Thursday, July 14, 2016

teacher talk

Hey all y'all! It's the BigTime Blogging Challenge. I'm writing every day in July to celebrate my blog's three year anniversary! Join me - write your post, link it up with mine, leave some love for blogging friends in the form of comments!

So my plan for today was to talk about conferring, but now it's today and I want to talk about some other teacher related topics. You can feel free to write what you wish!

I read this really great chapter last summer from Donald Graves about the conditions for effective writing. I've had this doc as notes on my desktop for over a month, time to finally get it on the blog!

Graves says that in order to have your students flourish as writers, you have to commit to these seven conditions to make that happen. Read on then share your thoughts in the comments!

Graves says: Professional writers experience near panic at the thought of missing one day of writing. They know that if they miss a day, it will take enormous effort to get their minds back on the trail of productive thought. In short, it is extremely inefficient to miss a day.

Michelle says: If you want your kids to write, create time for them to do so every day. Minimum four days a week for 45 minutes. If you can't deliver on this, I say don't even bother. If a child knows they will write again tomorrow, his mind can go to work pondering his writing topic. Choosing a topic once a week is hard, writing every day is easy.

Graves says: When children choose their own topics, I can expect more of their writing. "What did you set out to do here? Did you have an audience in mind for this? From the beginning of the conference I can focus my questions on their initiative and their intentions. 

Michelle says: Maybe you give kids the genre and they choose the topic they write about. Or, maybe you're like my amazing friend Jennie who runs two self-directed units a year, where students have 100% choice in what they write.

Graves says: Students need to hear the response from others about their writing, to discover what they do or do not understand. The need to help students know how to read their own work and the work of their peers provides further teaching and demonstration opportunities. They end-of-class Share Time experience reaffirms the essential condition for writing: in this class we experiment and learn.

Michelle says: Capitalize on the engaging quality of Sense of Audience to help students write not just for you, but for their peers, or maybe another class, or a child in a kindergarten classroom. Think about blogging, what keeps you at it? The comments, of course! For writing to flourish, we all need a response to it.

Graves says: You, as the teacher, are the most important factor in creating a learning environment in the classroom. Your students will observe how you treat writing in your own life, how you learn, and what is important to you through the questions you ask of the world around you. How you demonstrate values, how you knowledgeable show the meaning of writing as a craft will have a profound effect on their learning.

Michelle says: Yes, you will demonstrate during the mini-lesson. But walking the writerly life along with your students will provide an enhanced sense of what writers for to your students. You having a Writer's Notebook, you taking time to write often, you writing a blog and reading are all very obvious to your students. Walk the walk.

Graves says: When you teach, your task is to find out what your students know, to show they how to put what they know into words, and to expect them to do it.

Michelle says: Kids can do whatever you think they can. I'm so tired of hearing people say, "Oh, Calkins is too hard for my kids." Baloney. If you realize there is a gap between your students and the curriculum, scaffold it back a bit, but still expect the kids do the work. They will rise to your expectations (or fall if you set them low.)

Room Structure
Graves says: A writing workshop requires a high degree of structure. When children face an empty page, they suddenly feel alone and want to talk or move around the room.

Michelle says: Structure your room in such a way that it allows students to help themselves when they get stuck. They should know where all the materials are, the routines for getting what they need (read: not interrupting the conferring schedule), and when you come across problems with students, debrief about them. You can create a T-Chart that you can hang up, problems on the left, solutions on the right. Teach them to be self sufficient!

Graves says: The teacher can show the student how to read their own work - by reading it on their own to decide if it's good and what needs work.

Michelle says: The student is the most important evaluator! They spend 99% of the time with their writing, teach them how to evaluate it to drive their writing further in the moments they are without you.

This information was from chapter 7 of A Fresh Look at Writing by Donald Graves. I have a copy but can't share it electronically until next month when I'm back at school, but email me if you want to read more!

Share some teacher talk with me today!


  1. Michelle says: "Kids can do whatever you think they can." Amen. Adults too. This is a great thing to remember because it enables us to pull others up!

  2. I agree with you "Baloney!" Kids will rise to our expectations!


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