There is a hum and buzz in a classroom where children are working with a sense of agency. Currently students are immersed in biographies in both reading and writing. They have been so focused as they gather all their information about the person they are studying. They have been creating cards about all the different aspects that we learned about while reading biographies. As we read the cards, we can’t help but smile at the presence of the writing process at work. There is nothing like authentic writing that holds meaning to young authors. These cards have all the elements of writing: leads that draw in the reader, ideas are organized, elaboration has added detail to the writing, transition words make the ideas flow, and there are powerful endings. The best way that we can celebrate their hard work is to share it. When studying characters we talk about “walking in characters’ shoes”; how about literally trying on their lives in the form of a “biography coat”.
Come on a journey with us, the vehicle is a student’s imagination working to depict long gone eras in time, crayons fall and rise to the page to bring us back to the civil rights era for Rosa Parks as they draw buses; or Jane Goodall steeped deep into lush jungles sprawling across the page; Francis Scott Key calls out to an American flag flying high in the sky. Theseare visual representations of genuine comprehension as the children create their coat to teach others – to literally share an identity with a historic person. Powerful quotes add to their growing understanding, timelines filled with important events, and Top Ten Facts all work together to celebrate a special life lived. Each decision was purposeful, ideas were shared, advice was given and taken in a free exchange with their peers. Ideas were synthesized to create a coat that would encompass the life of their person.
The share will come next. The time to go out and tell the world (other third graders) all that they learned as they become experts about their subject’s life. Facts will be shared, questions will be asked and answered, compliments will be plentiful. More than that, experiences will be had – real experiences that hold meaning for children – this will make this all memorable not a stale report or “extended response” a learning encounter worth their time and effort because their work is important. As the children prepare for this day, the excitement and anticipation fills the air. Stay tuned for the details of the wearing of the coats.