Friday, November 20, 2015

The Power of Process

Some days you happen to pop into the right classroom at just right the time and see what becomes the highlight of your day. At the end of the day I walked into a 1st grade class. Even though school was almost over, everyone was busy. The students were all working hard, very engaged in whatever they were working on. The teachers were surrounded by children, answering one question while looking at another's work.
Student: Is it ready?
Teacher: Almost. I just need to tie this part so it stays bound and you need to glue your photo down on the "About The Author" page.
Student: (after gluing the photo). Now is it ready?
Teacher: Yes!
Student: Really? It's all finished?
And then it happened. The biggest, brightest, proudest smile ever. I'm only sad I couldn't get a photo because it was that special. I asked him to read his Personal Narrative to me and he proudly took his published book over to me, read each word, let me tell him my favorite part of his story all still with the same beaming smile on his face. This made my day. Not just because he was proud or because the end product looked so good (neatly typed with his careful illustrations), but because I know how hard he, and his teachers, worked throughout the process of writing this piece.

Last week, I had a similar experience in a 2nd grade class. The students were all very busy writing their nonfiction pieces. They had spent a great deal of time researching different teachers, classes and spaces in the school through observation and interview and were in the process of drafting their piece on their topic. The had read nonfiction, talked about main idea, details, facts and opinions. I noticed one student with a full page of writing (he's not typically one with volume) and asked him to tell me what he had so far. He read his work to me and then said, "but I'm not done! I have so much more to write!" He then ran to his teacher to get more paper telling her, "I'm on a roll today! I've NEVER written this much in one writing time. EVER!" The beauty here is that his smile didn't come from seeing a finished product. He was thrilled about the writing that was happening. He was so engrossed in the process from the very first day that he came up with questions  to the day he was ready to start drafting. He had experience reading books and articles that were written with then intent of teaching the reader about something specific. He was ready to do the same. He had information and now he was the author.

It's easy to say you believe in the process, but it's also easy to plan an activity that is finished in a day or two, gets to the point and looks good. It's not always easy to really trust the process, to dive head first into teaching kids as readers and writers what really matters, to find the content and create the interest and enthusiasm, to keep the reading and writing connected so it makes sense for kids. It's easy to teach isolated skills or to let them always write what they want. It's not always easy to create connections or to challenge kids to move out of their comfort zone. Sometimes reading and writing become complicated and messy. Teachers will often say to me, "but it's all over the place- the kids, the writing, the reading, I just don't know if it's going to work." My response? "It's ok to let it get messy. It just means a lot is happening. Trust the process." When it's happening, when the kids are so engrossed in what they are doing that they suddenly can't stop writing or when they make a comment during a read aloud that connects to a minilesson in you taught during Writer's Workshop, that's when you see it all come together.

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