One of my biggest goals for myself this year was to embrace Writing Workshop and implement it the RIGHT WAY. I attended a few workshops, read a few books, and had a lot of conversations with my mentor Mrs. H and my wonderful lit specialist the fabulous Mrs. J. I was excited all summer to start the year off teaching writing this way and to build by "workshop" structure in the classroom. And as I was planning my first week of school, I figured there was no better time to start than the very first day of school. My mom (also a teacher) thinks I'm crazy for starting curriculum the first day, but so much of writing community, which is a perfect beginning of the year idea.
I am dedicating the entire first month of school to "ideas" lessons, or writing mini-lessons that focus on developing an idea for a writing piece, then setting it aside and continuing to brainstorm new ideas. The hope is that the students will generate so many ideas for writing pieces that they will never be able to say, "I have nothing to write about!!!" (Who hasn't heard that before...I can even hear it in this whining high-pitched voice in my head as I type it...) Today's mini-lesson was based on the theme "Summer Memories." I read aloud an adorable picture book called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge about a boy who collects a box of "memories" to share with an elderly friend who has lost her memory. As he shares each object with her, she remembers things in her own life. We then discussed how the objects in the book made us remember things in our own lives, too, and added some of these memories to our ongoing "ideas list" on the writing board. The kids' homework assignment tonight is to find an object at home that represents one of their summer memories.
I loved teaching this lesson. I will never understand how some teachers of intermediate grades don't see the value in read alouds or picture books or gathering students on the carpet for a lesson. They are not too old for these things. There is something magic about gathering close together as a class and sharing a story together. Not only did my students listen intently and share their own observations about the story, but when they returned to their desks with the assignment "Write about a summer memory you have, OR write about anything you want!" they did!. Yes, there were a few students I had to approach and whisper, "It's time to get started. Let's try and get 3 sentences on your paper before time is up." But what an auspicious beginning.
I am genuinely excited to see what the near future of our writing workshop holds in store. :)