Saturday, September 29, 2007

We Will Fun At The Bell Gans

I have experienced that unhappy feeling of being with someone while wishing that it was someone else beside me. I have spent time occupied with mundane tasks as the minutes slowly ticked away, sixty seconds feeling like a day. Our lives are too precious, and too short, to engage in endeavours that are less than edifying. Of course, a certain amount of this is unavoidable. The dishes can not clean themselves, the garbage does not walk itself to the curb and the laundry will not wash and put itself away. These small chores are part of our lives.

It is the larger, more meaningful chunks of time we do have control over. Who do we spend time with and how do we spend our time? My friend Winston once gave me some simple advice after a performance that I have really taken to heart. It was an opening night party and many of my friends, family and coworkers had come to cheer me on. I was working the room as best as I could and not really enjoying anyone thoroughly because I was worried about hitting every table, thanking everyone for coming. I told Winston this and he said that I should just spend time with whomever I wanted to spend time with and it would sort itself out. I did. And it did.

Fourteen years ago I decided that I wanted to spend my time teaching children. To say that I love teaching feels like an enormous understatement. I share my time, knowledge and energy with the children and they do the same for me. It is a true gift to realize in the middle of the day, as I am conferencing with a student or engaging in a group lesson, that I am exactly where I want to be. I will forever be grateful for that continual realization.

One aspect of teaching that I find both fascinating and marvelous is the writing process and the way that children's writing develops. This is always most striking at this time of year when I am getting to know a new group of students. The stages of development are so clearly delineated. Presently we have a range of examples across the spectrum - all are to be applauded and celebrated. We must trust that with guidance and modeling all of our students, regardless of where they fall on this continuum, will grow as writers. We use their writing as a form of assessment. We build upon their current stage of development with an eye towards guiding them to the next level.

Below is a smattering of work from our first graders.

Initially children use their unique talents to draw pictures which represent either real life events or familiar stories.

This is a princess opening the door of her castle.

You guessed it! Spidey getting covered with the black gunk from Spider-Man 3.

In the next stage, children usually add some form of writing to their drawings in an attempt to simulate the writing that they have seen in print. It begins with small squiggles and marks upon a page that is distinct from the drawings. Parents who engage their children in literacy activities such as creating a shopping list or writing letters are giving their children an advantage. This modeled writing behavior will be the stuff that children will emulate.

The squiggly lines and marks then become random strings of letters that look more like conventional print.

This child includes not only letters but punctuation to accompany his drawing of Captain America.

The random strings of letters and symbols give way to more conventional letter combinations as children begin to spell some basic sight words and words that have meaning for them, such as the names of family members or superheroes. Word boundaries have not yet been established so although the writing contains more recognizable patterns the letters all run together without spaces between the words.
This says "Batman is fighting at (I couldn't understand the name here but it starts with an 'S') park".

The spelling of words also has a pretty uniform progression. Children usually begin to represent a word with the initial letter (S for sock), followed by the initial and final letters (SK for sock) and finally a medial vowel sound (SOK for sock). The inclusion of a medial sound or letter is HUGE, even if the vowel they write is not always correct.

"We will have fun at the ball game." This piece is moving towards more recognizable writing and spelling conventions but could use some shoring up with establishing word boundaries.

And this brings me to the last stage of writing development evident in my class at this moment. Word boundaries are somewhat established, simple sight words are spelled correctly, individual words that are unknown contain initial, final and medial letters and there is use of ending punctuation.

"Me and my team are playing football."
I am already sad that I only have another 168 days to spend with this amazing group of children.


WAT said...

These drawings are cute and somewhat funny at t5he same time. They remind of Conan O'Brien with his comedy segment of twisted demented vulgar child drawings. It's quite a hoot!

I am glad u thoroughly enjoy your work as much as you do. Will you be celebrating Halloween with the kiddies?

Dumdad said...


You're a lucky man to have found your vocation (and by that I don't mean you haven't worked very hard to get where you are now).

lettuce said...

oh, keep it coming gary, this is so interesting and great to have such insight into your work.

I have loads of LG's artworks from across the years - some time I should go through it all bearing some of your posts in mind.

I love the spider man pic. But what is that lurking under the bed??

Florecita said...

Days will pass and you'll be always present in your kids hearts... I love the process of teaching/learning... I'll do it with movement and when you see the use of space/time and how setting boundaries help them with their writing and reading skills is just a gift!!!!!

Had a great news to you! Im teaching a course of Teaching children with special needs, and I told my students to come here, to see your blog, because for me is an inspiration!!!!!!

God bless you!!!!

Joy said...

That Capt. America was really well-done. Looks like you have another "I don't take art class for nothing" kids this year!

Pod said...

we are very lucky to be where we want to be. i feel the same about my work. in a way i feel guided (by the hand of pod?).

i like the football one!

Gary said...

Wat -Yes, we will be celebrating in school but it is not as big as you would imagine. I am hoping to do a repeat of a past costume, The Man with the Yellow Hat from Curious George but where to find an outfit? What are you planning? I know you adore Halloween.

Dumdad - I am sure that you have seen this with your own kids. The poetry you have on your blog is just lovely.

Lettuce - I think that it is Spider-Man's mask under the bed.
I thought of you today because I was reading a new children's book called Cowboy and Octopus and there is a knock, knock joke that goes no where but Lettuce was at the door. They never finished the joke in the book but I have a few silly ideas of my own.

Florecita - Are you kidding me?! How excellent is that! I am flattered of course. I am also thrilled that you are teaching this course. Best of luck with that. God Bless you too!

Joy - I know right? I think the kdis are impressed with themselves as well (and they should be).

Oh Pod, you can do such fun things with the name 'Pod' and I can't do anything with Gary.

I am with you bud on the guiding hand. Most excellent, no?

Oh, did you notice the little football in his hand?

Steve said...

That's fascinating! I had no idea writing developed that way. I love how inadvertently funny some of these are!

Reya Mellicker said...

LOVE the drawings!! Captain America is so full of energy and motion - wow!! I salute your students and I salute YOU - I'm sure you encourage them to let their creativity flow freely.


lettuce said...

do tell, Gary...

the susan price "baba yaga" book is The Ghost Drum. Which - having found it to tell you - I now think I will read again.

Scot said...

The hardest part of the Man in The Yellow Hat costume, of course, is the hat. You may be able to find a lady's gardening hat that could be sprayed yellow- same shape. The rest of the clothing can go together rather easily. But to really set it off for the kids, it would help to have a tail-less monkey. (Why doesn't George have a tail? I'm guessing his curiousity got the better of him. At least he fared better than the cat!)

kimy said...

thanks for sharing your journey and the thoughtful insights gleaned from your experience.

Arielle said...

Such an interesting post! I stumbled upon your blog and am enjoying it thoroughly. Children are such a joy and it seems they are quite lucky to have you as a teacher. I love writing (and drawing) for children, so this post really appealed to me. As a writer and an artist (and a former child!) getting into the minds of children is so inspiring, meaningful, and fun. Thanks for sharing. I've bookmarked your blog so that I may return in the future. Nice to "meet" you, Gary.


Bridgemor said...

Gary I found your post heartwarming, can we clone you and put you in a gazillion schools. I am an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher and an Art Therapist, and the opportunities for expression, both visual and verbal, that you are providing for your students are, well, for lack of a better word, incredible. I know exactly how you feel about working with children, being with them in that moment when they have completely given in the the learning process. They are so absorbed they don't even realize they are learning. It is magical.

Gary said...

Steve - The kids are always saying, writing or doing things that crack me up. I have documented some of these on here in the past but I think it is time for another segment of 'kids say the darndest things'.

Reya - Yippee! You are back with The Gold Puppy! :)

Lettuce - Knock, knock. Who's there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce us come in and you'll find out. HeHeHe...
Kinda like that there.
Thanks for the book info. It's another one I'll add to my amazon wishlist courtesy of you.

Scot - I have made myself a big yellow hat in the past using paper and tape. Not the most brilliant hat but the message comes across.
George did not have a tail as you point out. I think it would have come in handy when he painted and such.

Kim - Thanks!

Arielle - Happy that you stopped by. I enjoyed checking out your blog as well. Nice to 'meet' you too.

Bridgemor - I hope there are a gazillion more teachers out there like me - you seem to be one yourself.

ciara said...

my youngest would bring home stories and drawings such as these. you can really see progression. isn't it great to be a part of those kids' progression? :)

marxsny said...

I got this little 4x6 note pad in the mail from a realtor and it has the realtor's picture on it. Lexie calls it the thing with the lady on it, which makes me think of a cameo pin but that has nothing to do with this story. Anyhow she comes up to me with the note pad and pen and says "can I take your order" so I guess she has made some observations from going out to eat. So she starts writing my order and I say I'll have the 10 oz. filet, rare, with rosemary potatoes and grilled asparagus and she says Daddy can you just say you want number 1 or number 2. So we are progressing from picture drawing to writing but we are just doing it a different way.

Pod said...

oh yes, look at the little ball

have a great weekend gazza!

la bellina mammina said...

I hate that feeling too - thanks for sharing the drawing - they are truly cute. When my boys draw, I always try to decipher their meanings and when it's explained to me what the drawing's about, never fails to make me think " Now how come I didn't see that!?" ;-)

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

What a great post! And, I also love the drawings. Sometimes I really think that kids have it right and adults have it all wrong.


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