My goal this year was to teach my first graders to see themselves as writers.
(and…readers and mathematicians, and scientists, geographers, etc….)
But writing is focus for this blog. Nothing brings me more “teacher joy” than for kids to feel empowered. My struggle as a teacher was to decide on what to teach kids first and exactly what strategies to teach and in what order. We have state standards and pacing guides but I wanted to know how to get kids to write not only the pieces of writing that we are mandated to teach but to enjoy writing and use writing as a means of communication.
As part of our masters in reading, we have had several courses in writing instruction. This helped me view writing with my students differently and gave me some tools to build a writing community in my classroom. We have grown over the past seven months and I’ve been able to give my students some quality writing instruction. I do know that what I’ve given my students could have been stronger. I’ve learned about resources available as well as techniques to guide my students.
As we started on this journey back in August, the first thing I wanted my students to explore was Why DO Writers Write?
We have explored tons of books, fiction and non-fiction, different authors and poets, and different genres. We interact with at least one book and author each day. My students understand why authors write but I wanted them to carry this knowledge over into their own writing.
Our journey continued with the students learning how they could generate ideas themselves for writing. We made heart maps and lists and they used these to write personal narratives. We wrote poetry and tried out several scaffolds for the students to generate ideas and create.
Still I wanted more for my students. I wanted to see them “improve” on their writing. They love to write. They can come up with their own ideas. We have worked up stamina so they are able to write for an extended time. They love to share and we have created a respectful environment for sharing.
The missing piece seemed to be ME as the teacher. I needed to help them to be better writers. From my readings in this class, I’m learning to use mentor texts to direct the students’ attention to the writer’s craft. How does the writer use his words to convey meaning and can we use their style or strategies to create writing of our own. Even more important than the direct instruction has been the conferring piece. I feel very comfortable discussing and guiding students in editing their piece of writing. Looking for punctuation and capital letters, etc. is straight forward and the kids understand their mistakes. Many of these errors occur with my students because they are so eager to get their thoughts down that mechanics get lost in the first draft. True revision is harder for me.
My students grew Me as a teacher this week. My goal was to conference with three or four students each day during workshop. I made myself some notes and set out to be efficient with my time. I started each conference by saying, “Tell me what you are working on.” They told me about their writing and then read the words. Most students caught words they had omitted and parts of the story that didn’t quite make sense. I asked questions and the students did most of the talking. As time goes on, I want them to take more ownership of the conferences and use me only as a guide. The biggest issue most students discovered was that they lacked details to make the stories clearer or more interesting. In each conference I made sure that I complimented each student on something they had done well. And I mean, I wanted to leave them with something that they could take with them and apply to all their future writing. Not just a compliment on handwriting, illustrations, or even spelling. I searched for a compliment about the craft of writing, like adding details, vocabulary choice, or clarity.
This is one student’s book about persuading her mom to buy her Shopkins.
The pictures are not very clear. I’m sorry.
She wanted to use larger paper and she wanted to experiment with writing on the side of the pages instead of always at the top or bottom. After our conference, she corrected her spelling and punctuation errors but more importantly she added details to persuade mom to buy her the Shopkins she wanted. She shared her writing with an eager audience.
As my journey continues, I want to concentrate on focused lessons and strong conferences.
I want my students to know Why Writers Write but also How Writers Write.
Let’s Write On…