I am cross posting with Ruth Ayres Celebration Link-up and Margaret Simon's DigiLit Sunday being hosted by Julianne Harmatz this week. I invite you to check in with each of these blogs to read how others are celebrating and conferring with students.
There is nothing better than being invited to teach beside another teacher in writing workshop. This last week, I've been privileged to work alongside three different third grade teachers. In two of the classes, we are learning about blogging and preparing for their first blogs. In another class we are working together to discover where writers get ideas and created heart maps. In all three classes, I was able to confer with students.
In his latest podcast, Ralph Fletcher reminds us that as we get writing workshop up and running, teachers should act as hosts. We want our students to feel welcome and successful. This philosophy goes right along with that of the National Writing Project. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my summer institute was the answer was always, "Yes!" It didn't matter what teachers wanted to write about, the answer was, "yes." Teachers are given ownership of their writing and that's exactly what I want to do for the students I work with.
On Friday morning, I sat on the carpet with a handful of students who were having a difficult time thinking about what they wanted to write about in their blog post. The rest of the room buzzed with focused talk about a variety of topics as students bent over their writing pieces. As we sat on the floor together, I could see glints of anxiety in their eight year-old eyes. Oh, I've been there...not knowing what to write about while everyone else was scribbling or typing away. It's not a good feeling.
I began with about 8 kids sitting around me. I prompted with simple questions, "What are you interested in? What do you like to do when you aren't at school?" With each answer, I worked to expand some ideas...
Football? Could you write about an exciting game you played? Could you write about a favorite football player? Could you write about what you need to do to prepare to play football?
Artist? Could you write a post about how to create something? Could you write about one of your favorite projects? Could you write about how you learned to do a certain kind of art.
One by one, ideas were sparked and I heard, "Hey, that gives me an idea!" more than once.
Eventually, there were three students left. We decided that we would all help each other so that no one was left sitting on the carpet by herself. It was here that I decided to step back and let the girls take over asking the questions. They easily modeled the type of questions I had asked previously, and before we knew it, all three students were ready to write.
As the teachers and I circulated around the room, we bent down to check in with kids, encouraging them, and showing our excitement over their writing. We were the hosts welcoming new writers into the workshop, making them feel appreciated and excited about the work they were doing.