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.