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Bits of This & That

Allie sent this letter with a book she wrote for Eve Bunting last fall.

Remember this letter that Allie sent to Eve Bunting last fall along with The Ghostly Scary Mystery she wrote dedicated to Eve Bunting? Allie got a response! Yes, there was a form letter, but she also received a personal note from Eve. Wanna see the response? Click here.

Getting to know characters...

While getting to know characters, one fourth grader brought this cereal box in during the planning stages of writing fiction. He was toying with the play on words of a “cereal killer.” To me, this represents writing work happening outside of the classroom. He was thinking about his story when he was away from his desk. This is a mark of a true writer.

Give writers time to grow.

The same student wrote both of these books. About a month ago he was working on the cover for the book on the left. When I conferred with him, we talked about the purpose of covers. He knew they were supposed to grab people’s attention and include the author and illustrator name(s). When I mentioned they often include a picture to give a clue about what’s inside the book, he said, “I know, I did that. See?” And he pointed to the small picture in the bottom right of the cover.

He was pleased with his work, so I kept my teacher mouth closed and encouraged him to think about making the picture more of a focus next time. He kept coloring. The next day he colored more. The third day was like sprinkling salt in a wound — I wanted his cover to be more meaningful. I wanted it to represent the story inside. And I was beginning to think he was wasting his time coloring. (I can’t stand wasted time on coloring.)

However, when I talked with him, I couldn’t get past the fact that he was pleased with his cover. Although the work looked wasted to me, he was intentional. “This is going to grab people’s attention,” he told me, “They won’t be able to wait to open it.” I gritted my teeth, held my tongue, and he finished his cover. Still, it kept nagging me and I wondered if I should have pushed him more.

He started a new book and I felt guilty for letting him waste so much writing time coloring. Then he showed me the cover for his new book (on the right in the photo). I breathed a sigh of relief and asked him to get the cover for the other book. He laid them side-by-side and I asked him what he noticed. As he reflected, I realized the teaching was solid. Everything we talked about while he was making the cover on the left was put into practice with the cover on the right.

I took a photo to remind me that growth takes time. He had a plan for the cover on the left and just because we had a conversation didn’t mean he wanted to abandon his plan. He imagined people choosing to read his book because of the rainbow cover. I could have forced him to make a new cover for the book on the left. What good would that have done? What would he have learned?

The three days he spent making the rainbow cover were not a waste. Clearly he learned valuable lessons about making a cover. Even more importantly, he learned to value his ideas and trust himself as a writer.

2 thoughts on “Bits of This & That

  1. What a lesson in holding back! I can completely identify with the feeling guilty for not stepping in at the same time as I feel I’ve already pushed too hard. It is a fine line. Your photos also remind me that I want to get better at recording my a-ha moments.


  2. I enjoyed the telling of your dilemma of how best to help the student. I guess maybe our expectations aren’t always the same as the students’ & yet they do hear the advice, and learn how to incorporate it in personal ways. It’s great you held your tongue; what a wise teacher you must be. He was empowered even more by your action.


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