I love the feeling of wrapping up a unit of study in writing. I love watching my students choose a favorite piece and prepare to make it public by adding a cover, fixing up their words and pictures (a bit), and writing their author’s note. And I love celebrating their work. They worked hard throughout the unit of study and made a lot of progress, and they deserve to be celebrated!
Cleaning out their workshop folders and sending home their drafts also gives me a great sense of satisfaction. The cleaned-out folder is all ready for the next unit of study—another unit of learning and growing as writers. Despite that sense of satisfaction, I always feel a bit of uneasiness also. I know that their work may not be seen through the same eyes as mine, the value of their six-year-olds’ illustrations, handwriting, and phonetic spelling not always understood. Yet when children read their pieces aloud, it is easy to hear all the work they have put into their stories.
To bring their voices to their pieces, I decided to try an idea I had heard about in a summer literacy workshop. I recorded each student reading their published piece, making sure they had time to read their pieces before the recording so that they were able to read them with good fluency (and memory!). After I saved all of the recordings, I used a smartphone app to attach a QR code to each one. I printed out the QR codes and added a label to the front of their booklet that said, “Scan the QR code to hear the author read the story!” Students loved it. Parents loved it too! It was not only valuable to hear the story, but sweet to capture their child’s six-year-old voice.
This year I was able to start this process earlier. As I do each year, I had students’ first published pieces ready to share at fall conferences. However, this year was different because I also had their voices ready to read the pieces to us through the QR codes. I can’t believe how enjoyable it made the conference. It eased the pressure of having to read six-year-olds’ sound spelling correctly and put parents at ease that despite what the finished product looked like, there was a genuine story their child was telling. Every parent smiled and oohed and aahed over their child’s work. The value of the pieces that each child produced was much higher for the parents. And talking about how to move their child forward in their writing skills was easy, because it was clear what students could already do—the conversations were balanced between mechanics/presentation and actual content.
I continue to record students reading each of their published pieces and include the label and QR code on the cover of each piece. I save these pieces and package them up in a published-works folder to go home at the end of the year. How sweet to have a little library of writings and recordings from a first grader.
As the technology resources expand at my school, I hope that students will have access to devices more readily so that they can record on their own and we can record draft writings in our process. We could also use the same process to record students reading books from our library to celebrate reading skills and fluency. And wouldn’t it be great to share these recorded book readings with kindergarten buddies!? The options are endless, and so exciting!