Arghhh! I am so embarrassed my last post was in March. Where has the time gone? So much has happened since my last post so I will try and fill you all in!
Our following mini lessons back in Term 1 were… How to get a Publishing Lanyard, Conferencing, Colouring in and Grammar with Ms Margy.
As a class we discussed what makes a quality published book. I then introduced our publishing lanyards and we brainstormed these quality features in our floor book. I explained to our students that we might add to this list as we learn more about the crafts of writing.
By mid Term 1, conferencing was well under way, but a mini lesson was needed to establish some group norms for conferencing as I was constantly being interrupted. We decided that everyone deserved uninterrupted conferencing time whether it be with Julie, Marcia or Mary our EALD support teacher. We brainstormed and recorded our norms around conferencing and found since having this discussion conferencing became much easier.
Following up from our mini lesson about what makes a quality published book; a mini lesson was needed around what good colouring in looks like. I had noticed many students rushing to get their illustrations finished and not putting in 100% effort. I began this lesson by demonstrating scribbly colouring of one of my pictures and then coloured in a copy of the same picture in carefully and neatly. I asked the students to discuss with the person next to them which picture they liked better and why. This discussion was then fed back to the whole group and recorded in our floor book. I asked students if they had an example of good colouring in, to share it with me so we could celebrate it in our floor book.
Ms Margy our Assistant Principal continued to come in once a week until the end of Term 1 to work with mine and Marcia’s classes, to discuss and explore all things grammar. We had discussions around what verbs, adjectives and nouns were and participated in many activities such as finding the verbs in sentences, using capital letters for nouns of places and people and adding adjectives to our writing to make our writing more interesting.
Marcia and I decided we would have a Non -Fiction focus in Term 2, particularly to meet the needs of our year 2 students. This genre tied in really well with our Science topic for the term which was “Living Things”. To begin this topic we asked the students what a non-fiction book is? Together on our interactive whiteboard through our Reading Eggs account we read our mentor text “Frogs” by Gary Underwood. We then brainstormed all the features we noticed in this book, labeling them in our floor book to be able to reference at a later date.
We then decided as we had some live tadpoles in our building to link in with our Science topic we would get all of our students to write a frog book. We encouraged students to use the features of non fiction books that we had observed in Gary Underwood’s book. We decided this time to deliberately take the topic choice away from the students so they could become familiar with writing non-fiction texts without the pressure of them having to source information as well as write in a new format. After rereading Gary Underwood’s Reading Eggs Frog book we brainstormed all the things you would find in a frog book. All students then began their frog books focusing only on front covers, back covers and content’s pages.
Marcia and I thought it was important to expose students to the term “bibliography”. We explained to our students this is where you record where you sourced your information from. We all added Gary Underwood’s Frog book to our bibliography. We also discussed during this time, the importance of putting facts you read into your own words and not copying from texts as this is illegal.
These frog books proved to be very time consuming and at times stressful. During this time we really struggled to conference with students and check in with students about what they were up to outside of mini-lessons and quick debriefing times. A lot of time for us was sucked up finding information about frogs on ipads, loading the Reading Eggs’ mentor text and troubleshooting technical problems. After asking for some advice through our Writing Inquiry group, it was suggested that other people start non- fiction texts with topics that the kids are really familiar with, in the form of a how to book. After this was pointed out to us, this made so much sense and this was our next direction.
Marcia and I soon introduced the students to the concept of how to books. We began this lesson with a simple discussion asking our students what things do you know how to do really well? We then said in the famous words of Matt Glover “you could write a book about that”. This would be a how to book, it would teach us how to do something and can be a procedure of small steps.
After our inital discussion we asked our students to pick one thing that they were really good at and write it inside a bubble in their ideas book. We then demonstrated how you could have lines coming off of that bubble with all the steps of how to do that particular thing and in turn asked the students to go back and plan their how to books using this planning method.
We noticed student engagement rise again once we moved from the frog books to the how to books with the return of student choice within topic. We also noticed how much more time we had to get back to conferencing. I am not sure how I would do this next time, I think maybe I would do this in reverse and start with the how to books and then move on to the non-fiction information texts. I suppose for me, it felt in those first few weeks of Term 2 that we weren’t really doing Writer’s Workshop in its true form. We were just doing “research” during bookmaking time. Maybe when tackling this type of writing again it would have to be writing about an experience or the research component would be done during a different time and would then integrate into Writer’s Workshop?
We are currently 4 weeks into term 3 and our focus for this term has been persuasive texts. We began this spotlight genre study by using Mo Willems’ “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” We asked the students to notice as I read to pay particular attention to what the pigeon is doing. Our students discussed this with the person next to them before brainstorming with the wider group all the things they noticed. They pointed out the pigeon was trying to convince us, force us, beg us and persuade us to let him drive the bus. We explained this type of writing is persuasive writing. Students recorded their noticings into their ideas books.
We then posed the question, what if we borrowed Mo Willems’ idea from this book and had our own “Don’t let the — Drive the —” creating an innovation on text by changing the animal and the transport? What could we think of? what could drive the what? This created a lot of excitement, laughter and mad recording of ideas. We then asked students to choose their favourite idea to become their next book.
Marcia then found this great YouTube clip on what is persuasive writing. We showed this to our kids to reinforce that persuasive writing does not always have to be Pigeon books.
Our final mini lesson to date has been around brainstorming persuasive topics about things that we feel, think or believe strongly about. We shared these orally and these will be the stimulus for our next bookmaking books.
That now brings you up to date with the things that have been happening in our Writer’s Workshop lessons. I hope sharing our journey has been helpful.