Reading, Teaching, Learning

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Slice of Life - Where the Heart Is



I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
 
 
 
 
     I woke up not really sure what I would write about today.  That happens a lot on Tuesdays, and somehow something always gets written.  It's not always great, but it's writing.  When I was at a loss for a topic this morning, I started reading blog posts instead, and this one by Christopher Lehman started me thinking.  Chris wrote this:  I find the question--is your heart visible--is an important one.  What we make visible in our classrooms, in our schools, even in our lives, shows what we value, what is important, and what we feel and believe.  I started thinking about my classroom and know one thing for sure.  Books are definitely visible.  I value books.  They're everywhere, and my students, friends, family, and colleagues know it.  If someone needs a book, I most likely have it - at school or home.  If I don't, it's probably checked out or borrowed.  If I really don't have it, by golly, I'll try to have it next time you ask!  My students read, read, read.  However, something my heart values that I don't see as visible in my classroom as books is WRITING.  
 
     In 1991, when I started teaching language arts, I had just finished the Ohio Writing Project, and I was on fire for the writing workshop model.  Our OWP gurus were Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins.  Tom Romano taught at Miami University.  I jumped into the full workshop model with both feet and never looked back.  I loved it.  My students were producing beautiful writing, and we were fully immersed in it.  I have to admit, though, that back then my reading instruction was not as good as it is now.  I taught many whole class books, and not very many at that, and I didn't have a classroom library.  We did activity packets around those classic novels, too.  I do remember valuing independent reading and choice, but still, it wasn't what it is today.  After five years in the classroom from 91-96, I stayed home with my two daughters for eight years.  When I came back to teaching, the workshop model had changed.  Creative writing had gone by the wayside (and even criticized) to make room for academic writing and concentrating on short pieces.  High stakes testing had made its way into schools, and long blocks and team teaching had disappeared.  Focus seemed to be more on reading because that's what was tested. There was some value in those writing changes, but I have to say, I missed the writing workshop model.  However,  I adapted, and as a result, felt like I lost my writing heart.
 
     In the last couple years, as I've started blogging, writing for Choice Literacy, working on a book project, and journaling, my own writing spirit has awakened.  I used to write a lot in the past, but I had stopped.  I know I have students who have writing hearts, and I haven't given them enough space.  It's not that we don't write - we do.  But we don't write ENOUGH.  And I don't give them enough room to write what they want to write.  I have 60 minutes a day with them.  How can I show them that I have a heart for writing as well as reading, and let them show their hearts, too?  I'm not sure - that time seems so limiting to do everything the way I want to - but I know I want to see more slices of life in that classroom!
 
$slugfordisplay
 

9 comments:

  1. I hear you, Holly. I never have enough time. Do you only have 60 minutes for reading and writing? I have 55 for reading - and that is the class I teach to three classes. My writing time varies depending on our schedules that day - and it is short. I only teach writing to my homeroom. I don't feel like either class is getting the time it deserves.

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    1. Yes - 60 minutes for both. I have 5 classes a day. I know everyone struggles with time. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't look at the clock and wish I could have another 1/2 hour!

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  2. I wonder if you might expand on how you teach reading. I use writing workshop and feel like my students are successful in growing in their writing. But, reading is a whole different ball game. My students have a book challenge to read 40 books by the end of the year in their independent reading and they love that - all choice. I read aloud, currently Wonder, and I ask questions as we go along about character development, themes, etc. I am sorely lacking in the small group or individual reading. I have great plans every year, but end up not doing much. I feel like I am failing them. Any advice you could give or examples of how you help your readers individually would be greatly appreciated!

    By the way - I love how you list what you're reading (and your family). I've read quite a few from your list!

    Thanks!
    Janie
    Are We There Yet?

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    1. I try to break the hour into 20 minute increments - 20 minutes of read aloud and response time, 20 minutes of silent reading/conferencing time, and 20 min. of instruction and work time. I also frame my ELA classroom around literacy contracts which involve a small group book around a genre and theme topic, independent book - usually nonfiction around the same theme topic and writing project. I, too, challenge the kids with the 40 books (this year I went up to 50) and encourage choice. Megan Ginther and I are writing a monthly series about the literacy contracts on Choice Literacy. I bet you're doing more than you think! It's so hard to meet with kids individually with time constraints. I've tried to do better with that this year, and it has great benefits, I know! Feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk further! Are you on Twitter?

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    2. An hour for reading - OH how I would love that!! I feel blessed that we have the reading time we do. When I first started at my school 5 years ago, there was no reading time built into our 4th grade schedule. The longest block of reading time we have is 30 minutes. Usually 20 minutes, but we do have it 4 out of 5 days. It is not part of our Language Arts class, so I feel lucky to at least have that. I really struggle with helping my kids that are low readers - they hate reading. They do work with our learning specialist 3 days a week, but I feel like I should be helping them, too and it's just not happening. I kind of feel at a loss on how to really guide them. I know she really works with them on reading nonfiction and comprehension strategies. I struggle with finding good books for them that have a high interest level but lower reading level. I just feel like I'm totally disjointed in my reading instruction.
      I am really just starting on Twitter and trying to figure that all out. I just saw your button and am following you now. My email is janiefahey@gmail.com

      Thanks!
      Janie

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  3. That's the same question I ask myself, too, Holly: do we write enough? I see my kid every other day for writing workshop - 45 minutes of it. We squeeze in as much as we can...but it never feels like enough. My hope is that I plant enough of a seed for writing love that my kids journal and write for themselves, away from the classroom. I loved Chris' post, too - so thoughtful.

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    1. That's a great way to look at it - plant a seed for writing love!

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  4. I'm jealous of your 60 minutes. I have only 46, and I constantly struggle to balance reading and writing with that short amount of time. Like you, my classroom reflects my love of books and reading, and I'm trying to add back the love of writing, too. Now I need to go check out Chris's post. It wounds powerful.

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    1. 46 minutes?! What grade do you teach? Yikes. Yes, be sure to read Chris's post!

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