Friday, August 12, 2011

A seat at the table...

First grade writing from workshop yesterday!

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how we welcome our writers and build classroom communities.  Ruth Ayres blogged about this recently (, a conversation has started in my elementary building, and teachers are keeping this at the forefront as minilessons are written.  We like to strategize, being uber intentional about the choices we make, the words we use, and our sequence of teaching points.  But, despite all this, I still wasn't prepared for what I heard in a first grade writer's workshop yesterday.

A normal day in this community of writers, Sadie's (a pseudonym) teacher let me know from the start she was doing exceptional work and that I should pull up beside her to see for myself.  I did, with smiles and fanfare, to see what this writer was up to.  Page numbers.  Sadie explained that she noticed page numbers in every book she read, so that must be what writers do when they have more than one page in a story.

OK.  Brilliant.  Second week of writer's workshop in first grade.  I like her moxie (and keen attention to how books work)!

As we poured through the ten (yes, ten) pages of her book, we landed on the one pictured above.  Sadie read, "I love my teacher" and then began to explain her picture.  Initially, I wasn't making the connection between her lovely teacher and the table.  "A table?"  "Tell me more about this table," I invited.

"My teacher gave me a seat at the table.  I don't have a seat at a table at home to do my writing."

Silence; my eyes found the floor, shutting tightly for a second.

"Then where do you eat," I couldn't help but prod a bit.

"At the table," Sadie strangely looked my way.

"Well, then why don't you write on your table at home too?" I reasoned.

"Because.  It is dirty.  I don't want to ruin my work."  Another obvious answer from the mind of a child.

My colleague gave this writer a seat at the table.  It's basic.  It's metaphorical.  It's deep.  And, it all started with a space to invent, to grow, to do the big important work she had running through her mind and heart.

Fifteen minutes in this first grade writer's workshop took my understanding of how we welcome writers to a whole new level.  We can spend time, money, and intellectual capital preparing for the students we inherit at school's start; but, it is also the things we can't quantify, imagine, or predict that will (sometimes) make the biggest impact.

Like a clean table at which to work...  Thank you, Sadie.

Write on,


  1. What a sweet story. It's amazing how the little things can be so huge to little bodies. She sounds like a bundle of wonderment. Enjoy your new year.

  2. A powerful story. Teaching is all about the little things--connecting to our students through what's important to them. How better to do this than to read and write alongside of them.

  3. Thank you for sharing the story. Reading your dialogue was like eavesdropping a conversation.
    Thank you to the teacher who gave the writing space to the young writer.

  4. This is beautiful and I love the imagery and extension of the metaphor that is happening in my mind right now. My first days are coming up, my students are very young, but I want them to grow into Sadies.


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