Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"That's not what I wanted it to say."

One of the most important, and often most neglected, parts of teaching is simply listening. As I was reminded by this post, we are often are in such a hurry to teach kids what we think they ought to learn, that we don't spend enough time learning from them. So today, after teaching my kids to write a small moment story, I literally just sat and watched them work. I chose one kid to do an in-depth observation on, and I was captivated.

I deliberately chose a student who I haven't spent a ton of time with yet this year. Sometimes those kids who aren't the squeakiest of wheels tend to fade so easily into the group that we don't realize that we haven't really listened to them until quite some time has passed. I got my kids launched, then I sat on the edge of the counter and just watched him and wrote, watched and wrote.

It is really fascinating to watch a child's writing process. You learn so much about what that child already knows and does by spending time watching and listening instead of talking and modeling. I watched him write, using his finger to leave spaces, then think, then write, then think, then write, then revise, then draw. When I asked him, "Why did you change that part of your sentence?" He said, "Because that's not what I wanted it to say." Then I asked him to read it to me, and he eagerly did so. Then I asked him to read in front of the class, and his sweet little face just lit up. When he was finished reading, his classmates spontaneously applauded him. He just beamed. It was one of the most beautiful moments we've had all year.

It's amazing what we can learn as teachers when we just watch and listen. Wow.

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