We look around the classroom and see students reading independently, some partner reading, others sharing exciting or surprising events in their reading. Writers conferring with one another, others co-authoring pieces. These students know each other well, and they are thriving on one another’s thinking in both reading and writing workshops. They have built a strong community together—there is much to celebrate.
We thought about how we have closed out and celebrated a school year in the past. As we reflected, we wondered: What if the students’ plans around celebrating our literacy community led us to a problem-based experience to conclude our school year? This would bring closure to the school year, and it might also be the spark that encouraged connection into the summer and beyond.
Start with a Question
Pose a question to your community of readers and writers. Your question might invite students to reflect, such as “What do we love about our community of readers and writers?” Perhaps you ask students to plan next steps with “How could we celebrate one another as readers and writers?”
Making a Plan and Keeping It Visible
Collect student thinking in ways that allow it to be and stay visible. Capturing ideas on posters or shared digital platforms allow for the work to be live, messy, and fluid. As a group, you can highlight next steps, cross out accomplished work, add new plans and questions. Allow students to form committees and take on jobs to make this idea come alive. This can be where your thinking starts and ends each day, showing the group’s journey toward solving their problem or achieving their goal.
Anticipate and Integrate Literacy Skills
The visible thinking also allows you to anticipate ways in which you can be intentional about integrating reading and writing. If your students are planning a celebration, you might tie in your work with theme to capture the essence of the event. Maybe students can create flyers or infographics to share the details of the celebration while simultaneously employing their knowledge of text features, text structures, and crafting informational writing. In brainstorming ways to stay connected over the summer and beyond, students might practice their developed research skills to find opportunities in the community or platforms that would promote collaboration and communication beyond the school year.
Take Action: Confer and Maintain Momentum
Check in with students during work time to assess what is needed to move forward. As students plan and dream, conferring with them will help guide them toward their goals.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How can I help students recognize realistic steps?
- Are students still engaged? How might I help them stay committed to the project?
- Are there experts in the community whom students can interview?
- Is there missing information that the group might need to seek out before their next steps?
Questions for students:
- Are there materials that would help?
- Who in the community could support your work?
- What is an achievable goal you have for today?
- Is your group working collaboratively?
Identify a Solution: Pulling It All Together
At this point in the process, the room will be humming with excitement. Your help will probably be elicited to iron out the logistical details. Where will this fit into the school day and/or calendar? What needs to be communicated to building staff and families? Will others be invited to join the celebration? Consider if your daily schedule will be altered for celebrations. Sometimes it is hard to resist the urge to take the reins at this point in the process. Students will take pride in bringing their plan to fruition.
The end of the school year can be incredibly full with progress reports, family requests for summer reading lists and activities, emails, class placements, and end-of-year testing. Taking the time to reflect and celebrate what learners have built throughout the year and asking them to create a plan for this celebration helps all of us recognize the power of our year of learning together.