Sunday, December 23, 2012

"The Best Star Wars Book Of Them All"

One of the regular features of both our Pre-K class and our new 5's class is what we call "journals," although I suppose it would be more accurately called "creative writing." The idea is for these older kids to expand upon the more rudimentary storytelling process we introduced when they were younger by giving them more time and space to expand their ideas, perhaps even over the course of several days, and to create an opportunity to add illustrations.

A "journal," as arbitrarily defined by me at the beginning of the school year, is a stack of ten blank pages sandwiched between a cover made from construction paper which stays at school until a child has filled it up. The idea is to create these stories in a less hurried and hopefully more thoughtful environment, to give the children a chance to pick their words and to go more deeply into their ideas.

Some of the kids use this opportunity to tell the same story over and over, session after session, introducing the same characters, the same scenarios, and the same ideas, each time altering or expanding it slightly, improving it, testing it, until they're finally done. Others like to do their thinking as they go through it the first time. Whatever the case, once they're finished, I read it aloud to the class.

I don't take this dictation, but rather turn it over to parent-teachers with the basic instruction to write word-for-word what the kids say. I very much enjoyed picking up this one to read to the assembled class a couple weeks ago:

Anyone who writes a lot knows what happened here. I love that William corrected himself, for whatever reason, opting for the word "best" over "greatest." It's a subtle, but important edit, if only because he felt the need to edit. As someone who writes every day, let me tell you, spelling and grammar are secondary to this. The more I write the more I confront the limitation of language to convey my precise meaning. In every post, every day, I find myself wrestling over just this type of apparent minutiae, but honestly, if there is any hope at all, it comes from this: struggling to find the words that come the closest to saying what I really want to say. 

This is not the "greatest" Star Wars book of them all, but rather the "best." That's something precise that William wants his readers to know about this story. And what it tells me about William is that he's a writer.

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