Thursday, 2 August 2012

I'm Changing It Up... I'm Not Teaching Forms

As we head into August, it's time to really start thinking about school. Although I still have a month until school actually starts, that means I only have a month until school actually starts. :)

I love this time of year. To be honest, it's just because I'm an organizational freak. I love new school supplies, organizing my bins, putting together my classroom library and overall just getting everything ready for my students. This isn't a job for me, it's my hobby. :)

Not only do I enjoy organizing my classroom, I love having the summer to think and read about WHAT I'm going to teach my students. 

Currently I'm reading through No more, "I'm Done!" by Jennifer Jacobson. I'm not even halfway through yet (organizing my classroom and the olympics have been my distraction!) but I love the idea of teaching various traits in my mini lessons and having students then write what they choose. This is their writer's workshop time. This allows me to focus on the mini lesson when having conferences with students during their writing time. Organizing my writing time this way, will move away from teaching forms and having everyone write the same time at the same time. This is a shift for me. I think teaching forms is easier to mark so essentially, it's easier to manage. All students work on the same thing at the same time, we can create success criteria using a specific form and I can create a rubric from that. This is organized. This is familiar. This works for me.


Is it beneficial for the students? Is it meaningful writing when everyone is writing a letter or a list at the same time? Even if they're not engaged or have nothing to write about on that topic?

This year I'm changing it up. I want to leave writing open for students to choose WHAT they write about. I want my students - most importantly, my reluctant students, to view themselves as writers. REAL writers. I don't think I get this with writing forms.

Am I going to throw away forms? Of course not. I have to teach forms, it's part of the curriculum  - just as voice, spelling unfamiliar words, adding capitals and periods, etc. are outlined in the curriculum. It just doesn't have to be my focus. I'll incorporate forms into my mini lessons, as I'll do for the various traits and grammar that needs to be taught.

This is not a new idea or a novel concept - I know that. Lucy Calkins outlined this beautifully in her "writing workshop" concept years ago. I've read it before, I believed in it before, but I went back to familiar - went back to forms. This year, I'm going to try hard not to get sucked back in. I'm going to teach to my students' needs. I'm going to conference with students. I'll give timely feedback about their writing. This is my goal. I'm going to try it. I know I'm going to get "messy". It might not be as organized as I like. But, I'm changing it up. Why? Because ultimately this is what's best for my students.

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