Thursday, August 9, 2012

I admit it, I am a teacher nerd....

I have planned for almost 2 months now to blog about the AMAZING writer's workshop that I went to in June!  Melissa Leach is by far one of the most amazing presenters I have EVER had the opportunity to listen and interact with!  In June, two of my co-workers and I went to a writer's workshop where she was the presenter!  Basically, we all left there shocked and thinking... "YOU MEAN, TEACHING WRITING IS THAT EASY!!?!?!?!"  Well, my amazing friend and co-worker, Diana, had another workshop over Balanced Literacy with her these past two days!! I don't know what it is that Melissa does, but the manner in which she presents and teaches makes it seem SO very simple and easy for us to take it back to our classroom and implement it effectively!  YEEESHH, I can't wait for school to start!

Before I babble on, I have to share one of my teacher nerd moments with you!
Today is my birthday and Diana, showed up this morning with the BEST gift ever!! I was squealing with excitement!! :)

Some people might wonder what these little gems are..... Yes, they are PVC pipe... what makes them so special you ask?  Well, they are constructed in a way that students can use them as a phone... We call them phonics phones, but the purpose of them is for students to be able to whisper read/read quietly and be able to ear themselves nice and clear!! These are a wonderful tool to help students, especially the low babies!  My plan is to add duct tape on all of them like the ones in the bottom right corner before school starts!! I just need to find some super cute duct tape to use!  BEST GIFT EVER!

OK, OK... Writer's Workshop & Notebooks... Here I come!!

I don't know about you, but for me, writing was always the one subject that I hated, dreaded, was not entirely comfortable teaching.... I now know it is more so because I didn't know how to effectively teach it.   The ways in which I had taught it in the past did not get all of my students actively engaged in writing!!

The idea behind Writer's Workshop is starting off with a mini-lesson.  How does a mini lesson compare to that of a regular lesson, well... a mini lesson for writing should be a short 5-10 minute lesson with a specific focus.  You then instruct students to think about or apply what it was that was taught in the mini lesson in their independent writing...
For example: You are teaching a lesson about verbs.  You then have the students get out their writer's notebook or folder with their writing drafts, you have them select one piece of writing, and then instruct them to circle all of the verbs.  Once they have completed this, they go on with their independent writing.

What is independent writing though?!  Independent writing is when students have the opportunity to write about anything of their choice.  Now, this could be structured in a manner to where ALL students are writing a letter, but they get to choose who they are writing it to and WHY they are writing to that person.  This would obviously be something that you do after SEVERAL mini-lessons over letter writing though.  Ideally, after building the stamina, students will write for about 20 minutes on their own.

What am I, as the teacher, doing during independent writing?  Well, it is simple, this is when you are doing your conferences with students.  This doesn't mean that you are pulling students over to your table and marking up their page.  These conferences are guided in a way that you help them to realize what they need to add, change, clarify, however it is done in a manner and a way of which you ask the students questions guiding them to identify these things on their own.  You have the students make the corrections, giving them the power!

Once students have been writing independently for their 20ish minutes, it is imperative to give students the opportunity to SHARE their writing with one another.  Sharing is such a powerful tool and gives students so much confidence, something we really need to continually make a priority in our classrooms!

If you do not go through all of these steps, it is NOT considered writer's workshop! This may seem like a lot, but seriously, this is the SHORT and SWEET, condensed, no fluffs, no frills, version! 

With all of that being said, let me get into the Writer's Notebook!  

EEK, I LOVE the idea of the writer's notebook!

 So this is my writer's notebook, I have my cover, you can't see too many details because of the glare, but it just says "Ms.Pepper."  Then the other side of the note book is my "TWIN."  I didn't realize until yesterday that TWIN was an acronym for Teacher's Writing Interactive Notebook... Anyways... I will keep going...
The purpose of the writer's notebook is for students to have a place to write down their IDEAS.... only their IDEAS!! Melissa called them their "seeds" for writing.  Totally makes sense though, it gives them a place to reflect on when they are struggling to find a topic to write about.  The writer's notebook isn't something that will just be used in the beginning of the year, it will be used all throughout the year.  We will be constantly adding to the book.  Above are a few of the pages we did when we were in our workshop!  Sunshine = things that make me happy, Thunder = things I DO NOT LIKE!!
The top left is another one that we did about things that people call me!  I then googled and pinterested (is that  a word) for more ideas on the writer's notebook!! I have a lots of ideas, but have only done a handful of pages more than we did in our workshop!  There is a "things I wonder about", a quotes section, and an "I am a..." page!  My all time favorite though it "My Life's Playlist."
This one brought back so many memories as I was creating it, eeeek, I love!  The most awesome part about the writer's notebook to me is that none of these are finished products, none of these are extensive pieces of writing, and they are ALL something that I can continuously add to throughout this summer, year, and next few hours! 

The other side of MY notebook is my TWIN, this is my place to write notes, ideas, make anchor charts, reminders about writer's workshop, etc!  For my students though, I have decided after the Balanced Literacy Institute, the flip side will be their word study book, they will keep their personal word wall and different word study activities on this side!

I am not going to lie, I can't wait to teach writing!! :)

Kelli Ann

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