|With Kindles and e-libraries, the summer box of books sent to the cabin is so much smaller than before!|
First week of summer break:
- Went for many long walks through the rice fields around our house.
- Talked to parents, kids, and grandkids online.
- Took a 10-hour, self-paced online course about teaching writing workshop in elementary.
- Travelled to the cabin where we’ll be vacationing.
Now that we’ve arrived, gone grocery shopping, unpacked, uncovered the furniture and mopped the floors, and gotten our hands on the box of books I shipped up separately and the company tried to deliver before we arrived, it’s time to reflect on the writing class I took—the Not So Wimpy Writing Masterclass. I highly recommend it for any elementary writing teachers (2nd-5th grades). It was especially helpful for me, as I had just finished my first trimester of teaching elementary—enough to know what was working and what wasn’t. Here’s how the class helped me feel and why:
- Excited about getting back to school to implement the ideas even better than I did spring term. It was exciting—and a little terrifying—to launch into teaching 4th and 5th grade after 30 years of experience teaching secondary. At the recommendation of a former colleague, I got Jamie Sears’ writing curriculum, which was really helpful. And after one trimester of using it, I could that it was good, and that I needed to make some adjustments. Then Jamie offered a free giveaway on her summer course on how to implement her writing workshop. I entered and won the first free giveaway of my life.
- Affirmed that what I know about teaching writing in secondary is on track for elementary as well. Things like the benefits of choice, the importance of mini-lessons and then immediate application of that lesson to writing, the difference between revising and editing, and the significance of teaching writing skills rather than a particular piece of writing.
- Equipped with a fantastic introductory unit for training elementary students in the procedures and processes of writing workshop. I knew this kind of training was important in secondary; it’s even more important in elementary. I was assured that it was so important to spend 2 weeks doing this that if my class didn’t get to the second masterpiece in the unit, that was okay. I’m excited to practice transitions from one part of class to the next, building writing stamina, and problem solving. To teach problem solving, I will brainstorm all the possible problems they could run into during writing time, from a broken pencil to being unable to think of something to write about, and then help them think of solutions ahead of time, so they don’t need to disturb small group writing conferences.
- Confident in tackling small group writing conferences, the one part of the writing program that didn’t happen last term. Partly because COVID caused us to shorten the day, and partly because my elementary classroom management skills were sufficient to keep everyone working if I were wandering around monitoring, or even conducting individual desk-side conferences, but I didn’t want to try focusing on one small group for 10 minutes. This introductory unit will set me up to succeed with that—students knowing the procedures to execute them smoothly without wasted time and distraction, knowing the importance of the procedures (mini lesson, writing, conferencing, sharing) and having the stamina to sit and write for 20-25 minutes.
- Encouraged by the perspective of experience. Jamie Sears paints a picture of what a writing class can look like, offers tips and materials to make that happen, and challenges participants to wonder “what if” rather than assuming it can’t work for them. She repeatedly reminds teachers that growth is the goal, not perfection. Only a few years ago, these students couldn’t write at all, and look how much they’ve grown since then! (What a cool perspective for me, coming from secondary!) Target, look for, and celebrate growth.