Saturday, September 20, 2008


This week my students read Cynthia Rylant's story "Checkouts," and their starting activity when they came into class was to make a list of at least ten words to describe the kind of person you might get a crush on. My examples were "smart" and "cute."

They argued that this was too private and personal; I repeatedly pointed out how I had written hugely right under the directions YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO SHARE THESE, and asked what they thought the story we were reading today might be about. My brilliant students guessed: two kids with a crush on each other! When I asked who wanted to share, more kids shared than I'd expected. I also did a lot of peeking over shoulders--these kinds of writing activities might be my #1 best way to get to know my kids and what's going on with them.

"Boy," "girl," and "good abs" appeared frequently on their lists, and the first two especially were words that led to students modifying their own lists whenever anyone shared them out. If you didn't put "boy" or "girl" on your list--well you know what that means!!! "Sexy" also made lots of appearances, including eleven times on Jordan's list alone (Jordan the boy, not Jordan the girl). "Asian" (from an Asian student) and "close to family" caught my eye. One girl wrote, among other things, "Kanye West." My two favorite responses were “will call every day," on a boy's list, one of my younger-seeming eighth graders, still interested in Pokemon, and “not a late night texter"--since of course that could get your phone taken away, not to mention your parents in your business.

We had a great conversation about the story's title, too, and they wrote some tragic and romantic and hilarious alternate endings. I am proud of myself for putting the lesson together--the story is in our textbook, but it's not a story I personally really love. I'm a good enough teacher now that I was able to remind myself that lots of times the kids really connect with stories that aren't my favorites, which makes sense since I'm 32 and they're 13. So teach the story that will grab them, Ms. Nelson, even if you aren't so into it, instead of the one that's your favorite (though it was a good week all around for a story about crushes). Anyway, we're saving "Raymond's Run" for next week.

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