It was a dreary day in Southeastern Wisconsin today. I had lessons planned. After our Independent Daily Reading and choice quick write, we were moving on to looking at non-fiction books together to identify what types of things authors do to teach through their writing. You see, we're doing our big research unit right now, and I'm trying a new focus this year. But in my last (4th) class of the day doing this, after our quick write time, a student looked out our classroom windows and exclaimed about this.
How could I ignore that distraction? It was an eerie view outside those windows. My kids were totally distracted. So I made an on-the-spot decision to go a different direction and follow the distraction. Sometimes a teacher just has to do that. You see, I wasn't going to get them back and focused on the lesson at hand at that point. So we didn't even try.
Instead? I told them maybe we should work with the distraction and go with the nature at hand - let's write stories about it! We'd spend the last twenty minutes of class writing stories - the only stipulation was that the setting had to be what we were seeing outside those windows. We did a quick review of narrative structure and what elements should be included in a fiction short story, then we looked out the windows at our setting inspiration, and we started writing our stories. And, yes, I do mean we. I sat down to write a story of my own as my 8th graders were writing theirs. There were smiles, and engagement, and glances out the window, and giggling, and sharing of ideas, and the sound of pens scratching across paper...and every one of my students was writing for that whole 20 minutes. Sometimes it is best to go with the distraction. That other lesson? It can wait until tomorrow.
My last line at minute nineteen: As she tried to look beyond the edges of the white fog blanketing the woods, she heard the screaming start.