(See my post yesterday for the backstory of all this, if you missed it, and you’re interested.)
More on my exchange with Holly who is dedicated to moving readers and writers in her new workshop classroom. I am so impressed with her questions and reflection on her practice!
Her: I am slightly fearful but I’m trying to put “the test” out if my mind and work on creating readers and writers. Then the test will take care of its self. I hope!
Me (My heart singing because she gets it! It is not about a test; it never should be.): The first year I jumped ship and swam my way in Workshop was scary. I didn’t do much that year except get kids writing more. That was the autumn after I did my Invitational Summer Institute with North Star of TX Writing Project. I know I didn’t hurt my students, but I didn’t help them become better readers and writers, although they did do a lot of writing. I’ve learned more about balance since then.
Her: My classroom library is in pretty good shape, but I could always use more. I’ll take advantage of donorschoose.org for part of my overall plan that I need help with.
Me: Your library looks lovely; however, how do students know which books to choose?
One idea I got from a friend: if you will label the shelves, organize by topic or theme, turn some of the titles out — then students will treat your shelves like a library. Also, I just got new “favorite YA books” from some of my classmates at UNH. I will [post] that list in another message.
Her: This is my work in progress…. Begin with 15 minutes of SSR. 2-4 Book talk or students share an interesting part of what they are reading to encourage others. . . .
Me: 15 minutes is a good idea; however, it is a LONG time for students who are not readers — yet. I am sure you know that already. I learned from my experiences that I cannot push too hard too fast, until everyone is matched with a book.
Her: I also want to incorporate reading logs to have a functional use to teach literary terms and have students be responsible for adding 5 words a week to their own vocabulary journal.
Me: Reading logs? What do you mean by that exactly? The research by Krashen, Allington, and others shows that readers who are able to read without a lot of demands will read more and move faster than those who have to document their reading all the time. Holding regular reading conferences with students and asking them about what they are reading about is formative assessment without them feeling bogged down about having to justify their reading in logs.
Do students need to write about what they are reading? Yes, sometimes. But we do not want to kill the love of just reading. (Thank God I do not have to log my reading life.)
Yes! to students creating their own vocabulary journal. I call them Personal Dictionaries. Same idea. Penny Kittle has kids find four words a week (she requires 2 hours of reading homework per week, based on each student’s individual reading rate). I am changing to this model.
Her: Then I want to read aloud a chapter from an engaging YA novel or a piece of poetry everyday. (I’m struggling to think of novels to use. The ones that I have success with are being used in reading.)
Me: Besides the research-based benefits of reading aloud to students at all levels, WHY do you want to devote time to this? If you can answer that question, you will be able to find what to read.
Have you thought of doing craft studies with poems and short passages? Every book I read I watch for passages that strike me with their beauty. Every time, these passages are loaded with some kind of literary or rhetorical devices I can use for mini-lessons. Sometimes students and I read these passages together and discover how the author crafted the meaning. Sometimes we write written responses to the meaning/ or what strikes us as meaningful to the passage. Sometimes students model the passage.
Her: Mechanically inclined lesson on Mondays and Tuesdays (We have an A/B day) mini lesson 10-20
Me: I know students often lack grammar instruction, but is there a way to include these lessons within your writing workshop time so they do not look like grammar lessons, and they look like “Here’s-what-good-writers-do lessons?” If students see them this way, they are more apt to apply the skills they learn into their own writing. We have to be purposeful in helping them make those connections. Again, I know you know that.
Her: Wednesday and Thursday direct instruction or modeling writing 10-20 [and] Workshop writing time