I led students through the process of drawing lines and shapes and watched and listened as they joyfully created their own monsters. They wrote a list of five things they were excited about and five things they were nervous about for grade six. Items from these lists then became captions for their monsters. During a silent gallery walk, students starred any monsters whose captions echoed their own sources of excitement and anxiety. In reflecting afterwards, students learned that they were not alone in their feelings. A sense of belonging emerged; we had made connections within our first hour together.
The surprise for me came when I read through their lists and admired their monsters. I understood things about them that would normally take me days or weeks to learn. I knew who was hesitant about math or writing, who was worried about finding friends or being bullied and who was nervous about report cards and P.A.T.s. I knew what they perceived to be their strengths and also what their passions were. I realized that joyful literacy not only engages the hearts and minds of my students, it also brings us together in community and helps us come to know one another.