Arghh!! What can I say? Where do I start? What an amazing day of training. My wonderful colleagues, Marcia and Danni and I had been looking forward to seeing Matt Glover since our tickets were bought back in March and it did not disappoint.
There were lots of take aways from the day as well as lots of validations that we are doing some things really well. I loved hearing about doing things ‘ishly’ and the importance of honouring approximations and then gently nudging, nudge, by nudge, by nudge.
I had a bit of an ah-ha moment when Matt Glover talked about composition and conventions. Especially when he discussed the notion that your ability to compose is what helps you write beautiful pieces of writing. This made me reflect on my practice and realise that even though composition often outweighs conventions for beginning writers I think I put a lot of pressure on my students to work on their writing conventions more than their composition.
Stories Vs Lists was my next take away. I had never thought about books being sorted into these two categories however, since attending the training I am beginning to subconsciously sort them. Before this training I also had this misconception that those kids that were writing list books over and over again needed to learn how to write a “story”. I now see that its ok that kids write list books and list books don’t necessarily mean they are simple books or books that are less superior to stories.
What’s in your stack and teaching during conferencing using your stack of mentor texts was probably my biggest take away for the day and my biggest area for growth. To be honest, I was in awe watching the videos of Matt Glover conferencing with a child and then being able to pull out his well used mentor texts to address that child’s particular needs in what seemed like seconds. I immediately thought “I can’t do that, I’ve got too many books in my stack, I don’t know my mentor books that well and where do I get myself a non-fiction book like that about frogs”… So during these upcoming holidays I think I really need to do some thinking into what kind of stack I need next term, and some research and reading of books to condense my stack and make it more manageable.
I had also thought I’d been conferencing pretty well, I knew what books the kids were working on, I knew what writing strategy they were working on and I was touching base with all of my students fortnightly if not weekly. But after listening to Matt, I realised the thing that was missing from my great conferencing was the teaching point. I had been doing lots of reminding or telling the students what they could do next in their book or work on or improve but, most of the time I had been leaving out the teaching element. So, when I was back in the classroom the following week, I set myself a goal to try this out. I hadn’t refined my stack however I did have a book that I had been writing and thought that would be my initial go to book. The girl that was my first guinea pig was a girl that had gone from writing random strings of letters to writing phonemically correct words using a sound card in a term. Unfortunately the book she was reading to me was a finished book, this is not really where I like to see the kids during conferencing but I was rolling with it anyway. I noticed throughout the whole book she had random capital letters throughout her words (I know, I know, a convention not a composition point, but it was where I initially felt comfortable) and I pointed this out to her. I explained to her that capital letters are something we use at the beginning of a sentence or for the name of something. I then asked her if it was ok if I wrote a page in my own book quickly and teach her how to fix it. She was keen and I quickly scribed a couple of sentences in my book with some random capitals letters. I then asked her to help me find the capitals that were in the wrong spots and using a pen I corrected them. After showing her this, I suggested she get a pen and try doing what I did. Within 5 minutes she had been back through her whole book and had edited the incorrect capitals into lowercase letters. For me this was so powerful and her and her book became the discussion point in our share time at the end of the lesson.
I felt really validated about student choice and feel that this is something we do extremely well. I also felt really good about the writing workshop structure that Matt discussed and thought we were on point with the timings he suggested and the elements involved. For me, sharing time is something I continue to need improvement in despite understanding the value and importance of it. Unfortunately it just seems to drop off most days and I know I need to be more conscious of using this time to consolidate teaching points using student’s writing.
So in conclusion the day left me feeling energised and excited. We had been left with areas for growth within our delivery and we also felt great about those things we are doing well. If you ever get the chance to listen to Matt Glover please do yourself a favour and do it! You wont regret it.