Friday, September 16, 2016

School Daze: Chapter 1

The writing prompt seemed so do-able:

You have one class period to write the best personal narrative- the best true story about you- that you can write. Make this be the story of one time in your life. You might focus on just a scene or two. You’ll have one class period to write this true story, so you’ll need to plan, draft, revise and edit in one sitting. Write in a way that allows you to show off all you know about writing.

After all, we had been coming up with topics for a week, talking about them, and free-writing. All of those resources were available as my students sat down on Tuesday to complete this formative assessment. I just wanted to know what kind of writers they were.

A few minutes into the first class period, I noticed a student who was reading. His writing lay, seemingly abandoned, on the table:

"Whoa!" I whispered to him. "It looks like you're having some trouble."

"Not really," he shrugged. "I'm just finished."

"Hmm," I answered, "why don't you bring your writing notebook out to the hall so we can talk a little?"

He grabbed his notebook and I picked up the paper and out we went.

I was determined to be patient, and he was determined not to write, and so we didn't make a lot of progress in our conversation. "The assignment says to write your best story," I finally said. "Is this really it?"

He assured me it was. With 178 days to go in the school year and the knowledge that I had only begun my work with him, I said, "Okay," and we went back inside, where I read the placement card his fifth grade teacher had sent.

Excellent student! he had written, and under "Writing"? There was a checkmark in the High column.

It was a conundrum, indeed.

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