Celebrating the end of a writing unit can be quite the endeavor. Should there be food? Would our kindergarten buddy class like to join us? Shall we make it a compliment party? In my many years as a writing teacher, we have engaged in celebrations that range from quick 10-minute shares with our buddies to big productions with food, balloons, and music. Recently, my fifth grade writers and I approached the celebration a little differently. We decided to give the process of writing an equal billing with the products, which are usually the star of the show.
To celebrate the end our recent informational writing unit, my fifth grade writers and I decided to invite our classroom families to join us. They were so excited to share their hard work with each other and their families! Their informational picture books were nearly finished after weeks of dedication, immersion into a topic, and lots of diligent writing, thinking, and revising. Not only did they choose their own topics and structures, but they also engaged in many mini lessons and conferences around strategies and methods informational writers use. Simply sharing their finished pieces would not really do justice to the entire process they went through over those few weeks. So, we made a simple tweak to our celebration. We all agreed that the process deserved as much celebration as the products that they were about to share.
On our big celebration morning, parents filed into the classroom before heading off to work and my fifth graders took their positions. While I was really looking forward to hearing my students proudly share selections from their informational books, I was perhaps even more excited about sharing our journey to get to this moment with their families. Too often, the product of writing is celebrated while the process is sadly left to remain the unsung hero.
Over those past few weeks, my fifth grade writers explored a real subject that truly mattered to each of them. Knowing this, my goal for the morning’s celebration was to share this exploration and all of the focused work they put in to their pieces with our guests. After I stood up to welcome our classroom families and guests to our celebration, I walked over to the charts on the wall- the many charts we used, reused, and revised over our few weeks immersed in our informational topics. I explained the importance of writers selecting a topic, researching with a critical eye and mind, questioning constantly, picking a structure to explore, conferring with peers, rethinking, revising, and finally editing.
In light of “fake news” being the topic of the moment in much of our social media, I especially emphasized our lessons and thought processes around how we conducted Internet research. For many of my fifth graders, this was their first time deeply researching a topic both online and with books. Not surprisingly, many of them came across conflicting information during their Internet research. Due to this, questioning, discussing, and even triangulating our discoveries were a key element in our process. I made it a point to emphasize this with our celebration guests.
Once I finished the explanation of our process over those past few weeks, I turned the spotlight on the real stars of the day, my fifth grade writers. During the next 30 minutes of the celebration, our classroom full of parents, our principal, a couple of our specialist teachers, and my fifth grade writers learned all about How Airplanes Fly, A Great Alcatraz Escape, Jellyfish, Stars, Rosa Parks, Hiking, and much more!
As many good celebrations do, we ended with food, juice, and even coffee for the adults. My fifth grade writers individually discussed their pieces with their families as I smiled in awe of everything that they worked through and accomplished over those past few weeks. I even caught a few parents flipping through and reading the learning charts that kicked off our celebration.
This was my first writing celebration as a teacher where the unsung hero of writing, the process, shared the stage with the all too frequent star, the product. Moving forward, I hope to continue to celebrate the process of writing as much, or even more often that than product. After all, one of the things that makes writing so satisfying is reading over the product after hours upon hours of thinking, writing, and revising!
Christina Nosek is a fifth-grade teacher in The San Francisco Bay Area. She has also served as a K-5 reading specialist, district level K-5 literacy coach, and second and third-grade teacher. In addition to her current role in the classroom, Christina also provides professional development in all areas of literacy education and is currently co-writing her first book for teachers around conferring in the reading classroom. You can connect with Christina on Twitter at @ChristinaNosek and through her blog at The Teacher Triathlete.