March 8

New Year, New Kids, New Blog Post

2018 has already brought me so much change. I have had a change in year level and have moved from teaching year 1s to now teaching year 1/2s. I have lost my amazing co teacher Danni not only to another class but to another school (I’m so very sad but, so, so happy for her!), I have a good friend Kellie co teaching our class on my day off and I also have had the challenge of keeping some of my students from last year. Some things have stayed the same though, I am still working next door to my work bestie Marcia and we are continuing to challenge each other and team teach to bring out the best in ourselves and the best in our students. We are also super lucky that our other neighbor Lynley has year 1’s this year and we are working more collaboratively with her.

When planning for Writer’s Workshop this year, Marcia and I were extremely mindful we were keeping approximately 10 students and we wanted to ensure that we took into account their prior knowledge as well as catering for the needs of our new bookmaking students.

In 2017 we were inspired by Angela and Sharon from our Writer’s Workshop inquiry group and their “Ideas Book” that they used with their students. We trialed this last year but I don’t think utilized it to its full potential. We said to ourselves we would use it better this year and we already have. We introduced the Ideas Book during our very first Writer’s Workshop lesson. We brainstormed knee to knee and then as a large group what is an author and wrote down all the things we knew.  Instead of brainstorming this on large butcher paper as we have in the past our students brainstormed this into their own “Ideas Book”. I then photocopied some of their ideas to collate into a page in my floor book.

After this initial brainstorm, Marcia and I gave our students a blank book with a pink cover and asked them to be an author. We didn’t give them any other instructions but this. Like previous years, this book has become our raw data sample of what our students could do in the second week of year 1 or year 2. We have filed this book away in our student record folders to refer to and compare to future bookmaking at a later date.

Making the decision to begin a new floor book was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I had put a lot of work into my floor book in 2017 and used it consistently with my kids but at the end of the day my current students didn’t own it and I wasn’t sure if their journey would be the same considering I had year 2’s in my class to cater for.

The following lesson saw another entry into our idea’s book. We posed the question “what could you write a book about?” again, we had the students chat with their neighbour about what they could write about and then we asked the students to write or draw as many ideas as possible into their books in 10 minutes. After 10 minutes Marcia asked the students to stop, stand up and go and share the ideas they had recorded with two people. The students were then given another 5 minutes to record some more ideas that maybe they hadn’t thought of. I also copied some of these ideas for our class floor book. When our students had finished their brainstorm they continued on with their pink books.

 

 

Writer’s Workshop lessons for the next couple of weeks consisted of us letting the students just write and draw in their initial books without too much influence or input from us. As more and more students “finished” their pink books and moved on to their second books we had a mini lesson on the features of books. Students browsed lots of different types of books. After browsing time we discussed as a whole group what they noticed and then moved off to record their noticings in their ideas books.

These features of books were revisited with a focus on picture books using a mentor text and my floor book during the next lesson. We asked the students whether they thought they would need to have these features on their books for them to be finished, and they agreed that they would. Previously Marcia and I would give the students a publishing lanyard saying they had published a book when they had finished. This year we have decided that not every book would get one. We agreed that to get one, students would have had to have made attempts on working on their strategies and have also incorporated elements of our mini lessons in their bookmaking. We also thought if no attempt was made after a nudge or a bit of encouragement a “finished” label would just go inside the front cover with the date. This will help us keep track of how many books are being made, how much effort is being put in and whether students are responding to the nudge of what to work on next.

In previous years our mini lessons were based around a focus author’s of the month. We have found this to be a great way of immersing our students in lots of quality books and expose them to many different authors and their craft’s. We thought Julia Donaldson was a great author to begin this year with as not only does she have some amazing books; some of our students are having difficulty in producing and recognising rhyme. To begin this lesson we borrowed as many Julia Donaldson books as we could from our school library. In pairs, the students looked at a various Julia Donaldson books before sharing with the whole group what they noticed. Marcia and I recorded these in our floor book with the true examples they found in the books they were browsing. A copy of this was then glued into our student’s ideas book.

 

This term Marcia and I have also been fortunate enough for Margy our Assistant Principal and EALD expert come in and work with us for one lesson per week. Margy posed the question to our students “what is a sentence” to which our students shared with her what they knew. Margy then explained to our students what a verb was and said to them “if you don’t have a verb in your sentence, then it is not a sentence”. We then spent about 5 minutes in groups looking at different sentences and picking out the verbs. During our writing time we asked the students to focus on the verbs in their sentences and share them during share time at the end of our lesson.

 

Last year we had our students illustrate an alphabet frieze to replace our commercial one and I made alphabet sound cards from these illustrations which our kids regularly used. During the first week of us implementing Writer’s Workshop we laminated copies of these for our students but we found within a week or so of them having them that they weren’t using them very well and some of them seemed to be confused by some of the illustrations. We wondered if this was because they did not create or own them. We decided we would have our current students illustrate their own sound cards to replace the copies from last year in the hope they would use them more as they would have a greater connection to them. Here is a sample of them. We were pretty impressed with what they created.

One of our last mini lessons to date was around conferencing and strategy cards. We discussed with the students that during writing time Marcia and I would be conferencing with individual students. We explained this would mean we would be listening to students read their books, looking for things that are great in their books and giving students strategies to  make their books even better. These strategies to work on will be given to our students during our conferencing sessions in the form of our wonderful Danni’s strategy cards. We really could not run Writer’s Workshop without these. Each student will have their own personalised strategy cards that they will keep on a ring in their Writer’s Workshop folder to refer to during writing time.

(You can purchase them here if you are interested https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210 )

It has been an extremely busy start to the year. I think I have captured most things we have touched on. Hope it’s helpful for those of you reading along! I have made it my goal to write more regularly this year, so I promise, promise, promise, I will write again very soon.

Happy writing!

Julie

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 5

Matt Glover comes to Adelaide

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.

Julie

 

June 12

Where has the time gone?

I often feel like the days drag on but the weeks seem to fly by. So much seems to have happened in writer’s workshop since my last post including meeting up with the study group, continuing on with our normal day to day writer’s workshop program, moderating writing samples ready to write reports and running training at work. In this post I will write about the study group, moderating our writing samples and the training Danni and I ran at work. I will post about our latest mini lessons in the coming days.

I really enjoy being part of Lisa Burman’s Writing in the Early Years study group. It confirms for me, that Danni, Marcia and I doing a great job. It makes us feel valued and we love sharing our ideas and hearing what is happening in other classes across Adelaide. It is also a fabulous way of connecting with like minded passionate teachers and broadening our professional network.  We always leave these sessions on such a high and look forward to getting back into the classroom and trying new things. After the last session, Katie our fabulous facilitator shared with us a youtube video of Matt Glover conferencing with a child called Isabella. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGPr1V8jgiw I loved the way Matt Glover listened to Isabella and then reread the book back to her. We then watched Isabella part two https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YReYm0jx88 and I really loved the way Matt Glover then demonstrated to Isabella how she could read her book with more information adding more detail. This video immediately made me think of a few students in my class who I could be doing this with to extend their oral vocabulary and their story telling skills. We are off to see Matt Glover in a masterclass on Thursday and can’t wait!

It’s that time of year again, report writing time! Marcia, Danni, Bethany and I spent a day last fortnight moderating work samples ready to write reports and allocate grades. A couple of years ago Marcia and I created a spreadsheet that broke down the achievement outcomes of the Australian Curriculum for both Maths and English in year one. We use this on a regular basis to map our kids achievements in each of these areas and as we finish units of learning. Last year, we looked more closely at the English curriculum and mapped out where exactly writer’s workshop fits in. We were initially amazed at how much of the Australian Curriculum we cover by implementing writer’s workshop in our classes and wondered how we were actually covering it all when we were weren’t bookmaking!

At the beginning of the year we kept each of our student’s first books for the year which we put in their profile books. It was timely to pull those out and see the amazing growth when comparing to their current writing.

A couple of weeks ago we had a student free day at school and Danni and I were asked whether we would be keen on sharing our knowledge about writer’s workshop with some of the school’s ancillary staff. We agreed and created a presentation for staff focussing specifically on what writer’s workshop is and what in particular they can do to help us  and our students during these lessons. We talked around the purpose of writer’s workshop and the three components lessons are made up of  – explicit mini-lessons, writing/ bookmaking time and refection time. We were clear about there being common agreed rules during our bookmaking including students having the right to choose what they write about, adults not being permitted to write in student’s books and students are not allowed to use erasers. We discussed the best way to record conversations or teaching points that ancillary staff may encounter when they are working with students and we also talked about how our student’s strategy cards can be used to help support them in their writing.

I’ve still got lots to share about our latest mini lessons. So will post again soon.

Happy Writing!

Julie

 

 

March 22

I have lots to tell you!

I always knew when I started writing this blog that time would be the biggest obstacle in sharing my practice.  So it is really no surprise here I am, almost a month since my last post with lots to share. There will be too much to share in this one post so I will post today and try and post again in the coming days with the rest.

Adding Detail to Pictures

The mini lesson that followed the colouring in mini lesson was about adding detail to pictures. Danni taught this lesson to the students and began by showing the students a lone dog on a page. She then drew the same dog adding more detail to the expression on his face and to the background. The students could see that be adding more detail to our pictures we can see what is happening without even reading the words.

Conferencing

Conferencing was our next mini lesson. We were finding conferencing difficult with the constant interruptions from our students. We thought it was timely that we explicitly discussed what the students thought should and shouldn’t happen during conferencing time. We also brainstormed things the students could do if they finish their book but the teacher is busy conferencing. The students have responded quite well to this mini lesson and we are being interrupted less and less.

 

Maintaining Consistent Characters

Maintaining consistent characters throughout our bookmaking was proving difficult for some of our students. With some students making books that are hugely disconnected and chop and change from one story to another. We read the students Eric Carle’s “The Very Busy Spider” and discussed as we read how the spider was the main character in the story and even though she changed position or she may of looked a little different from page to page, she was still the same character. We pointed out how some characters in the story only appeared for a short amount of time and that was ok but there always needed to be at least one consistent character.

Author of the Month for March ~ Lynley Dodd

Marcia and I introduced our new author of the month for March by showing the students a picture of the front cover of Hairy Maclary on the whiteboard. Some of the students were excited as they were familiar with this book and some of the students were able to read the author’s name. We explained to the students that like Eric Carle, Lynley Dodd was an author and an illustrator. We asked the students what they noticed about Lynley Dodd herself and then handed out copies of Lynley Dodd’s books to pairs of students to carefully look at. After students had looked at their first book they swapped with another pair. This continued for about 10 minutes before we drew the students back in and brainstormed what the students noticed about Lynley Dodd’s books and her craft of writing. It was exciting to see the students drawing on and using the technical language we have been using in our writer’s workshop lessons, with students noticing Lynley Dodd’s books have blurbs, she uses detail in her pictures and some of the books had the same characters.

That’s all I have for tonight. There is lots more to come in the coming days. Thanks for continuing to check in and read our journey. I hope it is helping and inspiring some of you.

Julie

 

 

 

 

February 22

Colouring in

On Monday, Danni and Marcia looked at colouring in with the students. We had been noticing some students were rushing their illustrations and colouring over them with one colour rather than colouring them in with many. Danni demonstrated what good colouring looked like and didn’t look like. She then got the students to brainstorm what they notice about good colouring in.

All the students then practiced colouring in their own picture of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” to show how well they could actually colour illustrations. When the students were finished, we shrunk their pictures down on the photocopier and displayed them in our journal.

February 15

Introducing our sound card

We began today’s lesson by asking the students what things they have learnt during our writer’s workshop mini lessons this term. As we did this we flipped back through our class journal and found the things they were remembering. We then introduced the sound card we had created. This was created by inserting all of the students pictures from the alphabet freeze we made into a word document. I also added in the first 50 Oxford sight words to try to help and encourage students to spell these familiar words correctly.   Marcia began by explaining to the students that we wanted them to have a go by writing the sounds they could hear in a word. For example if you wanted to write the word “volcano” we want you to say the word and write the first sound you can hear… Eg.. “V” then any other sounds you can hear… “vcano”… We then we’re very clear that we didn’t mind if they made mistakes or of things were not spelt correctly, we just wanted them to have a go.

We sent all the students off for 10 minutes of solid writing and we were so excited to see the kids using the charts and sounding and stretching out words to themselves.