Summer SAVY 2022/Session 3 – Autobiographies for Rising 5th/6th Grade
Friday: What an amazing ending to our week of work and writing in Autobiographies! Today your child participated in the Oral Presentation of Reflection – Self-Portrait Assignment. The children each had the opportunity to voice their carefully crafted stories and as well as engage in discussions about appreciations, questions, and suggestions for future writing. During the week the students not only kept a notebook for their multiple drafts and revisions, but each day they practiced numerous journal quick writes designed to inspire, hone a skill or element of the writing process, or explore new considerations for content or approaches that could still be incorporated into their final autobiographical essay. Students practiced mini-oral presentations during the week with evaluations involving organization and delivery to prepare them for their presentations and quality feedback today. Their culminating week products were skillfully and thoughtfully crafted, courageous, and honest. What a treat to hear them today!
Staff and students alike took such joy in celebrating each other’s accomplishments, and personal accounts. The evidence of overcoming numerous writing obstacles as well as their fear of presentation was powerful. Did the speaker present with clear purpose, give evidence of a unifying theme, and close with a strong interesting idea that restated the purpose for the autobiographical essay? Did the speaker make good eye contact and were their words loud and clear enough to be understood? How did the presentation exhibit the concept of change and some of the generalizations of change we have focused on over the week? What additions and revisions can we anticipate as writers and consider over time as we grow, live new experiences, and gain new understandings? Will our overall theme likely change or remain the same? What part has tragedy or adversity played in our journeys?
Besides writing and presenting our writings, today we enjoyed the time to observe self-portraits in other arts such as popular and symphonic music as well as visual arts. Why do artists feel compelled to create and share art? How is every work of art in some way a reflection of the artist?
Thursday: What CHANGES we have observed in analysis of literature works, evaluations of our various writing products (all positive), and in our abilities to reason with more evidence and clarity! We are greatly anticipating our final day of class tomorrow and the opportunity to share our autobiographical essays 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, abstract concept, or universal truth? 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? Our final short story of the day, “Charles” was again a deep dive into changes we observed in the characters as well as changes in our own feelings as we experience the events and ideas of a revealing story. How can we incorporate change into our own stories as powerfully?
Tomorrow we will continue to observe autobiographical reflections and self-portraits in different genres such as artists in 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 write and draft our own personal stories for our culminating assignment we call “Reflections: Self-Portrait Assignment.” We worked on a magnificent stone and marble porch, becuase as we observed in other writings and our own, environment and surroundings can matter for focus and flow. 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 powers of observation were good? The character, Jo, made changes to her novel based upon the comments of others. How did we come to notice a theme in her personality and writing? How does this help our understanding of how a theme is developing in our writing? It is the habit of a scholar to communicate ideas with clarity and to ask for assistance when appropriate. How can we work to persevere through challenges such as writers block? What are some strategies to help us refine and edit our work?
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 autobiographical writing that also mirror 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 own words and writings.
Tuesday: Day 2 was another success! We have overcome challenges and experienced such collective joy with our texts and new understandings. I really appreciate the student’s perseverance through challenging texts!
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? We enjoyed an autobiographical interview with New York Times Puzzle Editor, Will Shortz and easily identified a theme! Then of course we had to Wordle! This was a great follow up to our discussions about foundational skills building involving grammar and spelling which can be fun.
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. 🙂 We are 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”. The students presented great observations and discussions with sensitivity and depth about the concept of change. So we were off to a great start! We reflected and recorded understandings that change is everywhere and is 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, sharing, 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. This challenging text deals with loss, loneliness and how different individuals deal with these ideas in unique ways. Again, the discussions were rich and revealing. Using a graphic organizational 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. Specifically, this story of a preschool child and her family as they work through grief and loss and a fundamental change, the loss of the father, was discussed and explored with sensitivity and courage. It was inspiring to see the students willingness and ability to dive into the different perspectives with empathy and understanding in order 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 “Literary Lessons” from LIttle Women by Louis May Alcott from the packets sent home last week which we will review and discuss Tuesday afternoon. If your child could bring their pre-reading packets each day, that would be most helpful to our course work. Thank you! More to come!