It's inevitable. After a holiday, everyone talks about it. The holiday!
I had already heard a lot of holiday stories from my Grade 1 students, so when Grade 4 came, I didn't want them to tell me all about their holiday as well. Instead, I asked them to write about it. I was expecting a bunch of stories starting with, or ending in, "I had an amazing/great/fantastic/ awesome vacation.", and then a bunch of details, maybe some dialogue, some "show, not tell"... Travels, shopping, restaurants. Beaches. Maybe some feelings.
Instead, I got this.
From a girl who is just learning English.
And it went straight to my heart!
I had the worst holiday that I never, ever had.
I was seating on my chair, reading a book,
my body almost iron.
I was looking at my brother playing a game.
The name of the game - 'Rainbow Six Maruchiplay Kajuaru",
my body almost a mummy.
I ate many fruits.
Their names were apple and orange,
my body almost fruit juice.
I made many, many cakes.
Cheese cake, chocolate cake, strawberry cake, orange cake, and blueberry cake,
my body almost cake.
I sent the cakes to my Japanese friends.
They said their "Thank you!"s every time.
When I wanted to say "You're welcome!",
the words that I said were "Thank you!" too,
my brain almost nothing but "Thank you!"
I went to ballet.
It's sometimes like gymnastics.
After gymnastics, we danced our dance for the May show.
My body was so hard!
My feet reached up to my head.
We went to my mom's friend's house.
He owns a jewellery shop.
He had many, many stones and many, many pearls.
He showed us the blood stone.
The most expensive one.
I like to read a book, but I don't like to read all day.
I don't like to watch someone play games. I like to play them.
I like fruit, but not when it's too much.
I don't want to make cakes anymore.
Why does everyone just say "Thank you!", "Thank you!"?
I don't like stones and I don't want to see the blood stone.
This week was so long.
It's the worst holiday that I never, ever had.
In Grade 4 Readers' Workshop, we are currently working on making inferences, and I wanted to give my ESL students the possibility to practice this skill in a visual way. Therefore, I decided to use a carousel of 15 images with a message and a sentence that accompanies each of them. (It can be found and downloaded for free on www.teacherspayteachers.com, more precisely here.) To go with it, I decided to use the thinking routine What makes you say that?
The students had to rotate from one picture to another in the carousel and for each picture, fill in the blanks of the statement, "I think....because...", focusing on the 2 main questions of this routine:
1. What's going on?
2. What do you see that makes you say that?
I emphasised the fact that reasoning is the key and I guided the students to look for reasons to support their thinking in the pictures and in the accompanying sentences, but also in their prior knowledge of the world, as this is what inferring implies first and foremost. Then, we shared our thinking and the inferences we made, and we closed up with a reflection on our thinking process. We ended the activity with another thinking routine, making headlines about our thinking.
Initially, the kids were excited by the fact that the pictures were spread randomly in the classroom, so the activity felt like a treasure hunt. The fact that they got to share their thinking with their classmates was an eye-opener, because they realised that other people's points of view might be completely different from their own. Also, a good learning point was the fact that their prior knowledge of the world plays an essential role when making inferences. No known fact is too insignificant to be taken into consideration. This activity offered opportunities for practice in all language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, as well as viewing and presenting.
The most challenging part was for them to understand what we meant by thinking about thinking, but in the end they came up with headlines such as, "Look a lot, think a lot, ask a lot", "Look, read, think, explain", "Give reasons for your thinking", "Look, think, share", "Speak your mind!"
Coming from English language learners who are still not often enough exposed to this kind of routines, I am very pleased with their understanding of their own thinking at this stage. I am thinking that some of their headlines might even be used as titles for new thinking routines!