Story Challenge Day 3: Teaching Detour, Told in Real Time

From time to time, folks ask what it’s like teaching a classroom full of gifted-talented children. What does a day in your room look like? This post, I think, says it all. Where it starts, what my intentions are, and where it goes – all of it – puts what I do in a nutshell.

Right now, I sit in my classroom surrounded by a group of fifth graders who are in the midst of their own blogging adventures. It’s a happy space, this.

Here I am…here we are…

Each week, I offer a writing challenge. Kids don’t have to accept; they can continue their own projects. But most of them give it a try, because they like stretching their writing in different directions.

This week’s challenge? To write a poem or journal entry using these sentence prompts:
I know…
I don’t know…
I don’t want to know…

I figure I may as well join in on the fun. It’s important for my students to see me crafting alongside them sometimes.

Except.
My post – and my teaching – took a detour. The rest of my writing had to be put on hold until after class. Why?

Because

Kids started talking about semicolons and what they do.
So how could I resist a teaching point?
Point is,
I couldn’t.
And then I wound up demonstrating
punctuation party tricks
to a kid that asked.
Which worked pretty well
because she’s a kid who…
how can I put this?…
LOVES a comma, even
when it doesn’t belong,
so we talked about the beauty of her writing:
stark,
crisp,
clean.
We jumped in, replacing commas with periods,
cutting words like crazy,
marveling at the difference.

So back to my writing it was,
but it was time for read-aloud with The Little Prince.
The flower was pretty and vain –
just like, one student remarked,
Estella from Great Expectations,
so how could we NOT take the time to talk about
archetypes:
the witches,
the stepmothers,
the Prince Charmings,
the comic reliefs,
the stock characters of the world?

But really, back to my writing.
Right after a check-in with a student
whose vocabulary is encyclopedic
whose writing is florid and elaborate
to translate her work to simple language
just like we did this week for the
Pledge of Allegiance
or
the prologue for Canterbury Tales,
because vast and elusive language
is wonderful sometimes,
but being
clear
plain
simple
allows for depth, connection:
shows us the heart of things.

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

6 thoughts on “Story Challenge Day 3: Teaching Detour, Told in Real Time

  1. Thus is the life of a teacher. We start off with a mindset of what we want to do and accomplish and then our students come in with questions, examples, tangents and off we go. Isn’t it wonderful!

  2. Wait. Did you ever get back to your writing? 😂. I enjoyed this slice, enjoy how a thought can take flight and lead to much more. The grace in which you flow with the unplanned with your students and still get the lessons in.

    1. I actually didn’t get back to my writing! And my other section of this class got even FARTHER off the rails, but in even more insightful ways. My students are beyond incredible.

  3. Ah I feel like your writing is like that coffee we bring to work with us. It’s piping hot & inviting but then our attention is diverted and by the time we get back to it it’s now cold & tepid. But your classroom sounds a lot like mine too. Any chance for a learning opportunity I will always take the detour and go the direction my kids are interested in.

    1. Yes! Yes! Absolutely yes. Your comment reminds me of how I think there should be a video game where you’re a teacher, and you’re just trying to get from point A to point B. Copier stuck? Parent phone call? Someone nabs you in the hallway? yes, and YES.

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