Our school has school-wide writing prompts that every student is supposed to respond to each week. Sometimes it doesn’t work real well when the same writing prompt is intended for kindergarten through 5th grade. Sometimes we modify a bit for our babies. The prompt a few weeks ago was, ” If I had a million dollars I would…..”. My kids think 20 bucks is a lot. No concept of how much space there is between 20 and 1,000,000. So I modified it to, “If I had lots of money I would…….” then lots of money could be anything they thought was lots of money.
It usually works like this for us, (which bears NO resemblance to actual creative writing) I write the prompt in several places around the room and they copy it onto their paper. In a few cases, I actually write the prompt on a small dry erase board that they can take to their seat. I have some who can’t see well and need glasses, and I have some who can’t track print and copy from the board without a lot of mistakes. Then they bring their paper to me or my aide and tell us how they want to complete the prompt. We then write the last words on a small dry erase board and they take it back to their seats to finish and illustrate.
In normal writing, I would expect them to use more phonetic spelling without all the help we give them with the dry erase boards. Anyway all that to talk about one experience today with one little girl.
The prompt was, “My favorite birthday was when…….”. Most of the kids chose to write about a gift that they received which they thought was especially nice ( although I can’t believe THAT many of them got a puppy for a birthday). One little girl just sat there looking kind of sad. I called her over and asked why she wasn’t finishing her paper. I said, “Don’t you have something that you received as a birthday gift that you liked?” She almost started to cry and said she’d never received a birthday present. Since to my knowledge she isn’t Jehovah Witness, I felt really sad for her. I gave her a quick hug, and then changed the focus a bit and said, “What about your fifth birthday? I know you like school, you are my best reader (and she is). Couldn’t you say something like, My best birthday was when I turned 5 and could start school?” She thought about it for a minute, got a little smile on her face and nodded yes. So that’s what she did.
Sometimes teaching in schools with a lot of poverty is tough. I don’t know that I would trade up though. Years ago, when my daughter was younger, she would spend time both at my school and at my wife’s school, which was a little more up scale (not a lot, but a little). My daughter used to say that she liked the kids at my school better, they had more personality…… I would tell her, “Oh yeah, they’ve got THAT all right.” But we knew what she meant. One of my friends transferred from our Title One school to a significantly more middle class area and she used to complain about how the first grade kids at her new school were little Stepford kids, smart, but really not very original in their thinking, not very creative.