March 19, 2012
I was working with first graders today when something unexpected happened.
I have visited this school for many years, helping first graders to make lovely books, which they fill with their own original poems. (I’ve written about this project in detail at
http://bookzoompa.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/books-for-poetry-by-first-graders/), and here’s a sample of the the completed project made by first graders in 2010.
Today, when I walked into the class they were finishing up going over math problems that had been copied on to half sheets of paper. When they were done the teacher asked them to put away the papers, and we got to work.
My agenda was to guide the students through making an origami pamphlet out of a 19″ x 23″ sheet of paper, followed by making a book cover with pockets. What was unexpected is that they finished this all in 48 minutes, which left us with an extra 12 minutes. This rarely happens. I was about to hand to class back over to the regular classroom teacher when I remembered those math sheets.
We had just made the origami pamphlet out of large papers, and I had gone over the directions slowly and explicitly, so I thought that these first graders would enjoy making tiny little books using the very same methods of folding as they did in the bigger books.
They were stars. They remembered the steps and made their new little books in about a minute. Then they got to work.
Now, remember, these are first graders whose writing skills are just beginning to emerge, but, for the most part, the fact that their writing skills were limited didn’t bother them in the least.. I was lucky enough to hear an exchange of thoughts between two students: one child immediately got to work writing about rainbows and ribbons. The girl next to her bewailed that she didn’t know what to do. The prolific child told her classmate to just write words, but the girl said she didn’t know any words. Undaunted the rainbow girl advised her friend that she should just make up words. This turned out to be a satisfying suggestion, and the formerly clueless child got right to work.
It’s been my experience that if children are given little blank books they start writing.
Today I saw this happen again. As soon as the class finished constructing their books there was hardly another word spoken in the room as they all wrote, drew and imagined.