Happy October!

Can you believe the month is nearly over? That Halloween is less than 2 weeks away? I can’t!

How wonderful to be so busy that time just lies by – what a gift to be doing what I love.

Which brings me to the subject of this month’s article – How does your child feel about writing? How do you feel about writing? Is it something that seems hard and scary that you have to gifted to figure out? Is it mysterious?

That’s what PiggyBack Books is all about – making writing EASY not hard, FUN not boring, teaching you and your child all the TRICKS to make writing a TREAT.

When I was in the classroom I remember this time of year – the initial excitement of being back in school and with friends has worn off. The reality for the children: of ok – what will I learn this year – will I have what it takes? – can I do it?  for the parents: ok what does he/she have to learn this year to succeed, will he/she get it, etc… has all set in. For teachers the reality has also set in: Ok, I know them now it’s been 20+ days, time to start showing some results – no matter if they are really ready – let’s do a wriitng project to show the parents at Fall Conferences, the principal needs a baseline sample,what can I put in the hallway to show how great a teacher I am? blah, blah, blah! ( no offense please- I was right there – trying to have my display be the best – many times at the expense of my students readiness to produce)

Sad and true! You’ve heard of trickle down economics this is the trickle down of standards based education. It has to be hard not easy and boring not fun and anything but a treat. We’ve left the kids dreams, wants and needs behind in order to prove our educational system works — without regard for Piaget or Erikson, NCLB (No child left behind) has actually left ALL of our children behind! Couple that with the reality at least in California – with the loss in a majority of school districts of class size reduction – the impact is devastating!

One school district in one of the most affluent areas of South Orange County, the class size in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, went from 20 to 1 last year to 31 to 1 this year! Most of the teachers now teaching those grades in California, have not taught a class with over 30 students, in over 10 years if ever!. The standards of excellence(California State Standards – upon which all schools and students are measured) were put in place in California after class size reduction. Every year the bar was raised based on the ability of the teacher to impact that smaller group of students.

To give you a perspective, let me share with you my story of how education (at least in So. California) has changed in the last 25+ years. I entered my first classroom  as a teacher in the fall of 1982, I was shocked, there were no children’s books (free reading library for children to read), 2 teacher’s guides (and 8 subjects to  teach), no workbooks, no math manipulatives (you know those cubes you stick together, play money, clocks,. etc…) I apparently was expected to make it all myself, which I of course did. I spent hours at the teacher workshop (at that time provided by the district – it is no longer an option that has been cut) making materials or my classroom. When I started teaching I had a class of 30 (3/4 low SES) first grade students. – By the end of the year – 45 students  had walked through my doors due to a policy called “Overflow”. Yes you heard that right not only did I teach 30 students a year to read, write and do arithmetic, only 15 of those were there since September. You got it, I flipped “15 students” half my class. That practice thankfully stopped the following  year, I actually kept the same kids for the whole year.

What I learned that year on the edge, off the cuff, winging it, is that all children regardless of their SES or IQ are brilliant, have the genius in them and can succeed! That year those 1st grade children were only expected to learn to read 20 words(now the baseline is 100), write correctly only 5 of those words, count (not write) the numbers to 100, do addition and subtraction for numbers less than 6.

My students in that year [utilizing the principals I researched in professional journals(can't remember the names)] preformed a scripted play of the gingerbread man for the school, wrote their own 20 page book (piggyback style) , learned the ecosystem of a garden, made strawberry jam for a mother’s day gift and KNEW THEIR WERE SOMEONE WHO COULD AND DID LEARN.

My biggest regret is that I have not kept up with those kids, If you think you are one of those kids that put on that gingerbread man play and made strawberry jam for mothers day — please contact me.REALLY!

to all of those who were expecting to find out how to make writing a treat, because I did get a little off track, here it is.

A PiggyBack idea or October.

Take any familiar short story that your child knows well and change the setting to Halloween in a spooky forest or haunted house. Brainstorm all the characters that are related to Halloween, goblins, ghosts, kids in costumes, cats, etc… Choose one to be the main character then decide what your character will do based on the template of the story you are basing it on. A fun one to use is the 12 days of Christmas and change it to Halloween. I would love to hear from any of you that decide to give this a try.

I you are in the Orange County or Long Beach area, I am planning some Family Write Nites – where you can learn more about PiggyBack Book Programs. Check back later in the week. Send me an email i want to be added to my mailing list. dorothy@piggybackbooks.com

my website: http://www.piggybackbooks.com