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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Classroom Environments Blog Series - #TWTBlog

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.

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35 thoughts on “Creating Classroom Environments: Places for Writers to Grow Leave a comment

  1. Michelle, I just love all the ideas!! I cannot wite them down in my notebook fast enough! The class who loved words will be a fabulous bulletin board …I know just the wall for it! Thanks so much for the inspirations!

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  2. I am stealing every idea here! I want to include quotes each day and now I have the answer. Trip to Michael’s this weekend! I also love how you are holding yourself accountable to your students as a reader and a writer. I think I’ll get a glitter box, too. Thanks, Michelle.

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    • What an awesome compliment! Love all the work you do with your students, Margaret. I’m glad you found valuable ideas! Be sure to tweet a picture of your glitterboard AND glitter box!

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  3. What a great post! Thank you so much. I have furiously taken notes and included so many of your ideas as I plan my classroom for this year. I am definitely creating a “Words we Love” wall. Great idea to incorporate great words in their writing. I love the glitter board. My last class wrote quotes from Wonder 365 on my board everyday, but I needed that white board space. Glitter board is perfection. I am struggling with displaying student work. I teach 40 3rd and 4th graders. I’m open to any ideas. There just aren’t walls big enough. Perhaps, I can take over the hall. Again, thanks for the post.

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    • Thanks Michele! I’m so glad the ideas could be helpful. A few comments down, Julieanne was also raising the question of how to display student work when there are many students and not that much display space! I would be interested in what other teachers in this community suggest. One idea I had was a special wall or shelf space that students can sign up for to showcase their writing. This might build enthusiasm for sharing their work. Last year, I attempted having students adopt a bookshelf for a week and fill it with their favorite books. I took pictures of them with their books as a kind of “shelfie.” They were really excited for their turn. Maybe something like that for writing?

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  4. I’m interested in using Twitter for middle school classes. Can the students all tweet from one account? Do they utilize it from school computers or home? Much thanks and love your work!!

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    • Maybe Tara could chime or any other middle school teachers here? Last year was my first year in third grade and we used Twitter as a class account. We had only one account and I mostly did the tweeting, although we composed tweets together. I want to have one classroom job this year to be the tweet composer! I’m still too nervous to have students tweet directly, but I’m thinking students can come up with what they want to share and get practice using 140 characters.

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    • Glitterboards are fun and easy to make! You need to buy a picture frame in whatever size you want your Glitterboard to be. Next, buy scrapbook glitter paper. They sell these at craft stores like A.C. Moore and Michael’s but anywhere you would go for scrapbooking paper should have that. Cut the scrapbook paper to fit the frame and then place it inside the picture frame as you would a photograph. Then, all you need is a dry erase marker. You write your quote with the dry erase marker on the glass of the picture frame and then just wipe it away at the end of the day with a tissue. The key is to use a dry erase marker so you can change the quotes daily. If that doesn’t make sense, let me know!

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  5. Question for you: With over 60 students, displaying work is always an issue of real estate. Any ideas for making student work visible when it’s often virtual (on the blog). Could everyone have an advertising space in the classroom, their personal billboard space? Hmmm,,, thinking about this.

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    • I love that idea, Julieanne! What about a digital photo frame to showcase their blogs? Is that even possible? (LOL). Or maybe students can sign up to have their work featured in a spotlight author chart? They could print their blog and post it? Let us know what you come up with!

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  6. Kathleen,
    With your first post as part of the TWT you scored a homerun. I’ve always liked the way you think so “visually” about ideas that will interest kids and make your classroom such an inviting place. I know as a child I would have loved to “live” in your classroom every idea surrounded by so much creativity and inspiration. Most of all, I love and admire how you always really think about what you are doing and why you are doing it and are then able to share that thinking with other teachers. YOU are a such a reflective teacher and fabulous mentor for us all. Congratulations on your new achievement!

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    • Thank you so much, my friend! You are always so kind to me and make me want to do better to be worthy of such praise. So glad you liked my first TWT post and appreciate your feedback so very much.

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  7. Love this post! Every bit of it. I especially like the posting of what I’m reading, what I’m writing. Thank you so much. Glad we’ll be seeing your thoughts about your classroom here at TWT!
    Julieanne

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    • Thank you, Julieanne! I’ve been learning so much from YOU this summer with our Voxer Reading Strategies group and all the writing about reading work you’ve organized for us (#WabtR). It’s so renewing to find other educators who are so passionate and so thoughtful. Thanks for all you do in this community.

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  8. Advertising my reading and writing life is something I really want to do this year. I want the kids to focus on advertising theirs as well so that we can get ideas and know who to go to. I need to figure out how to manage those advertisements. Thanks for this post.

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    • Great idea to have the kids share too! Would Padlet work for 2nd graders you think? I’m envisioning a Padlet where students can post what they are working on as a writer.

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      • I don’t know much about Padlet. I really need to decide on the few apps I’m going to focus on this year. I usually teach one at a time and we stick to those so that we aren’t always learning new apps and are instead sharing our knowledge.

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  9. Kathleen I’ve been stretching my own thinking about how I’m living a “writerly” life, first by actually keeping a Writer’s Notebook. The next step for me is making it more visible to my learning community. I’m definitely remaking my “Mrs. Dee is reading…” sign outside my office to include “Mrs. Dee is writing…”.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas with all of us. And congratulations on your “first” official post as a co-author on Two Writing Teachers! I’m looking forward to reading more!

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  10. Kathleen,
    I am already planning my glitter board! I love words and quotes and hope to instill this in the students of our room.

    The writing board is another idea I plan to duplicate. I am considering one pocket for the first day writing and then a second one for a current peice. This will allow kids to self-assess writing and set goals for growth.
    So glad to hear your voice hear and I am so looking forward to writing with you!

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    • This is a fantastic idea, Deb! There is a tremendous amount of growth seen with young writers. Showing the pieces side by side would celebrate all their new understandings about writing!

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  11. I love all the ideas in this piece for spaces for students to read and write from the glitter board to biblionasium and all in between! the bulletin board is beautiful or amazing words is a great idea! I have talked about them with my class, but never thought to ‘collect’ them all in one place. Thank you for the treasure!

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  12. Congrats on your first post as part of the TWT crew!!! There are so many wonderful ideas here that I’m planning on using! Love the glitterboard!!! I saw a glitter box at JoAnn’s. I may grab one and put the quotes in here for keeping. Love the WW bulletin board, too. The Boy Who Loved Words is one of my favorite books to read aloud!! And my favorite is advertising my WRITING life!! I’ll be making a sign like that for me too. Thank you for your great ideas and for your enthusiasm!!

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    • Thank you Michelle! Now I need to buy a glitter box! That is a fantastic idea. Can you send me a picture of what it looks like when you get it?

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