My teaching experiences have allowed me to work with a range of age groups over almost two decades of my life. As a teacher, being a reflective practitioner is a non-negotiable for me, with different environments allowing different levels of reflection. I feel, as a writer, my reflection has grown tremendously in my practice. I would believe my practice as a teacher has had the same outcome.
Teaching Writers to Reflect: Strategies for a More Thoughtful Writing Workshop by Anne Elrod Whitney, Colleen McCracken, and Deana Washell brought me to new places in my thinking while tidying up the pieces of reflection that feel most daunting when working to encourage reflection from my writers. I know I’ve been guilty of wondering, at times, if reflection was genuinely possible for children at varying levels of development. Can they really think about what and how they are doing in such an abstract way? I appreciated the message from Whitney, McCracken, and Washell in this expertly put together professional book. The most important piece of that message being directly in the title, TEACHING. Reflection is not an automatic practice. It is a tool to be used, explored, and explicitly taught through the critical work we do with our students.
In order to teach reflection and not just anticipate its arrival, Whitney, McCracken, and Washell recommend three components with strategic lessons to implement each.
The three components include:
- Remembering what has been practiced
- Describing this practice with precise language
- Acting on the information gained from the reflection
They also suggest that students should articulate, in writing, their identities as writers. Offering open-ended statements like, “I’m a writer who…(p.3)” allows students to show us how they already see themselves as writers and guides us as we create supportive environments. The way students identify as writers can become an essential informant in our classrooms.
After introducing the critical components I mentioned above, the authors devote one chapter to each with ways to implement the practice of remembering, describing, and acting.
One strategy shared for teaching students to remember was creating a timeline of what has been taught. Students record, in a co-created way, a memory map of lessons and work that has been done across a unit. This strategy of recording and sequencing not only offers support to the verbal discussion that can take place, but it is also a road map of where they’ve been.
In the chapter devoted to writers learning to describe, precise language was important and the use of verbs as a tool help in this practice of description. I loved this visual representation that shows how a writer might talk about what they did using language that is precise and descriptive. It also shows how we can guide students to honor the pieces of their writing process within this description.
Creating a list, including verbs like listen, talk, think, revise, and communicate, as a reference gives students a word or phrase to jump from in their own conversations about their writing.
From here, readers will then be invited to think about how we can assist our students into action. Teaching writers to act on their reflections. This also encourages a shift on our part, removing scaffolds and allowing ownership of the learning for individual students.
We know we shouldn’t do it for them because we won’t always be there to direct them, and this is why we put so much energy into teaching them how to plan their own future writing actions (p. 81).
The process of remembering, describing, and acting is a complex one. This image from page 84 articulates this complexity in a digestible way. For me, I think it is the complexity that makes the act of teaching reflection a daunting one. What I love about this book is the breakdown of each component and the strategies the authors have shared for achieving reflection in our writing workshop.
It is only fair that if we are to anticipate and expect our students to take on the attributes of reflection that we do so as well. Woven throughout the book are invitations for the reader to reflect.
Reflection is a practice we can choose to engage in, and we can bring our students with us to develop how we remember, describe, and act. If you would love a copy of this book, you can enter to win one free from Heinemann Publishing by leaving a comment below. Reading this book the past two weeks has been refreshing for me as a learner, and it may be a timely read for you too. Happy writing, reading, and reflecting!
For more information and a free sample download of the book Teaching Writers to Reflect: Strategies for a More Thoughtful Writing Workshop, click here!
- This giveaway is for a copy of Teaching Writers to Reflect: Strategies for a More Thoughtful Writing Workshop. Many thanks to Heinemann Publishing for donating a copy for one reader.
- For a chance to win this copy, please leave a comment about this post by Thursday, February 28th at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, the following day.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Heinemann Publishing will ship your book out 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, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – Giveaway. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
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