Monday, November 19, 2012

"Pushing Our Thinking"

"Pushing our Thinking"

This is my new favorite saying....

My students are now used to me asking, "Are you doing the MAXIMUM, or the MINIMUM?" This is coming from Lucy Caulkins, but I have really tried to take it the next level. I truly believe our students are, 95% of the time, doing only the minimum-what we ASK them to do. see..I'm TIRED of that!! I don't want my students to JUST do the minimum anymore! I want them to PUSH their thinking! I want them to DIG DEEPER! Think like no other student has thought before! JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE FINISHED..YOU HAVE JUST STARTED!

Please, please, please don't tell me, "I'm done, Mrs. Gates."! No, you are NOT done! You have just begun!

I have a student (and I know you all have this SAME student!) that gets finished with the minimum of what I've asked...aka... "I did exactly what you asked, but not a bit more." He then gets out his huge chapter book that he can't put down (don't get me wrong, this too, is wonderful-but NOT during WRITING time!) and begins to read while he waits for me to move on to the next mini lesson or meeting. Noooooo!!!! I don't want you to read during WRITING time! I want you  to keep pushing yourself-

-What else do you have to say about this idea?
-Can you write something else about this topic?
-Can you try this technique as a writer again with a different idea?
-Can you stretch your thinking on this topic?
-What other opinions do you have? Why do you think that?
-Can you take this idea and turn it into a personal narrative?
-Can you take this personal narrative and write it as an expository essay?
-Can you abandon this idea and think of something else to write about?

The questions are endless!

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Becoming Essayist"

Familiar with Lucy Caulkins? I wasn't until I started teaching in Katy. At first, we were given this "kit" (don't ya' just love "KITS"!), and expected to read through it and use the great ideas.

My first instinct: When am I going to have to time to do this? (Looking through Book 1... "she goes on and on...") Set it aside and think about it later.

Sometime mid-October: We've taught personal narrative and realistic fiction narrative with good success using our own past experiences as teachers and past, no-fail, lessons. We've taught an essay, "What I want to be when I grow up..." with moderate success---(the same 'ole boring essays that every kid can write if they follow the formula.)

End of October: I start reading Lucy's books. I jump to "Breathing Life into Essays" and start to think, "Maybe I'm rushing it. Maybe I'm trying too hard to get them to follow a formula." I decide to follow Lucy, mini-lesson by mini-lesson. (An action research approach!).

Wow! I truly think I'm getting it, and so are my students! We can write about the same topic as a narrative OR as a non-narrative! We go outside and find simple, unimportant topics to write about. We turn them into GREAT topics to write about! We PUSH....yes PUSH our thinking!!!!

We ask ourselves, "Are we doing the minimal, or are we doing the maximum?" We can be AMAZING writers if we CHOOSE to be!

This is going to be EXTRAODINARY writing, and we haven't even written a roughdraft yet!