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Highlights from the Week

I have been in a lot of different writing workshops lately. Just this week I’ve been in 13 writing workshops and have met with 13 different teachers in either reflective practice meetings or planning meetings. Therefore, I have SO MUCH I want to record. Which leads me to my current dilemma: what do I not blog about? I try to keep my blog posts short, so I’ve been thinking all day about what is most important to blog and what can be left out (and eventually forgotten). I can’t decide. I want to record and reflect on several experiences this week. Therefore, today’s post will be a little longer. I’ve tried to streamline it and make it a little more friendly by organizing it by grade level. Skim away . . . and leave a comment if something strikes you.

Primary: Kindergartners are gearing up for writing celebrations. I love the energy they exude as they prepare to “go public” with their books. For one of the celebrations, I rounded up 8 adults from the school (principal, guidance counselor, custodian, book keeper, teachers who have student teachers, nurse, and the high ability coordinator) to listen to 2 – 3 students read their books. The adult will then offer verbal encouragement as well as write a note to each author. Here is a letter I created to give to each “volunteer” so they have an idea on how to angle their compliments.

Writing Celebrations are a good time to clean out folders. So along with their published books and complimentary notes, students will be taking home all of the other books they’ve written. I put together a note to send home so parents have an idea what to notice in their books. This kind of communication is crucial so parents can understand the solid work behind the unconventional writing these writers will be taking home. Click this link to see the note to parents.

Poetry: I’m working alongside two second grade teachers as they lead their students through a poetry study. The collaboration between Christi and Gretchen is inspiring. They bounce ideas off of each other and then each chooses what is most pressing for their students. Interestingly enough, one classroom has focused on the sound of poetry — creating images and using rich words, while the other has focused on the structure — line breaks and word placement. They are now swapping lesson ideas as each is focusing on the other concept this week. It is evident that there isn’t a single-right-place to begin when planning a unit. What is important is to follow the needs of your students and then provide the appropriate nudges into other important ideas. Both teachers have depended on Amy’s blog, The Poem Farm, for mentor texts. Check out Amy’s poetry around Christi’s room:


The Poem Farm is an awesome source for mentor poems. Christi flooded her room with Amy's poetry.


BTW, Amy is asking teachers to take a few minutes and jot her an email if they find her blog useful in their classroom life. If you’ve used Amy’s blog (or see possibility to use it) please take the time to send her a note. You will find her contact information here.

5th Grade Fiction: I introduced five narrative elements to students: character, plot, setting, conflict, and point of view (these are based on Indiana’s state curriculum guide). Then I showed them entries from my notebook centered around these different elements. We invited students to begin creating their fiction story by starting at any of these places. It was neat to watch the organic nature of envisioning a story take over. The longer I teach writing, the more I move away from a lock-step process.

I love this photo — so often kids make plans and never consult them during drafting. I can totally see posting this as part of an anchor chart.


Consult a plan while drafting.


Middle School: Middle school teachers in my district are wrestling with finding what is most important to spend time on in class. Class blocks have gone from 65 minutes to 50 minutes. During first block and last block 5 – 10 minutes of the 50 minutes is taken by announcements. We’ve been boiling down the essentials to still maintain the integrity and spirit of workshop teaching. Anyone want to share how they teach it all — reading, writing, vocabulary, word work, read alouds, ect. — in less than 50 minutes?

Okay, now that I’ve blogged the night away, I’m going to visit with my husband for a few minutes and then lose myself in Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

6 thoughts on “Highlights from the Week

  1. I have a 45 minute period scheduled for my language arts block – so I do one thing every day of the week to fit things in (as Dina suggested). Vocabulary and spelling on alternate Mondays, grammar on Tuesdays, reading workshop on Wednesdays and Fridays and poetry on Thursdays. It is not ideal – but I do get to “fit” everything in!


  2. Imagination.

    That’s one big key to writing. The eyes are very important to a writer — you have “see” your story, leading to the creation of vivid word pictures in the story.

    Here’s the way I write interactively with students in Grades 1-3, for instance, to help put them in the author mindset and start guiding them along the path to becoming independent and enthusiastic writers.

    We generate characters and setting strictly from the students’ imaginations, listing them on the board.

    I call that our list of ingredients — we are not only authors, we are chefs, cooking up a story. Everything on our list must find its way into our story at some point. We can’t leave anything out, nor can we add anything, like extra characters.

    Then, with me doing the physical labor at a laptop, they will call out ideas for what’s going to happen next in the story, collaborating in an organized-chaos type of atmosphere that I help direct into a story that has a beginning, middle and end.

    Along the way we take class votes (eyes closed, heads down!), including a vote for our title once we have finished writing.

    We find a way to include everyone’s voice in the story, whether creating a scenario in which they can offer a number less than 10 or a color, non-threatening ways to get them to participate and claim a sense of ownership in the process.

    From a teaching standpoint, content from across the curriculum can easily be integrated into our list of ingredients.

    As follow-up activities, each student can illustrate a sentence or a cover for their work, which is now a story for kids, by kids.

    We need to show our students, especially at young ages, that there is a forum for their imaginations.

    Yes, they need to know about commas and capital letters. Yes they can be taught the 6 Traits of Writing.

    But they also need to know that writing can be fun! This technique will generate many giggles, laughs and smiles, and isn’t a great way to start creating good writers??


  3. this is to address the time issue with MS 50 min blocks….maybe have days designated for each thing, rather than trying to do everything every day. Just a suggestion….


  4. I think your format for organizing a longer post works–and I like that you included things from the many workshops you’ve been a part of recently. I really hope this becomes something you do once every month or so. It’s nice to hear what others are doing in workshop and to hear it from the perspective of someone in your shoes. Bravo!


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