IRA · jacqueline woodson · literary essay · shared writing · writing about reading

“Everything and everyone goes on and on.”

I’ve read Jacqueline Woodson’s Book Sweet, Sweet Memory to three classes now. However, I’ve never had such an intense discussion with any other group of children about Sweet, Sweet Memory as I did with my class today during Interactive Read Aloud (aka: IRA). One of the boys in my class, who sits right next to my chair on the rug, had an astute observation that he noticed that Woodson, and many other authors we have read, “repeats one line a lot in the book.” I asked him why he thought Woodson (and other authors) do this. I didn’t want him to focus on why Woodson was repeating “Everything and everyone goes on and on,” in the text, but rather to think about repetition holistically. He shifted his big blue eyes up and to the left and really seemed to be thinking about it. After about 15 – 20 seconds of wait time (and total silence in the room) he said, “I think it’s because the author really wants us to think about those words; because they’re really important words.” Wow! This means, to me, that the importance of repetition as a writing tool clicked in his head today. The light bulb went on! What an important noticing!

This student’s comment wasn’t the only thing that moved me during our class discussion. I was also moved by the sincerity of the discussion the kids and I had about how we remember loved ones who pass away. I wish I had my DVR since this was a conversation that I would have loved to preserve and review over and over again.

Hence, when thinking down the road to the literary essay unit of study I’ll be launching in March, I’m thinking that Sweet, Sweet Memory would be an excellent touchstone text for me to use when I do my demonstrations inside of my minilessons. I feel as though their connection with this book was strong and needs to be explored some more, perhaps by writing a shared literary essay about it. While this would deviate from the way I taught literary essay last year (Coincidentally, my demos were with another Woodson text.), isn’t that what responsive teaching is all about?

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