community · writing workshop

Listening and Watching Intently: Building a Learning Community

A few short weeks ago our new school year began.  I am feeling the pressure of getting to know my students, setting up our room, and building a community of learners.  In these early days I tread slowly.  I recognize all work, stories, and events as reasons to celebrate. I listen for opportunities to dabble and introduce the infinite possibilities ahead.

As Dana Murphy tells us in her post, Writing through the Hard Parts:

The first mile is a liar. Don’t ever trust it. You see, the first mile can be really hard. Like, so hard you will want to quit. But I have run enough miles by now to know the secret: just keep running. Eventually your breath will even out, your heart rate will find a rhythm, and your leg muscles will carry you without complaint. That first mile, though… it’s a doozy.”

After reading Dana’s post, I was slightly tempted to slip into my sneakers.  I didn’t. I wasn’t brave enough for running, not yet.  Dana goes on to tell us running is like writing:

“The first words, the first paragraph, and the first page can be hard. You have to write enough to know the secret: just keep writing. You can’t trust the first words.”

These words stuck with me all week.  I began to notice the parallels between the first mile, the first words, and the first weeks of teaching.  I started to listen and watch more intently for hints of the learning community I hoped to build with my students.  After reading Ame Dyckman’s Horrible Bear, the class asked if the author was writing Horrible Goat next. I shared with the students @AmeDyckman was on Twitter, and we could ask her this very question.  Ame Dyckman is a very responsive author and got back to us the same day!

Inspired by Ame Dyckman’s response, we sent her another tweet.  This time, Ame’s reply inspired a particular writer to make a book, Horrible Princess!

Annie worked for three days on her story.  She was focused. She showed stamina, she had a mentor, and she was writing for an audience.  Annie knew who she was writing her story for, and she knew exactly how we would send her story out into the world.  The writing wasn’t perfect, but the process and the intention are all we need to make a writer!  Annie wasn’t the only one learning when we composed these tweets and shared Annie’s work.  Annie is now a mentor author for her peers.  All this in only 11 days of school.

One thought on “Listening and Watching Intently: Building a Learning Community

  1. Wonderful post, Deb! So inspired by the writing of your student! Still so many teachers I encounter tell me that they can’t really teach writing in grade one because their students don’t know how to print! We are ALL writers- and stories can be shared orally, through pictures, through labels. The important thing is to get the writing and believing that they are writers! Your post has reinforced this message so beautifully! Thank you!! BTW- I am a huge Horrible Bear fan!

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