Thursday, December 02, 2010

Written from a newt's point of view

My daughter Colette just started teaching fourth grade this year. A friend gave her a fire-bellied newt for her classroom. Colette invited her students to write from the newt's point of view about his first week with the students. Colette has always inhabited other points of view in her own writing--since she was a little girl. She wrote novels by dogs and cultivated a family of feathers who spoke.

Here's an excerpt from what she posted on her blog for her students and their parents.

Meet our new class member, Fig, a fire-bellied newt.
The children welcomed him this week by imagining Fig’s life and writing from his point of view. This is an excellent exercise for building empathy and for understanding people and things that are different from us. To write well, it’s important to learn how to inhabit other characters. From the children’s excerpts you will learn some things about Fig’s past and about how he feels in his new environment.

I had the students start by writing: “Hi. My name is Fig and today is my first day in Ms. Henderson’s class . . .”

Here are excerpts from the children’s writings.

From Fig’s Point of View:

I’m excited for the adventures I’ll have here as long as there are no cats! I’m also a little scared. So far every kid is saying things to me like, “Cool!” “Weird!” I am also excited about learning math. I will finally be able to count my toes and multiply my rocks. I’m also pretty scared of falling out of my cage again and possibly dehydrating. I hope I can make some lizard friends and have a fig party! All we do is sit and stare at each other.

Luckily I’m in the one and only Ms. Henderson’s classs! I am so excited. I’ve learned from Lauren that she’s nice, sweet, funny and super smart. That’s not the only good news. I haven’t seen a single cat here, not even a kitten! But it’s a little creepy with all the students staring at me. I am just a regular kid like everyone. I am just here to learn.
It’s also a much better view here on a desk than on the top of a toilet seat!
I also like the kids in this room. So far no one looked at me and screamed. They look at me and do the “aw ooaw cute!” so I show off my really cool really red belly.

I am a fire-bellied newt. I have no idea who all these giants are that keep coming up to my tank to stare at me and tap on the glass. This is better than being stuck in a dark office. I am a little shy so I’m gonna curl up by the rocks and the plant to relax. But I am also excited so I am moving and swimming a lot. By the looks of this place, I don’t see any wild cats to grab me. I have gone through very crazy issues. I hope that the giants don’t think I am weird. When you are a newt life can be hard because you are so puny. The one thing I like today is I’m getting treated like a celebrity with giants looking at me. I think I’m gonna like life here!

I am very excited to switch to all of the tables expecially table 3. I wonder if they are all nice. I hope I learn division and multiplication. I am very glad there aren’t any cats here or else I might get knocked out of the cage and get all dehydrated and risk dying. I live in a small clear tank.

The first reason I’m excited to be here is that I can see out the windows. That might sound weird but you try being stuck in an office all day! The 2nd reason is I won’t get dehydrated I hope. If you want to look at me I’m stuck in that cage at table 5. I could at least tell you one billion things I don’t like but the most important rule is never chuck me at the ground. The worst thing about being a newt is that everyone is always starting at me and it’s seriously weird and freaky, all those giant eyes pointing at me. I’m 16. I can live up to my 60’s. I will have 50% good time and 50% bad time.

I was very nervous at first but when all the kds came in with their smiling faces I knew this would be a good day. I am wondering what we will do the rest of the day. By the way, this is how my day started off. Bump! “Sorry, Fig!” Ms Henderson was driving me to Mills Park Elementary. I had butterflies in my stomach.
The car stopped and parked. We were there.
When we walked in the room Ms Henderson plopped me down on a table. I waited for about an hour until this loud noise went off and Ms. Henderson put something up on the promethean board. Five more minutes passed and finally some kids started coming in. They all walked over to the table that I was at but none of them sat down by me. I was worried again but this time because I thought none of them liked me.
After what seemed like an hour she stopped talking and made people pull stuff out of a cup. One of the tables were all cheering. I sat at that table today and it turned out everybody liked me!

I think that living here will be okay because I’m in my same box and all the same rocks are here. I also like that there is enough sunlight in here. But the best part of all is . . .NO CATS!
I don’t like that all these, what do you call them, kids staring at me all day. Well, yes, that means I’m really popular and all, but it’s starting to freak me out.
Overall, I think living here will be really fun.

It is awesome here with the sunlight from the glass windows and half giants (the kids to you guys), but the way here was not that good. Here is how it went. We were driving to this awesome school when the full giant, Ms. Henderson, hit a very nasty speed bump. I was bouncing like a ball.
I’m now on table 5 so there are four half giants here.
I think I’m a lizard. Bye bye giants. See you table 4 giants tomorrow.

I am looking forward to learning about what usually happens in room 3404 and doing what I usually do, like swim and eat. My cage is an okay place with rocks, water, and a fake plant. Being a fire-bellied newt can be fun and sometimes scary. The fun part is going new places and having new experiences (although not all experiences are fun!). The scary part is escaping from my cage and getting dehydrated and shriveling up. But other than my life-threatening situations, being a fire-bellied newt is fun.

I have been through many crazy adventures. You won’t believe how crazy my adventures were. Luckily humans aren’t afraid of cats. It’s really hard for a type of newt like me to survive in a little cage. I may not be big but I am 16 years old. My master, Laura, kind of does a good job protecting me. I don’t play video games or work! That’s the good part of being a newt.
In my life I don’t have any cell phones, cars, shops, or anything. At least I have food. I am so surprised to see so many new kids. It’s a good thing I’m not shy! Have a very happy day!

Right now I’m feeling really excited to be here. I can’t wait to meet all the boys and girls in room 3404. I have never been to a 4th grade class so I can’t wait to see what 4th graders do.
My cage is fun! I love relaxing in the water. I could use just a little more space and a buddy to hang out with! I love my big plant.
I think it is really fun being a fire-beelied newt. Outside of my cage, I can hear the boys and girls talking about my red belly. They are all saying how it’s so cool! I always smile when they say it.
When I grow up I want to be famous! I love hearing all the compliments I get from the boys and girls! I am also hoping to get some from my fans! I love little children.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my story.

I am excited and scared at the same time. I am looking forward to switching tables but first I’m staying at table 5. The cage is too small but it’ll do for now. Everyone likes me. They all came up this morning to look at me. I think they like my red belly, especially Ms. Henderson. When we were riding to school she hit a bump and I almost did a flip. I’m pretty small but I’m cool. I hope I can control myself not to get out of the new small cage. I think I’ll like it here in room 3404.

I’m feeling excited to be here in room 3404. My cage is a little small but it fits well. I’m looking forward to being at every table in the classroom. In my cage I love to climb up the walls to show off my belly. I’m a little scared of people picking me up and squeezing me or pulling my tail off, but Ms. Henderson told everybody the rules that Laura wants the children to obey. I love seeing all the kids in the classroom. I’ve been through some life and death situations but lucky for me, I survived. Thank you for inviting me here! Your class newt.

I am feeling really excited to be in this classroom, though I’m not used to it. I am looking forward to seeing everyone who is taking care of me. I feel like I’m going to learn new things every day, like meeting everyone and seeing what they’re learning today. It is fun hanging out in my cage looking around in the classroom! I’ve heard that the first week I’m here I’m going to each table so we can meet each other. (Just to let you know, I love meeting people!) It feels cool being a fire-belly newt. I can always swim around and look around, being the best class pet I can ever be!
I am staying here for a long time, having fun! I can’t wait to see what my first week here is going to be like!

I feel so excited to be in Ms. Henderson’s classroom. But I feel so small and shy compared to all the kids in the class.
I like to show off my stomach. It’s red—really, really red. I climb up the walls of my cage and show my stomach off for a little while. Then I climb down into the warm-cold water. It feels kind of relaxing.
I am also 16 years old and I can live up to 60, hopefully.
I know I should have mentioned this before, but I also feel really shy with all those people looking down on me, watching my every move. I hope it gets better. BYE!

Fig is 16 years old and he’s short. Listen to Fig as he tells you what his name is. “Hi. My name is Fig and today is my first day at Mills Park Elementary School. I’m Fig and I am happy. I’m excited and I’m not scared. I like to learn to write stories on a piece of notebook paper. I am learning! Got to go!

Hello parents and students! I am very happy here, but you know what? I would love a bigger house. I understand that this is a time of year when some people give gifts. Hmmm. Anybody want to chip in and get me a bigger cage? Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with what I’ve got. But I could use some more space—for swimming and stretching and relaxing and watching all of you.
--Your class pet and good friend, Fig

has always inhabited other points of view in her writing--since she was a little girl. She wrote novels by dogs and cultivated a family of feathers who spoke. When our dog Rosie ate most of her collection, Colette said: "Feather's family is ruined."

1 comment:

Mary Bea Sullivan said...

What a great idea! sent it on to my sister who homeschools her children. Sounds like Colette is off to a great start!