winter break reading resource

almost there! the holidays are, literally, just around the corner. we know how important it is for our students to maintain their reading lives over the break.

so, we’ve just discovered that fable learning   has opened their digital library for free from 12/16/16-1/3/16! we’ve taken a quick browse and there is a pretty expansive library available. they also have flyers to send home to your families in both english and spanish.

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celebrating reading

if you’re a teacher who uses the writing workshop model, chances are that you build a day into your writing unit of study for a celebration. celebrating is an important part of the writing process – and a step that we include on our writing process anchor chart. while there are, of course, plenty of types of writing that never get shared with anyone beside the writer, celebrating the work we’ve done and sharing our writing with others is important. it gives us a chance to reflect on our work and acknowledge the work and growth we’ve done as writers. it also helps to make our writing more purposeful, as the celebration is often the first chance to share the writing with its audience.

but, what of reading?

we believe that reading work and reading growth is also something to be celebrated, and that time needs to be built into our reading units of study for this just as it is for writing.

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teaching through inquiry

this is the third posts in a series on ways to vary the “teach” part of your mini-lesson, and this one will focus on using inquiry as a teaching method.

inquiry requires a bit of a longer mini-lesson or an entire writing workshop period, which can feel hard to devote time to very often, though teaching through inquiry is often really engaging and also gives your teaching more traction. so, our feeling is it’s worth the time that it takes! to try and balance the time demands with the benefits of inquiry, we often have the goal of including at least one day of inquiry in our writing workshop during each unit of study, and most often use inquiry when studying mentor texts (which could fit into any part of the writing process)  and punctuation.

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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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