A colleague in my K- 5 school asked for a few ideas about making writer’s workshop fun and engaging. I love those questions because it allows me to be creative and gather ideas. Here are a few ideas to get started… (If you have more please add them!)
- Be passionate- write in front of the students and let them see you write and talk out loud about your process, about spelling, …
- Draw pictures to go with the writing
- Write stories to go with the pictures
- Make comic books
- Re-write comic books (the one you just made or one that was professionally made) into story format with dialogue and description
- Let students write what they want- lists, stories, opinions, how-to, all I know about…, non-fiction or fiction, poems, … play with words
- Find a real audience- another classroom, the hallway, a classroom in another school or another city, country, a blog, …
- Design/ diagram something invented and explain how it works
- Read/ tell the beginning of a story and have the students continue/ finish it
- Act out a story and then have the students write the script
- Write a script and then have the students act it out, or with puppets, or as a podcast or …
- Writing prompts
- Connect writing closely with reading or science or social studies
- Shared writing
- Do you have a class mascot (stuffed animal, live animal, …)? Write the stories of the mascot- where from, past adventures, include pictures,
- Class blog on kidblog.org
- Add podcasts of students reading their writing on your page of the school’s website
- Check out blog posts such as: http://tunstalltimes.blogspot.com/2014/08/engaging-writing-activities.html
- Stick with the standards but let your mind wander and your creativity soar
Last Friday I read a story with a first grade student during his independent reading time. Actually, he read to me a story of the Tooth Fairy. His ancestors of a few generations back came from Mexico (that will matter towards the end of this commentary).
Here is our conversation after he finished reading the story:
Student: I know that the Tooth Fairy is not real.
Me: No? (I know that this student has older siblings and I wondered what they had told him.)
Student: No. It’s not real.
Me: What more can you tell me?
Student: No, it’s not a fairy. It’s a ratoncito. This is true! In parts of Latin America it is not a fairy that leaves coins for a tooth it is a Ratoncito Pérez.
At La Cosecha 2014 I attended a session by Freeman and Freeman. Loved it! Here is a copy of their handout that I downloaded from the conference website: Writing handout- Freeman.
The presentation was a summary of part of the text, Teaching Reading and Writing in Spanish and English which is also available in Spanish. Looking at the writing children do while knowing the stages teachers can admire the amazing work that students do while coaching them on to the next level.
A few highlights:
- Drawing is the starting of writing;
- Student scribbles mirror the environmental print they see around themselves;
- As very beginning writers, students may use the letters in their name, perhaps the only letters they know at first, to represent all letters;
- In English students learn consonant sounds first- in Spanish they learn vowels;
- As students work out consistency they may spell the same word in many different ways in the same sentence or paragraph;
- All students can be accepted where they are and coached to higher stages.
As a teacher, I love coaching writers because it involves all four modalities of language- speaking, listening, reading and writing. Students tell their story (or information), they write it, they read it back while listening to their work. Then they revise.
Mr. B walked a kindergarden student to his room where I was working as the guest teacher for the day. The 6 year old was surprised to see me and not his usual teacher. Mr. B asked the student, “Do you know Mr. Fleming?”
“Yes, I know him.”
“Are you ready to have a good day with him, learn a lot and follow the instructions he gives?”
“Well, I’m not sure. He’s old. And I don’t know him.”
This week I have been learning about a new way of teaching kindergarten that my school district is implementing. I don’t know much about kindergarten and I know even less about kindergarteners so, there is a lot for me to learn. About the first ten years of my teaching was in middle school and then mostly 4th and 5th since then.
I commented to a colleague about my lack of knowledge/ experience with 5 and 6 year olds. She asked, “But you know a lot about middle schoolers, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do,” I answered.
“They are very similar: unpredictable, variable moods, they want to be grown up and little kids at the same time, they learn fast, they say everything they think without filtering, they want life to be fair and consistent,” and on she described the wonderful, amazing middle schoolers I have worked with (with whom I have worked!).
I think I will have to spend some more time with 5 and 6 year olds and see if she is right. What do you think? Is my colleague right?