The other day, Mushroom pulled out his first grade portfolio in search of something or other and we both got to flipping through it.
Things said by Mushroom included, “I was so young!” and, “My handwriting was terrible!” and, “Did I really write that?” and then, “I was so young!” over again. Then, later when BalletBoy was home, they pulled them all out, pre-K to present and pored over them. The table was a mess of old co-op yearbooks and Math Mammoth pages and art projects. I’m telling you, nostalgia starts young.
I was especially struck by these two writing samples sitting side by side. This was before we had discovered Brave Writer (though you’ll see we were basically doing it without realizing!), but sitting in the portfolio was this copywork from Charlotte’s Web, which was the book we were reading at the time, I’m sure. My kids still occasionally do copywork (we do a lot more dictation now) but they almost never get anything wrong. Seeing this one riddled with errors is like looking at another kid. I can hardly remember teaching this stuff.
And next to it was this “freewrite” type activity that comes from Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. I would write a boasting line and the kid would follow with a boasting line of his own. He could copy my spelling and syntax and make it his own by changing the end, which he did. I like the final line, which is, “I’m so strong I could crush the universe.” Other Games for Writing exercises were in other sections of the portfolio, including the one where each person rolls the dice to see how many words to add to the story.
I know at the time, I was worried. I was worried that this wasn’t “enough” for writing (later that year I know we tried a couple of different workbook type writing programs, neither of which really worked for us). I was worried about keeping this stuff up. Yet somehow we managed and here we are. I wish I could go back and pat myself on the back and say, “Hey, you did it. They’re on their way. It was enough!”
We just compiled the last bits of fourth grade’s portfolios this week. Into those went a set of writings imagining they were characters in Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964, filled with rich words like “hollered” and “gaping” and all typed up with polished syntax and revised to add detail. Just like the copywork that I can’t remember being so difficult, it’s miles and miles away from the joint boasting writing exercise from first grade.