On Saturday May 5th, Karen Caine and I held our first Saturday Writing (www.saturdaywriting.com). We had the privilege of working with amazing educators from New Jersey school districts such as Elizabeth, West Caldwell, and Hazlet to name a few.
What make this event and planning for this event so special?
In one word (or maybe two)…collaboration and reflection.
The collaboration started months ago when the idea for this day was in its early stages. Each week, Karen and I met to talk and reflect. We mostly talked about kids and teachers and how to ensure that both were engaged, excited and curious about learning We were honest about what was hard and brainstormed new ways of approaching our work. I looked forward to our weekly collaboration. Our talks not only made me smarter but they also fueled and reignited my passion for teaching. Ever since we started talking, I go to work more energized and curious. I attribute this rejuvenation to my deliberate decision to become more reflective and collaborative.
The two of us were having such a great time talking that we decided to share our thinking on May 5th at the first ever Saturday Writing. We wanted to not only share what we learned through our collaboration, but to also leave plenty of time for teachers to collaborate and reflect.
On the day of the big event, teachers grabbed a cup of coffee and a pastry and talked with one another. After a few minutes, we brought them together for two workshops: The first was on using mentor texts and the second was on taking a more active stance in the planning of units of study.
We purposely did not present new or trendy topics. Rather, we shared what we have learned over time about doing these two things better. Our new thinking was always steeped in what research has taught us, as well as what students and teachers show us each day in the classroom. Here were some of our big ideas
- Teachers and students both need to be adept at ‘reading like a writer.’
- If student writing is not improving, teachers need to ask: What can I do differently? Would a different mentor text work better?
- Units of study need to be focused. Too many teaching points or too complicated of a teaching point will create overwhelmed teachers and students.
- Start units of study with the kids and the rest will follow.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. As summer grows closer, I would love to hear some of your reflections. What is going well in your classroom? What do you want to think more deeply about? Who do you collaborate with? And if you don’t feel like you collaborate enough, how can you go about finding your ‘tribe’?
And of course, if you have any questions about our Saturday Writing and when we will do it again (We will and we can’t wait!) Karen and I would love to hear from you.