Rosalee before Halloween
Monday was, of necessity, a day of independent student work because I was giving DRA reading tests. Rosalee was finishing her report on Jordan. She had been working on it for three weeks, letting me help her at each step of the research process—finding resources, taking notes, organizing them in piles, writing a rough draft, editing it together, finding pictures and the flag and a map she could reproduce, learning as much as we could about Jordan’s beautiful young queen. Rosalee was increasingly excited—partly about what she was learning and partly about the feeling of accomplishment at each step. She copied her final draft in her most careful, evenly spaced cursive writing, adding pretty capital letters and even indentations when she finally figured out what paragraph form could do for a report. Monday she was busy making a cover, putting the parts together, and in the afternoon, practicing her report in the hall with a friend to listen. At the end of the day she glowed with pride as she hurried through her presentation, reading the report to the class and showing some of her illustrations.
Next morning she arrived with a CD of Halloween sounds and suggestions for several different Halloween games we could play. I agreed that we could spend our usual Tuesday “club time” hour doing Halloween things and that all of her suggestions (made with a friend) were good. During the club hour Rosalee and friends gathered around the CD player, laughing and shrieking over the Halloween sounds. They played several of them over and over—the squeaking door was the favorite. But then the club hour was over and it was time to go back to work for the afternoon, which generally begins with a silent reading period. I noticed that Rosalee had gathered several books at her table and was busily making notes during this period. Her focus intensified as the afternoon progressed—more books, notes, then she was organizing the notes with a friend and suddenly they were hauling out a piece of poster board and arranging illustrations. And then the afternoon ended, and I had to stop the project in its tracks. Rosalee told me breathlessly that she had almost finished the rough draft for her report on tigers!
I wondered for just a few moments what had happened to all of those Halloween ideas of the early morning, but realized quickly that those ideas were fleeting before the energy of the real Rosalee, who had been touched by the thrill of “research!”
Math? Yes, Rosalee did spend a few hours last week finding equivalence patterns with fractions. She calculated quite a long list of them, but only because I said she should after the lesson. Her real work is the English language. She has been writing her report and reading her literature study book and writing questions for both. Her questions still have verbs in them like “seed,” pronouns in funny places and lots of “ands,” but Rosalee is learning to read and write—full time. And she is excited about it! Would this be a good time to make sure that she is meeting the “fourth grade standards” in math? Insist that she divide her time equally among different curricular strands so that she can have a “balanced” education in the fourth grade?
Absurd questions, aren’t they?