Grouped around a big table in the library, seven students looked at me as if they knew the next hour of their life would set the record for engaged boredom. These were students who volunteered their time to get one last push towards success on our state assessment. Like dental surgery, they assumed going in, that it would be painful.
None of these students were on my rosters, thus, they had no idea who I was or of the learning vortex we were about to descend into.
We picked up an excerpt from Unwind by Neil Shusterman and jumped in with both feet, after reviewing the guidelines for sentence building. Our stated goal was to review the piece with an eye towards sentence structure, alas, what we found was much more meaningful.
The last three parts of this book are:
- Invitation to Edit
- Extending the Invitation
- Open Invitations
Invitation to Edit:
Anderson, in this section, writes about seeking authenticity and meaning in their editing practices: developing an editor’s eye. He shares with us an activity he calls, “How’d they do that?” This is an exact move we practiced in my STAAR prep group Thursday afternoon. We stumbled upon a sentence that blew us away and we dissected it with a thoroughness that I’m not sure I’ve ever explored with high school students. We looked at the way the Schusterman wove words and punctuation together to create magical meaning.
Cast your gaze on this beauty:
Consider this Anderson gem:
“It hit me as the exact way education gets editing instruction wrong. We make it about identifying what’s missing or there, and students haven’t ever met the concept or become familiar with it. If they don’t know of it’s existence, they can’t notice its absence” (p. 43).
Extending the Invitation:
What are we supposed to do when we see an amazing sentence sitting there, minding its own business, nestled quietly in a mentor text? The answer is, we stop what we are doing and ogle it. We poke and prod it , using our editing scalpels to peel back its layers and reveal the secrets where-in. Don’t ever be afraid to pause a reading or writing lesson that has nothing to do with sentence structure to talk about a particularly well structured sentence. I mean, really, all reading and writing lessons connect a text’s internal and external structures. Amirite?
This section is about removing the idea that editing lessons are their own separate learning task. Anderson argues that they should be the basis of all writing instruction and that these lessons should creep over into all the others that we use to help our students grow in their literacy.
One more time:
“I want those boundaries muddied so that the rest of the writing and editing lessons I do, besides those start-of-class, blastoff point invitations, are mixed with mini-lessons, writing, and sharing time in writer’s workshop” (p. 46).
All this reminds me how important one-on-one instruction is to literacy instruction and I think back to the absolute necessity that is self-selected independent reading. Consider the wisdom of Penny Kittle quoting Kylene Beers:
And then what she tweeted next:
I think this “nudge” can be about craft and not just content. This is a place into which we can extend invitations.
With you-know-what looming, a lot of what we’ve studied with our reading and writing should, hopefully, help the kids out, but more importantly, set them up for success in their literacy lives.
Charles Moore is so excited to share the last six weeks, or so, of the year with his freshman. He’s looking forward to experimenting with collaborative groups, exploring new ways for students to publish, and, of course, talking to kids about books. If you want to reach out to him about teaching reading and writing, shoot him an email. Check out his twitter if you want to see the latest episode in dad themed humor.