Sunday, February 17, 2008

i heart i heart writing day

on friday we held our 2nd annual school-wide writing celebration. while the timing so close to valentines day makes it a crazy week, we are creating children who believe writing is more important than valentines day. its kind of great.

friday was the first day i really, truly missed being a classroom teacher.

i love writing workshop. no matter what it has always been my absolutely favorite part of any day. the first day of school i always promised my first graders that no matter what would happen with our schedule, we would always have writing workshop. i tried my hardest to stick to it, even having time to write on the last day of school.

i think what i love about writing workshop is that you are able to really connect with the children in your classroom. it is time cut out in the day for their little lives to become the most important topic in the world. in writing conferences you can pull out the exciting details of seeing a butterfly at the park, or how dad came home late with an extra pizza from work, or what they played at recess yesterday. and using all of that essential information pouring out of the child you are able to teach how to listen to the sounds in words, where to put the periods, how to start an exciting story, or how to add details.

in the classroom i always held a huge writing celebration after the first month of school. it was really the only time i went all-out for a writing celebration complete with table clothes, cut flowers, invitations to everyone who had contact with my class, and cupcakes made by the class. i found it was such a powerful way to start the year. we are writers! it said to the kids. our writing is important, meaningful, and is meant to be celebrated. i totally subscribe to lucy calkins recommendation that you should have at least 8 writing celebrations a year. they don't have to be huge or elaborate, but just something to say, 'hey, look at our fabulous work. we're awesome!'

i love it.

thinking about having i heart writing day without a classroom made me depressed and cranky. no tables to decorate, no kids to bake with, no stories to add the finishing touches to. so instead i encouraged my friday bookclub to bring their writing and instead of reading books, we'd read their writing.

the short 40 minutes made my day. i ended up with a mixture of children from different years of teaching. all children i'd had so many writing conferences with. children i'd tried and tried to teach about where to put the periods, how to listen to those pesky middle sounds in words, or how to add exciting details. i remember their early writings in the beginning of first grade, the large letters, the 'ilbu' notes (i love you).

one girl who came on friday is now in fourth grade. she came to my classroom speaking no english and would sit and carefully label her pictures with random letters to match her friends. eventually she began matching the pictures with the sounds in the actual words, which led to stories. i remember her first real story she produced, a story about her grandfather back in Indonesia. our heads bent together over the little table, her trying to explain about a thunder storm in broken english, me nodding vigoriously, hoping to pull more of the story out of her. working together to listen to the sounds in each word, laboring over the abc chart to match the sounds.

then there is the love of my life, a girl with a special ed label. she and i fought in writing workshop. her not wanting to write, me demanding it. the timer sat on her table, a reminder of how much time she had to work. the early scribbles to the 'i love my dad' stories that turned to princess stories. all of the princess stories. so many. now in 3rd grade, she came with a published poem and instructions... no more princess stories.

the other third grader whose excited writing would use up an entire page with one word in the beginning of first grade. she had so much to say and so little patience for her lack of spelling ability. why bother getting the words right? many, many writing conferences were held on those sounds and spelling patterns. no need to teach this one about writer's voice. just a reminder that no matter how fabulous her story is, if a reader can't read it then its meaning is lost.

the second graders whose writing conferences were not so long ago. two of them came into first grade with the ability to produce long, long stories, about every detail of their day. we sat and read through our mentor texts, trying to see how those authors constructed a story without listing every detail needed.

the writers came clutching their books and poems they had prepared with their new teachers in new writing conferences. i was impressed by their work, proud of what they'd created, and slightly jealous that some other teacher gets to sit in writing conferences with these amazing writers.

on friday, i missed the classroom so much.

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