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"He doesn't write," the teacher said. "Just about nothing. Literally."
I asked her what she'd tried, where he seemed to get stuck, what his current piece was-- the usual questions. Her answers reflected her frustration. No, not much, not really...
I agreed to come take a look.
After the minilesson, students headed to their writing places, and V. headed to his. I watched him approach his task. He had a large binder that someone had suggested he use as a slantboard, and his pencil was dull with very little eraser left. His space was cluttered, and his writing folder was full of papers at various angles with not much writing on them. Someone had given him the special OT paper with raised lines, and he was using that. The paper had narrow lines, though, and lots of them.
I didn't go over right away. Instead I watched as he wrote and erased. Wrote and erased. The binder skidded underneath his pressure, and he had to keep pulling back into the place beneath him.
After a few minutes, I went over and pulled up a seat beside him. I'd met V. before, but I introduced myself.
"So what are you working on?" I asked. "What's going well?"
He stopped, happy to talk instead of write, and he showed me the list of about 30 foods that he could create in Minecraft. He was working on listing them into his piece. Truth: I was struggling a bit with how to generalize a lesson that he could use with other pieces of writing while telling him that he shouldn't make a section of here are all the foods!
"Readers really just hold onto about three facts a session," I said. "I'm wondering if you could take maybe one or two important ones and say more about them."
Without missing a beat, he did.
Once he practiced telling me about them, I pulled my signature move, hoping that it'd work.
"That binder seems slippery," I said. "Could I show you a way I like to write?"
We moved to the floor, and I showed him how I lie on my stomach and use a Flair pen. I offered him a choice of colors. He chose blue. And he lay on the floor.
The size of the paper worried me, as I'm not a fan of giving striving writers a full sheet of paper with lots of lines, but those raised OT lines are pricey, so I folded it in half.
"Just try to get this much done about the steak," I said. "Want to practice saying it one more time?"
He shook his head. "I want to write it," he said.
And he did.