Yesterday a 1st grade classroom teacher invited my 4th graders to their Publishing Party. They had written All About Books!
The day before, each 1st grader wrote a Publishing Card Invitation and their teacher gave me these pile of cards along with her class roster that listed the topics each wrote about. Just before my student’s arrived at school on Friday, I started passing out the Invitations, matching my students with her students. It was easy because, though these kids were 4 years apart in age, they had very similar interests. The boy who wrote All About Minecraft I match with Samuel who is often telling me about that video game. The girl who wrote All About Dogs, I matched with Ivy, another dog lover. And Mohamad in my room got matched immediately with the 1st grade friend who wrote All About Pokemon, his passion as well. I had fun matching writers with similar writing territories together.
“I can’t read this word, Mrs. Donnelly,” I heard from one of my students as he found his card on his deck.
I replied, “Isn’t it wonderful that this 1st grade gets that lines and squiggles on the page can convey their idea. You are right. I don’t understand what that word is suppose to be either but that’s OK. You can just compliment them on writing down lines and squiggles and then ask him to read it to you.”
“What if they can’t read it, either?”
“Then just say, ‘What do you think it says?’ and listen and give them a compliment ,” I patiently responded.
This exchanged made me realize that during Morning Meeting I needed to emphaisze OUR JOB as a Publishing Party Invitee. I teach in a school that Writing Workshop is new. I realized that this was my students’ first invite to a Publishing Party and they can’t recall doing Writing Workshop when they were in 1st grade because they didn’t. This was a new experince and I needed to help them.
I called all to Morning Meeting by calling their 1st grader’s name and asked them to bring their card with them to the circle. I wanted them to hear the name and told them to call their 1st grader by their name. Then I ask each to look closely at their card and think of ONE compliment they could give their partner based on the writing they did on this card. Then one by one, we shared. I knew this would help them practice giving a compliment and also be an the opportunity to hear other possible compliments. It helped me to emphasize that we can compliment the picture and the ideas in their writing. I suggested that they try to give at least 5 compliments while looking at their 1st grader’s All About book. They could count them on their fingers as they give them to keep track.
“OUR GOAL: we want these 1st grade writers to KEEP WRITING. We want this time spent together to make them want to WRITE more and more. YOU have a very important job. Your compliments and your excitement in seeing their published All About books WILL keep them writing. Be sure to do your job well!”
Then I also reminded them that their 1st grader might be shy so THEY needed to keep the conversation going. If they think they are done looking at the All About Book, they should ask them questions. They can tell them about what we have written in 4th grade. They are to stay with their partner and have a conversation until they hear me say it is time to leave.
Then off we went…
* I was SO proud of my students!!! They were such wonderful writing leaders!!
* The 1st grade teacher was amazed at how all her students were talking and smiling and laughing with my 4th grader and all stayed seated and engaged the whole time.
* WHY is it March and we are sharing our writing beyond our classroom walls for the first time? This 20 minute share needs to happen all year long. I’ll advocate for starting in October next year. Maybe, along with a classroom writing partner, we could have another partner in another grade to interact with as a writer too.
* The power of a 4th grader giving a compliment to a 1st grader is priceless…..I will now ALWAYS advocate for building in this time as part of Writing Workshop!!
* I realized that the electronic comments I have been getting as part of the SOL Challenge was just like what my students were doing yesterday in person. Comments, compliments, feedback – they are essential to keep writers writing.