One of the most exciting aspects of a primary writing workshop is learning to use and play with the tools that writers need to help them compose, change and fix up their ideas. Different kids have different tools of choice. Some kids love the colored pencils, others always go for the crayons and still others grab the markers. We always have on hand an abundance of post- it tape, scissors, staples for the staplers and scotch tape.
Today, a writer learned to use the scotch tape with some help from me as I was conferencing. He was working on a story about his friend who had a bloody ear and was anxious to share it with the other kids. As he was planning his pictures for the next page in his story, he was stuck. Though his words about the story were new to the subsequent page they were an extension (detail) of a similar idea he had already drawn. He was baffled. "What should I draw?" I used the opportunity to help him realize his words really fit with what he had already drawn on the page before. I showed him how to use the scissors to cut his words off the picture-less page and tape them down to the page before. I was tempted to just do it for him as I knew I needed to conference with more kids but I stopped myself. He skipped to the cupboard to get the scissors and tape. I realized how tricky it was for him to even get the tape off of the small grooved blade. I gave him a few pointers and he practiced until he got it on his own. He was smiling and excited at his success. Then, I helped him line up the two pieces of paper.
This conference helped me remember that first I need to re-teach how to use the tape dispensers. I think I can assume too much sometimes at then beginning of the year when I only spend only a morning or two on supplies mini-lessons ( I assume partners will help each other out too). I need to come back to these so that kids who aren't as adept or bold with the tools have some reinforcement. Second, I think the value of taking this time to teach using the tool will payoff because much of the work the student and I were doing was revision work. While, I have introduced the notion of rereading and "fixing" up writing in the go and while publishing a book, the work of revision feels bigger and harder for younger writers to grasp. I know that I will be tackling this later in the year and this conference work will turn into a mini-lesson idea I can use for revision strategies.