I could feel it the minute I picked them up off the yard. They were alert, relaxed and ready. With their energy and thanks to Margaret Simon and Tara Smith’s great lessons, I felt more confident starting off Monday with a new idea: helping 5th graders choose a one little word.
First, invited them to consider this question from Janet Ilko’s slide share:
If you could replace your name with one word that would be the best you you could be this year, what would you choose?
I shared a short list of possible words to get their minds going.
They sat and studied. Quietly, they circled words jotted ideas, and moved thoughtfully towards their OLW — adventure, focus, change, soar, artist, aim, determined, challenge, believe to name a few.
Then students looked up their chosen word on dictionary.com.
Oh so many meanings.
“Do we have to use them all?”
“Mine has 27 meanings!”
I approached “P” who chose change. I was pretty sure she wanted the definition that meant to transform. But she was shaking her head.
“The one I want isn’t here.”
I looked and asked her to consider number 3. In addition to the definition was the word used in context:
The witch changed the prince into a frog.
“No that’s not what I mean. The meaning I want isn’t here. I want the meaning that means I’m gonna get better at something, you know change for the better.”
A big aha for her and me. The example showed a bad thing as a result of change. That was not what she wanted. Sometimes what we think will clarify will confuse.
Another student was searching for believe. He was on the thesaurus page. I asked, what are you looking for? Perhaps a synonym I thought.
“I’m looking for the syllables.”
Another aha for him and me. He learned how a word is syllabicated in the definition and I learned what he wanted to know, not what I thought.
After 20 minutes of discovery, most students had decided on their OLW, found the definition, and written some thoughts.
“A” sitting quietly by himself had written two words: adventure and focus. I saw this and laughed inside. Was he lost in an adventure, but knew he needed to focus? I’ll have to ask him today.
We finished up our first stab at OLWs, and started read aloud, the beautiful and sad beginning of The One and Only Ivan. After a few pages, I stopped and asked students to pick one little word that describes Ivan right now. Lonely, patient, strong, misunderstood and other words started to shape Ivan. Some words were from the text, others were a synthesis of what they felt described him. Perhaps we will collect Ivan’s one little words as we progress through the story, showing his growth and our growing understanding of Ivan.
Can’t wait to find out where our adventures will take us as we focus on quotes and pictures for our OLWs. I hope “A” finds his.
Thank you Two Writing Teachers Blog, to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara, for this space to share the small moments that construct and constrain our lives. Read more slices here.