This is the final post in a month of writing. Do I need some especially meaningful words to share? Probably. But what I have today is really just a simple gratitude. I am grateful for words. Grateful that words are kind to me. Grateful that words are close by. That I can find them when I need them. Eventually. Words are a safe place. They do not scare me.
It’s not a perfect relationship. I am not always happy with what I write. Sometimes it is terrible. I can write pages and tear it all apart. I can doubt that the words I have placed on the page are the right ones to convey what I mean. I can wonder about the very idea itself. I drag words about and attempt to arrange them just so. Is it even worth their time?
But the act of writing – marks into letters into words into phrases into pieces into stories into communication – I can do this. I can put words on a page and make meaning. That’s a lucky thing. I feel lucky.
I sat with one of my students today during a writing block. We had just read Robo-sauce written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri and he wanted to write about the kind of robot he would be and the special powers he would have. He would be a ninja robot, with a black mask and woven material covering his metal armour. He would be stealthy and be able to breathe out air that would freeze anything it came into contact with. He would be frightening.
I know all of this because it is what I helped him to tell me. He didn’t have the vocabulary. He couldn’t paint a picture with his words, even spoken words. As soon as he told me a second detail he forgot the first. I remembered for him. He had a picture in his mind that he didn’t have words to describe. I helped him find some.
Me: “Tell me about the metal armour. What’s it like?”
Me: “Like a tin can with no wrapper?”
Him, shaking head, “No, like, like, like, . . . ” and then pointing to some knitted sleeves he had on, “like this!”
Me: “Do you know what that is called? What material it is?”
Me, “Well, it’s wool or yarn. His armour would be made of wool? Do you want to write that?”
Yes he did. But he couldn’t get past the “w” We stretched the sounds out and managed the word. I reminded him about the mask. “What could you write?” Smiles but no response. “Could you write that he has a black mask?” Nodding. I nodded back. Nothing. “What’s the sound at the beginning?” I began and we stretched out the words again. “How do you make a “k” again?” he asked. “Line down, kick in, kick out,” I demonstrated. “Remember?” He nodded while forming a careful “k”
His robot would be stealthy. He doesn’t know that word. It took prompts and lots of questions to get the word sneaky which is the word he used. “Freezing power” is what he wrote to explain that his robot would be able to turn you to ice with his breath. I know about the breath because he told me but nowhere did it say anything about breath or breathing on his page. We didn’t get to the frightening part. There were no sentences or even longer phrases. It made a list of ideas. One at a time. With lots of help. Each word stretched to hear the sounds. Each sound checked with hopeful glances. Correct or close enough was confirmed by me with reassuring nods. It took a long time. A long, long time. At the end he was tired. Smiling, but tired.
Beginning writing is hard work. It stays that way for many students. They can’t spell the words they want to use. They can’t find words for the images in their minds. They can’t sequence or organize. Developing ideas is hard. Words don’t float within reach to be grabbed easily as ideas flow.
There are many challenges to a month of daily writing. Daily published writing. In a busy life. But I am grateful that I can do it. That I did do it. That I will continue. I am lucky to know words. Lucky that they trust me to use them to tell my stories.
Thank you to this community of “Slicers” who are lucky along with me.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.