Friday, May 9, 2014

Beginning ~ with language and laughter

I heard Donald Davis tell his famous story about "The Crack of Dawn" more than twenty years ago, and I can still hear his voice.  When I saw this book written by him, I couldn't resist getting it.  This is how he gets into his subject.
It all started on a very hot day in September.  School had been in session for less than two weeks, and, as visiting author and storyteller, I was already making my third visit of the year.  The school was in Georgia, and the temperature inside the building, one of those dinosaurs from the days when no one could imagine air conditioning in schools, was at least in the high 80s, with ample humidity to hold the heat firmly in place.

I checked in at the main office and had my preliminary meeting with the school principal.  We reviewed the schedule for the day, the principal apologized for the heat, and we left the office together to walk to the library where I would be turned over the librarian, my host and guide for Visiting Author's Day.

Because of the heat, every window and door of the school was propped open, and every available fan had been pressed into service.  As the principal and I walked down the long hall, we could overhear everything that was happening in the classrooms along the way.

As we approached one particular fifth-grade room, more than the usual amount of talking seemed to be coming through the open door.  Suddenly, from inside the classroom, we heard the teacher take charge.

"Stop talking!"  Her voice rolled out from the door.  "Stop talking...you're supposed to be working on language!"

The principal and I both stopped in our tracks and laughed.
Writing as a Second Language: From Experience to Story to Prose ~ by Donald Davis, 2000, writing
From the moment they are born, we encourage children to talk  — that is, untilthey enter school, where the focus is on the written product as the sole measurement of language development.  Many children fail to measure up to established standards.  Why?

Because, Davis observes, for most of us writing functions as a "foreign language," and individuals are not capable of creating or thinking within a foreign language.  We must step back into our familiar first language — the spoken word — as our creative medium and learn to "translate" into that new foreign language called writing.  With enough success, writing will eventually become a second langauge, instead of a foreign language.

When we talk about language arts in our schools, we focus on reading and writing instead of nourishing the whole oral and kinesthetic package which is our spoken language.  David argues that talking and writing need not be mutually exclusive in language development.  In this book, he lays out the method he has used in countless residencies in schools across the United States, working with adults, teens, children, and teachers.
That discription is from the back cover.  It's a little book, relatively speaking only 139 pages.  Yet it isn't small, since Donald Davis looms large within its pages.



Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

3 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I love this beginning. I taught for 34 years so I chuckled at the comment.

THANKS for sharing.

Elizabeth
Silver's Reviews
My Book Beginnings

Sandra Nachlinger said...

I'm curious about the author's theories about language. Judging from the beginning, it sounds like he writes in a conversational, easy to read manner. I want to learn more about his ideas about language.
Here's the link to my Friday post: MOVING IN.

Tea norman said...

That is funny.:)