The idea for this post was inspired by Anna Gratz Cockerille’s article,“Ending a Year of Writing With a Group Reflection”, from twowritingteachers.org, June 18, 2014.
The whirlwind of teaching for the 2016-2017 school year is quickly coming to an end. Teachers, on the whole, are a reflective lot, but in the midst of the busyness of daily teaching, it may seem hard to pause and reflect. As the time to bid au revoir to our students approaches, what better time is there to spend a few minutes reflecting together on our past year of teaching writing within the Literacy Collaborative framework? Reflection is the key to becoming a reflective practitioner, and it is at the heart of a growth mindset.
Let’s party! I am excited about all the growth I saw in my first graders this year…students who are able to write and write and write…students who consistently write 25-30 minutes daily…students who are plain excited about writing. My biggest celebration is the ability of students to draw on a repertoire of strategies when writing. Where I notice this most often is when students have choice writing time or when they are in the Writing MIL (managed independent learning centers). Students create something, such as a paper airplane, and then write a “how-to” paper to teach their friends how to make it. During Share Out, they want to read what they wrote, they want to display their item with the accompanying paper. That is authentic writing! These students were drawing upon their understanding of procedural texts and how they work, especially the form of “how-to” writing. Another students write and illustrate stories about an animal they know a lot about, using their understanding of informational writing. Other students write stories with a strong lead; students add dialogue and descriptive words and sound words! I’m celebrating because these students are using a repertoire of strategies when writing. I’m celebrating because they are much farther in their writing practice than I thought they could be by the end of the year. I’m celebrating because they are a community of writers.
While reflecting, the area I believe that needs shored up is an area in which I still struggle. I struggle with having the writing not feel “perfect” at the end of the story. All the theory about lifting the writer is in my head, and I really believe it in my heart, but–I will own this to teacher pride–it just doesn’t necessarily look like something that I think parents will look at and say, “Wow!” I haven’t worked out how to balance the lifting of the writer and the final project. Now, don’t get me wrong, we have “published” projects like the Franklin stories and the Awesome Author books (animal research writing), and the final projects are amazing, but the stories I’m excited about may not look like much to the “outside world.” These everyday stories are the ones that show the fledgling writers trying out new strategies, taking risks, and being, oh, so excited. Oh, well, this is definitely an area to shore up…at least in my own way of thinking.
As I reflect on next year, my goal is to integrate mentor texts more fully into my instruction. I want to be like Carl Anderson and have a little stash of books ready to go in conferences. Like him, I want to develop my go-to books, complete with sticky notes to mark the pages, pages with clear examples of powerful writer’s craft and elaboration. My goal is to use those mentor texts to help lift my writers. I’ll let you know how well I meet my goal next year.
I hope you’ll join me in a moment of reflection.