My students are amazing writers. Really, they are! Although it sometimes takes them longer than I would hope to actually get started, I have noticed all year long that I have not just a class of readers, but also a class of writers. It thrills me every time a student asks if they will have SOAR time during the day. (This is our independent reading or writing time, called SOAR because they can Spread Out And Read or write). I don’t always get to read everything they write, though. Some are still quite reserved in sharing what they have done with me, except for their formal writing assignments, which they really don’t have any other choice (well, unless you consider not doing it and accepting a poor grade a “choice”…)
As of this year, I am taking over the duties as our building’s Young Authors coordinator. The Young Authors program is a writing contest for students throughout Illinois in grades K-8. The contest is all about writing, of course. Students may work on their own or with a partner to create a piece of original writing that they can submit for the contest. Pieces are judged on ideas, creativity/originality. and overall quality. Because I am the coordinator, I will be enlisting the help of other teachers to judge the submissions when they are turned in later this year. But it also means that I don’t get to read a lot of my students’ stories, especially the ones they are writing for the contest. (Several have started working already and have stories that are multiple chapters and dozens of pages long!)
So even though I don’t many opportunities to read my young authors’ independent stories, I do get to read the writing they do for me in class. Most of this writing is in early draft forms, especially when it comes to reading responses. Today I read through some of the stories they wrote in response to the Cinderella tales we’d read. I found myself laughing out loud as I read their alternate endings to the classic story! Some memorable versions had the Prince marrying Cinderella’s stepmother, marrying one of her stepsisters, or marrying a girl who didn’t even look like her! One student wrote about the Prince accidentally marrying the palace “gong farmer” (the person responsible for mucking out the horses’ stables). Some of the alternate endings still had Cinderella marrying the Prince, but only after he realised his initial mistake.
I am so very happy that my students embrace literature as much as they do! Reading and writing are both crucial skills needed for success in life. While they are all at different levels of ability, all of them try and do the best that they can. I am looking forward to reading all of their stories after the Young Authors contest is done in February. For the time being, though, I will be content with knowing that they are writing, reading, and thinking in many different ways.