During the school holidays our school was painted. This meant at the end of last year, everything had to come down off the walls. Our school uses Jolly Phonics in the Early Years and for as long as I have been at the school I have had a Jolly Phonics sound freeze hung around the top of my classroom. This year we decided rather than hang the commercial freeze back up we would get the kids to create their own. We decided to include the Jolly Phonics blends as well as the alphabet. I’ve inserted a small sample below and I think you will agree the end result is amazing. (Much better than the commercial poster!)
My next job is to photograph them all and make them into a double sided sound card. We will then give each student a laminated copy to go in their Writer’s Workshop plastic pocket to refer to when writing.
On Thursday we introduced our author of the month for February. We began by showing the students the front covers of a number of Eric Carle’s books and got them to read the titles with us if they could. We had looked at about four or five of them before one of the students noticed that they all had a C on the top right hand corner. Then another student noticed they were all written by Eric Carle. We explained that’s why there was a C on the covers of the books and if they were someone else’s books they would have a different letter at the top corner. For example, I would have a R for Roether and Marcia would have a F for Fraser.
Marcia then pulled up a photo on the interactive whiteboard of Eric Carle and we asked the students what they noticed. This lead to a lot of discussion and questions such as, Where was he born? Where does he live? How old is he? How old was he when he wrote his first book? How old was he when he wrote his last book? We answered some of these questions there and then with the students. We then moved on to reading his book ” ‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ said the Sloth “.
After that, the students spent a short amount of time working on their own books before having to pack up for P.E.
Later that afternoon, I put an author of the month display up with some of the questions asked. We will add to this as needed.
Today Marcia and I introduced Writer’s Workshop to our students. We began by asking them the following questions.
What is an author?/ What do authors do?
After a lot of discussion we clarified with the students that authors are the writers of books. We introduced the word illustrator also at this stage and asked what this person does. We also made sure we pointed out that some authors are also illustrators.
Do you know any authors?
Our students didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge around the names of authors with only one author mentioned at this point. (Nick Bland) We are hoping to build on their little knowledge by having an author of the month. This month’s author will be Eric Carle and we will begin to unpack his craft of writing tomorrow.
We then posed the question…
What can authors write about?
This created a lot of discussion. We brainstormed first knee to knee with a partner and then as a whole group before splitting into groups of three to brainstorm on large paper all the things authors can write about.
We then regrouped together on the carpet and announced that this year in our classes we will be authors and we will start today. The students were able to select a pink ready made book (small, medium or large) and begin writing or illustrating. We said to the students that today they could write about what ever they wanted. Before they started we then pointed out though that authors are not allowed to copy books that have already been made. For example, you can’t write a story exactly the same about “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” because that’s Eric Carle’s story. We explained that you can borrow ideas from authors through and if they really liked that idea they could write a story about “The Very Hungry… something else.
The student’s were then able to go off and write and draw for 15 minutes.
After this time we regrouped on the carpet and two students were selected to share what they had done during Writer’s Workshop today. After share time we asked the students to file their work in progress books into their Writer’s Workshop pockets in their drawers ready to work on tomorrow.
The last two weeks feel like a blur and the list of things to do seems to be getting longer and longer. One of the first things on my list was to get my conferencing folder set up for when I begin Writer’s Workshop this week.
Last year I used a ring bound folder with tabs. Each student had their own tab and section where I recorded notes on lined paper about their books when I conferenced with them. For those students who’s books were wordless I used this to scribe their book as they read the pictures and for those who had words in their books, I used this folder to record current strengths and strategies to work on.
I decided that this folder seemed to be quite big and bulky so this year I have opted to use a display folder. I have kept the tabs so each student still has a pocket and an area for me to keep notes.
Marcia, Danni and I decided that this year we would use a template rather than blank paper to record our notes. This actually stemmed from a fabulous idea that one of our student teachers (Tiffany) initiated last year on her placement. We like this format as it gives us a clearer idea at a quick glance about how many books the students have made and shows us an overview of the student’s strategies.
The other thing that I have put in our folder is a schedule. This ensures we have focus students for each day and that in theory all students will be seen each week. We began doing this towards the end of last year as we were finding we were seeing the same students all the time and unfortunately some students were slipping through and not being seen at all. As I work part time, it also gave us a clearer picture of who was conferencing with who.
At the end of last year I made the decision that I would blog about my practice and my student’s progress in Writer’s Workshop. There are not a great deal of blogs out there specifically on this topic and I thought I could write one… so here I am.
I am hoping, I will use this blog as a record of lessons taught, to share challenges that arise and hopefully instil motivation in others. I don’t believe I know all there is to know about Writer’s Workshop and am continually changing and adapting the way I do things to better my practice, for my students. Last year, I was part of a Writing study group facilitated by Lisa Burman. Being part of this group helped confirm to me that I was on the right track with what I have been doing in Writer’s Workshop with my students and it was also a great sounding board for sharing of ideas, challenges, problems and successes. I am looking forward to continuing to participate in the study group this year.
This year I will be teaching a year 1 class and will be going into school next week to set up my learning area. I have been using Writer’s Workshop to teach writing in my class for the last 3 years and each year seem to refine how I do this. For the first two years it was just me and my work bestie Marcia that were doing Writer’s Workshop with our students. We saw, and continue to see, great value in what Writer’s Workshop instilled in our students. Student’s saw themselves as authors, as writers, as illustrators and as editors. We very quickly saw the shift in power from the old style writing we had been doing from teacher to student. The students were in control now, and we needed to do our very best to support them by through conferencing and targeted mini-lessons.
In our third year of teaching Writer’s Workshop (last year) Marcia and I (as we both work part time) were both paired with Danni, the most amazing graduate teacher you will meet. Danni quickly shared our love for Writer’s Workshop and could see the benefits in teaching writing this way. This was great for Marcia and I as it meant that Writer’s Workshop could continue seamlessly throughout the week, regardless of who the teacher was on that particular day.
Towards the end of last year our school began running PLTs (Professional Learning Teams) around different practices around the school. Writer’s Workshop became a focus and we had a large number of teachers at our site seeing value in it and trying it out in their classrooms. Many finished the PLT process saying they will be continuing to use Writer’s Workshop to teach writing with their new classes in 2017.
So I look forward to sharing with you what this year brings for me, my students and my colleagues.