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Summer SAVY 2022/Session 2 – Autobiographies and the Story of You for Rising 3rd/4th Grade

Posted by on Monday, June 20, 2022 in blog, SAVY.

Thursday: We are greatly anticipating our final day of class tomorrow and the opportunity to share our autobiographical essays, writings, and life stories.  Today we did a great deal of writing, as we did yesterday, while carefully incorporating the elements we learn about that will strategically improve our writing drafts.  Today in a separate task, we harnessed a current event news story about personal items found in the ruins of homes from the 2021 Colorado wildfires.  How can we pull together our life events in writing with a theme? Make a list of items that are dear to you in your home that you would want preserved from a fire and pick the most important.  Why did you choose this item?  Is it connected to just one memory or several powerful events in your life?  Give details about its appearance and its connection to your live story over and over again. How can this be used to thematically pull together your autobiography? What symbolism does this item represent? Explain.

We continue to benefit from the idea that good writers read. From Science Fiction such as All Summer in a Day by Ray Bradbury to a poetic work, “Ode to My Library”, by Gary Soto we continue to observe and research rich and varied vocabulary and its impact on storytelling and imagery. Students have begun the habit of identifying, recording, and researching words independently that will enhance their understanding of the author’s intended meaning. We are learning to use the elements of the vocabulary web, various book and digital resources, and even tools for foriegn language translation. How does the culture of the author have an effect on his point of view? What inferences can you make about the narrator’s opinions about reading and books in the poem, “Ode to My Library?” What is your evidence in the text?
Tomorrow we will continue to observe autobiographical reflections and self-portraits in different genres such as artists of popular and symphonic music as well as the visual arts. We will have time to continue to refine our writing and then present it to one another in a celebration of writing in the afternoon. It’s been a great week, and I trust your child will be as enthusiastic in their future writings as they have been in their learning this week. It has truly been inspirational to see them at their joyful work!

Wednesday: It was a wonderful SAVY Wednesday! The week is flying by so quickly!  Today we began with luxurious time to continue drafting our own personal stories for our culminating assignment we call “Reflections: Self-Portrait Assignment.” It’s delightful and affirming that most students crave and utilize this time so well.  Our writing supports are very structured with planning, self-assessments, peer assessments, vocabulary studies, models, and examples, however, ultimately we need to provide time for students to simply grapple with the writing process.

In the later part of the morning we continued our reading and analysis of “Literary Lessons” from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  How important are a writer’s powers of observation?  What evidence in this chapter suggests that Jo’s power of observation were good?  The character, Jo, made changes to her novel based upon the comments of others.  How much of a change can you make to a piece of writing and consider it the same? How can you balance ideas for revision with the need to keep your basic ideas intact? Additionally, we researched and discussed some pretty hefty vocabulary including: consternation, afflatus, rakishly askew, precipice, and forsook. We are developing habits of questioning to make connections between words we encounter – both known and unknown.  It is the habit of a scholar to communicate ideas with clarity and to ask for assistance when appropriate.
Another important part of our study today involved learning the elements of reasoning.  We observed a prewritten opinion piece and evaluated it for reasonableness and logic.  What was the author’s purpose in writing this paragraph?  What are other purposes for writing?  What is the point of view of the writer on this issue?  What other points of view might someone take on this issue and are they addressed in the writing for an effective response? What outcomes can be predicted from the writing?
Finally, we engaged in the reading of and discussions about a beautifully written autobiographical essay, “Notes of a Translator’s Son” by Joseph Bruchac.  We observed elements of the author’s culture and heritage as a theme in the writing that also mirrors many of Mr. Bruchac’s other writings, as well as a powerful moment of change in his essay.  Change is related to time and can be sudden or take place over time and it can be positive or negative.  We have two final days of writing and quality literature as well as many examples of self-portraits in musical and visual art.  How will the experiences and new understandings of this week change each of our stories?  Time will tell and be retold in our words and writings.

Tuesday: Day 2 was another success!  We have overcome challenges and experienced such collective joy with our texts and new understandings.

The day began with a reflection time of “change in regard to your life story”. Students reviewed their prior notes and recorded personal connections to our generalized observations of the concept of change. All of this pre-writing is helping students gather elements that will help them in writing their personal story in a thematic way instead of just a list of events.  We considered the opening lines of some celebrated works.  What are the characteristics of autobiographical opening passages that compel readers to keep reading? What hints about the themes of an autobiography can we detect?
In order to further exercise our skills in craft of writing, we did a quick study of opinion writing and learned to use a tool to assess our own writing as well as give quality feedback to our peers.  This activity also was an exercise in building trust and teamwork within our small literary community as writers and constructive critics.
In addition to learning from each other, we called on the expertise of some autobiographic writings about writing from greats like Beverly Cleary and Louisa May Alcott.  Why did these authors choose to write and what were their inspirations?  What were the environments in which each author worked most successfully?  What were their habits or disciplines as writers?
Thank you for supporting your child by making quality texts available to them, including the pre-reading materials sent home and used in our course.  It is the habit of a scholar to persevere when the content gets challenging.  In regard to difficult vocabulary, we practiced using a vocabulary web for addressing some really precocious words to avoid consternation and bring about concatenation of our new understandings. 🙂  Looking forward to being together tomorrow!

Monday: We had a tremendous start to our study of autobiographies!  We began our work with an analysis of a poem, “Autobiographia Literaria” by Frank O’Hara and a painting by Thomas Couture, “Soap Bubbles”.  Right away a student identified a concept that will be central to our study – change!  Through our discussions we reflected and recorded that change is everywhere and related to time.  Change can be positive or negative.  Change can be organized or random and can occur naturally or be brought about by people.  As we continued to reflect on our own experiences through journal writing and personal timelines, we began to observe these general statements about change in our own experiences. This work was foundational to the autobiographical essay each student will construct during the week to share on Friday.

As we began to dig into more literature we continued to ask questions.  Why are writers compelled to write, and often from a young age? Why do people who write, often love to read?  What is the relationship between these two acts? Many students definitely benefited from the pre-reading of our texts, however we worked to read aloud together “Ghost Cat” by Donna Hill.  Using a graphic organization tool, a literature web, we discussed many elements of this fascinating and engaging short story.  We observed key words, feelings, ideas, images and symbols as well as the structure.  This story of a preschool child and her family as they work through grief and loss in a fundamental change, the loss of the father, was discussed and explored with sensitivity and courage in our final end of the day activity.  It was inspiring to see the students willingness and ability to dive into the different perspectives with empathy and understanding to gain new insights into aspects of change.
We look forward to taking up the work again on Tuesday.  There is no homework of course, but your child may enjoy pre-reading from the packets sent home last week “Literary Lessons” from LIttle Women by Louis May Alcott which we will review and discuss Tuesday afternoon.  More to come!