Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing Jobs and Orphan Stories

It's "just another Manic Monday!"

However, it's a special Manic Monday for me because I actually have time to blog and share a freebie.  Wow.  That's an accomplishment for me, since I've been a slacker for the last few weeks.  Now that it's week 4 of school, I hope that life will settle down a bit, so I can post more frequently.  I am not making any promises though.  

This week is a big one because on Wednesday, we are going on our first field trip.  My class and another first grade class are going to a farm to go apple and pumpkin picking and to go on a hayride.  It should be a lot of fun!

Also, it's time to start DRAing my students.  I have a love/hate relationship with DRA time because I love seeing where my kids are with reading and figuring out how I can help them progress.  However, I hate having to neglect teaching new lessons and working with the whole class, so I can get the assessments done.  Plus, management is always tricky since the students are still learning how to work independently.

Anyways, I am not writing tonight just to tell you about the DRA.  What I am actually going to share with you is a new (for me) idea I am trying for Writing Workshop...

Writing Jobs

That's right.  I am giving my students writing jobs.  

A few years ago, one of my colleagues shared that she had found and implemented a system of writing jobs in her classroom to help keep the students accountable during writing workshop.  After her presentation, a few other teachers tried out the system and loved it too.  At the time, I was not ready to take on anything new, since I was a first year teacher.  Now, however, I am ready to go and try it for myself.

What is the system you ask?

Here's how it works.  I believe the idea came from Marisa Ramirez and was shared by Jennifer Jones.  You can read the original post here.

Basically, there are 4 "jobs" or "groups" that students participate in during writing workshop.  They are:

1. Author's Spotlight- Students write with the intention of sharing their work.  At the end of writing, students assigned to this job share during Author's Spotlight.  They may share a portion or all of their work depending on their preference and the time constraints.

2. Writer's Basket- At the end of writing, these students place their writing in the basket, so that it can be reviewed by the teacher.  The teacher reads each writing piece to assess students' progress and to prepare for writing conferences.  I plan to write both praise and suggestions/questions on post-it notes and to then stick them on the students' work, so they can make improvements independently the next day. 

3. Teacher's Table- For this job, students are invited to the Teacher's Table for a conference.  During the conference, the teacher will provide positive feedback and helpful suggestions to help the writer improve his/her craft.  I also plan to check the sticky notes from Writer's Basket to provide clarification if necessary and to check on how students revised and edited their own work.

4. Independent and Responsible (Write to Self)- Technically, this job is called Independent and Responsible and while I like that name, I am thinking of changing it to Write to Self for use in my classroom.  That is because it is basically the writing version of Read to Self.  Students working on this job are to take ownership of their own writing for the day.  They do not receive teacher feedback, but rather must develop their own writing craft and stamina.  

I introduced these four jobs to the students one at a time.  To begin, we discussed how writers like to write for different reasons and in different ways.  Sometimes they like to share their writing; sometimes they just like to write privately.  Then, we talked about the roles of editors and audiences for writing.  I explained that sometimes authors hand their work in to be reviewed and sometimes they sit down and meet with an editor to go over necessary changes.  Those scenarios fit with the Writer's Basket and Teacher's Table jobs.  For the other two jobs, we talked about how writer's love to share their writing with others just for fun and how writers often prefer to work alone and independently for long periods of time.

Once the students heard the overview of each job, I had a few volunteers model the different roles and then we practiced them as a whole class.  I did not get to have every student complete every role last week, but we just dabbled in them.  

This week, I hope to have the whole system running each day with a workboard set up to help students know what job they have for the day.  Since there are five days in a week and only four jobs, I am thinking of letting the students choose which job to repeat on Fridays.  That way, they can learn to consider whether they are ready to share their writing, whether they need help, or whether they just want to keep working. 

So, those are my exciting plans for writing workshop.  I am looking forward to seeing how things run, so I can report back to you soon.  For now, I have a Writing Jobs freebie to share with you.  Click the picture to download.

Hope you enjoy the freebie!  I love feedback, so please let me know what you think.

Now, I am happy to bring to you one of the final editions of my India journal.  There are only a few days left to write up and this is the last time I will be sharing orphan stories.  I hope and pray that the stories of these beautiful girls will touch your heart.

Left My Heart in Hyderabad

Day Ten: Bethel Gospel Church and Sarah’s Orphans
        I woke up only a half hour before breakfast and took a bit too long getting ready.  Not only was I slow, but my roommates were also running behind.  As a result, our whole room was 10 minutes late getting downstairs.  Even so, the food was not ready.  Indian time is so different from American time.  It’s kind of annoying at times, but also relaxing.
          During breakfast, we talked over the day’s craft and story plans.  E told me that we need to make the Jesus story a lot shorter.  At first, I felt like a failure, but I prayed to rebuke that feeling.  She is right in realizing that the kids cannot listen for that long.  BJ and I conferred a bit and decided that I would narrate the story that day.
          Then, we all loaded up the van and drove to church.  When we arrived, we took off our cheppulu (shoes) and added them to the row that snaked along the wall.  We entered the dimly lit, but spacious room and sat in plastic chairs in the back. 
          As Sarah, one of our hosts, helped lead worship, I enjoyed watching many women in beautiful sarees come in, kneel, cover their heads, and then stand to worship.  I tried to join in worshipping in my head.
          For Sunday School, we joined the kids as they were singing in Telegu.  I clapped along and watched a group of boys goof off and not listen.  My teacher self wanted to go stand near them.  Proximity is a powerful tool.  Hehe.  Seeing them misbehave reminded me of middle and high school boys in the U.S.  Children are not so very different around the world. 
          When it came time for us to present, W, H, and M led the popular songs and BJ danced.  Then, Paul translated for me as I told the Jesus story.  I tried to keep the story brief, but meaningful.  Afterwards, I said a bit more to encourage the kids to share the gospel.
          Next, total craftsanity ensued.  The children circled up and each of us sat in the middle of one.  I sat with a large group of older girls.  The Sunday School teacher helped me explain the steps to make the craft.  The girls had fun, but things got crazy when I had to cut out each cross.  We did not have enough scissors.  Then, the hole punches would not work.  When we were finally done, after church let out, the room was littered with shredded tissue paper.  Still, seeing the kids proudly wearing their stained glass crosses was worth the insanity.

          After church, we had a fabulous lunch at Pastor Sudhaker’s house.  Mary made sesame beef and chicken/potato curry.  We also had the most awesomely, delicious custard dessert.  The little plastic cups were filled with layers of custard, bananas, ice cream, a few nuts, and crunchy pomegranate seeds.  YUM!

          After lunch, we spent the afternoon doing nails and hair.  Suma did my nails, red with blue hearts and flowers.  Valanda French braided my hair and added decorative pins.  All of us girls, American and Indian, looked gorgeous. 

Story time came and I prepared myself to take in the girls’ words.

Megamala (17, 2nd year)- Her father died in a traffic accident when she was 2.  Her mother was 6 months pregnant at the time.  After her husband died, Mega’s mother got ill and depressed.  She stopped talking to and caring for Mega.  Mega’s grandparents took her in, but they too were unable to care for her.  However, they are Christians, so they brought her to Bethel Gospel Church.  Sarah and her husband took in Mega and care for her as if she were their own.  She is happy, studies well, and wants to be an engineer.

Sumalata (16, about to start college)- Her mother died when Suma was 8 and her father died sometime before that.  Suma stayed with her aunt and attended a government school.  She failed two subjects because she had no one to help her study.  Her aunt heard about Suma’s cousins, Puja and Vani, being taken in, so she brought her to Bethel Gospel Church too.  Now, Suma lives with Sarah's family.  She going to start college (high school for them) and hopes to be a bank manager.

Hema (16, 1st year)- Her mother died when Hema was 3.  Her dad was not able to care for her or her sisters.  Eventually, he remarried and her two older sisters also married.  Hema came to Bethel with her younger sister.  They see their dad over vacation, but their stepmother works them like servants.  Hema is happy at Sarah’s house.  She shares her struggles and emotions with Sarah.  Pray for her studies and her sister who is in a different home.  She wants to be an engineer.  Also, I noticed that Hema has a visual impairment of some kind.  Her eyes look in different directions, so she cannot make direct eye contact.  I do not know if this issue is being cared for or not.

Ashwini (16, 1st year)- Her father left when she was 6 years old.  He got remarried and took her younger brother with him.  In order to make money, Ashwini's mother became a servant.  Then, her mother heard about the church and brought Ashwini to Bethel.  Now, Ashwini is happy to have clothes, books, food etc.  She wants to be an accountant.  Pray for her studies and for her mother’s salvation.

Akila (16, 1st year)- When Akila was 10, her mother died of cancer.  Then, her father died of an appendix problem.  The family had properties, but no one helped them get money to care for Akila’s mother before she died.  Akila’s grandmother brought her to Bethel where Akila learned about Jesus.  Now, she wants to share Jesus with everyone.  Pray for her studies and for her to be able to provide for herself in the future.

Srimata (?)- Her father committed suicide by taking poison.  Then, her mother left Srimata and her brother.  Now, her brother has finished school and works back in the village.  Srimata’s mother visited her a few times, but then disappeared again.  Pray for her mother and her studies.  She wants to be an accountant.


Usha (17, 2nd year), Malatha and Vallada- When Usha was in 5th grade, her mother was put in the hospital for heart problems.  No one would take the girls to visit her.  They stayed with their grandparents, but had no food.  No one would or could pay for their mom to have surgery, so she died.  The girls’ dad drank and traveled around.  Finally, their uncle, a branch pastor for Bethel, brought them to Sarah’s house.  They came with no clothes or anything.  Now, they are cared for.  Before she died, Usha’s mom told her to be 1st rank in school and to serve God.  Prior to coming to Sarah’s, Usha was in a government school.  Then, she switched schools.  She did get 1st rank one year, but then failed 2 classes because she had trouble with the English.  She took this very hard.  Pray for her studies.  She wants to be a software engineer.  Also, pray for the girls’ father because he was fired from a driving job for the church because he went back to drinking.

Pranitha (17, 2nd year)- Her father died when she was young.  Her mother was killed in a traffic accident.  Her grandparents are too old to care for her, so her aunt took her and her brother, Yevamshi  in.  However, the aunt did not love them and actually beat them for using the beds because they weren’t worth the expense.  Pranitha’s brother was being cared for at Sarampet, but ran away.  She does not know where he is.  She is happy to be at Sarah’s house, to have sisters, and to have hope.  Pray for her studies and her brother.

Suetha and Geetha (12)- Their mother died of typhoid.  Their father is mentally ill.  He laughed at his wife’s dead body.  Their aunt took them in, but could not afford to send them to school.  Now, both girls are studying well.  Suetha is 1st rank and wants to be a lawyer.  Geetha wants to be a doctor.  Both girls fear for their other sister who was kidnapped 2 years ago at age 5.  The family could not afford an investigation, but now Bethel is helping try to find her.

          Once again, the stories were overwhelming, especially Suetha's and Geetha's.  I am heartbroken by the thought that a little girl was abducted and is being forced to do who knows what.  As each of the girls shared, it was very hard seeing them break down.  The pain in their voices was almost tangible.  Yet I still saw the hope and love when Sarah went to them and held them.  She really loves them as her own children.  Amazing.  
After we prayed for all the girls, I saw that Hema was still crying, so I held her for quite a while.  I tried to speak God’s promises to both her and Akila.  BJ helped wrap up the time by dancing to “Beautiful Things.”  The perfect song for the situation.  God can/does turn pain, sin, brokenness etc. into beauty.  I pray these girls will come to know that truth.
          We said our goodbyes for the night and crowded into the rickety van.  At a Chinese restaurant, we enjoyed an AMAZING meal of chicken corn soup, spicy chicken drumsticks, sweet and sour pork, super spicy chicken, lo mein, fried rice with prawns, and…LEMON CHICKEN!!!  I am pretty sure the lemon chicken got us all “drunk.”  My whole table devoured tons of it and even planned a lemon chicken themed wedding with LC wedding cake, rings, lemon sauce toasts, and favors that say, “You’re the lemon to my chicken.”  We laughed so hard that I sweated and cried.  My abs hurt like crazy.  We also laughed when M thought I said, “This is Kevin,” instead of “This is heaven.”  I decided that I yell random male names when I eat good food.  “Jerry, Tom, Robert!”  Yes, you had to be there.  Also, keep in mind we were severely sleep deprived.

          It’s always good to have comic relief after heavy times.  Speaking of that, at our evening debrief we learned that Pranitha had nearly lost it when Akila “leaked the gas” during story telling.  Hahahaha!
          On a more serious note, E told us that this was the first time the girls had ever told their stories.  As hard as it was, they must have been blessed by the fact that we wanted to hear them.  Also, Rhea, Mary’s daughter, was encouraged by hearing that the girls did not do anything to deserve orphan-hood.  It just happened.  Apparently, Rhea cries at night sometimes, fearing what will happen when she is an orphan.  She thinks that if she does something wrong, God will take her mom and dad away.  So sad.  I am glad the stories helped her feel better. 
          It is interesting to consider how the pastors/caretakers’ biological children feel about their orphan siblings.  I pray that they will not feel resentful.

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