Sunday, 5 February 2017
Post #2: Applying Some Ideas from Reluctant Writers
This blog post is very late. . . .extremely late, like not even in the same month late. As some of you may remember I was struggling as my teaching partner and I already had a plan for the year and working in my new learning from PD was tricky.
I spoke to my teaching partner and leveled with her. I needed to be able to bring student work and be applying what I was learning. She was 100 percent on board and I went to task on creating a two week unit based on the first two sessions.
Elementary school is unique entity because there are so many interesting and educational things going on at all times. Case in point: we are on week three and I have only done 3 days of our two week writing unit. Why you ask? Because report cards meant we needed to wrap up other activities, one afternoon the voyageurs visited, two days there was "No Bus" days meaning students were not present, one day there was a recycling assembly. . . .the list goes on and on. It leads to some creative planning and the age old question of "how do we fit it all in?"
So although we are only on day three we actually have done about 5 days of writing. The pacing I have used has been horrible, either too long for activities or too short for others. My first a-ha moment, over planning is good, because you'll always have extra stuff to focus on. . . .and things always take longer than you think.
There have been some aha moments and I'm happy to say I'm growing as not only a teacher but as teacher of the writing craft.
1. Students are shy about their names and their roots. It takes them some time to get comfortable to share and talk about their roots BUT once they start it is a monster that is hard to control. The buzz of the room gets louder and people shout over each other to tell their interesting stories! I call it magic in the classroom!
2. Technology will still mess you up. I created Poll Everywhere for both classes. One class was able to complete one of the two questions. . . .and it was a mess the whole time. The other class was able to complete both with little problem. What was the difference you ask? I'm not sure. . .I'm still trying to figure that out. Be ready for it to go south fast and roll with it, the sooner our students figure out that struggle and chaos while learning technology is okay, the more comfortable they'll be to try it out on their own, remember students take their cues from us. Stay calm and pretend that it's all going as planned!
3. YouTube videos are a great way to engage and make students wonder: I put on the first Coke video on names, remember the name campaign?? Everyone stopped and listened, Again, magic!
4. Brainstorming is still hard for students. . .even in Grade 7 and 8, it still takes time and is still a struggle for many. Keep this in mind as you jot down "quick brainstorm" I really wonder if I should have modeled for myself and then modeled another students name, I thought modelling my own name would be enough, I was wrong.
5. Showing your students your own writing is not near as scary as you'd think, other than the glee of seeing my inner most thoughts, most students seems fairly unaffected by my deepest thoughts.
6. A name survey will actually have most students participating, very few didn't bring it back. Students were eager to share their parents' thoughts!!
7. Sharing in groups is great as long as it's short, as long as you don't drag it out and as soon as students are done send them back to their seats to keep the class going you're golden. The minute they sense there is extra time. . .you're done, cooked. . . now directing traffic. As soon as the focused conversations stop, back to your seat you go!
8. Students seemed much more comfortable with the whole idea about writing after we talked about what is hard. . . .like a bonding experience, "oh we all have difficulty, it's okay. . .and it's normal" "phew"
9. Writing a paragraph is not the big task it may seem if you have a brainstorm, and a survey, most students were willing to write. . . I amped up the creative energies by putting some meditation music, allowing students to listen to their own music and doing some mindful activities from Gonoodle to start. I know what you're thinking right now, geez Kat that seems like a lot of stuff to get excited about twenty minutes of focused writing, but it wasn't. I know some of you out there are nodding right now. The satisfaction of writing is directly related to the difficulty it takes for some to get started, which is why the pride and joy is so great when wonderful things are created, because for many it's a hard journey.
10. Use post its for feedback, the kids will love using neon paper to write down feedback, not feel intimidated with the small piece and as my colleague mentioned, it's not near as upsetting if you don't like that feedback. . .you just peel it off and place it out of site. (Thanks Ashleigh!)
So there is our first few days of our writing unit based on my learning at Reluctant Writing. I am pleased with the results so far and excited of what's to come. I am posting my first week plan if anyone is looking for inspiration or ideas, hopefully the links work, let me know if you don't have access to one of the links.
Reluctant Writers Week One
How is it going in your class? How is your journey going? Our journey as a class hasn't been smooth, or pretty but full of learning and a-ha moments and really that's all I can hope for!
PS This post was originally written on January 24th but I delayed posting until after reports :)