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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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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teaching through explain and example

this is the second post in a series on ways to vary the “teach” part of your mini-lesson, and this one will focus on using “explain and example.”

explain and example is a great method to choose when you’re trying to lessen the time you’re spending during a mini-lesson. rather than showing exactly how you might do the work, you’re using work already done ahead of time as an example, and explaining how it was done.

you might, of course, decide to follow up with more support or demonstration in a small group or conference for those students who would benefit from it. explain and example might be especially effective when the work isn’t completely new to students, but it’s building on something, so that they have some context already and sense of how it would look to do it. you’ll also give students a chance to practice some part of it during the active engagement, so you’ll be able to see who might benefit from more support or a step by step demonstration as a follow up to the mini-lesson.

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varying mini-lesson teaching methods

like you, if you’re using the reading and writing workshop model, our reading and writing mini-lessons follow a predictable structure:

  • connection
  • teaching point
  • teach
  • active engagement
  • link

when we were first learning how to teach in this structure, the “teach” part of the mini-lesson would always be modeling (demonstrating). we’d show our students what to do, and then they’d try the same thing during the active engagement.

after time with shana frazin at a summer institute at tcrwp, we began to be more intentional about varying our methods during the “teach,” and even put the different methods into our lesson plans so that we had to choose how, exactly, we’d be teaching each day.

this gives us the flexibility to choose the best method, which might vary depending on the teaching point or the students’ familiarity with what we’re doing or the time that we have. it also helps to ensure that our mini-lessons don’t feel too monotonous for our students because there’s some variety in how they’re being taught, even though the structure of the mini-lesson is predictable.

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using plans to support small moment writing

our year begins, like many others’, with a focus on narrative writing. our students are asked to write small moment personal narratives – that is, a true story from their life that happened in 20 minutes or less.

every year, our on demands (the pre-assessment writing piece) confirm that our two biggest goals for our first unit of study are to make sure that everyone is able to zoom in and write smaller than they were able to at the beginning of the year, and also that they write in the moment, like the story is happening now.

planning our stories is one way we support students in zooming in on the most important part(s), and set them up to write closer to what’s most important when it’s time to draft.

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using oral storytelling to support small moment writing

our year begins, like many others’, with a focus on narrative writing. our students are asked to write small moment personal narratives – that is, a true story from their life that happened in 20 minutes or less.

every year, our on demands (the pre-assessment writing piece) confirm that our two biggest goals for our first unit of study are to make sure that everyone is able to zoom in and write smaller than they were able to at the beginning of the year, and also that they write in the moment, like the story is happening now. this is the second post in a series that addresses how we support our students in this small moment writing.

teaching students to tell stories orally using the types of details that we expect in their written stories supports their writing because it helps them begin to think with a storytelling voice and gives them a chance to rehearse how their stories might go before writing them.

we launch storytelling a few weeks into the year with monday headlines, something that we’ll do every monday morning for the rest of the year, usually as our morning meeting on mondays (when our schedule allows for that). we also teach our students that oral storytelling is a way to rehearse their writing before drafting, and give students chances and space to do that with partners in class.

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supporting small moment writing

our year begins, like many others’, with a focus on narrative writing. our students are asked to write small moment personal narratives – that is, a true story from their life that happened in 20 minutes or less.

many of our writers struggle with writing small. their tendency is to tell about an entire day or an entire trip. our guess is that this happens because they feel like they’ll be able to write more (and, they think that more, longer writing means better writing) when it’s about a longer period of time and also because they’re unsure of how to zoom into what’s most important (or maybe even not sure of how to determine what’s most important).

we call our students’ writing that focuses on an entire day or an entire trip or an entire game “bed to bed” stories because these pieces include everything from the start to finish of the day or trip (or game – you get the idea). these pieces are usually summaries; they don’t feel like they’re written in the moment, like the story is happening now, but, instead, summarize what happened (because, when you’re telling about all of it, it’s hard to write all of the little details!).

after reading our on-demands, our two biggest goals for our first unit of study are  almost always to make sure that everyone is able to zoom in and write smaller than they were able to at the beginning of the year, and also that they write in the moment, like the story is happening now.

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