For the last few weeks, I have been working in a third-grade classroom, side by side with the classroom teachers, doing everything we can to grow those writers. She had a group of them who struggled. Couldn't think of ideas. Couldn't remember what they were going to write. Couldn't spell a word and because of it sat paralyzed throughout independent writing time. Keep listing the couldn't's. Yep. All of them.
Our goal has been to give these students courage and confidence to share their stories, and over the last week or so, we've seen it. Kids who have never written a story have tapped me on the shoulder.
"Read this," I've heard. And guess what? They have really good stories!
So today we asked them to write their best story. They didn't need to know it was code for an on-demand assessment. I brought eight of them down to my office, and seven of them got going with the process of planning and drafting, just like old pros.
One of them sat there. She wrote a plan. Then she sat there again. She wrote a sentence. And then sat there.
"What's going on here, M?" I whispered. "You've been writing great stories. What's getting in your way?"
I reminded her of how she could explain what gets in her way, how she'd been the kid who has said to me that she couldn't pay attention to the minilessons because she needed lessons that were her level. (I love this kid.)
She stared at me, her eyes wide. "I'm so tired," she said. "I didn't get enough sleep at all last night." She went on to tell me about everything that had happened up until her much-too-late bedtime and then her much-too-early wake up time.
"But you can still do this I said." I remembered some of the messages from a speaker our district had last week. (Lynn Lyons is phenomenal, by the way.) She had talked more about anxiety than about fatigue, but I figured close enough, maybe. One of her ideas involved having kids give their worry a name so that they can address it, rather than be held captive by it. "How about you talk to your tiredness and tell it that you have to get some work done. It will just have to wait before taking over?"
M. looked at me like a was a little crazy, but she sparked up. And fifteen minutes, she had a story completed. Did I mention that I love this kid?