Saturday, December 3, 2011

Sharing Our Stories

Karen, Mandy, Me, Stella
Picture from Stella
Reading the Past, Writing the Future
Every year I rearrange schedules, feverishly complete progress reports, arrange conferences with families, and make travel plans to attend the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention.  It's a lot of work that has to be done quickly and I often wonder if I will manage it all, but every year I do.  Every year as soon as I join my friends and colleagues at NCTE I know it was well worth it.

This year was no exception.  As I attended session after session the significance of story kept catching my attention.  I began by attending the Elementary Gathering on Thursday night where Kathy Short received the 2011 Outstanding Educator Award.  Short talked about the significance of story.   Her thoughtful keynote seemed to shape my thinking across the entire conference.  Every speaker I heard gave me nuggets about story.  Every place I went I saw the potential for story.  

My favorite NCTE quotes about story from speakers:
  • About Story:  "Stories are such a normal every day occasion that we often overlook their significance."  Kathy Short as she received the 2011 Outstanding Educator Award at the Elementary Gathering.
  • About Story:  "Good nonfiction is narrative.  Giving kids the gift of thinking about what matters most."  Ellin Keene
  • About Story:  "Math stories are everywhere in our world."  Mandy Robek as we walked across Chicago (not her exact words, but...)
  • About Mentor Texts:  "Literature can help second language learners connect to, and find, their story."  Mary Capelli
  • About Process:  "After I write I read it aloud to hear it in my mind and in my ear."  Seymour Simon 
  • About Audience:  "I've been thinking about how our vision of audience changes....and how it changes us as writers."  Tony Keefer
  • About Audience:  "When I know my writing will be read by others, I work on my writing harder." Meredith age 10 shared by Tony Keefer 
  • About Publication:  "Books in hands at school can then be hands at home."  Katie DiCesare in talking about having shared texts created in learning community made into digital pieces of writing
Capturing the Stories of Young Writers
Throughout the weekend I wondered how to help my young writers to see the significance of the stories in their lives.  How do I help them to capture their stories?  I thought about how they race in each morning to capture my attention to tell me their stories.  I thought about how they bring in objects to share with their friends that tell their stories.  I thought about the conversation I overhear with friends as they enter our classroom each day to tell their stories.  Young writers aren't that different from "older" writers (couldn't resist).  We are all so caught up in our lives we forget the stories we are living and they slip right be us.  

When I returned to my classroom excited to share my own stories with my students - stories of learning, friends, meeting authors, finding new books -  I noticed my students also had brought "stories" with them.  

Nathan had brought his story of the new cars he got in Iowa City.  He shared the stories of seeing family, visiting sites, purchasing and playing with these new cars on the long ride home.

Natalie had brought her book from when she was a baby.  She shared stories of the beginning days she and her twin sister shared together.  She told stories of her grandma coming to hold and love them.  She told stories of their first Christmas together.  She told stories of her life as a twin which her friends had plenty of questions about.

Luke brought his stories from a surprise trip to Disney.  He had a notebook --- yes, I was pretty excited about that --- he had made to collect writing ideas from his trip.  He shared the story of his favorite ride.

Lily came in carrying a picture of she and her sister decorating the Christmas picture with another picture of the dog and cat chasing each other it.  She laughed telling about the challenge of decorating this large tree and the chaos the pets caused shortly after.  

Stories are everywhere if we listen.  Thanks NCTE (and friends) for helping me to notice the stories right in front of me every day --- and for helping me to make my own new stories.  


  1. What an awesome synthesis of your trip to NCTE -- a great reminder for young and old writers. It's so true! There are stories all around us. We just have to take the time to capture the story with our words and pictures, and then share it with others. I love that you were able to share your students stories as well.

  2. Mmm...Love the quotes! Love the stories you captured!