beginning of the year round up

oh, august. the sunday night of the summer.

our hope is that this august has brought rest  and summery things rather than frantic prepping for the school year ahead. and, if you’re in a place that school doesn’t start until after labor day, we hope that august starts to slow for you a bit and you soak up every minute of freedom left. to those of you who have started or are starting in the next two weeks: we hope the start has been smoother than anticipated.

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using textbook amy krouse rosenthal with kids

we recently had the opportunity to attend a writing retreat hosted by choice literacy. this was the second writing retreat with choice literacy we’ve been on, and they’ve both been inspirational as well as both relaxing and productive (the writing retreats are seriously the only times we can think of that we’ve felt both relaxed and productive).

this writing retreat, we were gifted a copy of textbook amy krouse rosenthal and encouraged to use it in specific ways to inspire our writing throughout the two days we were together. we knew of amy from her children’s books, and hearing of her passing this past spring, but didn’t realize she had a few books for adults, too. and, the more we learned about her through reading bits and pieces of textbook amy krouse rosenthal, the more we grew to love her.

when the book was gifted to us, we were told that it’s a book you can pick up and read bits and pieces of, and that’s been true for us. we were also told that part of the reason we were using the book now was because brenda, choice literacy’s founder and the host of our writing retreat, felt that in light of what’s happened since were together last (namely, the election and the effects of it on all of us, still), it was important to focus on our writing in a sort of back to basics, more personal sort of way.

today we heard news of the president’s ban of transgendered people from the military, and watched glennon doyle melton’s family meeting video of her response to the president’s announcement, in which she said that we always have three options when we encounter something like this that we don’t agree with. the first two options are fight or flight. the third option, the option we know is the better one, the one we want for our kids and also ourselves, is “putting something else out into the world, offering another invitation.” and so, while we started this post a few weeks ago, today’s events reminded us of it and what amy krouse rosenthal seemed to stand for. and so we’ve returned to finish it.

like glennon, amy worked to create beautiful things. while we’re still reading and learning about amy, we’re confident that one of the driving forces behind her desire to put more beautiful out in the world is that it’s a world filled with so much hatred, a world always in need of more beautiful.

on the writing retreat, and as we’ve continued to work through textbook amy krouse rosenthal since returning home, each open of the book has has inspired us somehow – caused us to look more into something mentioned in the book or encouraged us to think about and try something new in our writing or made us think how we might use her book in our classroom.

we’ve started a list in our notebooks of the ways we want to be sure to use her book in the upcoming school year, and thought we’d share our growing list with you here. we promise they’ll lead to more beauty in the world.

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why workshop?

we aren’t just teachers of reading and writing workshop. we’re believers in reading and writing workshop. we also believe anyone who has the chance to visit a classroom using the workshop model would be believers, too.

the reality, though – and we know this from experience – is that doing workshop well is hard. it takes time and a lot of learning to feel confident. it’s easier and maybe, therefore, tempting at times to assign everyone the same book or hand out a worksheet to practice a writing skill. like all (almost all?) hard things, though, workshop is worth it.

it’s worth the years (for real) it will take to feel confident you’ll find teaching points when you confer with readers who are all reading different books. it’s worth the constant reflection and adjusting of your teaching and responses to students so that you move from feeling like the independent work time part of workshop is chaotic to feeling like it’s productive for students. it’s worth the loss of control you experience when you hand the decisions over to your students so that they become empowered.

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speed booking to celebrate reading

you can picture speed dating in your head: two rows of people facing one another, talking in pairs. when a timer goes off, one row of people move down one person and begin talking to their new partner. and so it goes, until they’ve talked to everyone or time is up.

speed booking works the same way, except the conversation is focused on books rather than one another.

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celebrating reading with character posters

this post will focus on creating character posters to share during a reading celebration. we have used this celebration method at the end of a unit of study that focuses on character, which is often a unit during which students plan and read at least one book with a partner.

when planning for a celebration using character posters, we think about the focus of our unit and what our expectations should be so that students can show their work toward these focuses. because we devote a day of reading workshop to creating the posters, we want to make sure that they are valuable, and so we have them double as a way to celebrate and share each reader’s work during the unit and a summative assessment for us of their work during the unit.

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gallery walks to celebrate reading work

this week we focus on gallery walks as a way to celebrate reading work. as the name implies, this type of celebration is structured like a museum gallery walk and is an idea that we’ve borrowed from mary ehrenworth, a staff developer at tcrwp.

during a gallery walk, students open their reader’s notebook to a page that they are particularly proud of and leave the notebook out at their seat. we sometimes place large post-its in at each table for gallery walkers to leave feedback. once all the notebooks are out, students travel around the room looking at the work that other students have done. we ask that students travel quietly and provide written feedback on each notebook that they read.  when the walk is over, students return to their seats and look over the feedback that they’ve gotten from their peers. we will also provide positive feedback (compliments) to students during this time as well, and travel around the room with students.

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