By Paula Jensvold
My teammate and I spent the summer thinking and working on our curriculum calendar for the teaching of writing. We knew that we wanted it to be more specific this year so we began with one document that included both reading and writing units, goals for each unit, an approximate timing of the year and a list of books for each unit that we promise to use. As we were sitting in my kitchen feeling rather productive, I asked “Anything else we need to add?” She immediately said “I think we should add another column that makes a plan for celebrations.”
Celebrations! What an important part of any unit of study. I am reminded of a quote that I have heard Leah say more than once “It is not always fun to write, but it is fun to have written”. A celebration is not just about celebrating one final product but rather celebrating the learning that occurred throughout the writing process. It is a time to have children reflect, revise and edit good pieces of writing and turn them into great pieces of writing. It is a time to applaud children for having diligently written day after day; even when they felt stuck or were unable to write that “perfect” ending to a story. It is a time to provide both teachers and children with closure and an understanding that we have learned the most we can and it’s time to move on! Often times my favorite part of a unit is watching and listening to children as they get ready for an upcoming celebration. The classroom is often filled with whispers, smiles, a sense of pride and excitement! “Only two days until I get to share my story” says Emily, “I can’t wait”!
Here are a few things to think about when planning a writing celebration:
- Mark the calendar with a celebration date well ahead of time so that the children know it is coming. Marking the calendar not only keeps them on track, but also you and puts a clear ending date to a unit.
- Keep things simple. Stick to the same time frame that you would for a normal Writers’ Workshop. No need to block out extra time in the day.
- Don’t forget that a celebration day should not only include children sharing a published piece, but also a time to clean out those writing folders and get ready for the next unit of study.
- Celebrations should happen often enough that children are rejuvenated and excited about the writing process; ideally once every 4-5 weeks.
- Don’t make the celebration bigger as you go through the year; just make it different and relevant to the unit of study!
Many of you are probably like my teammate and I…we seem to run out of those “different” ways to celebrate. So here are a few of our favorite ways to keep things fresh!
Simple and Easy!
It can be as simple as adding colors to pictures and a cover on the front of a book. As a whole group, have children share their favorite sentence in the story, or the title, and then split the children up into smaller groups to share their whole story. Small groups will enable your children to be good listeners and to finish in a timely manner. Add an apple juice toast to good writing, eat a chocolate covered strawberry and clean out those folders to be ready to start your next unit!
Lists, Letters, Signs and More!
We all have a guest teacher at some point in our year. Create an “Important Things to Know About Room ____” book after a Writing For Many Purposes unit. Have children publish in different types of writing: a list of greetings, a letter describing a class management plan, a sign to alert of any allergies or a business card to tell what a student is particularly good at. Place all pages of the book in a binder. The celebration will come the first time a guest teacher walks into the classroom and admires the book with the children.
Technology That Doesn’t Mean More Time For You!
If you teach children of the younger grades and have older children in your building, utilize them! Invite a class of fifth or six graders to sit with a younger writer at the computer. As the younger child reads their story, have the older student type. It might be helpful to have a template set up for the older student to follow. Encourage the older child to ask for input about font, size of font for the cover, etc. Already by just having sat at the computer, the younger child has shared their story aloud with another person.
After each child has published, staple a “Comments Please” paper on the back of their piece of writing. Place all of the pieces of writing in front of the classroom and have pairs of children select one piece to read. After they have read the writing, have them place a comment on the back. It is important to model this and perhaps even make a list of things that they have learned to do during this unit of study. Remind the children that comments should relate to what they have been working on in Writers’ Workshop.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Get those flip cameras out! After children have finished a unit of poetry and gone through the revision process, record them reading their favorite poem (it is often fun to have a few costume/attire pieces such as hats, glasses, etc that a poet might wear). After you have recorded everyone, show the clips to the whole class. Add a croissant while you are watching and they will really feel like poets!
If you have just finished an author/mentor text study, instead of having your children publish a piece from the unit, have them write letters to the author describing something that they learned by studying the author’s books.
There are so many more ways to have your children share published work….so add a comment to the blog about how you publish and then keep reading the blog to get others’ ideas. In a short time, we will all have that column on our curriculum calendars filled in for the upcoming school year!