Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I am a cheerleader. Not a former cheerleader, like back in high school, but it's actually what I do for a living now. I spend all day, every day, saying, "Come on, come on, you can do it! You are smart! You can do it! You're so smart!" And of course, it naturally follows that when my children share their ideas, I do my best to listen with rapt attention as though whatever they are saying is the most interesting thing I've ever heard.

And on days like today, it kind of is.

My kids and I read Pastel de Truenos (Thunder Cake) by Patricia Polacco today, looking for words written in all caps. Then they did a little hunt with a partner in an independent book, looking for more words in all caps and figuring out why the author decided to write the words that way. Turned out that most of the time, they were sound words. KABUUUUUUUUUUMMMM!!!!

On a totally unrelated note (or so I thought), we started writing class after reading, and talked about what good writers do and how to confer with the teacher. Then my kids bounced off to their seats to write exciting stories about their 7-year-old lives. I was conferring with one student when another said, "Look, Ms. M, I wrote a lot!" I glanced at her paper and saw the word SPLASH! written with big exclamation points after it. I told her how cool it was that she used a sound word and how I could just hear the water splashing in my head, and I could tell it was a swimming story even without reading the rest of it, and could she please keep using cool sound words in her writing? Grinning from ear to ear, she nodded yes and kept working.

As I made my way through the rest of the students, reading their stories and conferring with other writers, I discovered that several other students had included sound words, words in all caps, and exclamation marks in their own writing.  I was actually a little bit shocked. Lucy Calkins has an entire unit on taking cues from published authors and trying some of what they do in our own work. I hadn't taught my kids to do this. I hadn't suggested or even mentioned it--we just studied it as readers and why it's done, and suddenly my kids were taking cues from this author and treating her as a writing mentor, all on their own. Their intelligence and initiative is awe-inspiring.

On days like today, SPLASH! really does feel like the coolest thing I've ever heard. I can't wait to see what they write tomorrow.

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