Let ‘Em Work It Out!

So today I was in a second grade classroom.  After the focus lesson, I sent them back to do some important work on envisioning their story and making a plan.  Students are all of the place as far as their personal writing processes and their work toward writing a personal narrative.  Therefore, there were many, many possibilities of writing work during workshop today.

After the focus lesson, there was a brief amount of time for students to get started on their work.  The music was on and quiet writing time had officially began.  I looked up from my notebook to see an array of hands popping up and then starting to wiggle.

And it is at this point that a decision had to be made.  Sometimes I go to the hands.  Sometimes I check in publicly with each student.  Sometimes I ignore them. Today I said:  “Decide what you should do today as a writer.  If you don’t know, make your best guess.”  A few hands remain.  So I added, “For real, guys.  You’re writers.  You’re smart.  Make a decision.  Get what you need and get to work.”  Hands down.  A few picked up another storyboard.  The comfortable feel of tenacious work settled over the room.

I realized then that my decision was not flippant.  It was not a cop-out.  It was based on best practice, trust, and respect.  It’s important that we are brave in our workshops and give students time to work out their own issues.  Having a quiet writing time between the lesson and the start of conferring gives students the opportunity to initiate their own writing work.  It gives you, the teacher, a minute to gather your thoughts.  Then in a few minutes (read less-than-five), begin conferring.  I enjoy the atmosphere in workshops where teachers take a few minutes to allow students to settle in and get started before beginning their conferring rounds.