I've been waiting all year for today. For the day when we finally can talk about the genre of commentary. I LOVE this genre. Love to read it. Love to write it. Really love to take it apart and talk about it. I started the kids off with something hard...a 10-page piece that I knew would bring groans, followed by amazement as they fell head-first into this amazing world of thinking and talking. And you know what? It worked. Yesterday I handed out the packets amid groans of dismay. Then I sat back and watched. I watched struggling readers connect. Fluent readers connect, even slow down and re-read. I even watched one student wipe tears from her eyes as the writing moved her heart and her intellect. I know for most kids it was a first. They have never read, let alone tried to write, something that is based mostly on thinking.
Today we took the piece apart: what did we like? Why? What would we change (amazingly, no one could come up with anything there - it was unanimous that this particular argument needed this particular amount of space to accomplish the author's purpose). I saw a gleam begin to glow in a few eyes, the percolation of ideas starting, the itch for paper and pencil. We are on our way. We'll keep reading, this author and my other two favorites (maybe more, you never know with me!), dissecting, reflecting, and talking. We'll make lists, try out ideas, learn more about things we care about, and finally, choose a mentor author and write. Oh, I just can't wait!