Academic journal article Language Arts

Everyone Has a Neil: Possibilities of Literacy Desiring in Writers' Studio

Academic journal article Language Arts

Everyone Has a Neil: Possibilities of Literacy Desiring in Writers' Studio

Article excerpt

As Neil turns pages, illustrations pop up. Tara responds, "What did you just do there?" Neil folds the paper up and down to demonstrate how the materials work (see Fig. 1). "Neil, I have seen you do 3D things such as the [baseball] stadium, . . . I have seen you do flaps in books, but have you ever made a pop-up book before?" Neil continues to play with the book, "No. It [Doggy Dance Time pop-up] is kind of like a bonus, funny extra."

"Talk to me about this design," Tara requests. Neil describes the fake dog guns that Gillis uses to shoot fur on Peachy. Tara asks Neil to share how and why he lifted up the paper. Neil again discusses the why, "It's kind of like a little celebration at the end of the book since Gillis solves the mystery." Tara asks, "Tell me just about this part of it [pointing to the pop-up]- not about what is going on, but how did you make it?" Neil bends his arms on the desk to show the mechanics of how he made the materials pop up and then manipulates the pop-up. Neil turns the page to show a double pop-up [a pop-up stage on a pop-up cliff]. "Interesting," Tara remarks.

Tara begins reading the book as Neil moves his arms again. "Today for doggy dance time Peachy gets shot. One day Gillis and Molly were having a dog gunfight. Then Peachy came by and she got shot. And she said "G-i- l- l- i- s. M-o- l- l- y." Neil writes in his notebook short squiggly lines, "I used those marks around the words, like she is screaming it. Like she's really mad." Tara responds, "Can you read it to me?" Neil begins to read. When he gets to "Gillis" and "Molly," he stretches out the names and uses his whole body to show how he slows his speech. Tara, "Oh my goodness! When you read, it helped me understand, because of the expression that you use." Tara mimics the characters' names also with expression. She thanks Neil for sharing and walks away as he rehearses the story to himself while cutting, gluing, and coloring.

At times it appeared children were simply cutting out snowflakes, playing with pipe cleaners as swords, flying paper airplanes, creating frog puppets, or making pop-up stages. In these moments, Tara, the teacher, experienced tensions. On the one hand, Tara believed in the possibilities of students intra-acting- with-materials as writers, but she also felt pressured by district expectations of what writing should look like for second graders. Tara didn't know if she was comfortable with children playing-with-materials; she even questioned, "Will anything good come from this?" However, after four years of learning alongside children, we believe everyone has a Neil. By this, we mean that children teach us about writing if we give them permission to play-withmaterials, listen, watch carefully, and then respond by opening curricular spaces for them to live out their literacy desirings as multimodal writers.

Our aim is to demonstrate the sophisticated and collaborative literacy desirings of children when they are given time, space, materials, and permission to create multimodally in a Writer's Studio. Candace is a university researcher who learns in Tara's classroom. Together, we used pedagogical documentation (Lenz Taguchi, 2010; Olsson, 2009) to better understand the literacy desirings of children. Pedagogical documentation, rooted in the Reggio Emilia approach, uses a collection of student-made artifacts, recordings of children writing and conversing, photographs, and notes as a way to visualize learning processes (Gandini, Hill, Cadwell, & Schwall, 2005). The focus of pedagogical documentation is not on documenting knowledge or learning goals, but rather on What kind of problem is under way? What questions have been produced? What kinds of materials and tools have been tried out? What are the potentials for continuing? Pedagogical documentation is not about trying to concretize students' learning, but an attempt to understand inquiries and processes.

We conceptualize the term literacy desiring in response to the idea of design(ing) that focuses on tools and end products. …

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