I got a mug for my birthday which says “Read Local”. As I’m reflecting on the concept while sipping my morning coffee, I’m thinking how the “eating local” movement has spread into so many areas. Why don’t we track down our local authors more often? How do we write local, or get our students to?
Getting students to write is a huge challenge for every teacher and parent. Writing begins in early childhood with little strokes and lines made by tiny fingers hardly able to grasp a pencil. Emergent writing is critical for the development of writing skills. Once a child masters the alphabet, they want to write words. My four year old grandson likes nothing better to make a list of all the things we are going to do on the day he visits us. This is local writing, from his experience.
In my first year of teaching at an elementary school, I went to a workshop by a master teacher, and she suggested starting the year with playing with words, not trying to get sentences and paragraphs written at the beginning of the year. Poetry is great for word play, and developing writing skills without all the trappings that grammar puts on writing. (Note that April is National Poetry month, and explore the wealth of resources online and in the library). One of my favourite poets is Shel Silverstein, who has published a number of poetry books. (He’s not local, but he sure was an amazing American poet and cartoonist) Every teacher needs to have his books around to inspire students to read, laugh, write, and draw.
Having a tree growing up out of me
Is often a worrisome thing.
I’m twisty and thorny and branchy and bare
But wait till you see me in Spring. (A Light in the Attic– Shel Silverstein)
After sharing this poem, and the wonderful illustration, have your students write a poem of something growing out of them, and have them illustrate it. Let their creative juices loose. Returning to the concept of “writing local”, this example is one where the child is writing from their experience, about themselves. Journals and diaries are great tools for getting students to “write local”. Sharing journals written by other writers such as Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr Henshaw (who by the way just turned 100 years old) can also create great story writing ideas, from the experience of the child. Look around you and find a local poet or writer to visit your class, or go to an author’s reading at your local library. Children love to meet real writers, and this too will inspire them in their writing projects. Read local! Write local! I’ll need to design a new mug!