by Maria Wood
In one of our first classes, M. avoided and resisted writing at all costs. I tried using my whole bag of tricks to make him feel comfortable during our after-school writing club for 4th and 5th graders. I showed him pictures of my dog, Bear, told him I had a son close to his age, and asked him about his family and hobbies. He was always willing to engage in these conversations but still resisted putting pen to paper.
One day in our writing workshop, the activity included writing with a partner, and M. tried to participate as best he could. It was then that I realized why M. resisted writing and my heart sank to my toes. He struggled to get words from his brain onto paper and when he did put pencil to paper it was hard for the reader to make sense of what he had written. He tried to be a part of the writing activity but needed more support to be truly included.
During the next class, we did an activity using onomatopoeia words. The kids always love making up stories with words that are sounds. We started by making a list of these words: “POP, CLICKETY CLICK, SMASH, CRACKLE.” I explained how attention-grabbing it is to start a paragraph with one of those words.
To give M. more access to this activity, I had one of our teaching assistants scribe for him on an iPad. After time was up, I asked the students if anyone would like to share their story. Everyone was shy so I told them I would be happy to read for them if they preferred. Then our teaching assistant said: “M. wants you to read his story!” M. was eagerly raising his hand and smiling.
And so I read his story to the class:
It was late at night and you could hear the leaves rustle. You were scared of the lighting and suddenly … BOOM! Lightning hits the tree near your house. CRASH it falls down smashing the toys in your backyard. The power in your house suddenly turns off. Click click you try turning on the lights but there is no use. Now you hide under your blanket and you hear the wind SWOOSHING near your window.
Not only did M. not hesitate to participate, but because M. shared, other students felt more comfortable sharing, too, and I read four other stories to the group after his!
One small accommodation and one caring assistant who took the time to help M. get his story into words was all it took to give M. a voice and to share that voice proudly. This is the gift of inclusion.