Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Small Moments

When I introduce our Narrative Writing unit, I try to get my class to think about possible writing topics, like we all do.  I have tried to come up with some different ways to get my kids thinking about "small moments" from their lives that they want to choose as a topic for a story.

I show them a Lego house  that I made, and tell them that each day is like that completed house, but it is really made up of little pieces, just like the Lego house.  I  take some of it apart and say, "This piece was when I woke up this morning because the cat jumped on me. This piece was when I ate breakfast and spilled the juice all over the floor.  This piece was when I got dressed and chose to wear my lucky shirt..."   I explain how during the day, there are lots of things that happen that would make great stories.

Another day, to review "small moments,"  I bring in cookies- because you cannot go wrong with cookies.  Each child gets a cookie.  You guessed it- I tell them that everybody's life (or day) is like the whole cookie, but it is made up of special little moments which are like those special chocolate chips.  I have the children each  take out one special chocolate chip from their cookie, and while they do that, I tell them to think about a special moment in their life that might make a great story to share.  When I bake the cookies, I put in one mini Hershey kiss, so it is like a "big chip" that they take out. Almost everyone takes out that chip. There are always a few who dig out one of the other ones! It's fun to watch.  As they eat the cookie, they are supposed to be thinking of some of their own special small moments. We share some of the moments after we eat the cookies.

(These were actually SO good- I just bought Tops brand pre-made cookie dough, and the were great! Go figure!)

Then, we make an anchor chart to share which "small moment" each child might choose to write about for this story.  
Another fun visual for "small moments" is to show the children a Seurat painting.  He style of painting was pointillism (or 'dots' as we say...).  He is one of the artists we study in the class. "Seurat, Seurat, he painted with a dot,"  is how we remember him.  I show them some of his paintings from far away, then explain that his paintings are made of many, many small dots. Each little dot is very important for the whole picture, just like each small moment is very important for our whole day or life.

I also like to use The Important Book  by Margaret Wise Brown as a mini-lesson for "small moments."
I love to use this book for so many things. I also use it when we talk about how each child is special when they write about what is important about themselves.  For this mini-lesson, I use it to show that although many things happen in each person's life, there are some things that stand out and are really important to each person.  They  don't have to be big, huge, things, but important things to you. If it is important to you, it makes a great story to share.   I share some things with them that I remember about being little, like when my friend would come over to play and would walk to the store to buy Big Buddy bubblegum, and we would take forever trying to decide which flavor to buy.  I always loved orange-mint the best.Then we would walk home happily chewing our gum.  Or when I would go to my grandparent's house and we would cross-stitch, play Flinch, or play Bingo for little prizes. I loved when my grandmother made waffles for dinner right on the table with the waffle maker. When I went to bed I remember that I loved hearing the big trucks go by outside the bedroom window. 
Another great book to use to help the children get the idea of a "small moment" is Zoom by Istvan Banyai.  If you haven't seen the book, it is a picture story that keeps zooming out into a bigger and bigger view of a picture.  Here is a sample to give you an idea.  The kids love it. It is a great conversation starter for details and small moments.
We also read Shortcut by Donald Crews, because I always like this story for a "small moment" mentor text.  It is perfect for my kids' level and attention span. 
I made an Author Prezi and put together links for some of my favorite authors that we study during Writer's Workshop.  It has pictures of the authors, some links to interviews with the authors, and some videos of their work.  It is just handy to have it all in one place when I want to quickly show the kids a picture.  At the top are links to lots of wonderful author interviews and lists of good mentor texts. Click on the picture below if you would like to have it!

This is a special "small moment"- in a different sort of way.  Since I have been working on my narrative writing unit, looking up some good mentor texts for small moments,  it made me think of some even more important "small moments" in teaching.

 I was talking with one of my sweet, sweet former students who now has two precious little girls of her own. She was one of those sweeties who never demanded any attention at all, but because of that was the type I loved making sure got the attention she really deserved. I think I am extra sensitive to the quite ones who could easily be overlooked because they are just doing the right thing and don't "need" constant reminders or redirection. I want them to know that I appreciate them, and they do deserve to be noticed for that.

She and I were talking the other day on facebook, and she said that what she remembered about Kindergarten was one particular day when I was talking to the class about being good listeners, and she happened to notice the word "boo" on the wall.  She said that she looked at it, and realized at that moment that she could spell "boot" by adding a "t" to the end of "boo!"  That was over 25 years ago.

I told her that I hoped and prayed that I had been excited and happy for her wonderful learning moment- and hadn't said, "We aren't talking about that right now, we are talking about being good listeners!"  She assured me that I was happy for her, and luckily she has that moment as a really happy memory.  (Thank GOODNESS!  Otherwise this post might have been labeled "sad moments!)

That story, once again, made me realize that children remember MOMENTS.  Not necessarily the moments we plan and prepare for them to remember, or spend money on, or hype up-  but just moments.  We never know which ones. (Cause I remember some "moments" from my school career that weren't so great!) I am always praying that I remember that and give each child happy, wonderful moments to remember- with excitement, joy, soft, kind answers, and lots of love.

Have a great night!

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