This post is part II to the previous post about inspiring students to write. Read part I here. Part one was also featured on www.achievethecore.org on June 22nd, 2018.
In order to maintain my students' passion for writing, I realized that compelling ideas were necessary to maintain their interest in writing. One way to encourage writers is by thinking with the end in mind. This just means brainstorming some ideas to wrap-up their hard work as writers. Our idea was to celebrate our writing by publishing our work and sharing it with staff, students, and the world!
My students were super excited from the very beginning. They understood that they would have to work very hard to complete a work worth sharing with the world. They understood the power of having an authentic audience.
To support students develop the language needed to discuss the pictures, we created verbal sentences to go with each picture.
I truly believe that giving my students these sentences and saying them in a rhyming and choral way, helped them as they started their individual writing process.
As a way to provide the scaffold they needed to be successful writers, we created two anchor charts with some images and words just so they knew where to look if and when they needed support.
Notice I said, "WE created"! It is very important for students to take part in creating anchor charts...ultimately it is for them to use so it needs to be as kid-friendly as possible. If you just pull-out an anchor chart already created, it becomes just a paper on the wall with no use whatsoever.
For the first part of the story, I asked students to write their sentences in their notebook. We started with an image and used the image to complete a sentence. We also talked about using our drawings to add to our digital book.
Some students needed my support more than others, but for the most part, students were very good about completing their story.
Our Digitalized Stories
Once students had the first part of the story completed, students began transferring their stories onto a digital platform. The best and most effective platform to create digital stories with lower grade student is www.WriteReader.com. Students have used this app before so they just jumped right in to create their stories.
Watch my Kindergartners' presentation on YouTube!
First Graders' Work
Students were given complete freedom as to where to sit, how to take notes, discussions, etc. They all helped each other as they collected information. Students were super excited to see the pictures in the book and were so engaged in conversations about the topic. Students at a higher level reading and/or language proficiency were very helpful to students who needed more support.
Check out this video of students helping and learning from each other!
There's just something about writing what you read that supports comprehension...so I make my students take notes and draw pictures as they read and learn something new. Taking notes on a notebook had two purposes:
Here are some examples of students' work:
I was very impressed with their work and so were they! They were so excited about sharing with their peers all the facts they've learned!
Once we have collected enough information or at least answered the questions we agreed on, students began to publish their books using WriteReader.com.
Once their book was published, they shared it with one another and read each other's book. It was amazing to see how much reading they were doing and they didn't even realize it.
Read their published books here:
We invited Kindergarten, 1st-grade teachers, and administrators to our class the day of our author celebration.
Thank you for reading!
Highlighting ELs' Strengths
I believe without a doubt that the core of my students’ success relies on parent engagement and parent-teacher partnerships. So, in order to foster this success, I gather my students’ families quarterly and share relevant information with them in order to keep them engaged and well informed about their children’s success. I create a culture in my school that fosters an environment where parents feel welcomed and valued.
However, this year I started a new approach with our ESL families; I started our school year providing our parents the opportunity and the platform to have their voices heard. Our students' parents know our students best! They know their weaknesses and strengths much better than we do. Their dreams and aspirations for their children should be what drives our desire to do what is best for our students.
I made this simple "My Wish..." poster and gave each parent a sticky-note. We asked parents to write down their wish and desire for their children's school year and/future. Our focus was not necessarily with an academic approach, parents were also encouraged to think about their personal and social desires for their children.
These are some of our parents' wishes for their children:
In January, we met with our parents again...this time our focus was mid-year grades. I asked our parents to bring with them their children's report card and any intervention documentation they had received from their teacher. As we discussed the grading process and the desired academic target at each grade level, I could sense that our parents were feeling discouraged due to their child's current level and grades.
I didn't want our parents to leave our meeting discouraged so we switched gears and started talking about students' strengths. I gave then the mantra I stand for, "highlighting strengths to make weaknesses disappear". I reassured parents that even though we had some work to do...we could work together to support students to get where they need to get. They are not there YET...but then can be!
Each parent received a sentence strip to write their child's strengths. I asked them to think about what they love doing, what they like spending their time doing, what their favorite subject is, what they want to be when they grow up...etc.
These are some of our students' strengths highlighted by their parents
This was an amazing opportunity for parents to turn and talk with their children and ask them about what they love doing (if they didn't know). Students were excited to share their likes and what they were very good at. Parents' reactions were priceless! They realized there are was so much good and strength in their child. Once they started focusing on strengths, they realized that their weaknesses (academic, that is) were slowly disappearing.
We took every sentence strip and attached them together to create a chain. We talked about how we need to focus on strengths and make them stronger like a chain to strengthen our students' future! Our parents were excited and more receptive to ways they can support their children at home to help them achieve the required grade level.
Again, in order to support our students' success, we need to foster an environment where our parents feel part of the process and have an opportunity to voice their opinion about the children WE are educating at school. And don't forget Jimmy Casas' wise words: "UNLEASHING TRUE POTENTIAL BEGINS BY REMOVING THE LABELS THAT HOLD CHILDREN HOSTAGE."
Thank you for reading!