Final Thoughts

Looking back over the past couple of years, I am amazed by everything I have learned. So much so, that it is hard to articulate. I don’t know where to begin to express all the new thoughts, knowledge, and feelings swirling around inside my head. I will start with the change in my own attitude toward writing. I will admit that I avoided writing like the plague because it scared the living daylights out of me. I cowered away from writing, burying my head in the sand, so to speak. I thought if I ignored it, it would go away. Now, newly armed with confidence borne from extensive reading, research, peer discussions, resources, strategies, and an excellent mentor I feel up to the adventure of writing with my students. In the past, I didn’t believe in my students’ ability to write. After my experiences with my students this past year, I know they ARE writers.

Looking forward, I want to share my new knowledge with my peers by serving as a mentor, helping with ideas and resources and receiving ideas and resources from them as well. I want to establish a true professional learning community within my school and my district. I want to build upon what I have begun with my students this year. I plan to incorporate writing into as many activities as possible next year. Since we are “making time for writing” district-wide next year, I am not sure what procedures or other mandates will be put into place by the administration, but I hope to have the choice to use researched best practices in my classroom. This will involve reading lots of books and other mentor texts to study author’s craft. While we are learning content, we will also be reading like writers to see just how an author gets his or her message across. I also want to use a writer’s notebook next year. I was blessed with two excellent writing books this semester, and purchased two more on my own. I plan to spend a big chunk of my summer familiarizing myself with strategies and advice from Calkins, Ray, Ehrenworth, and Serravano.

The biggest blessing this old, battle-worn veteran has received from these past two years is a renewed passion for teaching. I have never lost my love for the students, but have often felt overwhelmed by the pressures put upon me by administrators and state mandates. I feel invigorated, on fire with a new resolve to be the teacher my students need and deserve.

I would like to express my most sincere and humble appreciation to all of the professors and administrators who made this program possible.

How Can I Support Writers in Sixth Grade

 

 

 

 

 

When 1 Door Closes….Another One Opens

WOW! Time does fly when you’re having fun!!! I have been so blessed to have been a part of this masters cohort. I find it bittersweet to reminisce over the last two years as I know this is the end of something phenomenal in my life. However, the end of this program is only the beginning of the rest of my career as a reading/writing teacher. I find it difficult to express the change that has happened in myself as a teacher and my students. There have been so many opportunities for change and growth that I couldn’t possibly put them all into words. With that being said, I do have to say that is what I am most proud of! I am proud of the change in myself as a teacher. I am grateful for all the resources, tools, and learning experiences that I have had which have made me a better teacher of reading and writing. I have a completely different outlook on writing myself which has directly affected the way that I view writing instruction in my classroom. I am now confident in the writer that I have become and I hope to never lose sight of this confidence. I have seen that this confidence over flowed into my students and what a powerful transformation that has caused in them!! They are only 4 but my goodness they are writing and reading and yes they are ONLY 4!!!! Proud, Amazed, and Inspired are words to best describe the reaction I have to their growth. They have proven that writing and reading instruction is needed and should be demanded at the very earliest experiences in school. They have proven to myself, themselves, other teachers, and their parents that they are ALREADY READY when taught in a developmentally appropriate fashion. Their growth over the last two years has been something that I will always hold on to and remember when hope seems lost. This experience will be the ammunition that I need to stand up to others when they say “they are only 4, they aren’t ready for that”. I am thankful that I have the data, the documentation, and the knowledge to prove them wrong. I believe in my students and I know if I can prove to my future students that I believe in them, they will prove to me that they are capable of learning.

Going forward I have no choice but to keep this flame going. I must press on for my future students that deserve the same chances as these students. I will continue to introduce writing and phonics instruction in my classroom. I will continue to have faith in my students, but also in myself as their teacher. I will be their model for writing and from me they will take confidence and soar. I want my future students to gain what these students were able to take with them and a little bit more. With time and practice using these strategies in my classroom, it is my desire to only see my students continue to benefit from what I have learned. I didn’t gain this degree for myself, but for my students! They are the ones that deserve the chance to change how the world views them. They have the right to be 4, but more importantly they have the right to be 4 year old authors and viewed as such by others. I will continue to engage my students in an environment rich in print. They will be referred to as writers and illustrators in my classroom. They will have the opportunity to experiment with writing without judgement or pressure. I believe that these classes have given us the opportunity to be better leaders for tomorrow. We can and we will be better educators that now value the importance of writing instruction at all levels and genres. It is my hope that this will spark a flame that will spread throughout our school, community, and into surrounding areas. I hope that we can make a difference through the work we do in our classrooms. I want to inspire others to be bold in their teachings and interactions with their students. I want others to see what these children are capable of and what they are ready for. I want to be part of the cohort that changed education for the future!! I hope you will join us!!

Are They Ready?

 

 

So Long…Happy Writing….:)

As I worked with my kindergarteners this semester, I learned three main things. First how important self image and confidence is to young children in regards to writing. Second, that the book I choose to introduce and teach what authors and illustrators is do is essential to their understanding of being an author. Lastly, how practice and and sharing with peers, is necessary for children to grow as thoughtful and willing writers.

When teaching writing with my students we discussed and examined many different authors and illustrators and really looked at their work. I encouraged my students to try to view themselves as authors like some of our  favorites, Eric Carle, Jan Brett, Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems. We focused on style and what they wrote about as well as how they chose what to write about. We also talked about why we liked those authors and illustrators. I gradually saw my students act like they wanted to be authors and illustrators. I learned that the process does take time and a lot of practice. I have to teach whole group concepts through effective modeling, but be with students individually for support through their own writing process. As time went on, I was able to step back some, especially through the use of blank books. My students learned how to start stories on their own and how to write on their own based on where they were developmentally. They began to gain confidence as the writer they already were and did not focus on what they thought they were not good at. Along with writing, they became eager to share with the class and that became a time of day everyone looked forward to. There was great respect and awe as students shared. I believe all of the students felt valued when they shared. Below are pictures of my students sharing work, they are showing how to use more than one page if necessary, incorporating text supported pictures, adding labels, and using spacing to support meaning.

As I move forward, I do plan on using story writing and incorporating blank books into my classroom as often as I can. I can’t wait to try these out starting from the beginning of the school year. Just thinking about a whole year of story writing and sharing makes me so happy with all the possible success and growth I may see. I hope that I continue to help my students feel pleased with being the writers that they are and are willing to share with their peers and school community.

As for me, being a teacher of writing, I will miss this blog. I have greatly enjoyed sharing my students and what they can do. I am very proud of them and writing about it has been a great tool for reflection that I greatly value. I have learned how change can lead to greatness. My students did so much that I did not think I would see in kindergarten. I know that if I continue to teach with meaningful modeling and enthusiasm while still encouraging my students to do what they can, when they can, they will grow. They will grow and be happy about themselves and be confident, encourage others and have the stamina that they need to succeed in the future as a child that likes to write.

Click below for more information and details about what my students have done this semester.

FinalPaperRE5111-

The Writing Journey

Two years ago, together with twelve friends I began a journey to become a Reading Specialist.  We jumped in and swam.  We have learned SO much about how to grow young readers and writers.  This year we have been challenged to look critically at the writing instruction in our classrooms and schools.  It has been several years since we have implemented any systematic writing.  I felt that my students were capable of producing quality writing with the right instruction and time devoted to the task. This year, with Dr. Beth Buchholz,  we had the privilege of exploring quality writing instruction and materials.  She was able to provide volumes of resources for us to explore and try out in our classrooms.  I fell in love with the idea of Writer’s Workshop and the amazing units of study by Lucy Calkins.  I was able to try out many of the aspects of writer’s workshop in my classroom this year.  Due to our current schedule, I was not able to devote a long uninterrupted time for writing but even with the segmented writer’s workshop, my students grew tremendously.

Next year, my hope is to be able to have a true writer’s workshop in my classroom.  After seeing the motivation from my students this year to write and write a lot! I can’t imagine teaching writing any other way.  I want other teachers to know that students at all ages and skill levels can produce quality writing and they love it!  The writer’s workshop in my classroom was the most exciting time of the day.  Kids begged to write more and couldn’t wait to share.  I hope to have administrators who will share in this excitement and come and see the great things first graders can do.  I know that I will probably have to purchase the Lucy Calkins writing units myself but it will be worth it.  As a teacher, there is no better feeling than knowing that you have successfully taught life changing skills.  Teaching students to read and write so they can become literate adults is the job of public school and I want to do my part.

So to my friends who have shared this journey, thank you for your dedication to our profession.  You are all wonderful teachers and I know that you are going to challenge your students to be readers and writers.  I know that you will search for the best practices to use in your classroom and you will find interventions for those that are struggling.  Let’s don’t forget why we chose to be teachers and remember who ready wins when we provide the best instruction for kids.

If you are interested in reading about some of the exciting things that I experienced with my students through writer’s workshop this year, click on the link below.

RE5111 Final Paper

I DID IT !

As for myself as a Teacher Writer, it’s a work in progress.  I made progress toward my goal of being a Reading Specialist as Graduation Day approaches.  This has required me to get over dreading and avoiding writing.  My classes have helped me tremendously.  I’ve been freed from the bondage of fear and doubt that I couldn’t do it and firmly believe now that “If it is to be, It’s Up to Me”.  I have gained knowledge, strategies, teaching skills and confidence that will help me get the job done.  I use my learned strategies daily in my classroom.  The teacher I work with says there is a noticeable difference this year in the student’s speed of growth in reading and writing.

Some questions and concerns that I have are:   Will I be able to practice some of the practices I have learned in this program with our school curriculum?  I will not let this stands in my way.   Will the other teachers in the school embrace my perspectives?  I’m going to join Mrs. Evan’s Revolution.  One thing for sure, I am honored to have taken this step of achievement with all my classmates which consist of teachers from all three schools, and I welcome the opportunity to create a district collaborative for Teacher Writing at our schools.  I Did IT!    “Celebrate, Good Times, Come on!  I have attached a copy of my ‘Final Paper”.

Already Ready Research Paper

This Is Not The End….It’s Just The Beginning!!!

As I look back on the last few semesters, I can’t help but think to myself what a difference has been made…a difference with myself, my students, and many other people in my school.  We have all come out with something so rewarding that it’s hard to put it into words.  Writing….something I didn’t think I could do well, much less teach to my students.  One thing that I would say to all teachers that do not feel comfortable with teaching writing is to step back, relax, and have confidence in yourself and the students.  With a little guidance and support, the students can soar.  I learned that I needed to make my students feel their writing was worthy and was meaningful for everyone that heard their stories.  Another thing I would tell all teachers, quit teaching them what to write.  Give the students strategies to help them become better writers.  Before, I felt like my students had to write a certain way and if they didn’t do it the way I “thought” was correct then it had to be redone.  In return, the students disliked writing because what they wrote seemed to not matter.  Now, I would take anything a student is writing and I would talk to them about it.  I think talking to them about their writing is POWERFUL!  I was able to watch my students go from, “Mrs. Dalton, do we really have to write today? I don’t have anything to write about.” to “I really want to share my stories” and “when will we get to our writing time?” I learned that writing is something every single person can do and everyone that works in a school system needs to know that.  Parents need to know their child is a writer as well.  We are all ready! It’s a process that only gets better with practice.  I could write a whole book about the things I experienced and learned as a teacher of writing.

In the future, I would like to continue a writer’s notebook because that is where the students feel like they can express themselves.  It’s stories they know that belong to them and only them.  I plan to keep doing what I am doing and working more on the components of a writing workshop.  I want to make sure I reach out to every student and focus on their needs while giving them ample opportunities to become better writers.  I will continue to make sure that I incorporate a writing time EVERY DAY, even if it’s just 15 minutes when the schedule gets hectic.  My goals are to start the year off in the right direction, getting the students to enjoy writing.  It may take me a while to figure out all of my students but that is my #1 goal.  Letting them know I believe in them and that they don’t have to be afraid to write.  Hopefully, with mentor texts and a writer’s notebook and making sure we are sharing, they will want to write.  I want to commit to always letting my students write and sharing my experiences with my colleagues.  I think the only way we will see a change in writing throughout our school, is to share what we have learned and to share the experiences and the differences that have been made.  Katie Wood Ray talked about all the things her students knew to do when it came to writing time.  She had different places set up around the room for children to experience all types of writing and explore the process.  I want to make sure I have all the resources for the students to do the same.  I see myself as a teacher leader because I am already sharing with other teachers what I am doing and seeing a difference it makes is what other teachers need to see and hear.  It’s about change and how we can make the change, and I want to be a part of that change.  WE can be the change!

Link to Presentation

Link to Final Paper

 

A 360º View

When I look at the past few courses I’ve had on writing, it makes it really difficult to think about what exactly I’ve learned. The first thing that comes to mind is just how much I feel like I’ve grown as a writer myself, and also as a teacher. I won’t say that I’ve grown as a teacher of writing, because I definitely not a writing teacher to start. I will say that I have grown into a writing teacher. I did not see how, as technically a biology teacher, I would ever incorporate writing into my curriculum, and honestly, I wasn’t really concerned with it. I looked at the impending writing courses as requirements for this program, and not much more. Now, I can see how very wrong I was. I learned that writing in my classroom is truly beneficial and dare I say… fun! I’ve learned so much in terms of how to write. Not mechanically obviously, but how to decide what to write, how to encourage students to write, how to model writing, and how to write across the curricula. I’ve learned that writing doesn’t always mean scholarly essays. I’ve learned that poetry doesn’t have to be something so deep no one understands it, or have a rhyme scheme that would make Dr. Seuss envious. I’ve learned that I can successfully incorporate more genres than I care to list in a high school biology classroom, and equally as important, I’ve learned that this writing is enjoyed by students and truly enhances their learning. It was fun and exciting to create writing opportunities for my students. See my final paper  here (FinalPaperBuchholz) to read more on my study of using multigenre writing in my biology classroom.

Looking forward, I am simply excited to implement more writing into my classroom. I felt like I created several really great writing opportunities for my students so I look forward to expanding even further. I also want to expand these opportunities beyond my honors students to my regular biology students. I think this will be a wonderful opportunity to show these students, who are likely more reluctant writers in general, the benefits of multigenre writing in the content area, and more specifically in biology. I want to commit to sharing these strategies with my colleagues and to encourage them to implement more writing in their classes as well. I feel this would do nothing but benefit students in any content area and at any achievement level. An increase in their writing would most definitely increase their reading abilities, which would help everyone involved, but especially the students. I think by sharing my successes, struggles, questions, and research, I have the potential to be a teacher-leader in writing instruction across all grades and curricula. I think by showing teachers my thought process, my steps to implementation, and how research supports what I have accomplished this semester, it would be more likely to get gears in their brains going as to how they could also implement more frequent and diverse writing opportunities. I truly believe my colleagues would be interested to see that I was able to effectively implement writing into what I was already teaching, and how it generated creativity and humor, all while seeing students self-motivated to research our content further. It’s important for all to see that my students were motivated, exciting, and willing to write, and on multiple occasions, even asking to turn it in after class simply because they wanted more time to write! All in all I am very happy with my choice of study for the semester. It really opened my eyes to possibilities for my students and that any teacher can, in fact, be a writing teacher. All teachers should, in fact, be writing teachers. Thanks for a great semester everyone!

 

“That’s All Folks”

thatOver the past two years, I have worked extremely hard to complete my masters degree. The journey has been long and hard, but the information that I have gained is invaluable. In this course alone, I have learned how to teach non fiction writing through writer’s notebooks and multi-genre projects. My classes wrote on a daily basis and have developed more as writers than any other class I have ever taught. You can see more about my students growth and what I have learned in the attached paper about a PD I have developed based on my course work and readings.

WritersNotebooksMulti-genrePD

In addition to this class, other classes were just as beneficial to me as a classroom teachers and in many ways, I am saddened that this journey is coming to an end. The upcoming year will allow me to implement the techniques I have learned over the span of the past two years. Next year, I plan to continue using methods that I have learned such as DRTA and Reciprocal Teaching during guided reading. I also want to continue using daily writer ‘s notebooks. Furthermore, I would like to add more conferencing with students about their writing into my routine. Their are so many other things that I have learned that I plan to continuing using such as, mentor text, students choice and the power of discussion.  Even though I will no longer be gaining knowledge from professors, I still feel that I will continue to grow as an educator by continuing to prefect the methods taught by those professors.

 

 

A Writing Journey

     As with all journeys, they eventually come to an end. As I sit here typing, I am thinking about all the wonderful ideas I have learned about writing instruction in the pursuit of my Masters in Reading Education. Over this past semester, with the help of Dr. Buchholz and the numerous articles and books I have read, I have learned how to be a better teacher of writing. I have developed a passion for writer’s workshop, using units of study and bookmaking to raise the level of writing that occurs in my first-grade classroom. I have seen first-hand the power of bookmaking, allowing students to self-select topics, and explicit writing instruction. Students deserve a large chunk of time dedicated to writing each day. They should be allowed to find joy in making books and living the life of an author and illustrator. Students deserve a teacher who is present during the writing process to offer feedback in the form of praise, suggestions, or explicit instruction in an effort to raise their level of writing. It’s been a journey worth traveling.   

     As I say goodbye to this blog, I look ahead to the new school year with excitement and optimism. My plans are to incorporate a full writing workshop into my day which I was unable to do this semester. Instead, I was able to teach a unit of study by Lucy Calkins and Amanda Hartman titled Authors as Mentors. This was one of the highlights of the semester. If all their other units are as fabulous as this one, my future first-graders are in for a treat. I have another first-grade teacher who is on board for doing writer’s workshop in the upcoming school year and beyond. I am on a mission to start a writing revolution in my school. I plan on giving a workshop for the primary teachers to educate them on writer’s workshop and share my excitement about all I have learned. I will probably have to buy all the units myself, but that’s OK with me. It’s a small price to pay for knowing I’m doing what’s best for my students with regards to giving them the best writing instruction I can.

     Here is a link to my final paper. If there is a teacher out there who is not satisfied with his/her current writing instruction, I encourage you to read it. I hope you will feel a spark inside yourself for your own writing revolution. 

                                                        Let’s Start a Writing Revolution