It started innocently enough. The first student grabbed his scissors and started making a huge character. The scissors, glue and paper were all over the floor. It wasn't long until the scissors came out again. This time for a shark and some small fish. Then scissors were out everywhere!
When I look around my classroom during Writer's Workshop I expect to see pencils, crayons, and colored pencils in everyone's hands, but scissors????
What to do?
Somehow I resisted uttering "put those scissors away". I suppose I resisted in part because it is the beginning of the year, but also because there was such a joy to their work. As I watched them cut shapes they were completely engaged in what they were doing. They were quite good at it as well. They meticulously cut airplanes, people, sharks, and other objects.
As I watched them work I saw possibility.
So I took a deep breath, started conferring, and listened. I asked the same beginning questions I usually ask in a first of year writing conference: "So tell me what you're working on today." "What's your story?" "What do you want everyone to know?" "Where'd you get your idea?". Honestly, I think many of the students made up their story as they were talking to me, but at this time of year that's really not any different than the students working on a flat sheet of paper with drawings and words. First graders are developing their sense of story and that's as it should be.
As I listened, I noticed something else. I was struck by their use of language as they began to weave their tales, MOVING characters to tell about events. Their sentence structures were longer, their details were greater, and their excitement over their stories was clearly visible.
So I decided to teach through it. I decided to follow the energy in the community and use it to strengthen our work as writers. I'm pretty sure Eric Carle cuts paper for his illustrations. Eric Hill uses flaps to make his Spot stories interesting. Mo Willems managed to finally fit a frog in a book.
Katie, of Creative Literacy, reminded me in a recent post titled "Listening for What Next" of the importance of observing and listening to children to see where they are as learners, and what they need next. So I'm looking for books in which illustrators have taken some risks - and pulled out a pair of scissors - so we can talk about the ways authors/illustrators choose to create interesting ways to share a story. I'm thinking there is much potential for developing oral language and strengthening our sense of story in this work.
If you have thoughts or book suggestions, please pass them along.