To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.
My nine-year-old sons love to invent contraptions created from Legos. Rarely do they follow instructions for a specific creation. Instead of buying sets, we’ve invested in bricks, gears, motors, and lights. They make candy dispensers and jacks for the race cars they’ve built. Locomotives, airplanes, boats, dune buggies, and hang gliders are in their repertoires. Safes with secret compartments, a robot with a light to find things under the bed, a chocolate milk stirrer, a phone holder, and a picture frame have been added to their Invention Logs.
All of the pieces are stored in a large tub. It’s a simple organizational system. If it is a Lego (or can be used with a Lego invention) it is tossed in the bin. One Saturday morning I found the boys on their bellies sorting through a pile of Legos. They dumped the entire bin of Legos into a pile of pieces on the family room floor. Sam looked up from his search and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. Sometimes you need a mess to let your brain think of a creation. It’s how an inventor’s mind works.”
Truth be told, there are days when I feel like teaching is a lot like that messy pile of pieces. There are emails to sort, assessments to analyze, meetings to attend, and the paperwork never ends. I’m looking for mentor texts and read aloud books, organizing the classroom library and conferring notes, and planning for differentiation and make up work. Let’s not forget the fire drill and the assembly and the state testing. Most importantly are the varied needs of students, each one as unique as the different Lego pieces. By the end of the day it can feel overwhelming -– how can I ever make sense of things?
Sam’s advice is wise. Don’t worry. Sometimes you need a mess to let your brain think of a creation. The same is true for teaching. The mess is okay. We shift and stack. We build bit by bit, snapping pieces into place. Eventually there is a creation that empowers students to learn and grow. This is the very best kind of invention. And the reason why teachers change the world.
This week we are looking at drafting and prewriting, the precursors to great writing inventions. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Ruth Ayres is a full-time writing coach for Wawasee School District in northern Indiana. She blogs at Ruth Ayres Writes.
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Aimee Buckner has advice for helping students write better first drafts:
Find the perfect words for opening a minilesson or professional development session with our Writers on Revision Quote Collection:
Tara Smith explains how she uses the “flash drafting” process with students over at the Two Writing Teachers blog:
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Ruth Ayres argues against lockstep approaches to the writing process in Space to Draft:
Gretchen Schroeder finds Group Composing is a fun way to build community, writing skills, and understanding of how arguments work with her high school students:
Max Brand challenges himself to let a student take more of the lead during a writing tutoring session:
This week’s video features Mandy Robek leading a shared writing session in kindergarten:
That’s all for this week!