We have had a wonderful start to the year in literacy and are excited by what our readers and writers will accomplish this year.
Our literacy block consists of reading and writing, and we use a workshop format to teach both. We stand on the shoulders of the great work of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project out of Columbia University to inspire us and inform our practices. This organization has an amazing research base and a strong focus on helping kids do the work of real readers and real writers.
This last week students have been learning about how workshop goes, as well as why we use this practice. They have settled in nicely, reading intently in books of their choice throughout our first hour and then generating ideas and writing furiously in their writers' notebooks (or on chromebooks) while in writing workshop.
We believe that learners need, and research supports, a large amount of time with high success reading to grow as readers. Thus, reading workshop time is spent reading books at each student's “just right” level, punctuated with explicit instruction to provide learners feedback and keep each moving on his or her reading trajectory. Similarly, writing time is spent doing authentic writing. Within a genre study, students select topics that are important to them and spend a lot of time practicing the craft of writing, again punctuated with explicit instruction to help move them forward. Lessons are focused on strategies students can use for the rest of their lives a readers and writers (as opposed to an assignment we are doing that day, and that day only).
Thursday's mini-lesson was about how we are the authors of our own reading lives. We can reflect on good times and bad times, and make powerful choices that make our reading lives great. Empowerment will be a theme throughout the year, and we encouraged the kids to bring their books home, as we explained that to take charge of their learning they must be doing the work of readers at home, as well as at school.
As a parent, it is important to know that your child must read at least 5-6 hours a week. This isn't a matter of "homework," and we won't officially be checking a reading log or anything like that, but more a matter of the fact that we don't get better at something unless we have lots and lots of practice. We will be holding students accountable for reading volume, but the key theme will be that it is their responsibility to continue their work as readers and writers at home. And we will collaborate with them to help them find lots and lots of just right books.
Similar to reading, Thursday's mini-lesson in writing workshop was about the importance of living our lives as writers: we need to notice stories all around us, record ideas in our notebooks, and eagerly dive into the writing of those stories. We have started the year by studying personal narratives, as well as learning about how we can use master authors to mentor us in our own writing.
At home, parents can encourage their child to notice the small moments in life that are rich story opportunities. We've de-emphasized "big events" like a trip to Disneyworld, as well as listing all of the events that occur across the day (educators call this a "bed-to-bed narrative" and it does not make for a strong story). Instead, we are focusing on a small moment and then stretching that out into an interesting story. Parents can help their child add to the idea list in the writing notebook (or on a sticky note for adding to the notebook later). Parents can also tell stories out loud and encourage kids telling stories, too. Storytelling, after all, is rehearsal for writing.
Looking forward to a year of great growth in reading and writing!