Open and Ready

“I use to think it was a luxury to be curious, thoughtful, and reflective.  Now I know being curious, thoughtful and reflective is a necessity.”  “I have to be actively engaged in what’s happening now.  At this precise moment.”  Debbie Miller,  Teaching with Intention 2008.

I carry a journal.  It is part of my teaching.  My journal has taught me to listen to IMG_5436.JPGchildren.  I learned early on that when I wrote down kids ideas, thoughts, and choices in my journal – I was validating their words, their ideas, their story.  I learned that when I sat back to observe them, they knew what they were doing, their engagement and process mattered.  It became a means of knowing each of my children.

Each Monday afternoon, when I enter Megan’s 2nd grade classroom I have my journal in hand.  I am open, like my journal.  Ready to learn from them.  Ready to watch them make choices and build mindsets.  Ready to hear them share their thinking and stories.  Ready to hear where their ideas for pictures and words came from. Sometimes, ready to sit and take a few minutes to do a bit of the work I asked them to do.

This past week, our for Building Habits of Writers time (which originally was Tiny Topic Notebook Time, which now after reading Joy Write we could call In the Greenbelt).  I read Ralph Fletcher’s Twilight Come Twice.  I sat down and told the children that today we were going to read this book from beginning to end.  I told them we would not stop and have a turn and talk we would just read and think and read.  “As I am reading,” I said “you should listen and be aware of the ideas that are going through your mind as you hear the words and read the pictures.  The children accepted this job with nods and smiles.  Halfway through the book, I stopped and asked “If you have an idea, put your hands on your head.”  I needed to get a pulse on what was going on for them.  Almost every child quickly put their hands on their head.  Encouraged by their quiet engagement in the read aloud and their work, I continued reading – already curious as to what they would go off and do in their journals.IMG_5547.JPG

As I read the last words,“As you set your table for breakfast, dawn sets its own table, with light that ushers in a brand new day.” and gave pause for them to read the last page, ( the picture seen to the left)I quietly said, If you are ready to get to work, raise your hand, Again, majority of hands went up.  Megan and I called children to gather their sketchbooks and get to work.

The room had a calm busyness as the writers and artists got to work putting their ideas on paper in pictures and words.  I walked around snapping pictures and chatting with kids.  I stopped at Matthew and Noah who were seated at the round table.

Matthew was clearly in process of putting his idea on paper.  He had a vision and I watched his sharpie marker move intentionally on the paper.  Noah was sitting with a blank page.  “What are you thinking, Noah.”  I asked.  “I am thinking about fireflies.  that line in the book made me think of nighttime and how the fireflies really lighten things up.  I want to do a picture but I can’t think of the picture.”    Before I IMG_5559.JPGcould even respond to Noah, Matthew, who apparently was taking in this conversation and stopped his work to encourage his friend.  Very excitedly, Matthew looked at Noah and said “Oh, I got one.  You know the lake, the brook in the back of your house.  You could do that with fireflies going over it.”  I just sat and watched and listened as Noah took his idea and meshed it with Matthew’s idea. I tried to capture their conversation in my journal.  I took a step back and let them problem solve together.  As I walked away, I saw both Matthew and Noah diving into their notebooks harnessing their ideas.

I moved on over to Lexi and opened with “What are you working on?”  TheIMG_5562.JPG words just fell out of her mouth “I got my idea from the color of the sky, the orange.  I remIMG_5561.JPGembered me listening from the window and watching my sister when she was 4, she’s 6 now.  I drew my sister.”  Lexi points to her picture as she is talking.” (see left).My sister doesn’t have curly hair any more, her is is REALLY straight.  I was in the window watching her and she was watching the sunset.”  Lexi found time to write, “I lisin out the windo and heir my sister say…Look at the sunset Jenna (the doll), isn’t it buotiful.  I hope I will spe (spy) this sunset again.” (see right)

It was a gift to sit back and watch Matthew interrupt my conference with Noah.  I  worked to be actively engaged by writing down their conversation.  Matthew clearly had a sense of agency in helping out a friend.  In that moment, I saw Matthew and Noah not just as friends but friends who are writers.  When I sat down with Lexi.  I glanced at her picture and thought “Hmm, that’s different for her.”    Typically her pictures are dainty with details.  I was curious as to what she was thinking.  I never in a million years would have thought that a color of a sky would bring Lexi to a memory from 2 years ago.  It’s easy to forget that kids have memories, too.  As I listened to her share her story, I could tell it wasn’t just about watching her sister watch the sunset, she was reminiscing in pictures and words, she was acknowledging that her little sister had changed – grown up “she’s 6 now, and her hair is REALLY straight”.

When we are curious, thoughtful and reflective and actively engaged as Debbie Miller writes – we get to know our children AND their ideas and memories and how they interact with each other. Taking the time to talk to children with honest curiousity is energizing.  One can’t help but be actively engaged.





4 thoughts on “Open and Ready”

  1. Your notebook is inspiring as are these kid stories. It’s amazing what they can up with and the writing community that you and Megan have fostered together.


  2. I can’t say it enough, I CHERISH this time together and I cherish what we learn from them each Monday. This last week blew me away! I loved how you captured this session so beautifully here in your SOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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