Listen, laugh, and beware of the angry goat

I met VaShawn last August in my friend Jan’s fifth grade class. During a personal narrative unit, he couldn’t wait to tell his story of a visit to a petting zoo where he encountered an angry goat that butted him from behind. VaShawn knows storytelling is all about the delivery: his description of lying on the ground, seeing “the light”, and coming back to life had the entire class laughing. He ended the story with the perfect punchline: he slapped the goat.

My first conference with VaShawn was mostly about him retelling the story and clarifying what happened, scene by scene. He sketched a quick storyboard during that initial writing time, but the next day he was a bit resistant to actually put words on the page. He wrote a few sentences to begin the story, and then seemed to lose interest.

As the year progressed, VaShawn built both his confidence and his writing ability. His writing notebook grew, and he couldn’t wait to share his writing with the class every day. When I stopped by yesterday, he wanted to share the goat story one more time to show me how he had revised it on his own. VaShawn is still, and will always be, a gifted storyteller, and now his stories live on the page for all to see.

VaShawn helped me remember a few things about conferring with students:

  • Listen
  • Laugh when the story is funny
  • Encourage students to translate their voices to the page

and VaShawn also had some extra advice:

  • Stay away from the goats at a petting zoo

Thanks, VaShawn, and all the students in Jan’s class, for what you taught me this year. Have a great summer!

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2 Responses to Listen, laugh, and beware of the angry goat

  1. Jan DiSanti says:

    Today we shared this exciting validation of our amazing creative writer, Vashawn! It is true how funny Vashawn’s story is and after conferring with Mr. O. he brought a brighter more distinct final draft to his work. Thanks Mr. O.!
    We appreciate Mr. O. and all he continues to teach us about “living a writerly life” and how conferring with students can elevate the end result to brilliance.
    “Thanks Mr. Overmeyer for inspiring me at the beginning of the year and now! It would not have been as much fun without you….you make writing fun!!!”
    As you can see from Vashawn’s comment you have made all the difference Mark.
    We all are better writers due to your work and dedication with ALL student’s being successful.
    Jan

  2. Patrick says:

    Goats! My sister raised them for years… they are mean (especially the males)! When they are little they are precocious, and well, even cute! But then they grow scraggly beards, drink the urine of other goats, and turn into disgusting creatures! I couldn’t stand even the female goats until I tried my niece’s homemade mozzarella and ice cream (by the way, the females are more endearing even as adults… though often still mean)! I realized that goats, too, have a purpose, a delicious one.

    And today I learned that being a part of a child’s writing is one of a goat’s greatest gifts to the world! Goats! Thanks for sharing, Mark!

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