Friday, October 11, 2013

Need ideas for Writer's Workshop? Just ask the kids.

We launched our first literacy unit with the grand idea of making a connection from our study of family to our Nonfiction writing. It seemed like a great idea to kill two birds with one stone- we could combine the information we were gathering about 1B families with their own writing. After all, they ARE experts on their own families. We modeled making lists about family members, activities they do with family, foods they eat, places they go, and sent them on their way. However, even though they were proficient in the Nonfiction features we had drilled into their heads (captions, lists, headings, bold words, etc.), they immediately ran into road blocks, and Writer's Workshop was painful to get through. It felt WAY too teacher directed and lacked the spark that is present when students are writing about meaningful, self-selected topics.

Break down time. After our literacy meeting, we brainstormed with Bonnie about ways we could revamp our study. Together we realized that it didn't matter WHAT they were writing about, as long as they were practicing the Nonfiction writing process: recognizing what you already know (your schema), what questions you still have, gathering data (either from books or peers), and interpreting it.

We came back as a group of writers and looked at our Morning Message sign-ins to compile the topics they care about. At this point, the room began buzzing with excitement, as students shared ideas about their passions. We made a list of possible topics, and each child chose 2 or 3 ideas that they wanted to write about. They are going to be working in small groups to record their schema, ask questions, do research, and draft their work.

We'll keep you posted on the outcome, but we definitely walked away from our writing period today feeling more comfortable with our very child-centered approach.

An example of topic choosing.

(A little side note from Bonnie...) Yay! I must say that it was so exciting to have that conversation and see teachers going from uninspired about the work happening in the room to totally excited and then to walk into the room and see how the changes they made were working with the students. In the end, the beauty is that although it might have felt like it wasn't going to be about "Family," it still totally is. For example, Chess comes from a list of "Games My Family Plays." Part of the research can be to learn about other games that families play, friends who play the same game, and some facts about the game. I'm excited to see how the students now go on to collect data about their topics from their peers and other sources and to see how the published piece comes together. 

1 comment:

  1. Great blog pot Jan! I think we should definitely give this a try in our classroom. I too have felt the non fiction writing has not been as successful as I would have liked. I agree that the kids need to have more ownership of their choices in writing and this is a great way to go about it. Thanks for the inspiration!