There is no life that does not contribute to history.
Last spring, this is what I heard myself and other educators saying: When will you finish state testing? When will you enter data into those spreadsheets? Are you done with parent-teacher conferences? How many books have your students completed this year? Are you ready for graduation?
Not now. In these past weeks of COVID-19, our standard questions have been replaced. This is what I hear: How are you doing? How are you managing? Are you okay? Are you connected? What do you need? How are you feeling? Are you healthy? How are your loved ones? Can I help?
This change in questioning makes me want to open my arms in a giant Hallelujah. What a wonderful shift this is. It feels seismic, and oh how I hope it stays with us forever. What perspective this has given us. We are getting to prove what we have known for a long time.
We do not need to trade our student-teacher relationship time for hours of standardized testing. We don’t need pages of spreadsheet data to measure how students are doing. We don’t need much of the administrative, mandated gobbledygook we’ve been given. Ah, no. We need books and conversation and confidence-building and connections and time and practice. Above all else, we need to take care of each other.
And we need writing.
Of all our new questions, this may be the best one: Students, what are you thinking about?
In the future there will be books for children and adults chock-full of perspective and emotion. We’ll talk about this time for decades, and we will need student voices as part of this collective story.
Now is your chance. Abandon the old, dusty prompts you had planned for closing out the school year. Ask new questions of your students, just like we are asking new questions of one another. Have them write about this thing we’re living, and have them archive it somehow in a safe and accessible place. Digital portfolio? Notebook? Screenshot album? If you’re not sure how this can be done, collect and keep it for them. For yourself. For your future students. It’s going to be really good to have.
This week we celebrate writer’s craft in workshops. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jen Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She has written frequently for literacy and educational leadership publications and blogs about her experiences in learning and leading at jenschwanke.com. Follow Jen on Twitter @Jenschwanke. Her book You’re the Principal! Now What? is available through ASCD.
If your students are equating revision with proofreading and final cleanups, Tara Barnett and Kate Mills have some practical revision strategies you might want to try.
Melanie Meehan helps students see the craft moves in mentor texts by tucking brief guides into many of her favorite children’s books in the classroom library.
Franki Sibberson explains how to create lessons you can believe in for online writing workshops.
Kate Messner explains how charts she creates are an important part of her crafting and revision process.
Our new online course from Ruth Ayres, Better Student Feedback, will help teachers and coaches think through how to talk with students about progress and goals, as well as what to do with their responses. The course fee of $39 includes two months of access to the entire Choice Literacy library of 4000 articles and videos. If you have a current paid subscription to Choice Literacy, there is no charge for the course. Click here for details.
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Polysyndeton, asyndeton—if you are a writer and a word nerd, you will love Gretchen Schroeder’s suggestions for helping your students craft lists with style in their writing.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share the power of teaching writer’s craft in bite-sized chunks, through careful study of mentor sentences in read alouds.
In this week’s video, Bitsy Parks leads a writing share early in the year in her first-grade classroom, presenting three student examples of writing and highlighting different aspects of writer’s craft linked to minilessons.
In an encore video, Melanie Meehan talks with a third-grade teacher about how she helps students focus on craft elements in nonfiction mentor texts.
Jen Schwanke rethinks her writing process for sending information out to families and others. Her “one little change” might get you rethinking how you draft and share weekly newsletters.
New PD2Go: This workshop guide includes strategies and video from Franki Sibberson and Dana Murphy to help intermediate students learn how to give revision suggestions to peers.
Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris have curated an amazing collection of infographics and links for distance learning at their Read the World distance learning site.
I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.
That’s all for this week!