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The write st Story by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin • Photos by Scott Buschman When students find their voice and understand the power and magic of words, they are capable of expressing a myriad of emotions: frustration, anger, sadness, joy, wonder, curiosity. Through writing, students allow teachers to gain insight into their lives and innermost thoughts. Through writing, students can also share their stron- gest memories, deepest fears and hopes for the future. And in classrooms where writing is shared, empathy, acceptance and appreciation for others takes hold. The benefits go far beyond academics. When students find their voice, they can often discover more about themselves and the people around them. Stories from the heart The f if th-graders begin with the BELOW: Fifth-grade student Jaime Jacob works diligently writing a story in Judy Leff’s writer’s workshop at Capri School in Encinitas. words “I remember” and read their writ- ten memories aloud. “I remember my first day of kinder- garten, not letting go of my Mommy and not un- derstanding anything be- cause it wasn’t in Span- ish,” reads one boy. “I remember preschool when I had no friends, because nobody wanted a fat friend,” recal ls a girl . As the students share entries from their notebooks, the room is dead quiet. Nobody laughs, rolls their eyes or doodles. All of the stu- dents listen intently. Leading this writer’s wo rkshop a t Capr i School in Encinitas is Ju- dy Leff, a teacher on spe- cial assignment. She is modeling a writing les- son in the classroom of Sally Russell. Both are members of Teachers of Encinitas. “Every day there’s a workshop that touches 18 California Educator | december 2009 • january 2010 my heart,” says Leff , who conducts professional development on the topic of wr i ting for Encinitas teachers. “Good writing speaks to the human condition. It’s personal and touches many people. At first, students may not think they have anything to share because there’s no dramatic story to tell. But once they understand writing is about smal l and ordinary things around them, they see there can be a story in everything.” “Writing is a whole other world you can escape into when your other world isn’t so good,” explains Cameron Chris- tian in his notebook. “You can feel that excitement and adrenalin rush.” Leff, a San Diego County Teacher of the Year in 2007, shares stories about her life and writes alongside students. She gives tips to aspiring writers: Pay at- tention to the world around you; write down what you see and experience; in- corporate details both large and small. She explains that writers tell stories with words similar to the way artists tell sto- ries with pictures. Once a story is written, she encour- ages students to keep working on it and make it better. Documents are stored on their Google Docs accounts. They can work from home and communicate with each other during the writing process

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