I’m joining up with Ruth Ayres for her weekly link-up, Celebrate This Week. Check out all of the posts linked up at her blog HERE.
This week I want to celebrate two very special events – one inside the classroom and one outside.
The first was one of those spontaneous ideas that turned into something truly amazing. If you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know this year I’m focusing on improving my teaching of writing. It’s my goal, my focus and also my frustration! I’m working with Ruth, trying to wrap my head around what I already know about teaching writing and how that fits with our new curriculum. Last week our students dissected owl pellets – always an exciting event in the classroom. They really enjoy being scientific ‘detectives’; identifying and categorizing what they find in each pellet. To connect with this work that was happening in my partner teacher’s room, I decided to take a break from our narrative writing unit and try some poetry. When I teach poetry, I always tell my students “There are no rules”. They love the freedom that comes with this genre – “You mean I don’t have to use a capital letter at all?!”, “It doesn’t have to rhyme?”, and my favorite “I don’t even have to write in straight lines?!” Something special happens when we give students the freedom to write without the boundaries. Their confidence soars and their creativity shines through.
I began with a mini lesson using a mentor text Water Dance by Thomas Locker. This wonderful picture book uses the phrase “I am….” at the end of each page. We discussed the power of this phrase and how it gave the writing a lyrical quality. To help with inspiration, we made a list of words describing owls on chart paper. The only instruction I gave my students about writing their poems was that it should include the words “I am the owl” somewhere in the text – to line up with our Mentor Text. Their excitement was palpable and students worked enthusiastically on their poems. The finished products were truly wonderful and I was so proud of their work. We completed this writing project in two days and my students were thrilled to see their published work up on the wall with their owl directed drawing. It is so important to me that there is not a long space of time between pre-writing and publishing at the beginning of the school year. I truly believe this gives my students a sense of accomplishment and pride and motivates them to keep writing ever more complex pieces. They need to see their work finished and displayed in order to move ahead.
My second celebration is very close to my heart. On Friday night I received this email from one of last year’s students:
This young man did not really enjoy reading when he came to me at the beginning of last school year. By the end of the year, he was reading every day and joined my Breakfast with Books Bookclub. He loved coming and talking about books with me and his classmates. When I read this email, it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help but think about Donalyn Miller’s book Reading in the Wild
I know this young man is now a ‘wild reader’. And I am truly celebrating.
Have a great week and remember to look for your own celebrations. Big or small, they keep us feeling positive about what we do and your joy will show in your teaching.