Sometimes, as a teacher, all you really need to do is just sit and listen. Today, during Writer's Workshop, the kids were busy working on various parts of a writing piece. It's a persuasive piece to their parents about a place they'd like to visit in Michigan this summer. We study Michigan all year in 3rd grade and many of the kids are excited as we learn about all the cool spots in Michigan to visit.
So, there they were, all twenty-two of them scattered around the room. I let them write wherever they are most comfortable, so some sit or lay on the back carpet. A couple of them curl up in the comfy chairs. Others join empty seats at a different table group for a change of scenery. Some sit on the floor or tuck themselves in a quiet corner. And, most days, there are a couple students standing around the back table, where I normally sit as I edit with the little writers.
Today had been quite a noisy day in my classroom. The warmer weather and the anticipation of summer create a combination that exhausts most teachers by noon. There is more talking, more silliness, and more chaos. My class, in fact, lost any hope of an extra recess at 10:20 a.m. this morning. So, when it was time for Writer's Workshop, I welcomed the sudden quietness and calm that began as the students worked.
Students checked in with me for advice, spelling help, editing, or to show me their beautiful handwriting on their final copy. As I talked with one student, I noticed that one of the boys at the table was listening to the conversations and turning them into songs. For example, one of the writers was showing me her final copy and I asked her to read back to me the first sentence.
"Dear Mom and D," she read, stretching out the 'D' and looking a bit confused. She looked at me. "Oops! I meant to say Mom and Dad, not d," she clarified with a smile.
"Ahhhh! I was wondering," I commented.
At this point I looked up across the table at the boy who was now singing, and quite animatedly, "Mom and D, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g...."
I couldn't help giggling and neither could the little girl, so we laughed a bit and she left with her revised writing. The song now over, and the audience gone, the singing boy went back to trying to persuade his parents to drive ten hours through the state to see the Keewanau peninsula over summer break. One boy standing next to me at the table, hunched over his writing piece, and looked my way.
"How do you spell boat?" he asked as he pointed to the word on his paper. It read "boot".
"Well, not like that," I said to him. I pointed to the word and looked at him. "What does b-o-o-t spell?"
"Boot! That's not what I meant. You can't take a boot to Mackinac Island!" he laughed at his error.
Naturally, this caught the singing boy's ear and he began another song. "Row, row, row, your boot, gently down the lake. Mac-ki-nac, Mac-ki-nac, Mac-ki-nac, Mac-ki-nac...." This time he threw in some hand movements simulating rowing a boat.
Hilarious. I began laughing. As he took a deep breath for another verse, I tried to get serious and asked him to get back to his writing.
Within minutes, another little one had approached with her Michigan map to ask me to help her check the mileage for her proposed trip to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. We checked the map scale together and were talking about the trip in a car.
"Twinkle, twinkle, little car, How I wonder just how far," came the whispered song from across the table. It was too funny listening to him add words to familiar songs and pantomime. It was reminding me of the old game show, "Name That Tune".
He continued on for the next few writers, each new version of a song funnier than the next. I couldn't stop giggling and by now, other students in the class were becoming curious as to why the three of us at the back table were having such a great time.
Finally, I asked him to move somewhere else. I told him that although I found his songs amusing and hysterically funny, we had only fifteen minutes left of writing and I needed to focus and so did he. He laughed, shrugged his shoulders, and shuffled back to his desk, notebook in his hands.
I heard him quietly singing, "Baa.. Baa, back to seat, have you any writing? Yes sir, yes sir, two pages full." His voice trailed off, but he turned to look over his shoulder and look my way and smile. I silently clapped my hands together to show my appreciation of his lyrics and he bowed before taking his seat.
I'm thinking I'm lucky I stopped him before his rendition of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall". Because I might not have been able to stop laughing over that one.