Today I wore another pair of the earrings that arrived in a package sent from Atlanta by my cousin-in-law Jeanne. The note reads, The mesh earrings were knitted by a friend. They're silver wire; I think they should polish up. But I didn't take time to polish them up: I wore them today along with my amber spider pin-- webs for Charlotte, the spider.
My 3rd graders have each chosen an animal to write about. Many are writing fantasy stories with talking animals. My colleague Janie, who taught this class last year, offered to loan me Michael Sims' incredible biography of a book: The Story of Charlotte's Web. Using E.B. White's notes, he shares the background research that White pursued as he wrote his masterpiece.
I shared a couple of excerpts from each book. One about Wilbur's horror as Charlotte described how she ate a fly, another from a source that White had read which explained how spiders paralyze, wrap, and digest their prey. We talked about how even in a story with talking animals an author can include research and facts. Then I held up a plastic container in which I'd trapped a spider spied by Olivia, the first girl who arrived in class this morning. I put the container on our Elmo document camera which projects objects onto our big screen. We watched this tiny spider spin for a while.
"E.B. White watched spiders spin, too. He studied how their egg cases hatch. He was a spider expert by the time he wrote Charlotte's Web," I told them. Then I told them about how my dad gave me one book each Christmas when I was a child. This was my 1965 book, when I was 9, the same age many of them are now.
My students wrote for a while, knowing that if they wanted to place their notebooks on the Elmo and share them on the big screen, they should include some information from their research in the piece that they were writing. When it was time to share, the anticipation was palpable.
I'm grateful to so many people for this rich teaching moment. Thanks Janie, thanks E.B. White, thanks Michael Sims, thanks Jeanne, thanks Olivia, thanks Elmo, and special thanks to my dad for giving me my own copy of this most wonderful of books.