Let me say this: I am not a huge fan of leaving my students with subs. I have anxiety about it all day beforehand, write incredibly detailed lesson plans, and spend hours organizing everything the night before I leave to go home (control freak? check...) That's why I didn't initially get too excited when each grade-level team was asked to choose one member to attend a day-long seminar on teaching writing through mini-lessons and writers workshop, and my teammates "nominated" me. However, I agreed to go, well aware that I have the most to learn being the new teacher!!
Sub or no sub, I am SO SO SO glad I went!!!! Diane Murphy's "101 Writing Mini-Lessons" workshop was an incredibly worthwhile experience. Not only was the presentation engaging and upbeat, but I left completely motivated and excited about planning writing lessons for my classroom, and ready to restructure my writing time into a truer model of writer's workshop. Mostly I am excited about all the new things I will try NEXT year from the start, but I'm trying to integrate a few ideas in my classroom now, if for no other reason than to try them out. I even tried a lesson right away Monday afternoon!
Since we are already in the beginning stages of a writing project, I decided I should probably just stick to mini-lessons that support that project rather than starting anything new on the side...it's already challenge enough for me to find time to teach writing! We just finished brainstorming and outlining narrative essays about a "special day," so I decided to try Murphy's lesson for choosing a "good beginning." We practiced tons of "hooks" during my expository writing tirade earlier this year (thank you ISATs...), but I wanted to try a few new ones specific to narrative writing. I chose 6 hooks I thought would work especially well for a narrative and wrote each on a sentence strip. Then, I wrote an example for each about MY special day that I've been using as an example on separate sentence strips. The kids matched the correct examples to the types of prompts in a pocket chart and discussed each style and we discussed them all (next time I might have them look at the first page of books and write down the attention grabbers authors used...but 1 thing at a time).
They then went back to their desks and we rolled a cube I had made that had a different hook on each side, and the kids got 2 minutes to start writing an opening paragraph to their narrative using that hook. It took them awhile to catch on, but after the first 2 or so, they totally got it and did a great job. When we were finished, they cut out the best one and taped it to the top of their draft-in-progress. Overall, I think it was a success.
One thing I'm working hard on is just letting the kids WRITE initially, and going back with them to revise later. It's true, I'm a HORRIBLE (horrible) perfectionist, and unfortunately I do let that tendency involve itself in my teaching at times...I want to help the kids get it RIGHT, even though I 100% see the benefit of making mistakes and learning from them. Then thing is, when we are always in a time crunch to teach a million and a half things, who has the time?? Anyways, I digress. So, I am asking the kids to just write a first draft. We will go back through and paragraph later, add detail, fix mechanics, rearrange the order, etc. etc. etc. I honestly have no idea how this plan will work out in terms of student products, but I figure it's worth a try, and this is definitely the time to try it (post-ISATs I mean ;).
Anyways, even though I received an interesting report from my sub when I came back to school (something about how subbing in my class was a "good experience" which I don't think meant it was a walk in the park!!), it was definitely worth it, and not just because of the fact that I got an hour for lunch and actually got to use the bathroom any time I needed it during the day. ;)