Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ordinary Things: The Story of Ellie's "Stuff That Nobody Thinks About"

One morning in my first grade classroom in Alabama, little Ellie Friedman walked up to me with Ralph Fletcher’s poetry book, Ordinary Things, in her hand. Ellie couldn’t quite read the poems yet, but she could read the word “ordinary”. “Miss Corgill, what does ‘ordinary’ mean?” My best six year old explanation to Ellie was “It’s stuff that nobody really thinks about. Stuff that’s not so special—just normal. Just……ordinary.” That answer seemed to satisfy the little writer as she bounded back to her workspace to continue writing for the day.
The primary writing workshop is the place for some pretty extraordinary things to happen, and this “ordinary” day was the day that I got extraordinary writing from a six year old. At the end of our writing time, Ellie wanted to share the poem she had written, using Ralph’s Ordinary Things as her inspiration. Below, you’ll find Ellie’s poem titled, “Stuff That Nobody Thinks About”

“Stuff That Nobody Thinks About”
by Ellie, Age 6
The warm feeling
Butterflies in your tummy
The smell of breakfast
The sound of pencils sharpening
The sound of birds chirping
Books talking.
The look of funny faces.
The taste of melting chocolate in your mouth.
The feeling of dirt under your fingernail.
The sound of music in your ear.
Stories ringing in your head.
The feeling of tears rolling down your face.
The soft feeling of your mom’s hand.
The end.

Ellie was a child, a primary writer who lived and saw the "stuff that nobody thinks about" in an extraordinary way.
Ellie is now in college, but her first grade writing will always remind me to give children open classroom spaces where their voices are heard and their abilities are trusted. Her extraordinary poem reminds me to always give students the tools they need to work and create (books as models and inspiration, paper, pencil, crayons, and all the tools a writer might need). She reminds me to keep giving my students time to write and daily moments to read and honor that writing. We need to trust that those ordinary moments in our classrooms can quite quickly become extraordinary if we will just believe in our students and in ourselves.

Below are photos of the writing supply area, table supplies, and writing share/meeting area

Sometimes we forget that these elements of our teaching are just as critical as the articulation of a focus lesson or the manner in which we lead a writing conference.
As we begin a new school year, let's celebrate the ordinary moments in our daily routines and create spaces in our classrooms for extraordinary work to happen.

1 comment:

  1. It is because of you that at least 4 teachers at my school have created such areas in our classrooms. We hope that the excitment spreads throughout the year. Thank you for not being ordinary.