Monday, February 7, 2011

Believing They Can and Expecting They Will

An amazing thing happened in our room over the past week--and it happened when I decided to step back and wait.  I'll tell the story, but as I do, keep the following thoughts in mind:

When a teacher waits for a child to figure something out or self-correct, it conveys the message that she expects the child to be able to accomplish it."
Pat Johnson, One Child at a Time
…they decide not only who they are in a given context, but also between agentive characters who are active and assume responsibility, and more passive characters who do not.
  Peter Johnston, Choice Words

I have a little girl named E. who draws the most beautifully detailed pictures. E. is an ELL (English Language Learner) who attended kindergarten in Mexico. During writing workshop this year, she has illustrated story after story, mostly about events in her family. Her illustrations tell her stories, and so does she, but not in written words, even though she'll tell the story orally.
This is the first page of one of E.'s stories--it has 4 pages all together

Since the start of the year, E. has been getting support learning everything she needs to write her stories. And yet, despite much teaching and prompting and reminding, E. would not write any words unless someone helped her. Her writing folder was filled with wonderfully drawn stories that had no words.

E. always asked for help writing the words even though she knows sound/symbol relationships, many sight words, and is able to say words carefully and record the sounds she hears. She participates confidently during interactive writing. And so recently, as she came to me again to ask if I would help her write the words on some of her stories, I thought for a moment and then replied.
"You know E., I know that you can do it by yourself. You know all the things you need to put your words with your stories. I know that you don't need me for that." She nodded, but kept looking at me, waiting for me to follow her to her desk to stand beside her. I didn't follow. Instead, I turned to confer with another student. "E., it's time for you to be on your own with this, " I said over my shoulder. She waited a minute more, then went back to her desk.

Look what happened:
This is the first of 4 pages--all written in 1 day!
Yep--she went back and wrote the words for the whole story in that one workshop time! By Friday, E. had put words to every single story in her folder. She sat at her desk, bent over her stories, pencil moving confidently across the page. Every so often she'd look up and think, then lean back into her work. On Friday, she came to me. 
"Mrs. M., I'm so so proud and you know why? I got the words for my stories. I got all the words--all the stories!"

Proud? Absolutely! Surprised? Not at all. I knew she could do it. But the key was for E. to believe she could--that she could take action and succeed on her own. By not stepping in to provide help, I sent the message that I expected she would be able to do it. Now E. sees herself in a new way--she feels like a successful writer. And she is.

1 comment:

  1. Love this post! Seeing E bloom as a confident writer is beautiful. I love the fact that you built the relationship with her, allowed her the time to explore writing at her pace, and when you absolutely knew that E could do it, you let her. I am frustrated with seeing teachers who are trying to help their kids grow in writing that they push too much. I realize there has to be a balance, but I think we are pressured as teachers to push, push, push our children instead of allowing them some time. And then, when enough solid foundation is there, you wait. You built her confidence and trust by waiting on her and then nudging. Bravo!! Thanks for the pick-me-up. MHG:)