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.