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

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Understanding Side-by-Side Teaching

In my reading this week from, Already Ready, Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten, by Katie Wood Ray & Matt Glover, I was reminded that there is a lot of teaching that happens in the brief interaction between an adult and a child.  They gave an example of a young girl named Tashiana before she even started to write, how that Matt supported her thinking in three important ways.  “First, he helped her think about the focus of her writing—“What is this book going to be about?”  Then he helped her think about composing her text with intention—“Which one will you draw first.”  And by talking to her about what might go on the blank pages of her book about a cat and a pumpkin, Matt supported her in thinking ahead about her writing.”  (p.149)

I was reminded that as a Teacher Assistant and Side-by-Side teaching is a lot of what I do.  I need to understand with clarity all the different ways a young writer needs to be thinking to grow as a writer, so I can nudge their development along simply by engaging them in a conversation about what they are doing.  My classes in this Master’s program, (especially those on writing and teaching young writers) help to give me clarity on how my interaction with them needs to be.  Basically, teachers “pose problems, ask questions, and make comments and suggestions that stimulate children’s thinking and extend their learning” (NAEYC 1997, 12).

I am proud to say that we make time for side-by-side teaching in our classroom.  I am blessed to work with a teacher who knows the difference between nudging children and pushing them, helping them believe in their abilities as writers, and teaching as a responsive action.  I have learned to watch the children and listen to them closely as I search for sensible ways to nudge them as they grow their understandings about texts, process, and what it means to be a writer.

This week I share with you the results of that Side-by-Side Teaching.

Supporting Young Writers with Share Time

During this semester I have learned new ideas and strategies for teaching writing.  I love what I see in our young kindergarten students.  They are taking writing to a new level for themselves.   There is a sweet writer’s aroma in the room daily as the children swiftly get their writing materials and get to work right away on writing their sentences.  You can see the critical thinking look on their faces.

Now that they understand the value of share time and that their work is being collected to be put in a book of their writings to be read by others, they intentionally write more sentences and draw impressive illustrations.  Sharing their writing helps them understand the writing process.  Katie Wood Ray & Matt Glover in Already Ready, Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten, says “Sharing children’s books helps them understand that writing ends with reading, and hopefully with readers laughing or sighing or exclaiming over something the writer has crafted… Over time, as children experience the responses of others, they can begin to anticipate readers in much the same way experienced writers do.”  Ray & Glover p.187

Here is a video from one of this week’s sharing:  Oops!  I went to get my video camera and realized I left it at school.  So, rather than a video, here are a few writings from this week:

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And the Beat Goes On

Yes, we are still dancing to the tune of “Becoming Better Writers”.  Our young writers are showing more enthusiasm about writing, illustrating and sharing their work.  I believe they now know how to dance to the writer’s beat.  They are showing that they believe in their own abilities.  In the beginning, you could see on their faces that they dreaded writing time.  They continued to sing the same old song, “ I don’t know what to write about,” or just write one simple sentence.

We still have a few who lack self- esteem and courage, but are gaining courage everyday as they see other’s share with so much energy and pride their work.  Giving the students time to share their work not only helps them but it helps their audience as well.  Mrs. Wyatt and I show each student how much we value their work and this causes them to gain self-worth as well.  Attached you will find a video of our little writer’s. The password is “abc”.

What Blogging Has Done For Me

Writing publicly about my students and classroom practice (Blogging), has helped me become a better writer.  Having to write weekly entries has caused me to have to organize my opinions, form rational ideas and read to research my chosen issues.  This has helped me to be able to write better professionally and see myself as a better writer personally.  Blogging also has caused me to become a better thinker.  The blogging process has inspired me to stop and think deeper about the things of my life and the worldview that shapes them, this helped me teach and encourage my young kindergarten writers that they have something to say.  Once I started blogging, it made me begin to think more intentionally about who I am, who I am becoming and whether I like what I see or not.  I have always been very intent on being just who I am and all that I can be.  I believe if it is to be it’s up to me.  I wrote about this in Kindergarten Students Understand What it Means to be a Writer.

I’ve learned that I can’t write about every event, every thought, and every happening in my life. Instead, blogging allows me to choose the most meaningful events and the most important thoughts. This process of choice helps me develop an eye for meaningful things. And remember that sometimes the most meaningful things appear in the most ordinary places.

Blogging has given me a new voice.  Had it not been a required assignment in my classes, I would probably have never blogged to express myself or should I say share things I know and learned with others besides my professor/instructors.  It takes the limits off to who my information can be shared with.  It brings my voice (my perspective) to the world and it is important to have that opportunity.  Blogging gives me the opportunity to write more and get things out of my head to a place where I can read my own blog or someone else.  It causes me to think more positive about writing in general.  Read:“Share the Pen”

My blogging has taught me that writing about a certain topic allows me to build on what I’ve already written to develop ideas on a greater scale.  I’ve seen my young kindergarten writers start by writing a sentence that leads to another sentence which will lead to a book.  As far as leadership – the ability to impact others through my words is an astounding concept.  Learning to blog has helped me gain the tools to teach my students, family and friends how to operate in a information-based society effectively.

Overall, I have become more well-rounded in my mindset. I like the opportunity for readers to offer input. As the blog’s writer, I introduce a topic that I feel is significant and meaningful. I take time to lay out a subject in the minds of my readers and offer my thoughts on the topic. Then, the readers get to respond. And often-times, their responses in the comment section challenge me to take a new, fresh look at the very topic I thought was so important in the first place.

“Share the Pen”

I think the two chapters I read this week in Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe’s Talking, Drawing, Writing, Lessons for Our Youngest Writers, are my favorite ones so far.  The first chapter talked about “Writing Words”.  It started out talking about how on the first day of school and each day thereafter, teachers and students together compose messages and “share the pen” as they put words on paper.  It said they may write text and / or label a mural in the classroom, title a bulletin board, write letters or thank-you notes, or list guidelines about how they will work in their room.  They showed examples of a label on a bulletin board filled with environmental print done during interactive writing, A thank-you note to the principal done during interactive writing (all the children signed their names on it) and Class rules written as a list done during interactive writing where all the children signed their names saying “We can do it”. (Horn & Giacobbe’s 2007, pp. 97-98)

I learned a lot about teaching children that there is a relationship between the words they say and the letters they put on the page.  In kindergarten, we teach the children to listen for sounds in words and then how to put text on the page.  By modeling this, the children see us working on our sentences and illustrations.  I use words like “let me show you what I mean”, “First you think of the word you want to write for my picture that will tell something about it.  We teach them how to say the word slowly, stretching the sounds and blending them together especially listening for the sound at the beginning.  If they can’t remember how to write a letter, I remind them to look at the alphabet chart.  Then I say, “today as you write, here’s what I want you to think about as you write,” and then I “share the pen”.  The book if full of lesson plans for all of the above and more.  I know it sounds elementary to some of you but, I needed this book.

Chapter 6 dealt with assessment.  This tool will help me in my up-coming research study in another class as well as this class.  It talked about looking closely at students’ writing at a time separate from our work directly with them allows us to see each child clearly and think more deeply about him or her.  Wow!  Secondly, naming what we see, we begin to generate a common language for what craft means in five-, six-, and seven- year old’s writing.  Some of you may feel comfortable with this, but I am not used to doing it.  I will attach a shared copy of The Cumulative Writing Record (CWR) that list what an individual child knows about craft and conventions of writing at any given point, as well as documentation of what you plan to teach as a result. (p. 127)

 

Lastly, I will share a video of some of my students this week sharing their writings.

 

Without a Vision, Our Writers Perish

Wow! “I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone.”  I’ve been listening to the concerns of some of you in class about the capabilities of the young writers in your class.  Which has raised concerns in my mind as to what my role as a teacher of young writers (kindergartener) is.   I think before we can know where the knowledge and capabilities went, we must clearly see and understand how these capabilities come.

My readings this week from Already Ready, Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Wood & Matt Glover, chapters 6 and 7 helped bring some clarity to mind about “Teaching Practices That Nurture Young Writers.”  I learned that as a teacher of young writers we have to give opportunity for them to engage in all the complexity of writing as a process, and then help them make sense of the process when they need help making sense of it.  We tend to want to make it simple for them and us by dictating what they should write about.  In the real world of Kindergarten and the later grades, in our writing workshops our students write because they are told, “it’s time to write”, not because they choose to write.  Writing development becomes more of a focus in the curriculum.  But in preschool, writing is all about awareness and exploration (NSEYC and IRA 2005).  Those two words stand out to me, “awareness” and “exploration”.

When was the last time your young writers saw you write?  (e.g., jotting down some notes as you are interacting with them or making a list of things you are going to need for the next day’s class on the board.)   I learned that all teachers should be mindful of what their actions demonstrate about writing.  It’s not enough for our young writers to see their teachers writing; they need to see teachers writing and also be made aware that writing is a profitable endeavor.  The difference is subtle, but important.  By itself, this is certainly an important demonstration.  But its significance grows when the teacher later shares something from their notes, reading from them and commenting on them in ways that let children see how important it was for you to write things down in the first place.  I think our young writers lose sight of the importance of writing in everyday life. (p.112)

I want to have a classroom where children get lots of teacher support for their writing development.  Meaning that:

  • Children choose to write
  • Children are encouraged to write both during their play and exploration, and to write as play and exploration.
  • Children learn about writing from social interactions and the demonstrations of their peers.
  • Children learn about writing from the demonstrations of their teachers.
  • The verb to make is a good word to use to capture the spirit of young children’s composing.
  • Children can benefit from an expanded definition of reading. (p.118)

This week I made a video of some of our kindergarten class sharing with their peers what they wrote about their characters in their books.  Yes, this is a part of writing that has been dictated what they should write about, but I wanted you to see them sharing with their peers.

Download of video still in progress.

Here are some pictures of my students work

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Elements of Craft

I hadn’t been taught how to craft writing in my schooling until this Master’s class, so it’s hard for me to know what elements of craft to look for in children’s work.  But I am learning!  I am learning from my readings, instruction from my Professors, our classroom peer conferencing and my teacher I work with at school.  Don’t let me forget those Kindergarteners who have things to say and they will say them in pictures and in words.  Words are an important part of early writing.  Horn & Giacobbe says that “by inviting children to talk about themselves and about what they know honors them for who they are.  Telling stories allows children to learn about the elements of craft before they ever put them on paper.  This will make our instruction understood more easily.”  Horn & Giacobbe, (2007) p.15

The methods of encouraging storytelling first with our students is not used in our classroom at this time.  My teacher reads stories daily to the students and models writing through our morning work.  We use the “5 Star Model” as a teaching tool for the writing we are looking for.  When I get my own class, I plan to invite children to talk about themselves and about what they know so they will know that they are valued for themselves, for using the words they have to say.  I am confident that I will better know what elements of craft to look for in the work they produce.

In my reading this week in Talking, Drawing, Writing, by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe, it talked about the craft of drawing and that once we notice our children beginning to pay attention to shape, looking closely and observing as they sketched, we would hope that we’d see them carryover between the sketching lessons and their illustrations in their drawing and writing.  It doesn’t take long for us to figure out that our expectations aren’t realistic.  p.69

I have learned that they need many more opportunities for practice and that we can’t expect them to make those connections on their own; we need to do that for them.  We can use our mini-lessons to show them how to bring what they learned during our modeling of sketching lessons into the work of their drawing and writing.  These mini-lessons can be about storytelling, drawing people, drawing in general, reading and re-reading, thinking before you write(brainstorming) just to name a few.

What really excites me is that my role in our classroom in supporting our young writers is the craft of valuing their work.  I have learned that I must support each student’s attempt to write independently and represent their stories with text that might be different, spelled incorrectly, heard and sounded out differently.  In other words, “I have to watch my words”!  It is a craft to know how to correct the writing or drawing of a young writer.  For example:  (e.g., when a child doesn’t know the letter for the sound.  A common one is/b/ for /d/ or vice versa, The bog (dog) is running after the dall (ball).  I say something like,” let’s look – right here, here’s a /b/all and here’s the letter.” I say, pointing, “Do you know what letter that is?”  Most of the time they know it but they write the letters /b/ and /d/ backwards.  Sometimes it takes a lot of associations for children to begin to hear the connections among all the sounds, but when they do I celebrate.  My teacher says that she appreciates all the ways I celebrate,(high five, fist bump with the word  “s-w-e-e-t” or a simple sticker.)

I want all you teachers to know that I appreciate each one of you.  I want  you all to know that each of you could probably write a book on craft lessons teaching students to write.  I’m taking notes! I will use them too!

Kindergarten Students Understand What it Means to be a Writer

This week in our classroom we continue to give our students opportunity to engage in reading and writing.  Every day as teachers we realize the students are learning what it means to be a writer.   As we observe them making decisions about what they are going to write about, we see them becoming more intentional about their writing selection.  By encouraging them to write their own sentences, we see their growth as a writer daily.  They will line up at my desk to ask questions about their choice of sentences.  Some of them just automatically get started with their drawings and once they are finished they will come and ask ” if their drawing looks like a fish.”  Whether it does or not to me, I respond with “Is that what a fish looks like to you?”  Some will say, “I don’t know how to draw a fish.”  I keep it very simple for them and together we look at their book and observe how the fish looked.  I say, “It is very simple, you have a great beginning with your circle, give it a mouth and a tail and any other details you like.”

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In the above picture, you can see one of our students use the “space man”, that is used to help the student leave space between their words so that their work is readable.  All the students use their “space man”.

As I continue my reading of Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers, by Martha Horn & Mary Ellen Giacobbe,  I understand why Mrs. Wyatt models her drawing with the children and talks about what she is drawing and describes every detail of her drawing.  This helps the young children become familiar and comfortable with sketching and also stems conversation and interaction with the students.  They learn that drawing represents meaning and understanding.  Drawing gives children a voice.  “Drawing is a way for children to be heard. A student who has difficulty recognizing letters, perhaps even the letters in his or her name, can often draw what he knows, thinks, and feels.” p.61

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I always support my young writers drawings because drawing is an essential part of writing for young children.  Above, we have two students at a drawing center filled with interesting pencils and crayons, books and paper.  More important is that we provide time to draw daily.  At this table the two students can communicate and share about their drawings.

Nurturing Our Writers

 

I wanted to share a few strategies from Already Ready, Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Wood Ray & Matt Glover with those of you who are not reading this book because they are strategies that I feel teachers from any grade can use when taking an exciting, new writing approach with their students.  Already Ready shows you how, by respecting children as writers engaged in bookmaking, (maybe not bookmaking for middle school and up but perhaps yes!) you can gently nudge them toward a lifetime of joyful writing.  It’s not too late!

  I have been listening to some of you that teach older students and find that what you still run into is that your students don’t have much experience but they’re filled with stories to tell and ideas to express.  They need an opportunity to show the world what they know and see.  All they need is a nurturing teacher like you to recognize the writer at work in them.   Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover provide numerous, helpful examples of early writing.  Providing numerous, helpful examples of early writing, complete with transcriptions and they demonstrate how to:

  • Make sense of children’s writing and interpret how they represent sounds, ideas, and images
  • See important developmental signs in writers that you can use to help them grow further
  • Recognize the thinking your young children engage in and discover that it’s the same thinking more experience writers use to craft purposeful, thoughtful pieces.

I know you might think this is too simple for your grade level, but in reality for some, it might be where you want to begin to set the pace in your classroom for your students to connect the natural writer inside them to a life of expressing themselves on paper. You may find that you don’t have to get students ready to write, they’re Already Ready.

Daily in our classroom my teacher uses strategies to show our little ones how they can develop powerful understandings about:

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  • the writing process   we use the 5 Star Writing Approach.    After a student has written a sentence or two about their book they read, they use this approach to see if:  they used capital letters at the beginning of a sentence(e.g., they are given a correctly written sentence as an example, I see a dog.), they used punctuation to end their sentence(e.g., Where is the dog?), use finger space(we give them each a little space man figure to use), use their best handwriting and does my sentence make sense.

Here are a few examples of our students work that will be put into their first Writer’s Book.

kylas-writing-001aidens-writing-001