I teach writing very differently from the way in which I was taught writing. I suspect that many of the parents of my sixth graders feel the same way when their kids come home with stories about mini lessons, mentor texts, and genre studies. “What do all these terms mean anyway?” they must wonder, “and exactly how do they advance my kid’s writing?”.
From time to time, I’ve toyed with the idea of inviting parents to the writing celebrations that mark the end of our genre study cycles. But these are right smack in the middle of the work day, and parents are often simply not able to be present. Some time ago, Stacey wrote a wonderful post about bringing the writing celebration to parents, which I’ve tried from time to time, with great success. But there’s nothing quite like being in the room where the writing magic (or what comes close to it!) takes place, and seeing how all the pieces fit together.
Last year, I experimented with an end of the year writing celebration to mark our first ever multi genre unit. We made invitations and gave parents plenty of advance notice; as luck would have it, it was also the day of the 8th. grade graduation, and many parents were planning to be home for the day anyway. Best of all, since each student would have three writing pieces to share and enjoy with their parents – it would be an event! And it was. Bonnie Kaplan, who had been documenting our writing year, was on hand to share in the celebration, and it went so well that we were both beaming for a long time afterwards.
So, we had a repeat performance in Room 202 this year. Here’s how it went:
We made our invitations three weeks before the celebration, to give parents and grandparents plenty of notice.
The week of the celebration, student signed up for roles they would play:
- the welcome committee who would greet parents, and escort them into the classroom
- the tour guides who would explain the layout of our room and explain the class projects that were on display
- a presenter to give an overview of writing workshop, from mentor text study to celebration
- students who would each present quick genre overviews
- a student to explain the multi genre unit
- a student to thank parents for making the time to be present to honor their work
My students were, in their own words, “psyched”. Week after week, as they worked on their writing pieces, talk would turn to the celebration, our last one of the year, and one they would be sharing with their families. Something about the added audience of parents seemed to focus their energies at a time of year when that is singularly the hardest thing to do. Soon enough, the day arrived, and my kids went about setting up their writing displays:
and then the parents began arriving! And our celebration began with beautifully executed presentations:
followed by the reading and sharing of all the fruits our labors:
Our time together flew by, and through the many conversations I had with the parents present, this is what I heard most:
- gratitude for getting to “see” what writing workshop was all about
- a genuine interest in the process from mentor text study to revision via Google docs
- a fascination with the fact that my students had choice in their topic and writing mode selection, and an appreciation for their many writing styles and distinctive voices.
- an affirmation of writing workshop itself, and how each step of the writing process helps to build skills and nurture the discipline of writing
My students were so proud and thrilled. The celebration had truly been all about them, for my only role was to take photographs and engage in chit chat as parents were preparing to leave.
Days later, I am still basking in the glow of our celebration. In a time when parents seem to hear only bad news about schools and (especially) the teachers who teach in these schools, it felt rather wonderful to show off the work that their kids are accomplishing. The end of the year writing celebration has definitely become a tradition in Room 202.
10 thoughts on “Our End Of The Year Family Writing Celebration”
Beautiful Tara! This taught me so much about how to support families in understanding the ways we approach writing instruction and also about how to encourage families to celebrate process.
This is fantastic! I would love to experience this as a parent, teacher, and student. I’m in awe of your work. 😊
I always enjoy peeks into your classroom. What a celebration of writing and community!
I only wish that I had been taught the way you teach. I am sure that some parents are scratching their heads. Keep on teaching and perhaps perplexing a few grown-ups who could learn a thing or two from you.
I love the “planfulness” of this celebration with families. It’s not about “we’re done” or “we’re moving on” but it truly is a “showcase” of students’ work. That just feels so empowering for students!
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Yes! It was all about them. And they were so proud to take ownership.
What a remarkable way to provide students with the opportunity to lead and be independent!
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This kind of celebration brings a validation to your teaching and to your students’ growth with you. Congratulations on another great year!
Tara, This sounds amazing! I’m speechless. This sounds like an amazing opportunity for your sixth graders! I love when parents come in and see their children as writers! I’ve done this with poetry, but not a writing celebration like this. Hmmm…put this on the list to try out. Thank you Tara! As always, I’m grateful for your thoughtful ideas! Happy End of the Year!!!
Tara, I love this so much! I was just reading tweets from #allwrite15 that quoted Lester Laminack saying how we need to tell the stories of our classrooms since so many politicians and others are often the ones telling negative stories. How special to have families come to celebrate not only the finished products but the process! I love how the students were assigned roles and how thoughtfully it was all planned out. Now my wheels are spinning for how I can do this next year!
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