Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Choice, Time and Independence

I spent some time in writing workshops in a few classrooms last week. My faith in the unlimited potential of our children was once again renewed as I saw young writers work their way through texts they chose to write.

I marveled at how soon into the school year first and second graders were able to work with intensity at writing. One child had a several page story going with a great lead. ("Once there was a girl who had woods in her back yard.") She had done some editing and was transfering her writing to a picture book format. I am axious to read the rest of her story. I asked her to make sure she read it to me when it was finished.

Another student, who struggles in writing, was using a mentor text to create his own similar story. It was a pleasure to see him use the scaffold of a mentor text. He was so engaged in the adventure of creating his own book.

In another classroom, children were creating a class book for a student in the class. After interviewing the student, each child was creating a page celebrating the life of the child and what they learned about him in the interview. There was a level of choice and purpose to the task. The pages were compiled into a book that was presented to the student who was interviewed. It was a great way for them to "publish" their writing. They understood that their writing could be a gift.

As they worked on their pages, these first graders chatted about their ideas, helped each other with spelling, and shared their work with each other. When they were finished, these first graders moved to reading or writing activites of their choice with a great deal of independence.

We are all writers.
We will write every day.
We share our writing with others.
We use our own ideas and thoughts in our writing.
We have a choice of what to write.
We can learn from the writing of others.

The teachers in these classrooms have established a way of thinking about writing. Students hear the big messages and are well on their way to developing their own identities as writers.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Students Leading the Way

This week our Fall Student Leadership Team met after school. Students submit an application to participate in the Student Leadership Team and include ideas for activities and projects for the year. We have had so many students interested in being part of the Student Leadership Team that we had to split them into a Fall Leadership Team and a Spring Leadership Team. It's nice to know that we have so many students interested in developing their own leadership skills and in making good things happen for our school. I have always said that we really need to listen to children. They have so much to teach us. On the application, we asked students to give us some ideas for projects that they would like to see in place this year. I am so impressed with their ideas. Here are some of them:

Have big kids work with little kids
Help new students adjust to the school
Encourage others to be hard workers
Collect food donations for the needy
Raise money for charity
Include others
Respect the school and others
Get more kids thinking about leadership
No bullying
Make it easier for the little kids to be safe
Bring in extra school supplies for children who need them
Promote diversity
Include others
Start a support group for bullied people and help them make new friends
Do something for the community

Overnight Read In
Caring/Helping Day
New Friend Day
Spirit Days
Movie Night
Compliment Day (I want kids to be nicer to each other)
Eat lunch outside
Have fun activities and stay healthy
After School Grounds Clean Up
Plant flowers
Have a week dedicated to animals and conservation
Service projects
Fundraiser to earn money for the library
Healthier snacks in the cafeteria
Play calm music during work time
Include birthdays in the morning announcements
Have a full time computer teacher
Music during lunch
Start a Writing Club
Start an Invention Club
Fitness Club

Sometimes we are so busy building schedules, planning instruction, setting up classrooms that we can't hear the voices of our students. We have to create opportunities for children to be heard.