This VES Professional Study Group is based on the recommendations described in Becoming a Literacy Leader, Supporting Learning and Change by Jennifer Allen to provide teachers with the opportunity to reflect, review and integrate new thinking into their classroom instruction. We use professional resources as springboards for discussion and personal examination. Most of what I have written here comes form Jennifer Allen’s wonderful book.
This year we have 10 teachers participating. We are Third Grade, Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade and Special education Teachers. This is our fourth year for the book group and our first year using the blog.
Lucy Calkins and the teacher's college reading and writing project folks recommend letting students use pens. To me, this makes sense for many reasons: at the primary grades because kids like using pens since we normally make them use pencils; for classroom management and those students who like to avoid working (or just push too hard on their pencils) using a pen eliminates the time waster of sharpening pencils and allows me to worry about planning and prepping that doesn't involve managing the pencil sharpening job or worse sharpening pencils myself.
But I just read a better researched-based reason: THEY WILL WRITE MORE WITH PENS!!!!
My school received training in the Lucy Calkin's style writer's workshop by staff developers from the Columbia University Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project. The week of training was of course phenomenal. We also got either the K-2 or 3-5 Units of Study. These are my teaching notes straight from my plan book for the third graders I taught. My lessons are --eventually-- adjusted to meet the needs of these students in their first year of writer's workshop. The class had a large bilingual and high poverty population. Most of my notes are organized as teaching points (TP) or the day's writing goal/objective.
Part of being a reading teacher, for me, is reading the literature that my students are reading or that might serve as a good read-aloud or mentor text for writer's workshop. Since break came early with a snow storm, I got to my local library to check out some books, as well as extra time to read.
One of the books I checked out was by the great Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. For those who don't know, Edward is a china bunny who through mishaps loses one owner only to move on to another, at least eventually. Through his journey Edward grows to appreciate life and others, most importantly, he learns to love.
For my 4th and 5th grade advanced English Language Learner (ELL) guided reading groups, I've been teaching using the teaching points from a unit of study off of the Columbia Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project website. The units were written by Lucy Calkin's graduate students and are very well developed, but tweakable.
As our contract continues with professional developers from Columbia Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project our PD day consisted of two workshops. Of course, not everything was pretty in the morning or well organized in terms of logistics. When we arrived, on time, there was basically no parking. After driving around for ten minutes the organizers were a little smart, telling us, "There's lots of parking on the other side." When I informed them it was full, we were hustled along.
I went to a great PD with the staffers from Teacher's College. In the workshop, 'Supporting Struggling Writers,' Kate Roberts deconstructed struggling writers one complaint at a time. I am slowly posting my notes.
At the end of our first full week of Writer's Workshop our third graders are still working on finding their small moment stories inside their "watermelon" topics. And yet, every student has generated multiple entries, writing every day with more and more independence.
At the end of the workshop on Friday, I told students that if they wanted me to read their writing this weekend, they should star the piece they are most proud of and place their folder on a designated spot. Instantly, their were stars on many pages. One or two from those students who are super successful and dying to please, but mostly from my more struggling and reluctant writers. The work I need to study most so I can decide what they need to be taught.