Sunday, December 8, 2013

How a lizard taught my class to write

Anyone who is debating having a class pet... it's worth it. I can't even really explain it. It just adds "something" to the classroom.

More than anything, our class pet has taught my students just as much as I have. Our leopard gecko has taught my students compassion, appreciation of living things, kindness, and to look for the beauty in the small things. And, yes, there is beauty in a reptile if you look closely.

However, I have to say the best and most valuable thing Ecko (our gecko) has brought to our classroom is the power of writing.

I know, it sounds strange.

But, it has happened every year since I've had him. Sometime in the Fall semester, our lizard taught my class to write. In fact, he has teaches them more about writing than I ever have or will.

And, here is why -- to teach a kindergartner to write, you have to teach them about letter formation, using periods, how to put words together to make a sentence, spacing, sounding out words, using references to spell words... the list goes on and on. But, to be honest, all those things pale in comparison to the two things that truly make a child successful in writing -- motivation and practice. And the worst part is... you can't teach a kid to be motivated! And, you can force a child to practice, but it won't be meaningful. In the end, the child must be self-motivated to practice writing in meaningful ways.

That's where the lizard comes in.

I don't tell them to write about or to Ecko. They just do it. He somehow magically sparks the motivation to write in my students. They write about him in their journal, they draw and label his cage, they write him letters and color him pictures, they make him Christmas cards, and they genuinely and meaningfully pour their hearts out in little love notes. 

There are days when I feel like I'm pulling out teeth trying to get them to write one sentence about their pictures, yet they will write six sentences about why they love their lizard.

I love the responsibility Ecko has added to our classroom -- the unique compassion he has taught my students. But, more than anything, I am thankful for the way he has taught my class not to just write, but to love writing for a purpose.

[A small sampling of writing just from this week! -- I find these little gems littering the table and carpet all around his cage. Our lizard has been a little "under the weather" lately, so the kids have been extra caring and sweet!!]

[I love Ecko. You are my favorite.]

[I love Ecko very much.]

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