Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thinking Like an Author... Thank You, Lake Tahoe!

Teachers are never truly on vacation.  My seven day Tahoe & Eastern Sierras excursion just came to an end.  I cycled, attempted to stand up paddle board (it was more like 45 minutes of falling off of a board and climbing back on!), ran, hiked, danced, ate, chatted, and took in amazing views of one of the most beautiful places on earth.  This was indeed a vacation.  However, a couple days ago as I was hiking along the Rubicon Trail in Tahoe's Emerald Bay, a writing idea popped in my head.  I actually stopped in the middle of the trail to write my thoughts.  Rather, I typed the idea to myself on my iPhone as I wasn't hiking with paper and a pen!

Here I am on The Rubicon
Trail in Lake Tahoe, 7/6/13
During writing workshop in class, one of my main goals is to help my students think, feel, and act like writers.  Students produce their best writing when they see themselves as authors.  Authors draw from their own experiences, moments, and points of view to pull together material for writing.  I found myself doing this as I was hiking along the Rubicon Trail.  At one point on my hike, the contrasting bright blue of the lake and emerald green of the forest along with the warm sun beating down on my skin inspired me stop and write down the sensory overload I was experiencing at that moment.  Here's what I wrote:  "Strong smell of pine. Warm sun beating on my skin. Melody of water lapping against the  rocky, sandy shore. Deep blues, ambers, greens, and golds standing in harmony. The crunch of leaves and needles at my feet.  The taste of the crisp, clean, unaltered mountain air:  Pure Bliss."  This was everything I was experiencing at that moment in time.  It may not have been grammatically correct, but it was raw, honest, and unfiltered.  It was stream of consciousness.  It was true writing.  If I actually want to work with this, I can revise it, consult with peers, edit, and rework it until I feel it is a final piece of writing.  However, not all writing has to go through this process.

I want my students to understand that this is how writers work.  My new idea for a lesson with my fifth graders is to bring my students outside with clipboards, pencils, and paper.  Each of them will go find a spot under a tree, on the grass, or anywhere they please outside at school.  They will sit for 20 minutes and just take it all in, and write down whatever comes to their mind.  They can write about what's around them, what's in their head, something on their mind, or even nothing at all!  We'll practice this quite a bit, and discuss how authors do this in everyday life.  An idea may come to them while on a walk, in the grocery store, stuck in traffic, waiting in line, or when just arising from bed in the morning. Authors are always looking for ideas.  Often times, ideas find them instead of the other way around.

I want my students to think and act like authors.  Once they do that, everything else (the grammar, spelling, revising, editing, reviewing etc.) will be ready to fall into place.  Thinking and being open to ideas are the most important, initial steps in writing.