December is here and with it came the closing of our first grading period. I like to really slow things down at this point and reflect on the first trimester. Was it full of love? Together, did we lay the foundation for a safe and warm classroom? Do my students know I am proud of the the persistence they demonstrated? Are my students proud of themselves?
We wrapped up our first writing unit at the end of November and they were eager to show off their published narratives. This year, I wanted students and their audience to place more focus on the process of writing and less so on the published piece. It took many days, revisions, self-assessments, and mornings of goal-setting to complete this beauties! SO, I changed things up a little this year.
As students finished their pieces, I photocopied them twice (once to attach to the rubric for filing and once to put out on the table for our celebration). The original copy, I had big plans for.
In an effort to showcase the work students completed and the learning they did to get there, I hung each student’s published piece in the hallway on a bulletin board with the self-assessment statements they used to set goals for themselves. We use the Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and her team of powerful educators, so the student rubric was easily accessibly to me and we anchored much of our learning in it throughout the unit. They really did do it like third graders!
Beside and above the bulletin board, I hung most of our anchor charts from the unit, which had been adorned with sticky notes from our first grade writing buddies. These stickies connected our learning during our narrative unit to the first graders’ learning in their own classroom. Our chart about telling the internal story reminded them of how they were working to bring their characters to life in their own writings.
In conjunction with the Units of Study lessons, I pulled from Jennifer Serravallo’s book “The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers.” I chose lessons from this book based on what I noticed my students needed more instruction on from conferring with them.
About two weeks before the writing celebration, I emailed the parents in our classroom to invite them to our event. I let them know the date, time, when it would end, and I asked them to email me back if they planned to attend so I could hand a list of guests to the front office the morning of the event. We had many parents come to support the students!
I also invited our first grade writing buddies, the administrators in our building, my sister and niece, and other educators who were part of our classroom community. The turnout was phenomenal! Each year that I do this, I notice the students get a lot of support from loved ones outside our classroom if they are given advanced notice. Two weeks seems to be great notice!
DAY OF THE CELEBRATION
The day of the event, I asked students to put out their published work which I had copied, but ALSO their self-assessments using the Units of Study rubric, their writing notebook, their drafting notebook, their editing checklists, and the drafts they were currently working on (realistic fiction).
We prepared a list of questions for our guests to refer to as they walked around our room. I wrote down the questions and offered up the first one, but the students generated the rest of the list. They used the anchor charts in the hallway to help them create questions. This allowed them to reflect back on how they had grown as writers and it gave them a chance to prepare some answers in their minds before our guests arrived.
The celebration was a huge success! My students were SO happy others were reading their writing! The pride just beamed off their faces and they loved answering the questions they were asked. Needless to say…I WAS SO PROUD OF THEM!
As our guests walked around the room, I asked them to sign a sweet note to the third grade authors that highlighted their successes. Now, the poster with all of the notes is hanging on our window shade and students can read the notes of encouragement left for them whenever they want to! This small piece was so easy to do and so, so worth it!
After the celebration, I asked the students how they were feeling. They were ecstatic and they are very much looking forward to our next celebration! So am I!
Drop a note in the comments: how do you celebrate your students’ writing? I am always looking for new, fresh ideas! Share yours with me!
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