Look Out, They’re Coming

And I couldn’t be happier. I’m talking about future writers. I was working in a third-grade class today. They were reading a story, and the teacher stopped and asked the class to describe how the author was showing, not telling. No Way! We buy books and attend courses to learn this stuff. Third-graders are taking it in along with their multiplication facts and reading comprehension.

Now some of you younger ones may be thinking, “Poor old thing. They’ve been teaching that for years.” Maybe. I just know in 1974, in Decatur, Illinois, we were learning about subjects and predicates. I think Haiku was as creative as we got. Today, classroom walls are covered with laminated “bubbles” that describe point of view, tense, alliteration, symbolism, and on and on. Writing journals are as common as glue sticks and scissors.

And folks, it’s starting way before third. Kids are publishing books in first grade. The subject matter is often “What I Did This Summer,” but they storyboard, write a draft, go through revisions with an editor (their teacher) and then publish, which means they put their story in a construction paper jacket and get to color the pages. The best part—they get to read it to the class.

Now that’s not to say everyone will be a writer. It’s just like reading, some kids love it, others don’t. The lovers of the word are the ones that fill up four pages in their writing journals when they were only required to write one. They’re the ones that ask, “When I get my work done, can I write in my journal?”

Then there are those who haven’t yet discovered the magic of writing. They’re the ones that moan when I tell them to get out their journals. They come up to me repeatedly and ask if they have to fill the whole page. So on those occasions, like any good sub, I pull something out of my hat.

“Okay class, you and your family just moved into an old house. On the first night, you hear a strange sound coming from the basement. You sneak downstairs and walk to the basement door. Now what do you do?” I hear the “oohs” and “cools” and know there’s hope. My little writers sweep their pencils across the page. Even the students who were whining just minutes before lift their pencils and put them to the paper. Ah, success.

A few minutes later, a girl raises her hand and tells me she’s done. I walk over to read what she’s written. The page is empty except for one line:

“I would go back to bed.”

Oh well, the world will always need accountants.

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4 thoughts on “Look Out, They’re Coming

  1. Chris! What a great story and i love the little girl’s response. She’ll probably be one of those very pragmatic people who grows up on the straight and narrow… until she falls hopelessly, romantically in love and sets off on her own grand adventure.

    Dare to dream…

  2. Chris, I loved the students’ reactions to the prompt, “. . . strange sounds from the basement.” One year the writing prompt for standardized testing was to write about a picture of a tree with a large hole in its trunk. Most responses were stories about squirrels, nuts, or other things hidden in the hole.

    However, one student had a different slant. He wrote about the man and woman who lived in the hole and made loud bumping, grunting, and moaning sounds. On second thought, maybe that stories about nuts, too.

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