Someone once told me that an experienced teacher asks, “How are the kids doing?” rather than asking “How am I doing?” I’ve found that to be more and more true of myself as each year passes. I’m not as worried about how I’m doing… I think I know what I’m doing. I’m more concerned about how the kids are doing/performing/fairing. (Though I think both questions are related since if the kids aren’t doing well, then perhaps it’s something that you, the teacher, is or isn’t doing that’s making them not do well. Great English there… I know!)
I just finished grading all of my students’ literary essays. I’m so proud of them. Out of a class of 20 kids, 18 of them got 3-‘s or higher, which I think is very good for fourth graders who’ve never written in this genre before. (There were six 4’s!) I have a variety of mentor essays from which to select for next year’s class to use to help them lift the level of their essays.
I’m a tough grader, which is why I’m pretty pleased to see how well my kids did this year seeing as I was scared to teach the literary essay genre during my first two years of teaching. So why is it that the kids did so well? I’m thinking it’s a combination of a few things:
1. I removed some of the minilessons that didn’t work for last year’s class from this year’s unit of study.
2. I had four of my former students’ literary essays that they wrote last year to use with my students as mentor texts. This helped me so much during conferring rather than showing an essay that was written by some kid I didn’t know.
3. I think I was more explicit about the structure of the essay this year. I created a great chart that outlined exactly what each paragraph needed to include. I also made a copy of that draft plan chart for each student so they could have it at home.
4. This year’s “Writing About Reading” Unit in Reading Workshop lasted longer. Perhaps that’s why they got so good at growing thinking about texts.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.