One of the things I enjoy most about working with teachers is the time spent in collaborating with them. Recently, I have had the chance to work closely with a couple teachers doing just that. One is a fifth grade teacher in my hometown and the other is my niece who lives in Utah and teaches sixth grade.
Last Sunday, Amy, the fifth grade teacher, came over and we brainstormed how to teach a unit of study. She wanted her students to do well on the state test next month, but did not want to do the usual prompt study. Her kiddos are amazing writers, so how could we make them even better. We decided to do a two-week study on reviewing the genres. This would be a learning unit, not a pre-testing unit. She came up with lesson titles like: Writers Can Write in Many Genres. She would have the students first brainstorm what each of the four genres components were and she would chart that. The next day the students would come up with one topic they loved and could write about in all four genres. After that she would model day by day a genre using her topic. This was the beginning. For the following days we came up with things that we thought the children needed to review...specific nouns, punctuation as a revising tool, etc. How fun it was to sit and just work all this out together!
I also got the chance to work with my niece. We were planning a trip to see family in Utah and I volunteered to come do a lesson in her sixth grade classroom. She accepted! So via email and texting, we planned what I would do when I visited.
After arriving in Utah on Thursday, the two of us met at her house that night. We sat at the kitchen bar and made our last minute plans. I tried not to overwhelm her with all my writer's workshop blather. She asked me to do a lesson on persuasion. I wanted to give her something that she could take and continue to do in her classroom even when I wasn't there to give her support. I decided to do the lesson on using mentor texts and writing for real reasons...each child having the choice of what to write.
I used the Wal-Mart letter that Mary Helen's children wrote many years ago. It is the perfect example of the power kids have in writing. (Thanks again, Mary Helen for sharing. Utah kids loved the letter!) We charted what we noticed and then, in notebooks, the kiddos made their own lists of things they wanted to change.
The kids wrote and wrote as I sat beside them and talked about what they wanted to change. Such great ideas! These students have the power to change the world!
Thank you so much, Park Elementary School, Mrs. Anderson's sixth graders and Annalyse for allowing me to be part of your classroom today!