February 20

2021 it’s so nice to see you!

So, over a year has passed since my last post and so much has changed not only in the world during this time but also in my teaching career. 2020 brought us lock downs, home schooling and uncertainty. It also brought me a period of time in which my Writer’s Workshop floor books took a back seat to my Maths floor books. I felt torn between my two mentors, Lisa Burman and Lisa Jane O’Connor and my new love of Maths verses my first love of Bookmaking ūü§£. Writer‚Äôs Workshop had been my safe place for so long that it was timely that it was Maths‚Äô turn to get a look in. I must have done okay on my Maths journey as I was awarded the Primary Mathematics Association Pam Meredith Award for outstanding reflective writing and my class won the state award in the class category for the documentation of ‘Our Mathematics Learning’. As proud as I am for this achievement it came at the cost of my beautiful Writing floor books.

No matter what subject area, I have found my floor books to be a valuable resource for my teaching. Lots of time goes into copying photos, work samples as well as recording and transcribing conversations that are then included in my floor books. The more up to date the floor book the better. They are great to be able to use with the children as revision of what we have learnt or discussed in the mini lesson before or to build on with the next concept or nudge. Whether it be English or Mathematics the concept is entirely the same. I have also found the more images you put in of the children and their work samples the more they become connected to the reading of the floor book and the learning that it is representing. Last year I would constantly be asked, ‚Äėcould you take a photo of this for the floor book‚Äô or when taking photos, ‚Äėwill that be in the floor book?‚Äô.

During 2020 I had year 1s, 2s and 3s in my group and it was the first time I had dabbled in Writer’s Notebook. Having been a Bookmaking lover for so long, I was sure that this Notebooking gig was going to be a piece of cake. It was for some… but not others… The Bookmakers in my group tended to be mainly the year 1s and year 2s. They still had a love for illustrations and for some, they were still embarking on their writing journey. Most of my year 3s and a couple of year 2s were hungry for something more. They wanted to write more than they wanted to illustrate and they needed a new challenge. As I was inexperienced in Notebooking, I had many a conversations with experienced teachers at my site about the right approach for this and my colleague Cassia, was kind enough to share her Writer’s Notebook with me. As with Bookmaking we make books with the children to use as mentor texts, we also need to have our own Writer’s Notebook to share with the children and use as a teaching tool.

During Writer’s Workshop lessons, children in my class could choose between writing in their Notebook if they had one or making a Bookmaking book. The kids knew, just because you had a Notebook you didn’t have to use it all the time. It was okay to interchange between the two mediums and the mini lessons within our spotlight studies allowed for this to happen. On top of our regular Writer’s Workshop time, I was offering those children with Notebooks 2 extra 30min lessons a week in which we solely wrote in our Notebook. I called this ‘Notebook Club’ and initially our first objective was to build writing stamina. This was achieved through continuing writing within their Notebook of their own choice and regular quick writes, in which children were given a very broad topic or image to write about. However as the year progressed Notebook club was also used to practise our typing skills to publish writing from our Notebooks on the schools’ Chrome Books.

Fast forward to 2021 and already so much has changed. At the beginning of the school year, I resigned from the Department for Education after 16 years as a public school teacher and jumped at the opportunity to be part of an amazing group of educators who started a new independent school from scratch. Fortunately, both mentors, Lisa Burman and Lisa Jane O’Connor have come along for the ride, so I will continue to find myself trying to find the balance between English and Maths.

This year I have year 3s and 4s. It has been quite a while since I have taught this age group, but in saying this there are a large number of learners within this group that I have taught before and I have great relationships with. In some ways, I am ahead of the game because I know who lots of these kids are as learners already.

I started the year thinking that I would have a mix of kids using Notebooks and doing Bookmaking. Having this thought in the back of my mind, I bought plastic pockets for all of my children to store their Bookmaking in, as well as supplying every child with a blank exercise book for their ideas. I then bought enough Writer’s Notebooks for about half of my class. Now after 3 weeks of school, I am wanting to start again! I wish I did things differently! Argh!

Our first lesson of writing I called Bookmaking. We spent time talking about authors. Who they are and what they do. Thankfully many of my children already identified themselves as an author! Hooray! I then gave every child their ideas book and asked them to brainstorm things about themselves. Once they had done this they received a blank Bookmaking book and I asked them to make a book about themselves.

I’m not sure to be honest if I have given children a topic to write about for their first book before, however, I decided it was important at this point to establish who we were and it gave me extra insight into those children that were new in my care. This book will also become my base line data to measure writing growth as the year progresses. We continued to work on these books over the coming weeks as well as having mini lessons around the features of books, conferencing and working in our ideas books to make lists of things we liked and disliked. I had discussions with the children that some of them would receive a Notebook to write in this year and some children were very pleased to hear this as they had one in the past.

After the children finished their ‘All About Me’ books, some children were given Notebooks as they asked and I could see that they were ready for them. I soon ran out of Notebooks and this is when things became a little messy. Some children who didn’t receive a Notebook really needed one and others who probably really needed one to nudge their writing to the next level refused to have one. Handing out of the ‘Bookmaking’ folders became a messy time, with these being stored in a different place to the Notebooks and children handing out folders that were not needed began to make a huge messy pile of folders on the floor as Writer’s Notebooks were the preferred medium.

I went home and tried to work out how to make this more efficient… I decided that instead of an ideas book, I really should have given all children a Notebook as the things they had been recording in their ideas books could have easily been recorded in their Notebooks as ‘quick writes’ as well as the plastic pocket they already received to store any Bookmaking books that they choose to make or work on. Of course as I decided this would have been the better way to operate we tried getting more Notebooks the same as the ones I had already from our stationery supplier and of course they didn’t have any in stock. So I will have to try hit the shops tomorrow. I am then thinking I might remove the couple of entries we have started in our ideas book and glue into our Notebooks. I don’t know if this is the best thing to do, but at least then there is some element of sameness. Especially as the ideas book has become a bit unnecessary for the Notebookers.

On another note, these are the Notebooks I bought initially for my kids, and I’m just not sure of the longevity of them. I’ve already had a couple of kids have some pages begin to tare out as they have been a bit heavy with them. I think in the future, something with a sturdier spine would be a better option. Let me know what Notebooks you use with your class? I think I regret buying these ones…

Happy Writing,

‚̧ Julie

 

May 13

New Year, New Class, New School…

Before I started blogging this writing journey of mine and my students, I assumed blogging was easy. I would read blogs and think to myself… Why don’t¬†people write about what we do?¬†I could¬†do that, I could write a blog. How hard could it be?

Then I started and wow! was I wrong…

The writing part seemed fairly easy but it was the time management of it all that caught me off guard. I had hoped this blog would¬†be somewhere I could share the writing journey of both¬†the kids in my class¬†and also my thoughts, wonderings and questions. I had hoped¬†my new posts would magically ping into inboxes around the world at least twice a term and I would network with people who had the same passion, the same questions and same wonderings. I had hoped that people out there in the real world, those who like me are still in the classroom, facing these kids day in day out, might even have some insights and answers to my questions. Unfortunately I was kidding myself and¬†here I am 9 months since my last post thinking.. how embarrassing, where do I start?¬†Are people interested anymore in my journey? Or has the moment passed?¬†or… Maybe people are interested¬†but¬†I just need to get better at allocating time to write…

Not long after my last post I won a¬†new ongoing position at another site beginning January¬†2019. As much as I wanted this new job, It was a bittersweet moment.¬†The realisation hit me pretty quickly that I would be leaving the familiar, I would be leaving the place I had taught at for the last 8 years and I would be leaving my partner in crime, my bestie, Marcia. We had been teaching together for so long, that we just had to look at each other and know what each other was thinking. We were on the same page with everything, especially the importance of Bookmaking and Writer’s Workshop. Needless to say the end of 2018 was a bit of a blur and blogging took a back seat to saying goodbye to the familiar.

Fast Forward to January 2019 and here I was at a new school, with a new team and with 40 new faces looking up at me. My new placement involved me sharing a year 1-3 class with Toby another teacher,¬†and¬†Teresa our¬†co-educator.¬†Collectively we had 40 students. This didn’t scare me, it was really no different to the way that Marcia and I had worked for the last 6 years. I just hoped that it would be as smooth as what I was used to.

Fortunately, my new school had a school wide agreement that we did bookmaking during Writer’s Workshop and were lucky enough¬†to¬†have a¬†literacy coach in Lisa Burman. Lisa spent some time with each team in our school during week¬† 0 (our back to school week)¬†to brainstorm and plan spotlight sessions for the term and just like that, we were on our way!

There was one remarkable difference in beginning our writing journey this year, compared to previous¬†years and that was that all children in our class¬†already knew what bookmaking was and had some understanding around bookmaking routines. In the past this was not the case. At my previous site, Writer’s Workshop was not a school wide approach to writing. There were a number of teachers implementing this way or writing but there were many that were not.

Before we started our first spotlight study for the term we gave each of our children a blank book and we asked them to make a book. This first book became our baseline data for the year and was stored away to be reflected on later in the year. We gave the children a week to work on this book before beginning our mini lessons around our first spotlight study for the year which was called “Building a Community of Writers”.

“Building a Community of Writers” involved us explicitly teaching and discussing what tools we needed for Bookmaking.¬†Some of these tools also had mini lessons on how to use them. Some of these mini lessons we documented in our floor book and some we didn’t. The tools included, our bookmaking folder, our conferencing sheet,¬†an alphabet chart, pencils, lapdesks¬†and our ideas book.

In the past I have kept the children’s conferencing sheets in my own folder rather than their own. I think this was mainly because I was so scared that the children would lose them. Despite these nervous feelings, I¬†went with Toby’s suggestion of keeping them in¬†the kid’s folders and it is working a treat. It is so much easier for anyone to conference and record these conversations and teaching points with any kid because it is right there.

“Building a Community of Writers” also involved us reading books like writers. We spent time noticing when we read stories. In particular, we noticed¬†the features of picture books.¬†I wondered out loud to the children whether we could put some of these features into our own bookmaking?

From our noticing of what was happening in our bookmaking we spent some time looking at book orientation and have continued to revisit this with some students who are finding this difficult.

We spent a lot of time discussing where we think authors get ideas from. We decided authors get ideas from things they know a lot about, people they love, places they’ve been, things they do everyday, experiences they’ve had and things they love. We then introduced an idea book in which we can brainstorm some ideas for us to refer back to when we are stuck for ideas. We will also use this ideas book when we introduce planning for writing.

We didn’t begin conferencing formally straight away but when we felt we were ready to, we had a mini lesson on what conferencing looked like and why we conference. Like I’ve experienced in previous years, this year we have had the challenge of the same students wanting our attention to read their books, have a conference or wanting help so we have devised a checklist to ensure we are getting to all students and not just those that capture our attention constantly.

Sharing Circles were our next focus. We use sharing circles to share our progress in bookmaking as well as to publish books that are finished. We discussed with the children some group norms about this process. Sharing circles or reflection circles¬†as I’ve also called them, have always, always, always been an area of Writer’s Workshop I have struggled with. I am confident to run them and the children seem confident to participate in them however it always seems that we run out of time to do them. Toby and I have discussed possibly having some of them at the beginning of our bookmaking lessons rather than a mini lesson some days to help children tune back into where they are up to in their writing and to take on board and act upon any feedforward advice that may be given. This hasn’t happened yet, but¬†we have planned to have¬†it¬†happen this term. Something else I think I would also like to try this term is having a small notebook or sticky notes with me when we are in our sharing circle to note down any interesting noticings, possible teaching points or nudges¬†of our children’s writing as they share.

We spent a very short amount of time looking at colouring in and discussing what looked better on the front cover of my latest bookmaking book. This was in direct response to some children that were rushing through to “finish” and who were not taking the time they needed to complete their pictures to the best of their ability.

Being a Brave speller was our next series of mini lessons and next installment in our floor book. Toby and I had noticed that some of our children were very frightened of having a go in their spelling of unknown words as they were scared they would make a mistake. We discussed how brave spellers make mistakes and mistakes are ok. I modelled how to stretch out the sounds I could hear in words and then had the children help me find these sounds on my alphabet chart. It was during this time that we noticed, the alphabet chart we originally had was great for showing the children the correct way of forming these letters but was not so great when a kid knew they were looking for the sound “c” but didn’t know what a “c” looked like. It was at this time I created an alphabet chart with lower and upper case letters as well as a picture that started with the most common sound the letter produced. We did then spend some time trying to create our own individual alphabet charts but we found this lesson to be a total flop. On reflection I think this was mainly because we had so many children that didn’t know their letters of the alphabet and the sounds that they produced. Plus I think, even though we had split the group in half for this task, we probably needed¬†an even smaller group to be successful and focused. Time was also spent demonstrating cutting words into chunks of sounds and trying and trying again.

Some time had passed since we introduced conferencing to our children and they seemed comfortable in what it looked like and what it was for. So¬†it just seemed like the right time to introduce the wonderful Danni Porcaro’s strategy cards to them.¬†I¬†explained to the children these strategy cards (which we chose to call Writing Goal cards this year) are reminders about what things¬†they are working on to make¬†their books even better. These¬†goal cards will be given to our children during our conferencing sessions and¬†are personalised, dependent¬†on¬†their needs. Children will keep these on a ring in their Writer‚Äôs Workshop folder to refer to during writing time. (You can purchase¬†Danni’s cards¬†here if you are interested¬†https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writers-Workshop-Strategy-Cards-2964210¬†)

                

We wound up the end of term one with a series of mini lessons around adjectives. This stemmed from something I had seen in one of our children’s writing. I had noticed she was writing a book about her dog and she used some descriptive language to explain his appearance. With her permission we shared what I had noticed and I wondered whether anyone else had included adjectives into their writing. Many children said they hadn’t but they would by the end of the lesson and were willing to share what they had achieved during our sharing circle. Toby also spent some time brainstorming different adjectives with a small group of children who were ready to be nudged in this area.

and just like that… my first term at my new school was over..

Thanks for tuning in… I hope it was worth the wait?

Happy Writing!

Julie

August 16

Term 1 until now!

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!

Term 1

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.

Term 2

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?

Term 3

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.

Happy Writing!

Julie

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.