In my classroom, I have reached the time of the school year when I need to re-evaluate the writing environment. It's time to step back and take a look at how things are going.
This is what I've been doing for the last week. Trying to decide what is working well, what needs adjustment and if anything needs an overhaul. The first thing I did was move children around. They have seats at the tables that don't change. However, I've noticed that during writing workshop, these are not the best seats for all children. My first order of business this week was to change the workshop seating. I spread the kids out all over the classroom. I would ideally prefer for the kids to make these seating choices on their own but with this particular group of children, if I allowed that choice, writing workshop would turn into chat workshop! :)
In order to move students around, I have had to rethink their writing tools and caddies. I made it work last week by stretching what was available the best I could (kids that sit on the floor got clipboards, some students sit on the counter, some are at small tables around the room, etc.) but it ended up meaning that a few kids were walking around the room to locate an item (a certain color crayon, a colored pencil, a regular pencil, etc.) rather than just being able to get comfy and absorbed in their work. To fix that problem, Monday we will be switching to a combination of tool caddies. There will be some caddies that stay on the tables...for children that sit there during writing workshop. For students that are on the floor, at a small table elsewhere in the room, or sitting on the counter space, I will be putting together pencil boxes that have the pencil, crayons, and colored pencils that they will need. I know there will still be supplies that they will need to get up for, but at least it will be somewhat more contained to allow them to get caught up in their work.
I have also been doing some rereading of my professional books. I spent time this summer reading Katie Wood Ray's book: The Writing Workshop - Teaching the Hard Stuff (and it's all hard stuff). I've gone back to that book to review some of her ideas that really struck a chord with me. I also pulled out a book that I purchased recently but hadn't yet begun to read. It is Marcia Freeman's Teaching the Youngest Writers: A Practical Guide. I have to share a quote from this book that resonated with me as I read from the chapter on creating the workshop environment this morning. "Your first big step is to expect your students to write. Act on that premise. In the beginning, treat them as writers, call them writers, make them believe they are writers. Have faith: Build it and they will come."
I think that is what it all boils down to...build it and they will come. If I make sure the environment is in good shape (and of course, my teaching as well), they will come...or maybe more to the point, they will write.
My OLW for this year is grow. I think I found my first opportunity to reflect on this word. I am pushing myself to grow by doing some reflection and professional reading right now and I am expecting to see my students grow in their writing as a result.
Because it is also the time of year when assessments are high on my list and report cards are on the horizon, I am looking forward to collecting a writing sample from my youngsters. I can't wait to see what kind of growth they have made!