Last month, I had my final visit to Angie Harrison‘s third-grade classroom. Angie is a seasoned educator who started using the TCRWP Units of Study mid-year. Angie has taken to it like a duck to water. And so have her students. I saw a positive change in her students from my first visit in December to my final one in May. I can tell her kids feel a sense of importance about writing time. When I first visited, they were completing an assignment. Now they are working within a genre as writers. (When I visited in May, they were engaged in the third-grade informational writing unit of study.)
Step into a conference I had with Dan, and you’ll see something wonderful that happened for which I think Angie should be proud.
I knew Dan had a topic that was too tight for Angie’s liking. Once Dan, a polite and confident boy, sat down beside me, I noticed he had a lot of papers in hand for our conference. He’d already done a lot of writing about a playground game called Jackpot, but it was disorganized and repetitive. But, he was passionate about his topic and wanted to teach others about his favorite playground game. After researching, I taught him how to categorize his information into topics since he had lots of writing all about Jackpot. Here’s a look at some work we did to organize the writing about his topic:
After we conferred, I sent Dan back to his seat to write about some of the mysteries involved in playing the game Jackpot. Here’s one of the pages he came showed me before I left his classroom that period:
Did you notice how Dan inserted small subheadings onto this page twice? While one might sayhe got the idea from my sticky note, I never told Dan to use subheadings. My sticky note was only a tangible artifact to remind him of things he said he wanted to include in each of the mystery sections. On his own, Dan inserted subheadings into his writing. And not just on this page about the Rocket mystery, but across all of the pages about the mysteries (in Jackpot) he was writing about.
I pulled Angie aside when I finished conferring with her students. I debriefed with her about my conferences, which she would learn more about from my conference notes I share. The real reason I wanted to chat with her was because I wanted to celebrate the teaching she’s been doing. I showed her the tracks of her teaching by showing what Dan produced after he conferred with me. First, he was committed to his topic. He couldn’t be convinced to stray from it, which means she’s given her students the right amount of choice. Second, I didn’t tell him to divide his writing into paragraphs (something third graders don’t always do without explicit reminders!), but he separated his thoughts into different paragraphs. Finally, I didn’t tell Dan to craft subheadings… he just knew that’s what he should do to make his writing easier for his reader to read. Dan did these things because Angie had given him topic choice, had taught him how to paragraph, and had taught about subcategories in previous writing workshop minilessons. And he internalized all of them.
While these might seem like small things, they are worthy of celebrating. In fact, Angie has a lot to celebrate. On the large scale, she implemented writing workshop, mid-year, and her students are thriving! That’s huge! On a smaller scale, she can and should celebrate all of her students’ accomplishments. Some things that might look small to Angie aren’t so little things to me who has worked with her students a handful of times this year.
The school year is coming to a close for most of the readers of this blog. I hope you will take the time to celebrate the little and large things that have happened in your classroom this year. Would you take a moment to share something — big or small — that has happened with you and your young writers? All you have to do to join in the celebration is leave a comment below.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.