. She writes about it almost every week, and I was afraid she was going to turn out yet another piece entirely devoted to how "lame" he is, but she managed to restrain herself:
I am from chocolate that my mom makes me. I am from the fights I have with my brother. I am from the books I read; they change me. I am from my loving family. I am from the ice skating we do in Lake Tahoe, I am from Tom and Jerry, I am from the bright city that I live in. I am from lots of colorful ice cream. I am not from jail, where the bad people are.
And this is from my own Risa, who almost finishes writing things before I even give direction. She's so fast. The bad part is she has no interest in editing her work. But her first drafts are usually pretty good:
I am from the letters in my name
I am from the colors I wear
the lines on my skin
and the words that come from my mouth
I am from the people before me and
The people before them
I am from the numbers in my age, which you do not know
I am from the words my teacher speaks
And from the lines my pencil makes
I am a Filipina princess
I am from the world
Here are a few lines from a girl who is reluctant to write when things get too serious. She's from a broken family, and it's so easy to see the different ways it affects her. Her short piece ends with a stab to the heart, pretty much:
I am from the stories that my mom tells. I am from the recipes my family writes. I am from the fierce animals that are inside me. I am from Utopia. It’s perfect there.
And this is from our only boy. He's kind of all over the place when he writes, and this is a good snapshot of his work in general:
I am from the tall grass of England
The buttery smell of lobster
From my dog Brandy
I am from the tall redwoods
The flying football and baseballs
A huge mountain
A lasting friendship
A cookie factory
I am the Christmas spirit.

So I am happy for now. But they are like a dam fixing to burst. Sooner or later we're headed back to fart-talking, crush-revealing, test anxiety, and who knows what else. I must hunker down and plan my offensive NOW...


Jill said...

Those are amazing! How lucky they are to have you as a writing teacher. Do you teach a group within the 4th grade? Same group all the time?

ver said...

Hi Jill! I'm the lucky one, actually; they're a good group, and their teacher lets me do whatever I want. I have the same five 4th graders every time--just once a week for an hour.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, they probably will revert back but now you have an insight that will enable you to bring them back again and again to a productive arena. Good for you!