Saturday, March 31, 2012

Author Visit

This morning I'm going to nearby Lenoir Rhyne University to attend the Afternoon With Lynne Cherry session of the school's Visiting Writer Series. Ms. Cherry is an environmentally conscious writer of children's books. I was thrilled to use two of her picture books in my fourth grade classes and my students were super enthused about their projects based on these books.

I want to soak up her wisdom. I want to hear from her how and why she created these two wonderful additions to children's literature. I want to talk with her and tell her how my students reacted to her message and the impact her writing made on me as well.

Pilot Mountain School children were fortunate to meet a fairly reknown author, Bertha Moore McCurry, who wrote under several pen names. She would make author visits to the classrooms and work with the children to improve their writing. I wonder what she said about the how and the why of her writing. But wait, I know the why. She left that answer in a legacy of books, Christian themed books, where her characters lived their faith as examples to follow. Her children's literature series on the three Baers became quite popular back in the fifties. Yes, Baer is spelled correctly, the last name of a set of triplets who got into a variety of sticky situations.

Both ladies achieved what every writier dreams of: They brought a message that left an impact on their readers. What more could an author want from her writing?

So today, just like the eighth grade students on their graduation day back in 1956 when Bertha McCurry was guest speaker, I will sit back, listen, drink in the words Lynne Cherry speaks. I can't wait.

Catch of the day,


Friday, March 16, 2012

Spelling Lessons

I could use some old fashioned spelling advice right about now as my schoolhouse project is winding down. I'm in the final editing stages and it's not all fun and games. It's tedious and detailed. For example, take the name of an early school in the community. Heavner. Or is it Havener? Or Hevaner? Or, as handwritten on the back of this 1925 class picture, Hevener.

Much to my dismay, it's all four, depending on which source I use. Some little man back in the 1920's sat at a meeting taking notes in the school board minutes and guessed at the spelling, quickly jotting down the word, not even considering the problems some obscure author would have almost a century later.

I'm picking the superintendent's spelling - Heavner. I hope he could spell!

Spelling instruction at Pilot Mountain School was by memorization or by phonics, depending the decade and the latest trend. One person I interviewed said she never learned phonics or letter sounds, that she can't to this day, figure out how to spell an unfamiliar word. If she hasn't memorized it, she can't spell it. Another man said the opposite. He learned to spell using letter sounds, made perfect scores on all his weekly spelling tests every year and has the certificates to prove it.
Between the two spellers, there's ten years and a deep division in teaching methods. Why Johnny can't spell? I see why. This project made it clear.
Catch of the day,