Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Making Memories

Over the last several weeks we've been working on a literacy contract (which is a reading and writing cycle) focused on families.  We've read realistic fiction chapter books with a strong family theme, we've read memoirs, we've written our own memoirs, and we're currently wrapping up making scrapbooks.  Admittedly, I wasn't sure the scrapbook thing was the best idea I'd ever had.  I have strong convictions about Language Arts consisting of reading and writing, not arts and crafts.  I tried to be loose with the idea of a scrapbook, but my students knew me too well.  They demanded a rubric, of all things.  Never one to deny some guidelines, I quickly created what they needed.  The rubric consisted of loose requirements:  the scrapbook had to revolve around some type of family (after all, that has been our theme topic since mid-November), it had to be five pages in length, it had to represent a significant time in the life of its creator, and the book had to have significant items or representations throughout (it did not have to have pictures...these can be hard to print and/or find.  Rather, students could paste in ticket stubs, magazine cutouts, stickers, items they created to represent important memories, etc.). 

After covering the requirements, I felt a bit better.  There was a direction students could take with creating a meaningful scrapbook.  It might not all be a loss or waste of time.  While I felt better, I was still not completely comfortable.  I allowed myself the reprieve of knowing that students were doing some hard-core thinking and writing during this time too.  They have been working on short pieces of writing about memories in their lives.  They have all read a memoir, and I've read aloud several memoir picture books.  We've talked about the elements of memoir and they have chosen which particular significant memory they want to explore.  They've worked hard on this, crafting engaging leads and helping the reader to infer the significance of the event without explicitly stating it.  There was real writing happening in room 100 over the last several weeks.  Surely it would be okay to devote 30 minutes a couple of days this week to creating a scrapbook.  Surely.

Today we completed our second day of work on finishing up the final copy of the memoir and crafting the scrapbook.  AND IT WAS WONDERFUL!  There, I said it.  It was amazing to see the work and thought my kids put into creating a special piece of text that means something to them.  I thought their memoirs were turning out well.  Little did I know I would be blown away by the things I was seeing for scrapbooks!  Take a look at some of the work that was being done today in our classroom.

Most of the students in my fifth grade room are planning on using these scrapbooks as Christmas gifts for loved ones.  I often get frustrated with the lack of meaningful work the standards fail to address.  A scrapbook with a purpose is a perfect example.  Not just scrapbooking to fill time, but scrapbooking to investigate and remember a significant time in a child's life with family.  Is there any better gift to receive from your child at Christmastime?  I think not.  So while I'm still not a Language Arts and Crafts teacher, I am an embracer of creativity and exploration of all things meaningful.  Go forth and create memories!

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