Ellen A. Thompson , Ed. D
Am I a writer?
What is a writer?
noun. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist. a clerk, scribe, or the like. … a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.
Well, I can write in cursive – sort of. I’ve always wanted to write using calligraphy. I even bought the book and the ink and the nibs. Still in the box.
I write a lot for others, but not so much for me. Does that matter? Should it? This pandemic has made me more philosophical. I question things more. Am I a writer? Or am I someone who writes? There’s the question!
In 2nd grade I was a writer! Really, I was. My second grade teacher, Miss Connolly told me so and I believed her! There. She let me write all day long, anything I wanted to write! I made up comics and stories. I wrote informational books. To this day, I am still not sure why she let me write so much. My cynical self thinks she was taking a writing course and she needed student examples to get a good grade. Did teachers take writing courses in 1962? I don’t have any of the stories, so either Miss Connolly kept them all or my mom got rid of them in one of her annual purges of all things fun.
I remember that feeling of putting the words down on paper and then reading them aloud to anyone who would listen. I had one school chum who wrote along with me most of the time, so we were each other’s audience. The other kids were doing regular second grade stuff, but not me. I was writing!
It all seems fishy to me now. I have a feeling I was one of those “smart” kids and not afraid to show it. Writing probably kept me quiet. Could that be the real story? My teacher needed a break, so she let me do what I loved best – write. And read. I was a voracious reader, too. So many models for so much more writing to create.
Hmmm. My destiny as a writer shaped by my vocality as a kid. Could it be? Perhaps I have always had something I wanted to say. Makes sense. Writing does that for us. It allows us to consider and reconsider our thoughts and ideas. To make them measure up for others to see. I know when I write now, I rewrite and start again many times. This blog post has been in the making for months! In fact I even missed my own superimposed deadline for getting it on the webpage. Writing is also frightening at times. Will my words make sense? Do my words matter? To me? To anyone else?
So if I think about my journey as a writer, I have to consider all the kids who are just starting their own writerly quest and be sure that I am emparting what I have learned about myself as a writer.
- Do our words matter? Yes.
- Is writing for others part of “writing”? Yes.
- Do writers’ need an audience for their writing? Yes.
- Do writers; need validation and feedback for their writing? Yes.
- Do writers’ need models of really good writing? Yes.
- Can we create our very own writerly self? Yes.
It takes time to be a writer. Everyone’s journey will be different, yet surprisingly the same. We need others to support our progress and reflection. We need to understand the myriad of ways words can be placed on the printed page. We need time to develop as readers and writers.
Thank you, Linda Rief for inspiring me to get this post on the page!
Written by: Chrissy Park
Changing the Way We Think
As educators, we get used to teaching our units the same way each year. We rely on the greats to show us how to teach literacy using a balanced literacy approach. Jennifer Serevello, Lucy Calkins, Linda Reif, Lester Lamanick, and so many others have shown us systems, programs, and strategies to teach literacy concepts to children. Over and over again they have proven to be effective in teaching literacy to children and we have seen growth year after year.
The one thing that all these greats have in common? They do not know our students. They are not in our classrooms and our students do not know them. We do not need to throw these great works out, we need to change the way we think about them. We need to include our students in their learning and allow them to understand how what they are learning connects with the world around them. The key to doing this? Personalizing children’s learning so they choose their own learning path, their learning targets, and understand how it connects to the world around them.
Using Playlists to Personalize
Over the last couple years I have been thinking about how to use personalization with elementary students, while also incorporating all the elements of a balanced literacy approach. Through working with the Tarrant Institute and Learning Lab I have gained the skills to create playlists in order to incorporate all these elements. These playlists are a way to restructure independent work time in your workshop block. It acts as a guide for children while the teacher is working with small groups and conferencing with students. They allow students who understand skills to move ahead and try skills that have not been taught in a mini-lesson yet. They also allow students who might need more time and practice with a skill to get that practice. They allow for true differentiation and personalization.
What is a playlist? A playlist is a self guided path where students can choose skills and targets that they feel they need to work on. In this example of a 3rd Grade Nonfiction Playlist, students work on finding the main idea and supporting details as one of the skills in their path. They choose a learning target that fits where they feel they are at with that skill. After, they choose a resource and complete the activity that matches their learning target. Once finished with the activity, they submit their work on whichever platform the teacher is using and complete the reflection questions (For this playlist the platform used was Seesaw. Google Classroom and Google Slides also work well). Here is another example of a 5th Grade Nonfiction Playlist with different reflection questions.
Incorporating Social Justice
This year I realized that these playlists also lend themselves well to reflection around social justice topics. Using Learning For Justice, I adapted their Social Justice Standards into scales for my students to reflect on. The students used a playlist to explore topics like diversity, justice, and taking action. They reflected on these deep topics and conversations using book creator as a way to create their own Social Justice Reflection Journal.
Playlists can also be used to teach mini-units or used for one week to highlight a social justice topic or event. For example, this year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day my students completed a one week playlist focused around equality. They looked at songs, past and present, and reflected on how they represented inequalities throughout history. This was a way for them to connect our classroom conversations with some self guided reflection around the topic of equality and inequality in our society.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance” ~ Alan Watts
Over the last two years using these playlists I have seen a change in my students. They are excited for our literacy time and motivated to try out new targets after they have mastered one. They are more self-directed and they understand how their learning is connected to the world around them. Educators can feel that there is always something new to try and it can be overwhelming to do it all. I invite you to think of this as not something new, but a way to organize all the work your students have already been doing. I invite you to see the magic when your students are excited to push their thinking and work harder when given feedback. Most importantly, I invite you to join the dance called personalization.
Chrissy Park is a classroom teacher at Burke Town School in Burke, Vermont.
Don’t miss this great conference! April 27 & 29 at 3:30 pm via ZOOM!
Ignite Curiosity and Instill Confidence in Writers
Join us for a virtual conference.
April 27 and 29, 2021
In this time of so many disruptions to their learning, we have to rethink what matters the most for our students and what is possible in these chaotic and difficult times:
Less is More
Innovation & Creativity Foster Engagement
We must anchor our work in the lives of our children.
Carla Espana, NYC teacher
In these two two-hour keynotes we will focus on the writing process: the framework and management of a writing workshop, as well as helping students find ideas for writing while offering them a variety of choices.
Registration Information Coming Soon!
Cost per session = $60.00
Cost for both sessions = $100.00
There is still time to get $500.00!
The Vermont Council on Reading is looking for mini grant proposals.
Purpose. These grants are to support initiatives by teachers or specialists in schools to enhance literacy instruction within the school.
Amount. The Vermont Council on Reading will award $500 annually. We will accept applications for grants up to $500.00.
Eligibility. Current members of the Vermont Council on Reading are eligible to apply for these grants.
Proposal Form. To apply submit an electronic proposal to Emily Goldman. When sending your application by email, please indicate “VCR Mini Grant Application” in the subject line.
Proposal Organization. The complete proposal should be no longer than 4 pages, and should address each of the following:
- Cover Page with:
- Title of project
- Names(s) of proposal author(s)
- Email, phone, and school address of proposal author who is to serve as contact person if more than one person is involved in the project.
- Description of Project to include:
- Purpose and objectives of the project. These should embody overall excellence in both the quality and the innovation of the idea.
- Goals are realistic and attainable. They reflect improved academic performance or experiences.
- Description of what will happen, when, with whom
- Description of how grant funds will be used (salaries or stipends not allowable)
- Timeline for completing the project
- Statement of value to the Vermont Council on Reading membership
- Budget (up to $500.00)
- Resume (for each proposal author)
- Letter of support from Building Principal
Proposals are due March 15, 2020. Mini grants will be awarded at the VCR Spring Conference for use during spring ’20 – spring ’21 school year.
Sharing. Recipients are asked to complete and evaluation and to consider sharing at a future VCR conference.
Save the Date!
Linda Rief is coming to Vermont on
Friday, April 30, 2021
Sugarbush Resort and Conference Center
Join us on April 3, 2020 at the Stoweflake Resort for an inspiring day with literacy expert, Jennifer Serravallo!