Monday, July 1, 2013

Crafting Author's Craft

We alllll know this look.  It's usually followed with a little back and forth finger pointing action a la "Night at the Roxbury".  You?  Me?  You, you?  Me?  As if you as the teacher couldn't already call who was going to partner with who before the words, "Today you are going to work with a partner to..." left your mouth.  It's like the partnership isn't solidified until this look has been exchanged by both parties.
Lucky for us, however, this look is no longer necessary.  We are asked all the time to do things as partners because at this point in our careers, it is assumed that it will just be that way.  In fact, we've often joked (although it's no joke) when asked to work on a project, "We're kind of a package deal."  You ask one to present staff development for the district, we're both in on it.  Oh, you need some curriculum written for the Language Arts Department?  Gladly.  As long as we can work in partners.  And I already know who my partner is.  We've turned in to those kids who act like they can't get any work done unless the assignment is partner work.  Clearly we're capable of working independently, but why do that when working together is so much more fun? 
Currently, we are working on writing some curriculum for Reader's Workshop grades 3 through 5 for our district.  Specifically, we are looking at Author's Craft in poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and expository texts.  This is proving to be quite a task.  It's easy enough to say that an author's craft is really just the author's purpose for every little detail that's included in the text.  But when each author and every text is as unique as a thumbprint, how do you generalize teaching this concept to cover any text a reader may encounter?  How do you teach students that this poet included this simile in this poem because it shows the progression one goes through while reluctantly waking up in the morning...while this poet in this poem chose to personify the tulips because it shows their short life cycle once they've bloomed?  Each sentence, each phrase, each word in literature is so specifically chosen by the author; how do we teach a concept that's so specific in a way that can is generalized enough to cover any and all texts? 
It's definitely pushed us to think about texts in a new way.  We're making progress, but it hasn't been as easy as we first thought.  We can't wait to get these lessons posted here to be used and tweaked by fellow teachers!  Our goal is that while teachers are busy lesson planning and hit a roadblock, they think, "I wonder if the Literacy Ladies have any ideas for this..."  If that roadblock is Author's Craft, you're in luck!  Well, soon...  Check back in a week!