Creating Writers

In creating, the only hard thing is to begin; a grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak. -James Russell Lowell

writersAs a writer, sitting in front of a blank screen with a blinking cursor mocking the emptiness of the page, Lowell’s quote hits home.  I often have no idea where my writing is going until I begin.  Often, it goes in directions surprising even to me.  That “aha” moment…the one when you have clarity, direction, and purpose is utterly inspiring.

My students are working on making a book using the Scribble Press App.  This is our first attempt at book making with this app.  They love all of the choices of tools this app provides.  Even though it is January, my students need me to model the process.  I model the think-aloud process of deciding what to write about and I even model being stuck.  I sit in front of the blank iPad screen and think….and think some more.  I model starting out with writing about one topic and then deciding to discard that idea and go in a different direction.  I model not finishing in one sitting.  They need to see this process and learn how to work through the “not knowing”.  We are all about instant gratification…we have to learn to process, think, and wait.

Their books are a work in progress.  I am hoping they will finish by the end of this week.  The end product, however, is not the important part.  It is what is learned in the getting there.  They are fussing over fonts, color and illustrations.  They are grappling with word choice, sounding out those words, and very emergent keyboarding skills on their iPads.  The Common Core standards emphasize three anchor standards for writing:  argument, informational, and narrative.  Human beings grow up on narratives, on stories.  We live our lives hearing stories and telling them.  We plan and daydream and work and worry in narrative.  How important then, is it to spend valuable time in this genre?

As tempting as it is at times, to rush through to get something done, allowing our students to sit and stew, think, plan, erase and start again is critical to growth in writing.  We have to set the stage, model and allow time-protected time-for genius to develop.

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Using Anchor Charts with iPads

I like to read and write about trucks and cars. I would do it all day long.-Kade age 6

How many students would like to read and write all day long?  I love how when I say it’s time for Reading or Writing Workshop, my kids give a fist pump and say, “YES!”  I’m pretty sure I was never that excited in school.

When children are engaged, and feel confident in their abilities as readers and writers, they are excited about learning.  We use the Reading and Writing Workshop model to teach literacy.  My room is filled with various anchor charts that I create along with the students.  At the beginning of the year, we make an anchor chart for each letter of the alphabet.  The children give me words that begin with the given letter and I model writing it on the chart  and draw a small picture beside it.  We then hang the chart on the wall.  When all of the alphabet charts are made, we go to word families and commonly used words, family words, color words, number words, etc.  We make charts about how to be good listeners when we are launching the workshop model in the fall.  We make charts on why writers write.  We make charts for non-fiction writing ideas, and for what we do when we are in the reading center.  These charts are available for the children to refer to all year long.  Because they helped in the creation of them, they are quick to use them and they serve as a visual reference.

The only problem is that I am out of wall space and even after stringing clothesline across my room, I still do not have enough space.  I wanted my students to still have access to certain charts but I needed to make room for more! I started taking pictures of some of the charts and I synced them out to each student iPad.  The charts are now in each student’s camera roll.  The ones we use all the time are on the wall and they are able to still see other charts when they need to. We made this Ideas chart because earlier in the year, some students were having trouble thinking of things to write about. This is one of the charts on their iPads.

The other plus for having them on the iPad camera roll is students have the ability to look at them right where they are.  If a child is sitting across the room from one particular anchor chart, they don’t have to get up to go across the room to look at it.  Since my students can only remember one letter at a time when copying something, they might make 6 trips across the room to see a particular word.

Anchor charts are wonderful reference tools that help “anchor” new and ongoing learning to previously introduced concepts. My students know exactly what is on each and every chart and they use them all throughout each day.  Long after I’ve forgotten what is on the chart, they still refer to it with each other. At the end of the year, I take them down and give one to each child to keep.  They love it!

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