By Paula Jensvold
“Mrs. Tavares, we are not quite ready to write. Tomorrow I think we should partner read books so we can learn more about how to write non-fiction.”
This is what a child said to a literacy support colleague of mine!
It sounds funny (but wonderful) to hear children say that they were “not ready to write” during a Writers’ Workshop. What they were really saying is they needed more time to study the genre that they were about to write in.
What these kids needed and wanted was more immersion.
This year, I have spent lots of time planning and thinking through the immersion phase of my writing units of study. What I found is that if f the immersion goes well , the rest of the unit of study is far easier to plan/teach.
The benefits of doing immersion at the start of a unit of study are vast! Next, I want to share some of the benefits I have found when starting my writing units of study with extended and meaningful immersion.
Top Five Reasons to Begin Your Writing Units of Study With Immersion
- When you spend time immersing the students at the start of a writing unit of study, they have more exposure to the literature and resources that you will use throughout the unit.
Many immersion lessons involve children partner reading, listening to books read aloud or watching short video clips. These resources can then be used later in the unit of study when the children have a deeper understanding of the genre/craft being studied. Because they already know the materials, you can focus in on the specific craft technique that you are teaching that day. This will enable you to keep the mini lesson short and focused, as well give your kids more time to write!
- Providing the children with a few days of immersion builds up their excitement. Children often can’t wait to write!
This happens because the immersion builds up their confidence and gives them a better understanding of what they are about to write. This excitement and confidence will certainly help them to be more independent/self-directed during future days of Writing Workshop.
- Students get lots of ideas for what/how to write during the immersion phase of a writing unit of study.
Because of this, they are able to be more independent/self-directed during the remainder of the unit of study. Their ideas keep flowing and so does their writing! The quality of the writing is also enhanced because they can pull from what they learned during immersion. More independence also means more conferring for you as a teacher! Who doesn’t want to teach more during Writing Workshop?
- During immersion, students get extended instruction on how to read texts as a way to get ideas for their own writing.
Once again, this instruction will help them to be more self-directed/independent. Specifically, this instruction will enable them to go to a book/text to get writing help, rather than always having going to a teacher. We’re always trying to get kids to be able to use mentor texts on their own. Immersion really supports this goal.
- Last but not least, when children learn what the “big” picture of the unit of study is ahead of time, the lessons that follow make more sense.
They can often make better connections between lessons taught at the beginning of the writing unit of study to lessons later in the unit.
It is hard to know how long immersion lessons should last. One day? One week?
I know that my children are ready to write when I look around and see little light bulbs popping up out of their heads. Most hands are raised and the children can’t seem to stop sharing ideas and thoughts. It doesn’t happen right away, but when it does, it feels like watching the little white fuzzy things that are attached to dandelions float away in the sky. There are always a few that stay close to the stem, those children still need more time, but most of the children are ready to go in their own direction with their own ideas.
It’s then I know that my children are ready to not wait another day to write and I turn to Mrs. Tavares and say “Tomorrow we will be ready to write!”
We would love to hear from you!
What benefits have you seen from beginning your writing units of study with immersion? What questions or concerns do you have?