Fall is here and we are, most of us, 6 to 8 weeks into the 2023/24 school year.
First, please CONGRATULATE yourself for completing the first cycle of CORE Integrated Reading & Writing units, and likely introducing APPLICATION materials such as Calendar of Days, Operation Lexicon, One True Sentence, or Tools of Style. Be encouraged! Take heart!
“A power of Butterfly must be –
The Aptitude to fly
Meadows of Majesty concedes
And easy Sweeps of Sky —”
This butterfly, a California Buckeye, was spotted this week when I took a moment to enjoy a lovely fall day in the garden. And I thought of Emily Dickinson’s amazing observation of the butterfly’s aptitude to fly.
And this got me to thinking of education and childhood.
A power of Childhood must be –
The Aptitude to fly—
Your students are stretching their wings.
You are likely getting ready to add Earlybird Introduction to Animals or your first Research People of the year or one of the Research Science units on top of the second CORE unit. And you might be a bit overwhelmed. You are not alone!
Sometimes, after the delightful anticipation and early days of back-to-school fades, fatigue sets in.
You may be experiencing that oh-so-familiar desire to countdown to the holidays!
We say: Not yet!!!
Don’t give up!
Take a moment in the garden. Enjoy the sights of fall.
Now is the time to take a breath and join hands with the teacher built in to your materials!
Let October-Focus-on-ELA-fest begin!!!
1. Look back on your student’s first completed CORE unit. Make note of the small steps of progress.
3. Read (again) through the “How to Use this Guide” in the front of the student workbooks.
Primary (Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade)
At the primary level, foundational skills are introduced and reviewed, and put into practice. This is where students learn to delight in the joy of stories and the taming of ideas begins. Watch the Professional development for parents and teachers from August session for inspiration this October.
Elementary (3rd, 4th, and 5th grade)
Elementary readers and writers are becoming confident with grammar, mechanics, and form—sentences and paragraphs—and style! Writing at this level involves learning to craft an amazing Hook and working through the process of crafting an idea the happy way. Watch the Professional development for parents and teachers from our August session for inspiration this October.
Middle School (6th, 7th, and 8th grade)
High School (9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade)
The goal is for middle and high school writers to transfer their creativity and courageous ability to write an idea to more advanced forms—poems, literary, descriptive, and persuasive essays, and longer research. Watch the Professional development for parents and teachers from our August session for inspiration this October.
During the months of October, watch for weekly festive posts to boost you on toward November!
Students using our Middle School ELA Grade Level Collections will be exploring essay form, enhancing vocabulary, and being introduced to advanced rhetoric in addition to the CORE units. Students at this level have developed confidence in the expanded form of idea-making, are crafting clever Hook openings with unique voicing, and are moving into the territory of unencumbered idea making!
Students regularly engage in the process of writing, idea to draft to the re-read/edit loop that leads to a beautiful polished final work.
When students move to the high school level, each week, in addition to journaling observations character development, themes, symbols, and motifs, they are encouraged to craft a synopsis and a personal reflection to help them timk deeply about the story at hand in preparation for the crafting of a literary essay.
Crafting the synopsis and reflection within a constrained word count, challenges the writer to make each word matter!
Each culminating essay follows the same form introduced in middle school, so that the writer is now prepared to craft original observations and ideas tied to complex literature constrained to the particular literary form.
Click through to watch a recording of the August Professional Development sessions with Mrs. B & Ms. Clare:
In our CORE materials for middle school—Level 3 Reading & Writing Discovery Guides—students will continue the good work of writing ideas they began in the Level 1 & 2 units. With Blackbird & Company, your middle school students will develop the skills and confidence that will prepare them for high school reading and writing.
LOVE the red pen.
All writing comes into being through a process:
1. First comes the IDEA. Without an idea, the writer will simply stare at the blank page.
2. Once there is an idea in the mind of the writer, the pencil steps in to translate thoughts to words on the page.
3. When the pencil’s work is complete, the job of the writer is to become a reader. Encourage your students to RE-READ everything they write.
4. Empower students to use the RED pen as they re-read. Teach them to use strong words, to fearlessly re-arrange, and not be afraid to strike through.
5. Polish the draft, preferably in cursive…
Write in cursive!
Writing with a pencil by hand is a foundational skill. But it’s also a beautiful endeavor. I have fond memories of learning to form the ABCs in cursive. This work was quiet, slow, and mysterious. Yes, mysterious. My grandmother, who raised me, wrote little notes by hand and left them in various places around the house to my great delight. Her cursive was one of a kind, a lovely extension of her loving self. It was not like any other by-hand note I’ve ever encountered in life. That’s the thing about penmanship. Penmanship is personal.
Essays are ideas!
An essay by definition is an attempt or endeavor. An essay is an exploration of an idea, a meandering journey like following a river. An essay is an opportunity to simultaneously explore an idea and to navigate your reader through its wonder. Great essays have the power to encourage, empower, and enlighten. For this reason essay writing should never be treated as a mechanical endeavor, but rather, a pathway for the writer to communicate the depths of the heart and mind.
BIG ideas can be communicated through a range of forms. The essay is a specific form. But often students hear the word and suddenly experience writer’s block! Some become frozen by fear. This should not be the case! Remind students, an essay is simply an opportunity to explore an idea in more depth.
T.S. Eliot said: “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
Poetry is a close cousin to visual art. Poetry is an opportunity to paint—to paint with words. Writing poetry helps students not only learn that words have specificity, but that sometimes less is more. Writing poems help students discover, when it comes to words, possibility is vast. But the best lesson learned is this: it is always better to SHOW versus tell.
The snow is white.
Winter wind gently lifts sparkling flakes, little rainbows floating and drifting around my head.
Your middle school students will discover the delight of reading poetry and the craft of writing poems as they are guided through Exploring Poetry.