soul strikers

powerful moments in education

On learning to read becoming learning how to choose friendships…

If you reflect and review your various friendships over the years, for sure you might notice the number you remember, yet cannot put your finger on what created that bond at the time.  Or perhaps you can identify what made it comforting or necessary at that time and you feel ponderous about how much you have changed…or not…  Maybe you NEVER thought about it and I have just caused you to lay awake at night.  Sorry about that. :)

Regardless, I got a chain email once that expressed something along the lines of having 3 types of friends.  I wanted to include it, as my metaphor, but when I Googled it I discovered many versions of the same message. was full of quotes along this theme, and while I never found the exact one, I think these 2 are similar to the original one that came to mind:

“There are three types of friends: those like food, without which you can’t live; those like medicine, which you need occasionally; and those like an illness, which you never want.”

“You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes you meet those people you can’t forget. Those are your ‘friends.’”

For a 9 year-old, these are advanced concepts, for which they mostly do not have the capacity to understand.  Their friendships are formed by pre-fabricated opportunities, connections between parents, assigned class at school, or shared extra-curriculuar activity.  While the bonds formed most certainly could be real and long lasting, they do not have the capacity to understand that some of these bonds will not exist in the near future, and some of their strongest alliances are yet to be discovered, some not for MANY years.  It is for these reasons that I doubt my own ability to have the patience to understand my own future children when they struggle with social conflicts- I know that many do not affect their future and some are just petty.  This is probably why I teach elementary school where everyone loves each other and not middle school where kids become skeptical, suspicious, or jealous of each other…I digress…

Despite children’s developmental non-ability to comprehend this, the process of sorting through emotions is something that can be modeled, taught, practiced, and finally experienced on an individual kid-friendly level.  When teaching, modeling, and guiding practice of how to used tracked metacognition this past week, I collected some interesting observations of my 4th graders.  Let me back up and explain what we were doing so you can understand my ‘soul striking’ moment.

Students are learning that tracking their thinking on stickies and marking those in books they are reading allow them to slow down and ‘think about their thinking’.  Actually, putting sticky notes in the books wasn’t doing that at all- it was only allowing them to track their thinking.  There was no connection modeled yet between tracking and thinking about the thinking.  Once this happened, however, the lights went on. (Thank you, Aimee Buckner).  Students were guided to take all the stickies out of their books and sort them into 2 piles.  In the moment, I quickly sensed that if I did not have a visual for them to sort them, they were going to need a metaphor.  Instantly, I considered the idea of a candle: some flicker, flaming in the evening creating continuous warmth, wonder and ambience, others are blown out, to be relit at another time…or not…  Once this happened, we were able to look for patterns- were most of the “extinguished” notes irrelevant observations?  extraneous comments? questions that were answered later? illegible thoughts?  Were the ‘still burning’ notes mostly I wonders? questions about new vocabulary? about characters? Can some be combined?

Once we discerned the piles, we were to choose one, or an adjoined pair, and use it as a prompt in our Readers’ Notebook …NOW we were thinking about our thinking. Interestingly enough, I just realized at this writing that possibly the students who struggled with figuring out the 2 piles were the types who either are slightly naive in the social sense, or have fear of making incorrect social decisions; in other words, make choices based on their friends and not by personal interest or desire…I might have to go back and revisit the validity of this connection…

Despite my trail of wondering, sorting through thoughts came easily to my more mature students, readers… They were able to narrow down the ‘thinkings’ to one that stood out as important, as still burning strong.  I have not read all of these yet, so I will let you know what is revealed from their actual words when I get there… These are the same students, however, that I observe as the ones who will be more confident in their adolescent lives, making better decisions and creating a path on which they can thrive.

And after all this writing, I am being struck at the soul yet again by wondering how deep teaching literacy really is…it goes so beyond comprehending the words…it becomes about mastering skills.. applying these skills to our life choices.  We sort through our friends.  We have close friendships that prevail, that burn bright and invite dialogue and response…and at times silence.  We have friendships that were once so available, so needed, but burned out as the fuel was depleted.  We have friendships that still today, after soooo many years create discussion, silence, fueled irritation, connection, and unconditional love.

I didn’t learn how to truly comprehend my reading until post college…is that when I learned to effectively sort through and define my friendships?


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This entry was posted on September 23, 2011 by in education, Literacy Whatnots and tagged , , .

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