Hey Friends!! It’s been a minute!
Let me just start by saying that I’ve had such a great summer. I had intended to do a lot of work, but I just couldn’t. I needed a little break. I needed to recharge.
So, instead of working on blog posts and products and stuff for the upcoming school year, I sat by the pool, went to the beach, read a bunch of books, ate ice cream, and drank wine. IT.WAS.GLORIOUS!
I’d mentioned before that the last school year was a tough one. Aside from having many lovable, but complicated students, it was our first year of having a combined ELA period. If you remember, for years I’d had a 45-minute reading period AND a 45-minute writing period each day. And then last year, we switched to a 50-minute ELA period (so reading and writing combined), along with a daily 30-minute reader’s workshop period.
About this time last year, I posted my plan for this new schedule. I thought I had a pretty good idea for how to make this work. But, as I’d mentioned on Facebook a few times, things were just not going as I’d hoped. All year long, I felt behind, rushed, flustered, and anxious. I was not at all happy with how things were going. When June finally arrived, I was exhausted and full of guilt that I hadn’t prepared my kids nearly enough for 8th grade.
This year, I’ve got a new plan. I’m still working it out in my brain, but I wanted to sketch out my thinking for you in the hopes of getting some feedback.
About two weeks ago, I sat down with my plans from last year, my grade book, our PARCC scores, and a notebook and pencil. I spent some time thinking about what is most essential for my kids to have experienced by the end of the year.
After lots of thought, I finally admitted this: Until I can be sure that my kids are all proficient readers and writers, meaning they can read and write the way a 7th grader is expected to, it is nearly impossible to determine if students are weak in a specified skill. I’ve always KNOWN this, but I will admit that it can be easy to get lost in the standards and data. One can easily fall into the “they just need more work on understanding plot or character” or, “let me just teach them this formula for answering those open-ended questions” way of thinking. Admittedly, it’s easy to fall into the trap because teaching plot and character and formulas is a lot easier than teaching kids to become proficient readers and writers. But, when we are honest with ourselves, I think it’s clear that most of our time needs to be spent practicing reading and writing.
So, my plan for this year…
In a nutshell, I plan to make my ELA period a WRITING class. Our goal at the end of every day is to be better WRITERS than we were the day before. We will write, and write, and write some more! Yes, we will read. And we will discuss and analyze what we read, but we will do this as writers. For example, we look at how authors create character in texts like, “Seventh Grade” (Soto), “Rikki Tikki Tavi” (Kipling), and “Casey at the Bat” (Thayer), but we do it so we can emulate it in our writing – not so that we can take a test on those stories to prove we know it. The proof that we understand will be reflected in our writing. Another example, we will study the organizational patterns of nonfiction, but rather than take a test where students are required to read a few different examples and identify their organization, kids will show me they understand by how they choose to organize their own writing.
Does that make sense?
Here are my plans at-a-glance. I plan to spend the first month prepping students for the routines that we will use all year, namely Reader’s Workshop, Article of the Week, and Greek and Latin Roots. The next several weeks will be spent “working like a writer,” meaning we will generate ideas for our future writing pieces, as well as study and explore mentor pieces and then use what we learn from them in our own writing. It will look something like this:
|Daily Class Period Schedule|
You’ll notice that I’ve got “themes” for each month of Reader’s Workshop (which, remember for me, is a separate, 30-minute period that happens each day). I got this idea for creating book displays from Pernille Ripp’s Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. I’ll be writing more on this later, so stay tuned!!
Okay… so let me hear your thoughts? Think this will work? I’m a bit concerned about grades. I’ll have the weekly AoW and Greek and Latin Roots stuff. But, I see myself having way less daily seat work and quizzes that go along with the stories in our anthology. My goal is to have kids submit a published piece every marking period, but maybe I’ll need to incorporate a timed-writing each marking period, as well?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!!