I could not be prouder of this group of writers. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating. I did not come into this classroom until November. This unit of study was my first with them, and it was not an easy one. The students and their amazing teacher jumped right on board with this work - and the results are stunning.
It's very interesting. When I sat with my Assistant Principal for my post-observation meeting, he said something that surprised both of us. On one of the observation points, he said that he noted that the students were given choice in the work they were doing. And then he said that student choice is a practice he rarely sees during classroom observations.
I was surprised. And then he repeated himself. He told me that when he is in classrooms doing observations, students are not usually given choice as part of the assignment/work he sees. He sat back in his chair and kind of thought about that for a moment. As did I. Then we shook our heads and moved on.
But as I reflect about our first grade writers' wonderful books, I am certain that their level of engagement in the writing process was due to their ownership of what they were writing about. When I work with student writers, the single most important piece of every bit of my instruction is that the writing is student-directed, purposeful and crafted to inform the reader. That is the foundational platform from which their writers' minds can begin to develop and grow. Without the belief that writing is communication between a writer and a reader, and that the communication is purposeful and driven by what the writer wants the reader to know, then what we are doing is just turning out students who can't think for themselves without a teacher making the choices.
Below are pictures of some of the pages in our authors' books. I am highlighting the craft moves the first graders made, some based on the mentor texts we read, others that they noticed in other nonfiction books they used as resources.
Those gorgeous words from a 6-year old give me goosebumps.
My fervent hope is that teachers of primary students see and believe that these writers are capable of so much more than just story starters, or journal assignments, or adding an adjective to teacher-directed sentences and calling it revision. I am not saying that these instructional moves don't have a place in our practices. We do often have to be explicit in our teaching, and use scaffolded methods to meet the needs of all of our students.
But we must trust in the idea that even our youngest writers can and should think for themselves, from the choice of what to write about straight through the process. From seed idea to publication.
And, that's a wrap!