She remembers when…
My adopted fourth grade class, their teacher, and I recently finished our first unit of Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study for Teaching Reading. The unit ends with a small celebration that turned out to be a neat experience. During the minilesson the students were introduced to an excerpt of Paul Auster’s Invention of Solitude in which Auster shares memories of his childhood. He uses a patterned type of writing in which every sentence begins with the phrase “He remembers…”.
“He remembers learning how to tie his shoes. He remembers that his father’s clothes were kept in the closet in his room and that it was the noise of the hangers clicking together in the morning that would wake him up. He remembers the sight of his father knotting his tie and saying to him rise and shine little boy…”
The students were then asked to think back over the read-aloud from this unit of study—Stone Fox—and create a piece of writing using the pattern “He remembers…” or “She remembers…” After each student had time to reflect and jot down a few rememberings, we did a Quaker read in which students were invited to read one of their sentences if they chose. It had the feel of a ceremony as students solemnly read their memories without raising hands, just patiently waiting until there was an interval of silence to interject their memories.
After exhausting their memories of Stone Fox, the students were then asked to reflect on our first unit of study “Building a Reading Life” and to write another “remembering piece” about what they remembered from the unit. As I was preparing to teach the lesson, I started doing some remembering of my own. I thought about the way these fourth grade readers had already begun to change, how they were connecting with books, and how I was beginning to connect with them around books. So I wrote a “She remembers” poem to share with them.
She remembers when Mrs. R. agreed to team teach reading with her this year.
She remembers when a bunch of moms came in to level our classroom library.
She remembers when Noah remembered to bring his copy of Lightning Thief to lend to her.
She remembers when Andrew’s mom tapped her on the shoulder to tell her that Andrew reads in his bedroom all the time now.
She remembers when Gavin abandoned a book because he realized it wasn’t a “just right” book for him.
She remembers when Lily was honest and said she needed help to remember to fill our her reading log at home.
She remembers when Brendan made a connection to writing workshop when he said that synthesis retellings are kind of like conclusions in essays.
She remembers when three boys greeted her at the door after Christmas break to ask if she had finished Lightning Thief yet.
She remembers when Mallory and Emily were always reading books that have their names in the titles.
She remembers how Keelan and Blake always got excited about their books and would tell her about them.
She remembers when Cassidy volunteered to do a retelling during a table conference.
She remembers the first day that everyone came to the carpet and sat through the whole minilesson without rustling their bags.
She remembers when two partnerships agreed to be a trio so that everyone could have someone to talk to about books.
She remembers when Chaz gave her daily hugs.
She remembers when lots of us were sad and some cried when Searchlight died in Stone Fox.
She remembers when Payton described Stone Fox as a “touching story.”
Before preparing this lesson, I had already begun to reflect on our first unit of study. But most of my reflections revolved around my shortcomings—how my minilessons were too long, how I needed to confer with more students, how I needed to get some strategy groups going, and the list goes on. The above exercise helped me change my focus, and I began to realize how many good things have already begun to happen. We are now well into our second unit of study. I am working on making my minilessons shorter, on improving my conferring skills, but along the way, I am also taking time to notice our little daily successes.