As you all know I am at a new school this year. In changing to a new school, I have brought many of my practices and routines with me. My new school is a little bit looser in terms of HOW we HAVE to do things so I have complete control over what my day looks like. I have come to the conclusion that if the practice made the “cut” it must be something I am pretty passionate about.
Writer’s Workshop is one of those things I just can’t give up. To give you a little background about me as a writing teacher:
-I taught seven years at a school which valued writer’s workshop.
-We used Lucy Calkins Units of Study to guide us, but supplemented with Opinion writing resources to meet the Common Core.
-We had an hour a day to teach writing in addition to our ELA block of instruction (yes friends- between reading groups, ELA instruction and writing it was THREE hours).
-Students started Writer’s Workshop within the first month of school in Kindergarten so when they came to me in first grade, Writer’s Workshop was a very familiar idea to them.
When I got to my new school I gradually began to realize that I was a very different writing teacher then what my students were used to having. Here I am talking about “painting pictures in your reader’s mind” and “small moments,” and my kids were looking at my like I had five heads. It was time to stop, reflect, and come up with a new game plan.
SMALL but POWERFUL Moments
We talked and talked and TALKED some more about focusing on small moments. The hardest habit to break in a writer is the LIST story. You know the kind “and then, and then, and then” finishing up with a big ole “and then I went to bed!”
“I’m done” quickly became an outlawed phrase in my 2nd grade classroom.
After learning to focus our narratives, I taught them all about their Writer’s Eye. What do you know the kids didn’t know they had one of those things .
I am the kind of teacher that gets hung up on things. When I am stuck on how to fix things in my classroom, it consumes me. I took the picture below on a beach trip with my family because I just knew it would serve as a PERFECT illustration of how to use our Writers’ Eyes.
FIVE SENSES DETAILS
Along with using our Writers’ Eyes, we focused on our five senses. I wish I could have videotaped the next mini-lesson. I had the kids close their eyes and imagine walking into their kitchen to mom frying bacon! Now if your kids can’t taste, smell, hear, touch, and see bacon sizzling in a hot pan—they may be a lost cause. I got some of the best descriptions out of them! They kept closing their eyes and describing what they imagined.
Sad to say I had to two sweet friends who said they had NEVER eaten bacon. Needless to say, those two kiddos went home with some homework .
With my new Workshop babies I had to explore lots of different forms of prewriting to see what worked best with them. They really enjoyed Circle maps- small moment in the middle with detail words all around.
I have to admit though that one thing has helped my kids plan their writing better than anything else.
My kids are INCREDIBLE artists, but most importantly the details in their drawings are exactly the kind of details that need to be included in their narratives.
For example, below:
This child had the skeleton of a great personal narrative, but her Beginning-Middle-End prewriting sketch included details that her story did not. When I conferenced with her I was able to help her better paint the picture in my head that I wanted.
One of my colleagues that I reached out to reminded me of the importance of author’s chair (a staple in Writer’s Workshop). If you haven’t ever checked out Susan’s blog The Wonder Teacher what are you waiting for?!?
Everyday I snatch four or five journals from my students and brag about their writing to the class. I specifically seek out these narratives that showcase some skill that we have been working on EVEN IF it is one simple word. I try really hard to make all my writers feel important while at the same time keeping my students focused on our goals.
I also post student work in the room with specific feedback to my students. This serves two goals: praising a student and reminding my students what I need from them.
My students are also beginning to explore conferencing and editing together in partners. I was thoroughly impressed by the suggestions that they offered to each other.
This week it is all about publishing a few narratives before we move on to Information Writing!
Phew--are you still with me?
I hope you got something out of this post! I genuinely, truly with all my heart believe that writing is the key to making my kids thinkers.