Writers’ Workshop Live #sol18

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Here am I trying to nudge students into their ideas rather than summaries in literary essays by sharing some peer craft moves.  Alongside,  my assistance conduct their own writing conferences.

Writers’ Workshop Live

March 28, 2018

As part of my role as literacy specialist in an elementary building,  I co-teach in several classrooms in either reading or writing workshop. My primary role is to support fragile learners, but as all teachers,  I support whomever comes along.  This bunch of third grade learners have known me since their kindergarten days and their teacher and I have worked together often, though not in this consistent role until this year.  The teacher and I meet weekly to discuss assessments, student progress, planning, resources, and all things related to third grade literacy.  I join the student during their writing block in the afternoons for 40-45 minutes a day.  As all classes,  it is a mixed bag.  

Chapter 1

One day a few weeks ago,  I was away at a meeting in the afternoon and wasn’t able to go to third grade writers’ workshop.  This conversation ensued in my absence.

Protester #1:  This is the worst 15 minutes of my life. 

Patient Teacher:  The worst?  Really? 

Protester #1:  Ok, Top Three.   Stitches,  Waiting for Stitches and This. 15. Minutes. Right. Now.  (dramatic sigh, head on desk)

Protester #2:  Who invented writing anyway?

Protester #3:  I don’t know.  Mrs. Kennedy?

Chapter 2

Last week in writers’ workshop, the third graders were working on persuasive pieces as the lead up to their baby literary essay unit.  They brainstormed some ideas together, but around six students decided to write their persuasive essay about how we shouldn’t have writing at 2 p.m.  Their basic arguments were that they were smarter in the morning, their brains were less full, and an “easy subject” like reading could be moved to the afternoon.  They became quite vocal about it and I think began to believe that we could change writing time.  Because of the specialist schedules in her room (not mine),  the teacher has to have writing at this time which she has explained.  Finally on Monday, she told the kiddos,  “I’m just not going to listen to this anymore.  Get to work.”

We read the book, Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and began the work of growing an idea  about a character and supporting in with three details from the text.

Chapter 3

Today in writers workshop, the teacher did the introduction and most of the kiddos stayed on the carpet to finish their second paragraph or move into their third.  I moved a stool onto the rug and began rehearsing sentences with protester #1.  Writers came up to have me read their work and approve it. Why do they do that?  Because I keep letting them.  I say,  what’s up?  Can you read this?  Sure.  I read it and hand it back. What do you think you might do now?  Is it good?  What do you think?  Have your writing partner confer with you.  or I’m done.  Sure, did you use some of our expert sentences?  Did you use some evidence?  Do you have a full paragraph?  Student slowly backs up. Hey kiddos,  remember, we are writing our fresh ideas, not the ideas of our character or summarizing.   But then,  I started reading some fresh thinking.  I send those kiddos off with the line that’s forming and they become the assistance.  misspell and pun intended.  

Toward the end of workshop I say to the teacher, I’m not sure I want to say this out loud, but it’s going pretty good.  Did you check out some work?   She says, yes,  good.   The assistants are into it.  But I have to tell you something.  I told them you were sad and you wouldn’t come back to workshop unless they worked hard.  

I guffawed.  How did that work? 

What really worked most likely is lean prompts, loose scaffolds, and mentors, both the book itself, and essays shaping up about book along with other students sharing ideas.  There were four adults in the room.  A para-educator working with student who have writing support plans.  A therapist working on ‘writing in the wild’,  the classroom teacher, and me.  We are currently teaching an If/Then Unit in Calkins’ Writing,  Baby Literary Essay.  We are on week 2, having taught a week of persuasion.  This unit is timely, as state testing is coming up. We keep it real knowing this is the type of writing these students will be doing the rest of their academic careers.  We find picture books great prompts.  The classroom teacher was using No David as an alternative text for a fragile learner.  She has a basket of great mentors for character change at the ready.  If you use the Calkins’ Units,  this unit has been reworked just this past fall and is available in the general information section of the third grade writing units online resources on Heinemann.com.  

My response to the classroom teacher’s tweet.

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Though now that I think about it,  I’d rather be Patricia Heaton.  She plays a convincing midwesterner in The Middle.

img_1405  Just your average writing teacher,  slicing every day for 31 days.  This is day 28 of a 31 day writing streak as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Read some fascinating blogs here at Two Writing Teachers.

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Books for the Kids in Front of You #sol18

Books for the Kids in Front of You  #sol18 #IMWAYR

Immigration Edition

March 5, 2018

I am thankful for our school librarian for being my tireless exploration partner in book acquisition.

Our school in multicultural.  Perhaps yours is too.   We were exploring topics for our historical book clubs in grade 4,  I questioned what topics could students relate to without a significant amount of historical knowledge.  Can we learn about social justice in our modern times in elementary school? Many books I have purchased this year and wrote about before carry a growth mindset and empathetic message, but what about the experience many of our students have of immigrating from another country.  Here are some of our current favorite picture books.  51kqn6wGIcL._AC_US218_.jpgThis may be my current favorite book.  While it doesn’t specifically discuss immigration, these young bear brothers seek shelter from the storm.  Asking each animal neighbor one by one,  they are turned away by all.  Remaining positive, the bear brothers create their own shelter using the one gift received from a young fox, a lantern.  When the fox’s home is threatened, they come asking for aid from the brothers and are warmly welcomed into their small shelter.  So many wonderful messages in this beautifully illustrated book.

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We debated this book purchase as the book doesn’t turn away from tough information.  This book has photographs of children many in situations that we often want to shelter each other from,  sleeping on the streets,  asking where will we live.  In a school where we do meet and nurture students in transition, this is a delicate topic.  This book examines this in a gentle, unflinching way

816jNphsaIL._AC_UL320_SR270,320_.jpgThis book takes a different approach to the immigration experience in a intimate family way.  In a moment that many children may have, fishing with their families,  a father tells the child how he fished in his home country.  Beautiful illustrated and simply told. A Caldecott nominee.

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I hope reading and enjoying this book will give children I know an idea about welcoming those new to our community.  One girl, adrift and awash in experiences that she can’t understand meets another girl in the park. She smiles in greeting and the new girl is distrusting at first.  Over days, she looks for the smiler and then finally see her again.  The welcomer teaches the new friend to swing.  As the book continues,  the welcomer begins through objects to assist our new settler in learning the words she speaks.  I love this story full of everything we hope from community.

81pXXl2ZebL._AC_UL320_SR288,320_.jpgThe simplest of this set,  I’m New Here is a straightforward book about arriving fresh in a new spot.

Not reviewed here, but worth a mention are some lovely novels including.

Same Sun Here

Inside Out and Back Again

Esperanza Rising

Day  of 31 days of writing. Thank you to my fellow bloggers for inspiration and encouragement and toTWO WRITING TEACHERS for creating this opportunity.  Read more amazing blogs and join the writinghere.

in sync

FullSizeRender (1)In Sync #why not Wednesday 

September 27, 2017

At the start of a school year,  it takes some time to get in sync… in sync with the routine,  with your new students, and with your teaching team.  These lovely ladies are getting in the groove on day 4!  While dressing alike is probably not that unusual,  showing up in nearly the same dress by accident might indicate that they are on the same wavelength about more than just their fashion sense.

So how do we get in sync in our building, our team, or in our classroom  at the beginning of the year?

Possible idea 1. Spend some time getting to know each other.  Laugh,  talk about TV,  have lunch together,  take a walk, drop by for a chat.  You get the idea.  Don’t make everything all the time about work with your co-workers and with the students.

Possible idea 2.  Give yourself a break.  We don’t need to launch in at break neck speed every single time.  Wait, is that just me?  Take time to get your bearings,  read the environment.  Even if it’s the same old environment, it always seems to change as the new year start.

Possible idea #3  Review. Give a thought and some good conversation to what went really well last year and … what you might do differently.  Reflecting is good for the soul and the craft. 

I might wear my black dress tomorrow. 

 

 

Why You Need a Teaching Bucket List

125116-my-bucket-list-quotesWhy You Need a Teaching Bucket List

July 19, 2017

Everyone has a bucket list:  places they want to go, experiences they want to have, etc.  Bucket lists are wonderful things.  They motivate, they challenge, and who doesn’t want to cross things off a list.

Let’s use that energy to become the educators we want to be.  Oh wait!  First we have to figure that out.  Maybe not…

When you virtually stand in your classroom, office, teaching space, what do you want to see, do, say, feel?

I have a teacher friend, who wanted to be a better writing teacher or perhaps she thought she wanted her writing block to be more successful.  That’s a big goal.  What made her think that?  Was she disappointed with the student output?  Were her mini-lessons not tight enough?  Conferring?   You get the idea.

Focus.   Pick 5 things for your 2017-18 (or summer) bucket list.  What are those things you are  going to accomplish?  Last year, one of the teams all went through their classroom libraries with the intent of getting more students involved with more diverse books.

Make your bucket list. Mark your progress.  Enlist colleagues.

Grow.