I just completed my fifth year of teaching and I was even honored with the "Teacher of the Year" award this year, but I still feel like a first year teacher when it comes to teaching writing.
Countless books sit on my nightstand but they are all recommending formulaic writing and I've tried that, and haven't seen any improvement. This past year I tried writer's workshop in a way that I saw manageable through another teacher's blog. Several things worked, and many things didn't.
- The students got to extend their writing and were in control of when they were on each stage of the writing process.
- Children were looking forward to WW everyday and collected ideas throughout their day for a new story.
- Children were excited to write and share their work.
- I got to see my students in a conference to talk about their writing.
- The students that didn't reach the "conferencing" stage never got to see me.
- Student's who were lower and couldn't write very well never completed their work.
- The stages of writing didn't make sense because they kept going back and forth in the different "processes." This got very confusing to my students.
- The conferences were all "read your story to me" types of conferences, which didn't really help me or the students.
- I dealt with many children waiting for me to conference with when they were at that stage. This resulted in behavioral problems.
Here are some thoughts things that stood out to me from the first six chapters of Katie's book.
- Drawings aren't supposed to be a free for all when telling a story.
- There are two views on teaching writing.
- Teaching out of illustrations where the goal is to get away from drawing all together.
- Teaching into illustrations where the goal is for the child to be able to communicate all thoughts through writing but can also use illustrations to communicate a point if the child chooses to do so.
- One of the most important skills a writer needs is to build stamina for writing. Drawings support stamina (aha moment for me!) so we need to encourage children to work on pieces for a long amount of time whether it be on writing or their illustration. (This was so interesting to me because our school a couple years back enforced a policy where the students were not suppose to draw, color, or glue during our language core.)
- Students need to time stamp their work so that the teacher can see how long a child has been working on one piece.
- Stamina needs to be a "badge of honor" in class. When we see a child take a long time on their book, have them share how they were able to spend such a long while on their piece.
- The focus of the illustration study is for children to see how much decision making goes into an illustration just as a writer makes decisions about the words that they choose.
- Changing colors, adding colors, adding or deleting any detail in their illustration IS revising. We need to tie in the writing process vocabulary in with illustrations because it's the same in so many ways.
- As an assessment children can use a sticky to write about the most interesting illustration from their book. They can share them in class so that other children can learn from their experience.
- Students need to read like writers. When they know they are going to be expected to produce work that could be put on a shelf just right alongside of the mentor texts we are teaching from, the students are going to read and notice things that they would otherwise not see.
- Do think alouds of what you think the illustrator might have been thinking while illustrating.
- When a child uses a mentor text to create an illustration, have the child share their illustration along with the mentor text and have them explain how they used the technique in their illustration.
- I love how Katie says that if a child reaches meaning through either text or illustration, it doesn't matter how they went about it because the understanding is the same.
- When conferencing, it is important to "rephrase" a student's illustration with words so that he knows that it is possible to communicate the same thing with words.
- Conferences are just "read your story to me" type of conferences. The point is to find out why students are making the choices that they are making.
- Just as you can write with voice and tone, illustrations can accomplish the same by using different views, drawing styles, and colors.
- Have students work in partners and give them stickies. Children will be in charge of the study when they chose illustrations that are interesting to them from books that you preselected. The teacher chooses from those illustrations to create a curriculum. (This is something that can't be done by the teacher alone. The children need to be the ones finding illustrations that speak to them.)
- The focus is not on drawing technique. The focus is on the decision making that goes behind each illustration.
- We can ask our art teachers on campus to teach techniques that might help our students produce their illustrations. (There are always a couple of children who don't want to illustrate because they "can't draw," if they have a couple of techniques up their sleeve, it will encourage them to try.)
I need some advice from those of you already making picture books in your writing workshop, or those of you who are planning on making picture books this year in your class. We have a paper crisis in our district and we are limited to how many reams we get throughout the year. So I have to be very picky about paper usage.
1. Do you use full sheets of paper for your books?
2. How many sheets of paper do you include in each book?
3. Do you offer any other type of paper to use that they can cut and include in their picture books?
4. How do you manage the supplies that children will be using, like markers, stickies, color pencils...?
Head over to Mrs. Wills Kindergarten to link up your thoughts, or read about what other teachers thought about this amazing book!