Over the summer of 2018, I took the first step to a great journey...I made the decision to transfer to Concord High School (CHS) after working six years at Irvin Elementary school. The decision was based on a burning desired within me to support students who are facing the same struggles I faced as a high school newcomer student and language learner. Read more about my personal experience as a newcomer here!
I got our classroom ready with so much excitement! However, I was more excited to meet my new students. I had already met a few of them during our ESL summer enrichment program, so I was thrilled to meet the rest of my students.
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!
Teaching is by far the most rewarding profession! What I love the most about our profession is the opportunity we have each and every day to make a difference in our students' lives.
However, the moment I experienced yesterday, taught me how much our students have to teach us...and their lessons are what ignite passion in our profession.
We are halfway through the school year and administrators are making their required observation rounds. So I was working with my 1st-grade pull-out class when our assistant principal, Mrs. Baker, walked in. I knew she was coming to see us sometime, so I was excited to show the awesome learning happening in our classroom.
However, as excited as I was to showcase our awesomeness; I was really nervous!
Anyway, I pulled out the book we had read during class the day before: “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, and together we had a quick discussion about the characters and setting in the story.
I reminded students that just as important as naming the characters and the settings; it is also important to understand how the character is feeling throughout the story to be able to get the message the author wants for us.
Students had already started analyzing parts of the story and brainstorming what is happening as well as analyzing how the character is feeling based on illustrations and text.
I asked for volunteers to share their work with the class. I had several students who raised their hand and wanted to share their work.
I chose Jarett to share his part of the story because the day before he had done an excellent job and I knew he had the language to share his work.
What happened next, of course, took me by surprise...Jarett froze!
Jarett was holding his work and just looking around so confused and unable to say a word! So here am I thinking, "Come on, Jarett, you know the answer!"; "Just say what you told me yesterday!"; "How do I empower him to say something.?!"; "Do I give him more time, or should I call another student?!"
It was pretty awkward for a few minutes. All students, an assistant principal, and his teacher staring at him and expecting an answer. Now, I am a huge believer in wait-time! Please check out Valentina's illustration and post above; however, I also think that after a few minutes of waiting, students on the spotlight need some sort of empowerment to be successful with their response. And in that moment I really thought that this empowerment was supposed to come from me...his teacher!
The awesomeness I want to share is how the empowerment didn't actually come from me...but from whom I least expected it.
Carlos is struggling academically right now, so in my mind, answering a high order thinking question was not going to happen for him. Oh, boy, was I wrong!!!
When Carlos noticed that his partner was struggling to answer the questions, he began to side-whisper the answer they both had thought about the day before! When Jarett heard what Carlos had said, his face lit up and began telling us all about his work.
I had Carlos stand up and share along with Jerett, and between the two of them, we heard the best presentation ever!!
What a success and powerful moment for my students but more so for me! First of all, I learned a good lesson on NOT doubting my students' abilities. Just because they are below grade level does not mean I set up limitations to what they can do! Secondly, I learned that students have a powerful ability to empower and support each other. Empowerment does not always have to come from teachers...If we provide opportunities and a comfortable environment for students, they can help each other beyond our imagination!
Our API was able to snap a picture of our students smiling and sharing their work! She was very happy to see our students empowering each other and successfully share their learning!
Please do not underestimate what our English learners are capable of doing and knowing! Having the opportunities and the possibilities, our students, regardless of grade level, CAN and WILL learn and empower others to learn.
Thank you for reading!