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First Reader

We experienced a good day today. We are writing fractured fairy tales which are parodies of the originals. Students turn the story around and rewrite it with a twist. One student explained that the boy who cried wolf was visually impaired and was the victim of pranks by the sheep. Another student told the story of the Billy Goats Gruff through the eyes of the troll. Would you like it if someone were clacking around on your roof? The handsome prince dumps the beautiful princess for the maid in Rapunzel so someone did live happily ever after. The kids have fun with this activity and we talk about perspective. What if I were the Big Bad Wolf? We learn to understand that life is revealed through many eyes and experiences.

Billy Collins wrote this poem which I think expresses the way we learn and shape our learning. Occasionally, we need to let go, just be in the moment, and experience learning. I think we did that today.

I can see them standing politely on the wide pages
that I was still learning to turn,
Jane in a blue jumper, Dick with his crayon-brown hair,
playing with a ball or exploring the cosmos
of the backyard, unaware they are the first characters,
the boy and girl who begin fiction.

Beyond the simple illustrations of their neighborhood,
the other protagonists were waiting in a huddle:
frightening Heathcliff, frightened Pip, Nick Adams
carrying a fishing rod, Emma Bovary riding into Rouen.

But I would read about the perfect boy and his sister
even before I would read about Adam and Eve, garden and gate,
and before I heard the name Gutenberg, the type
of their simple talk was moving into my focusing eyes.

It was always Saturday and he and she
were always pointing at something and shouting,
“Look!” pointing at the dog, the bicycle, or at their father
as he pushed a hand mower over the lawn,
waving at aproned mother framed in the kitchen doorway,
pointing toward the sky, pointing at each other.

They wanted us to look but we had looked already
and seen the shaded lawn, the wagon, the postman.
We had seen the dog, walked, watered and fed the animal,
and now it was time to discover the infinite, clicking
permutations of the alphabet’s small and capital letters.
Alphabetical ourselves in the rows of classroom desks,
we were forgetting how to look, learning how to read.

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