As June rolls in, it’s a great time to reflect upon your years work in the area of reading and writing. When reflecting, we often think about what we want to improve upon in our literacy work, but it’s just as important to think about what went well with the hopes of making it even bigger in the following year. Next, I’m going to share some of what I was excited about in my work this year. I hope that all of you will use this blog to do the same. Here are my five.
1. Planning Writing Workshop Units of Study in Such a Way that Allows for Plenty of Assessment. I had such fun this year planning writing units of studies with teachers. Rather than plan in a day- to- day way, which we found didn’t work because it didn’t allow for assessment we planned by looking at writing samples and then thinking some through some goals and some possible teaching ideas based upon these samples. We then spent a lot of time continuing to look at student writing samples to anticipate the types of conferences and small groups that might occur during the unit. Although we had a solid plan for the study, we also left plenty of room in this plan to watch the kids in midst of the study and create lessons, conferences and small group work based upon what we saw.
2. Immersing Kids at the Start of a Writing Unit of Study I have always known that immersion at the start of a study is essential, but my work this year really brought that idea home. When teachers delay drafting and show kids examples of the type of genre they are going to write in before they actually write in it, their first drafts are so much stronger! Not only that, but it gives kids time to imagine, and plan for the drafts. This belief of delaying drafting through immersion has made a big shift in how I teach Writing Workshop both in the lower and upper grades.
3. Teacher Immersion This year I began a lot of planning sessions with teachers not by jumping in and planning the writing unit of study for the kids, but rather asking teachers to first study and write in the genre themselves. Although it took time, it was time well spent because the teachers then planned the writing unit of study with a much more thorough understanding of the content of that genre, as well as a sense of the strengths and challenges that accompanied writing in that genre.
4. Know a Few Texts Well This year, I noticed that not as many teachers as I would like were using mentor texts in their conferences. I realized that many of these teachers wanted to use mentor texts but just didn’t know enough about these texts to feel comfortable using them spontaneously in a conference. I spent more time than ever this year helping teachers to get to know a few texts well so that they could use them with kids in spontaneous and various ways during a writing conference.
5. Cross Grade Visitations Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to work with some amazing second grade teachers at PS 230. We went to visit the amazing first grade teachers at this same school. These first grade teachers had just finished working on 2 units of study for writing workshop that aligned with the Common Core Standards. By visiting these classrooms and looking at both the charts and the writing samples we were able to see what kids knew and had a much better understanding of how to plan units of study for the following year that would spiral back to what they learned, but also challenge them in new ways. By visiting the classroom it made this work feel seamless. I hope I get to do more of that next year.
Although I am excited for the summer, I am really excited to explore all of these ideas further in the 2011/2012 school year. I would love to hear from all of you! Let me know what worked for you this year. 🙂