In Vermont, where I live, the end of September and beginning of October is a time for celebrations. It seems every town, school, and community group has some kind of Harvest Festival—and for good reason. It’s a season for apple picking, mums, pumpkins, cider doughnuts (yum), and soon the leaves will be at their peak.
In schools, the end of the first month is also a time for celebrations – writing celebrations! The first weeks are behind us. We’ve worked hard to establish inviting classroom communities with clear expectations and routines. We’ve taught our kids to sit criss-cross at the meeting area, how to turn knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with their writing partners, and they know that “when we’re done we’ve just begun.” The end of the first unit of study is approaching and we’re starting to think about a publishing party.
If you too are planning your first publishing party for young writers, here’s a collection of publishing party ideas, gathered from teachers around the country.
1. A Simple Celebration
Invite other teachers and/or other students to your classroom. Partner your children up with a guest to read to.
2. Museum Display of Writing
Children put their writing on display on tables or desks around the classroom, with a large decorated piece of paper as a placemat/background. Guests visit your classroom during a designated time, reading children’s stories and leaving behind compliments on slips of paper or post-its.
3. Co-creating the Hallway or Classroom Bulletin Board
Children take turns stapling their own piece to the bulletin board (with help from an adult). Soft music playing in the background turns this simple act into a special ceremony honoring the work they’ve done.
4. Going Outside
Simply going outside to the playground or park to read their writing to visitors from another class makes it special.
5. A Coffee-House or Poetry “Slam”
Ever see Def Poetry Jam? Ask around your building and find a microphone. Even if you don’t plug it in, children can read into the mic and pretend. Hot chocolate in paper cups gives the classroom a coffee house feel – perfect for poetry celebrations or for reading favorite lines from full length stories.
6. Popcorn and a “Movie”
Get help ahead of time from other adults to video tape each child reading their piece. Then, on the day of the celebration, pass out paper cups of popcorn, turn down the lights, and sit back and enjoy the show.
7. Acting Out
Kids come to school dressed as characters or create a prop to go with the stories they wrote and read their pieces with drama and expression to visiting partners from another class. This is especially perfect for realistic fiction, poetry, or fairy tales.
8. Bed-Time Stories (modify slightly for “Campfire” Stories)
Kids bring a small blanket or pillow to school and get comfy. Turn the lights partway down if you can, and children can read their stories by flashlight to each other, pretending they’re camping out – or just getting ready for a nap.
9. Writing Picnic
Spread out checkered blankets or plastic tablecloths around the classroom, outside on the playground, or even in the gym! Have simple snacks on paper plates. Read stories to partners – simple.
10. Read Aloud
In place of your usual read alouds, for several days read a few of your kids’ published pieces, complete with turn and talks, acting parts out, and even whole class conversation. You could use the opportunity to work on comprehension skills such as prediction, envisioning, compare/contrast, determining importance, summarizing, retelling, and more.
As part of any writing celebration, you will probably want to incorporate a chance for kids to reflect on what they learned in the unit of study. Perhaps you’ll tell the story of how your unit went, and then ask kids to turn to their partner and retell the unit from the beginning. “First, we learned how to get ideas… then we learned we could sketch quickly to plan….” Maybe you’ll use a checklist, like the ones available in Writing Pathways to help kids reflect on their work, checking off the strategies for strong writing that they find in their published piece, and setting goals for the next unit. Maybe you’ll have kids spread out all their pieces from their writing folder, and talk with a partner or a visiting adult about how much they’ve grown since the first day of school. As the year goes on, you might also reflect on the whole year so far, including the unit you’ve just wrapped up.
Ultimately, you’ll want your publishing party to feel meaningful. It doesn’t mean that it has to be big and fancy, with decorations and cake—it means that kids understand that they’ve just accomplished a milestone: their first published pieces of the year. Take time to reflect on how far they’ve come, and set goals for what to work on next.
In some classrooms, we read the same poem, or sing the same song with every publishing party, creating a class tradition that perhaps kids will remember for years to come. Someone, somewhere shared this gem with me, and it’s been one of my favorites:
We are the authors
The mighty mighty authors
Everywhere we go
People want to know
Who we are
So we tell them
We are the authors
And we can tell our stories
Everywhere we go
People want to know
WE ARE THE AUTHORS!
Beth Moore’s work as a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) takes her into K-8 classrooms all over the country to support teachers and administrators with reading workshop, writing workshop, and all aspects of a balanced literacy curriculum. She has also taught numerous graduate courses at Columbia University, and was recently a coauthor with Lucy Calkins and many others on the series Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing: A Common Core Workshop Curriculum, published by Heinemann. Beth tweets at @BethMooreTCRWP.