Creating Classroom Environments: Places for Writers to Grow
Every summer, I dream of my classroom. I envision how it will look and consider the possibilities. How will I make this space comfortable yet inspiring? A place for quiet reflection and spirited conversations? A place to inspire writers to share their stories with the world? When considering my third grade writers, what do they need and how can I provide classroom spaces for that?
As I reflected on those questions and what writers need, I focused on three essential places for writers to grow in my classroom:
- a place for student voices
- a place for mentors
- a place for “wondrous words”
A Place for Student Voices
A bulletin board is one place where student voices can be found in my classroom. This board is set up with page protectors stapled to the board and the student’s name placed over it. I like the versatility of this board because students can self-select the writing they want displayed and it can be easily switched out for new pieces.
Students will have digital spaces for their voices on our Kidblog site and Biblionaisum. I am looking forward to digging deeper into blogging with my students this year through Kidblog. Biblionasium allows them to write reviews for the books they read, strengthening reading-writing connections. Our class Twitter account, @Learningin215, will give students the opportunity to compose tweets, sharing our learning with a larger community.
A Place for Mentors
Richard Peck once said, “Nobody but a reader ever became a writer.” All writers have mentors. Many credit reading voraciously for helping them become skilled writers. In my classroom, I want students to see authors as their teachers, too. Sharing stories from authors helps students see all the possibilities for themselves as writers. I love the TWT Author Spotlight series and plan on printing out those posts and putting them in a binder. These will be accessible for me to read to my students and for them to read independently. They can also be a tool for conferences when I want to show students they are using craft moves like Ralph Fletcher or Trudy Ludwig.
Authors are important mentors, but so are we- the classroom teachers! Last year I began to post the different books I was reading for different purposes: professional books, children’s books, and personal books. I realized that while it was important to share my reading life with my students, I was not making my writing life as public. This year, a simple solution is to have a chart that names what I am currently reading and what I am working on as a writer. When I share my reading life with my students, I can also talk about my writing life and let them know the projects and pieces I am working on that matter to me.
A Place for “Wondrous Words”
Cynthia Rylant said, “Read with the same feeling in your throat as when you first see the ocean after driving hours and hours to get there. Close the final page with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night…Teach your children to be moved.” More than anything, I want my students to be surrounded by beautiful language to inspire them as readers, writers, and people. I want language and words to move them, to change them, to stop them in their tracks. As a class, I want us to notice these powerful, beautiful, wondrous words we find and give them a place of honor in our classroom. This year, I plan to be more explicit about naming the wondrous words we find in the books we read and giving those words a place of prominence in our classroom. While at the Summer Literacy Institute in Merrick, NY, I was a guest in Shari Dorfman’s 5th grade classroom. Her bulletin board, inspired by the book The Boy Who Loved Words, was exactly what I was hoping to create in my classroom.
I plan on creating my own board entitled “The Class Who Loved Words” where the students and I can add words and phrases that we find especially interesting or beautiful. These are words they can work to incorporate into their own writing.
Sharing meaningful quotes is another way to celebrate words and their power. Robin Willix and JoEllen McCarthy introduced me to the idea of the glitterboard as a joyful way to highlight special quotes each day. All you need is a picture frame, glitter scrapbook paper, and a dry erase marker (I added extra bling with some stick on gems!) Each day, you can post a different quote for the students to read and discuss or you can let students select the quotes from books like 365 Days of Wonder, Pete the Cat’s Groovy Guide to Life, or Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome. As students hear and read inspiring phrases and quotes, they can make note of these, sharing them with the class on the glitterboard. The glitterboard is a way to encourage appreciation for the powerful effect of words in our lives.
As the first day of school nears, I am making sure I have places in the classroom for children to collaborate and places where they can work independently, places where they can access writing tools and materials, and places where they can utilize technology. Beyond these necessities, I am mindfully creating places for them to share their writing, places for them to be inspired by mentors, and places for us to celebrate the beauty and power of the words we will read and write this year. What are some of the ways you are creating spaces for writers throughout your classroom?
Let’s chat on Monday, August 10th at 8:30 p.m. EDT, when the eight of us host a Twitter Chat about classroom environments. Just search and tag #TWTBlog to participate.