Honeycomb 6: Collecting Ideas For Empathetic Writing

The students had a fantastic time today using our Worry Web to engage with character problems presented from the text we have been sharing this week. I was beginning to worry myself that the work done over last weekend to set up the static site model would flop disasteroulsy if I couldn't get the technology to work for me rather than against as seemed to be the case yesterday.

The problems/dilemas the children were asked to consider were those of three children

William who thinks he is useless at everything...

Greg, who says "I like this girl. I like her very much. I want to be her friend. I want to be her BOYfriend. I've gone all red and shuddery and yucky just typing it! I hate all this lovey-dovey stuff. It really sucks. I don't want to feel like this. I generally HATE girls."

and Claire who says "I have this nightmare. Its really scary. I don't know what to do. I dream it every single night. Does anyone else have nightmares or am I the only one?"

The three problems stirred up active discussions, and it was interesting to see this evening which of worries the children had chosen to respond to in most detail, and how responses had divided along gender lines.

Greg got some really interesting responses from the girls, who interestingly set about replying by changing the perspective for him by reviewing the problem and presenting a way of dealing with what he wanted to do from their point of view. Several of the responses included a "Well as I am a girl," viewpoint, while sharing with him their wisdom and outlining some of the things they thought he might do.

Claire seemed to gain most responses from the boys, who were quick to point out she was not alone, they too had nightmares or bad dreams, they tended to explain the reasons they thought they had "bad dreams" and made practical suggestions about how they had overcome these. These included sitting down and trying to relax before bedtime, emptying their minds and thinking happy thoughts. Perhaps the problem stemmed from the things she was watching on TV. One of the students explaining how he asked his mum to help him decide if the things he wanted to watch might be too scary if close to bed time. There were also some interesting suggestions about what to eat and drink and ideas about how to make yourself comfortable before trying to go to get off to sleep, perhaps taking a waterbottle and teddy to bed, putting luminous stars on the ceiling and so on.

It has been really interesting reading the responses to see how the nature of the space seemed to affect the boys partiucularly in terms of the things they said. The sympathetic and open way they said they too had nightmares, and the suggestion of a teddy bear is something some of the "cooler" guys would probably not have suggested so matter of factly. There was none of the switch to "she could" we would have gained in discussion, but more of the "why don't you.?" or "you could try.." type of response, that is exactly what Iwant to develop in our writing outcome.
I am really pleased about how the task and environment engaged the students empathetically with the talk for writing process. It also began the initial drafting of models we will draw on for our guided write tomorrow.

During our writing task I want to build on today's using the comments collected as scaffolds to help us write Agony Aunt type responses to the characters. When we planned this process I was thinking how interesting it would be for the children to work with the responses we collected to write a Dear Claire, William or Greg Letter. I am now wondering about having the children create these collaboratively using a word processor and offering two publishing outcomes. One to be printed for display, the other publishing to their Blog spaces, in order to extend the conversation and commenting process as part of an AfL and review activity. Encouraging review of each other's letters not only in terms of the content or how they feel about the advice. But also in terms of our ongoing writing targets while extending our ongoing work around reading for meaning.

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