Second-grade writers are scattered all over the room. Their folders and materials surround them. The classroom teacher is conferring with a child. It’s June. The workshop is humming like a well oiled-machine. The third-grade team walks in, soaking in the scene. They see children at work. They see the writers that will be “theirs” next year. One by one the team separates. Some walk the perimeter of the room noticing anchor charts and writing centers. Some get down on the floor with children, to learn from them, to know them just a bit.
As the school year begins to draw to an end, it is a perfect time to fill the space caused by the distancing over the last two years. It is the right time to open our doors and venture into other classrooms. These visits can recalibrate the way your school works collaboratively to grow writers. Cross grade level visits can not only serve as a way to reconnect with colleagues, but can also provide an opportunity to begin thinking about the next school year with energy and purpose.
In the last few weeks of school, take time to visit the grade level below you. These visits will give you and your colleagues time to observe the culture of literacy fostered in the classrooms your future students will be coming from. Things to notice include routines and behaviors. Do students use writer’s notebooks or folders? How do students function independently? How do they access materials and utilize tools in the classroom? What do you notice about students’ volume and stamina? What do you notice about the classroom community and culture? Peek over the students shoulders. What does their work look like?
When you visit classrooms, become familiar with anchor charts and mentor texts that have likely become touchstones for students. Snapping pictures of helpful charts or having copies of familiar mentor texts on hand can help students recognize that when they enter their new classrooms in the fall, the work will be familiar. It may be exciting for students’ writer’s notebooks and/or folders to be passed along to their new teacher. Imagine handing your new students their writing folders from the previous year. Imagine hearing them share what they already know about themselves as writers. This launch into a new year can remind teachers and students that the work we do in a school is continuous.
Following visits and observations of students, debrief with colleagues. These conversations foster community and shared responsibility. It is a time to follow up on the wonders you had as you observed the class and share all the ways you noticed the imprint of the teacher’s work during your observation. The classroom teacher can highlight the curriculum taught, areas where students shined, and broad areas that can continue to be grown in the following grade.
These opportunities to reconnect with our colleagues remind us that each school year builds upon another. These opportunities also remind us that we are all responsible for teaching all the children in our community. When we learn from each other and from children, we will grow and be responsive teachers. Students enter our classrooms each fall, with a lot of experience as writers. Knowing where writers come from can help kick off the new school year in a celebratory way. It can help you, and your team, create a vision of where your new writers are ready to go.
Jessica Carey is a mom of three young writers, Wren, Adi, and Rose. She is currently a literacy coach in Westport, Connecticut where she gets to work alongside passionate educators, learning and growing daily. Jessica is a regular contributor to The Teachers | Books | Readers blog and is a loyal participant in the Tuesday Slice of Life and March Slice of Life Challenge. You can read more about her personal and professional life on her blog, Where There’s Joy. You can follow Jessica on Twitter @jcareyreads.