Reflections from the All Write Institute — #5

2 Comments

The Title of This Session Hooked Me and Reeled Me In: Reflections from the All Write Institute — #5

After finding out that Kylene (Beers) and Bob (Probst) were not going to make it to the institute, I quickly looked at my choices and found this: “Structuring Reading Workshop for the Magic That Might Go Down” with Christy Rush-Levine. I was hooked! Who wouldn’t want some magic in their reading workshop? I know I need some new sparks to start next year off right. I sat near the front of the auditorium and watched; the magic unfolded right before my very eyes! Christy reeled me in — showing me that a reading workshop classroom, even in middle school and above, can be a desirous, illuminating, and magical place.

Christy started with the WHY (the theme of the institute). Why? Why do I have to do this? (Read, write, etc.) She shows her students that thinking about their understandings, making connections, and gathering ideas for their own writing is important. She takes the standards (never mentioning “standards” or “testing”) and shows them HOW they can achieve. “In response to a text, write down thinking for your favorite part, questions you have, connections you made…” When I looked at the standards for my first scheduled reading workshop in the fall, I could “check off” almost all of them by following her plan for students! For example, Standard 6.RL.2.1 (and its RN version) want students to “Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says and inferences drawn from the text.” By using metacognitive thinking to analyze and response writing to show  what they know about texts, I predict that my students will easily “pass” the formative assessments of the workshop.

Christy’s rules for response writing are simple: write (the whole time), write quickly (it’s not editing time), and relax, have fun, play! I love it! Relax, you can pass the standards! Have fun (I want to have fun in school again)! Play! More time to play and create leads to higher achievement. It’s true. (Administrators don’t look for that on their observations; they look for engagement. Same thing!)

Reading territories, assessments that follow students’ goals, reading ladders, and conferring with students kept the audience engaged. All the research — put into practical practice — helps students meet the goals. I learned that classroom teaching can be enjoyable and manageable again. Christy reminded me of what it was like to be a student; she told me that I can bring the joy of reading and writing back to my classroom. It’s not a trick — the MAGIC happens! So inspiring!

 

 

 

Curriculum Tip Tuesday: It’s Time to Have Fun

Leave a comment

Schools everywhere are winding down the school year in May. It’s spring, and better weather is here. The sun is shining, jackets are thrown on the playground black top, and students and teachers are searching for ways to fill the long school days. The standardized testing windows concluded, but there is still more time to learn. What can schools do to keep up the school spirit in May and June?

Have fun!

This is the perfect time to do class projects you wanted to do all year, but were too busy. Students would love to read the books they want to read, practicing the skills and strategies they have learned over the course of the school year. Wouldn’t it be great to research something you have always wanted to know, but never had time to ask and find out? Students can do “I-Search” projects, smaller versions of the research paper, based on what they really wonder and question. Art projects can be more intricate — there’s more time for creating during the spring.  Another idea is to write letters of introduction to the kids in the lower grade levels. “Advice columns” can help students publish their writing authentically, and the younger students can practice fluent reading (of the columns) while finding out what they need to know about “survival” in the next grade. Math and science teachers can create games of skill and strategy and hold competitions, such as “Minute to Win It-“type games. There are so many ways to learn and grow in the spring!

Students should feel a sense of accomplishment, excitement, and wonder during the last few days of the school year.  Low-stress, engaging, and FUN activities can leave a student looking forward to summer, and maybe even hoping for school to start again soon!