Making the Most of May and June: Looking Back and Moving Forward

Field trips, field days, class parties, class placement meetings, spring concerts, award ceremonies…The calendar for May and June is filled!  Classes are often cancelled and schedules are changed. The end of the year reminds me of a roller coaster-already through most of the twists and turns, now careening forward towards the end of the ride. That’s May and June for you.

As a classroom teacher, my curricular calendar starts on the first day of school and ends on the last day of school. There are units of study still for me to teach. My students will be writing persuasive speeches for one of our final units. I love this unit because it builds on what they’ve learned about essay writing and follows the reading work we are doing in social issue book clubs. It also taps into speaking and listening skills, which are so critical.

While I will be teaching a persuasive speech unit of study, May and June offer other opportunities to build writing into our day. Here are some ways teachers can build writing into this jam-packed time of year:

  • Writing gifts: Years ago, when I taught kindergarten, I used to host a Mother’s Day Tea. Then, later in June, we would create a gift to send home for Father’s Day. As educators open up their hearts and minds to the idea that families come in all shapes, sizes and varieties, holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are not always inclusive for our students and their families.  Why not ask students to think of a special person in their lives and create a gift for him/her through writing? I love to use The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown as a mentor text for students and invite them to write their own version for someone they love. I’ve bought picture frames from the dollar store for students to display the piece of writing, which becomes a special keepsake.  Another idea is to roll up the writing and tie it with a colorful piece of ribbon.
  • Class journals: Angela Stockman posted an idea to create shared class journals (community notebooks) that all students can access. Teachers can create journals with topics like A Memorable Class Moment, Favorite Memory of This Year, The Lesson I Will Never Forget, and more. When students have time during the school day, they can take a journal and contribute their ideas. The journals could be spiral notebooks, binders with paper, or even digital (Google Slides or a Buncee Board would be a way to share responses as a class.)

This picture was shared in the Building Better Writers by Angela Stockman Facebook group page. Thanks to Angela for allowing me to share it here!

This chart was created by Angela Stockman and the Facebook group Building Better Writers with Angela Stockman. Grateful to Angela for allowing me to share it here!

  • Letter writing: Later this week, Stacey will post about end of the year letters students can write to their current teacher. Another idea is to have students write a letter to their future teacher. You can ask students to think about what they wish their teacher would know about them. These letters can be given to their new teacher as part of a literacy portfolio or cumulative record.
  • Class book: What advice would your class give to the new students who will sit in their seats next year? Your class can choose a format: an alphabet book, poetry book, or another structure. I’m envisioning this as a collaborative Google Slide or a Buncee Board. Students can even write scripts and create videos, like a vlog, and put them on Flipgrid or linked to a Padlet.  It can, of course, be a paper book as well.
  • Setting up a Summer Writer’s Notebook: Students can bring in a new notebook and decorate it to get ready for summer adventures. I’ve used QR codes for students to scan for ideas and inspiration during the summer.
  • Summer Ninja Writing: Challenge students to write during the summer and earn colored belts like a Ninja.  You can start this the last couple of weeks of school to give students a head start and build excitement and enthusiasm for summer writing.
  • Class poem: Split students up into four different groups for each season of school. Have them brainstorm feelings, events, and lessons that took place. Each group can create lines of a poem which can be put together to create a class poem about the school year.
  • Book Review Padlet: Create a padlet for your class to contribute book reviews. When students complete a book, ask them to write a review for the book on the Padlet. Encourage students to check the Padlet for book ideas at the end of the school year and during the summer. This would be an authentic way for students to share about the books they’ve enjoyed through writing. It would also help inspire students to read!
  • Writing MakerspaceAngela Stockman’s book Make Writing  has tips on allowing students to “make” writing. Giving them freedom to select their topic, genre, and materials to create can breathe fresh air into writing time. Last year, I had a period in my schedule that worked for a writing makerspace. Students loved the freedom to write whatever they wanted and there were comic books, plays, books on Google Slides, alphabet books, and more. It was when the spark came for some students who normally struggled during writing time. If your schedule has some openings at the end  of the year, consider allowing students some freedom to create with writing.
  • Blogging: Class trips, concerts, and all of the fun activities that come with the end of the school year are perfect blogging topics for students. If you haven’t launched blogging with your class, the end of  the school year is a good time to try it out. Students will have a place to write about all their exciting happenings- their barbecues, Little League games, swimming lessons and their feelings about one school year ending and a new one on the horizon. Teachers can even keep the blog open over the summer to allow students to continue writing about their life for an audience of  class members. For resources on blogging with students, check out: Make Your Mark By Blogging, Diving Into Kidblogs , and Blogging Adventures. You can also check out this great resourc for Beginner Bloggers from Edublogger. 
  • Word play games and more:Last week, I shared a post called Write at the Start: No More Morning Worksheets. Some of the ideas there that can be used as a soft start in the morning might also work out for those in between times on days where there are concerts or field trips and you have just a bit of time.

I worry about my students as summer begins. I want them to keep reading and writing, thinking and wondering, learning and growing. By taking some time in May and June to try new writing projects, we can motivate students to stay connected and continue living the writerly life when no one is assigning them to do it. They can write (and read) because it’s part of who they are and how they live each day. Let’s not allow May and June become movie-watching, worksheet-filling, killing-time days. Let’s make each day count and keep our writers enthusiastic about all the possibilities being a writer brings.

How do you plan to make the most of May and June?

Giveaway– Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Link to https://www.stenhouse.com/content/day-day). Thanks to Stenhouse Publishers for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book. If you have an international address, then Stenhouse will send you an eBook of Day by Day.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, May 7th at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Melanie Meehan will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. His/her name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, May 7th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Melanie can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Stenhouse will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Melanie will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – DAY BY DAY. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.