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.
I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.