Several weeks ago, I noticed that some of the students were beginning to copy down the things that I wrote in class. It started out innocuously enough – small buzz words that they liked; that soon turned into copying the morning message in full.
They had always been pretty interested in writing, but I hadn’t noticed any real progress until those morning messages began being copied. They would work for entire inquiry periods to meticulously write down everything that I wrote. It was the first time I had ever seen anything like it. These were kids that were ready to start writing sooner than I had anticipated that they would be. No use slowing down the train – the beauty of this model is that I can pounce on things like that and really try to stew an inquiry from it.
And they really did put their all into it. Together, we constructed the alphabet out of Writing Without Tears sticks. I took pictures of their creations, and posted it on a previously empty bulletin board – a bulletin board just itching to have something be put on it. It sat there, with only pictures on it for a few weeks and I waited, sure that it would spark their imaginations.
That wait took some time. The next day, not one student had even noticed that anything was different. What had I done wrong? It was all at eye level! It was with their own creations! I had spent a whole day from my weekend at school making it pretty and wonderful and inspiring for them! A week went by, and still, not a student even noticed that it had been put up.
Or at least, they hadn’t verbalized it to me. Shortly after that, though, I started finding scraps of paper with words on them. These were meticulously written words, carefully copied from my own careful script. So I started putting them up on the word wall. Now, they are proudly writing full pages of the words that they read around them all around the classroom.
I guess I just hadn’t thought of it the same way that they do, but words are everywhere. Literacy is all around us, constantly. We begin by copying or mimicking, and then, when we get brave enough, we venture into unknown waters to tread on our own. I imagine that is what writing is like, too – at first, it’s easier to copy all of the words that we have around us, before we start feeling confident enough to begin building them on our own. Words can be daunting – they’re such a peculiar thing, with such a peculiar spelling and meaning, that they have to be done just so.
But just from my desk, here in class, I see words everywhere. Their names are found in various places around the classroom on tags, in frames and on cards; the morning message is fresh and different every day with a new ami du jour, but it’s so startlingly familiar that the kids always know what it will say; the Jolie phonique songs are hung up under the alphabet wall; the stories that we write grace our walls; we brainstormed a page for every letter of the alphabet and they hang on the wall, as well; our art center is meticulously labelled. Words, words, words, everywhere you look, but because we can read them, we don’t give them much thought. When kids see them, they get excited to take up the challenge, and begin writing all of the words all around them.
I can’t wait until that develops into experimentation with writing and labelling in class, but until then, I’ll just be thankful that my word wall is coming along nicely.