Peek into two a strategy lesson and a conference I had during today’s Writing Workshop.
1. Strategy Lesson
With Ruth’s Blessing, I printed out her the Slice of Life Story (SOLS) she wrote about Sam’s Nighttime Secret. I gathered four of my students together on the small rug of my classroom and handed them a copy of Ruth’s SOLS. I framed it by saying that I admired the way she began with an action, putting her son to bed. I read it aloud and asked the kids what they noticed. They stated that Ruth:
With that, I vetted my teaching point, which was, “Writers zoom-in on a small moment in time and unfold it bit-by-bit-by-bit.” Nothing too novel, right? You’re right. It’s not. However, it’s something that needs to be explicitly taught. The kids had a-go with it and were able to unfold their writer’s notebooks entries (They’re in the collecting stage for the personal narrative unit of study.) in a sequential fashion. Without telling them they had to include action and thinking, their entries did! (Hence, I had two of them share their entries at the end of WW today.)
However, here’s the part that warms my heart and will likely make Ruth’s melt. One of the boys who was part of the strategy lesson came over to me at the end and said, “Thanks for sharing your friend’s writing with me Ms. S. I liked it. After reading it, I realized I didn’t have any thinking in my writing. Now I do. Thanks.” Mission Accomplished.
Between the strategy lesson and the end-of-the-workshop share, I conferred with a student who had her eyes partially covered at her desk. Her pencil was moving steadily, but I wasn’t sure if she was working. As I came closer, I realized she was sniffling – a lot. By the time I asked, “How’s it going?” I realized she was completely crying.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“I’m sad,” she replied through her sniffles and pink-trimmed eyes.
“I”m writing about something that’s making me upset,” she said as more tears spilled out of her eyes.
“Can I take a look?”
I read and saw that she was recreating a small moment story about a time she got severely hurt and had to go to the hospital. Hence, my compliment was about communicating meaning and that she was doing just that by writing about something close to her heart that held a lot of meaning and value to her. (My teaching point was that writers use punctuation, even when they write with their minds on fire, so that it is clear where their thoughts start and finish. Maybe not the best, but I that was what she needed at that moment so that she could share her writing with others so that others could understand what she was trying to write.)
So that’s a peek into part of today’s Writing Workshop in my classroom. As you know, every day isn’t always peachy-keen. Not every conference connects me with a student. Not every strategy lesson leads to kids thanking me for teaching them. When these things happen, after all, I feel it necessary to share with a wider audience since our mission statement is, in part, “To reflect on our teaching — celebrating when it goes well and working it out when it doesn’t.”
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).