So, where to we begin?! In my opinion, it all begins with a magic word--- metacognition! It lays the foundation for so much thinking and reflecting, and I want to create that culture right away. I always start out the year talking about metacognition, and I always launch the discussion with the "Real Reading Salad" lesson by Tanny MacGregor. I have blogged about it the past several years HERE and HERE, and this year was no exception. I LOVE this lesson so much! This year, I used tomato and lettuce templates from my friend Yolanda Arnold from Oceans of First Grade Fun. (Although she is no longer with us and is greatly missed, her legacy is still living on through her family, friends, students, and my own kiddos too!) Yolanda shared my love of metacognition, and she knew how much I loved teaching it, so she emailed a file to me with these cute lettuce and tomato templates. I used them with the lesson for the past two years, and this year, I decided to tape the templates to an anchor chart after the lesson for a long-lasting concrete visual of the reading process.
So far, we have been working on personal narratives in writing. I like to focus on one genre at a time to really focus on teaching strategies to improve their writing, and fortunately, many of the strategies do carry over to other genres in one capacity or another. This year, we have more freedom regarding our instruction, so I am excited to get back into infusing my ELA block with more writing instruction. I am a big Lucy Calkins fan, so I mix some of her mini-lessons in with my own and our Reading Street curriculum to give my kiddos a fuller, more craft-focused, more collaborative approach to writing lessons. I want them to CARE DEEPLY about what they are writing and how they are presenting the content. I want them to be artful, thoughtful, and creative, and I want to teach them how to constantly rework and revise and finesse their pieces. And I want them to persist and build stamina. Writing is SO important, and too often, it is neglected due to time constraints. It's such an integral part of literacy instruction though, and really reading and writing are two sides of the same coin. I want my kids reading and writing responses (both writing to sources and using mentor texts to improve their own writing), and I want my kids writing with an audience or reader in mind. If they read like a writer, and write like a reader, their skills improve on both sides of the literacy continuum, and that's a win-win situation for sure. So, I launched our writing instruction with my We Are Authors: Launching Writing Workshop pack, and we took off running. Already, my students are more passionate about writing, and they are more focused on showing, not telling. I cannot wait to see how much they grow once it's springtime!
I like to read "Author: A True Story" with my students to help them understand that some of the challenges they encounter as student authors are the same challenges encountered by published authors. After reading, I have them create a booklet full of their own reflections on their literate lives. It's always eye-opening, and it serves as a nice survey-esque starting point for me to begin learning about my students' interests, experiences, and feelings about writing. As you can see below, my students are always on a continuum. Some kids come to me with a great love of writing, and others want to crumple the paper and throw it across the room. Fair enough. I believe that teaching students to write has to be an engaging and organic process, and once my students tap into their own interests as authors, and once I teach them how to approach some of the processes that can trip them up, even the paper crumpling kiddos start to enjoy the self-expression that comes from writing! I am so pumped to see what my new batch of kiddos (and my old batch of kiddos) are able to do this year!
We have also focused a lot of energy on accountable talk while discussing/implementing what strong speaking and listening skills look and sound like. I was able to launch a few different activities from my Stop, Collaborate, and Listen pack with my students, and it has been so much fun hearing them debating and discussing ideas. It was kind of comical listening to their opinions on whether everyone should get a trophy or not. The responses ranged from, "Yes, because everyone tried their personal best..." to "No, because if you aren't good, then maybe you should keep trying to get better to earn a trophy..." and everything in between. It was amazing to hear them supporting their claims with evidence in an engaging and thought-provoking format. They also really enjoyed interviewing one another for a Wonder Workshop too! It was a great way to help them formulate questions on their own and to create a more inquiry-centric classroom!
We also launched our interactive notebooks with my Interactive Notebook 101 resources, and I think it did really help my students to understand the HOW and the WHY. We are keeping our interactive notebook resources in binders this year and using tabs to divide it into sections. The introductory piece is at the beginning of the binders in front of the first (comprehension) tab for easy access. I am so happy I added this layer to my instruction this year because I think my students understand why we are doing what we are doing, and they see note-booking as an instructional tool instead of as a quasi-craft, so they approach it with a more serious attitude. Of course, they enjoy the process too, so that's just the icing on top of the cake!
So, there you have it! That is my long-overdue recap of just a few activities we've been working on since school started. It's just a snippet... and we've gone far beyond this by now... but I would be remiss if I didn't share the photos I snapped (even if I am late to the party). I hope you are enjoying life and finally getting into the groove with your own students! Hopefully, I will be back soon with more updates. It's definitely been an interesting season of my life, but I am going to do my best to keep up with my little slice of cyberspace from this point forward. I feel a rant about the disintegration of authentic close reading brewing... so stay tuned! It's burbling to the surface, and I am pretty sure I won't be able to contain it for too much longer! Ha! In the meantime, take care, friends!