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This page excites me. This page is alive and crackling with thinking and growing, isn't it?

There is so much worth hearing about in the rough hewn drafts in our students' notebooks. In many respects, this image more than enough for assessment--especially if the assessment is driven by the student tell us about the decisions he/she is making.

We can have rich conversations about organization, word choice, ideas, punctuation, sentence fluency. This image is from a notebook in my classroom and tells me so so so much more than a final, polished essay.

There was a time when I might look at this page and think "my gosh, look at all of these mistakes." But these marks are not mistakes, are they? They are the moves of a craftsman at work.

There is an opportunity here to change the way young writers see their work--to elevate them in their own eyes. To point to this, call it beautiful, to let them see us smile about this work, and to celebrate their ability to tell us what they can do...and then help them with what they want to learn how to do next.

If we can agree that each student lives within his/her own feelings, on any given day, we experience dozens of individual environments within each class. Some student simmer with optimism. Others boil over in joy or frustration or resignation. We all know students who clam up. We all know students who chitter away. Every student is different and few (if any) are in the same place every day.

Some days may be better writing days for some than others, and by listening to where as many are each day, our teaching decisions can help move more young writers towards the success each wants to feel and own.

If listening is the primary role we adopt in a conference, if we actually do create more time to confer with more students. Don Murray suggests that when teachers listen, a writing conference can actually be short and effective. I wonder if when we say we do not have time to confer that we really mean we do not have time to talk to/at every student. We have a lot we could say and not enough minutes in a class to say it.

I continue to pay attention to this as I remind myself to listen...listen...listen. Just listen. Notice where their talking takes them. Notice where their peers overhearing (and often offering help) takes them. Notice where their being encouraged to think out loud takes them.

"For me, drawing has always been the most fundamental way of engaging the world. I am convinced that it is only through drawing that I actually look at things carefully. The act of drawing makes me conscious of what I am looking at. If I wasn't drawing, I sense that I would not be seeing...I went to a lecture of [Frank Wilson] in Boston a few months ago and at the lecture he said, 'When children are prevented from drawing, their brains don't develop fully.' I found that a very compelling argument for why drawing is essential to understanding form...For me, drawing has always been a primary way of encountering reality." --Milton Glaser, graphic designer

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