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Writing Update from Mrs. Finlinson

Greetings! What a pleasure it is to join your community as an E-Form teacher and writing specialist for Carden Memorial. I started my work with your children by sharing some of my own childhood stories: the first time I jumped off of a diving board, the time I made up a play in the backyard, and memories of playing family fun ball with a big plastic bat. And then, it was the students' turn to share. 

Without fail, there was such a rush of hands in the air, I wasn’t able to call on them quickly enough. I heard stories of birthday parties, baby chickens, stitches, getting lost at Disneyland, meeting and losing friends, snowstorms, family trips, football games . . . the lists were long and continued to grow. We immediately set to the work of capturing these ideas before they got away. 

After the stories were written down in their draft books, we crossed the word “done” out of our vocabulary. As writers, we are never “done,” we only stop for deadlines. Until then, we revise by “playing” with our stories. We tried out new leads on sticky notes that could easily move on and off the page. We found important parts and stretched them out like a slow motion movie scene. We added “thoughtshots” to show what we were thinking and added dialogue to pull the reader into the moment. 

Yes, revision is work, but it is a playful kind of work. Your children have been up to the challenge and eager to experiment with these new writing tools. I brought Lego pieces to class to teach them that their revising is much the same—moving and adding pieces from here to there, searching for a creation that is just right. 

Next came editing. I reminded them that before publication is when editing counts most. Together, we worked on our best edit so that our readers could enjoy our stories without being distracted by errors. In our class publication celebrations, writers shared their stories from the author’s chair and student audiences listened for favorite parts and best lines. Their comments on each other’s stories were part of the assessment. Being able to name and identify qualities of good writing strengthens ability to create it. 

So far, I’ve heard comments such as: “Her lead pulled me into her story” and “The way he stretched the part about the dog helped me to see it better.” Again, it’s work that doesn’t feel like work. But a more important assessment is how to they feel about writing. If they can leave a writing experience feeling accomplished and confident, they may start to call themselves a “writer” and approach their next writing task with even more enthusiasm and energy. This is why we celebrated at the end of each story reading with a cheer, making each writer and each story famous for just a few minutes. 

It has been a joyful beginning and a privilege to listen to stories from your young writers. I look forward to more in the months ahead!