Saturday, July 2, 2016

Read, Write, and You...Writer's Notebooks

I can hardly believe that it is already July!  July always marks an important time of the summer for me, and most teachers.  Although summer is always a time of relaxing and rejuvenating for teachers, there is also the task of preparing to do it all again.  I was at lunch the other day with another teacher friend.  We decided that June is the take care of you month.  We both squeeze in all the appointments, lunches, trips to the gym, and everything else that we can't get done during the school year.  For me, July marks the turning point from taking care of me, to getting ready for the next school year.  Although I know there are still several weeks left of summer, I also know that I have about a million things that I want to do to make August run as smoothly as possible.  July is the time to start making those lists, getting those ideas, and actually start making things happen.

I have decided that this July is going to be my Read, Write, and You time!  Time to get things organized for reading, writing, and myself so that my school year will go as smoothly as possible.  I am going into my second year of teaching 1st grade, and want to ensure that the year is my best one yet!  I have so many exciting ideas about EVERYTHING...I can't wait to get started.

Writer's Notebooks
My Read, Write, and You job is to start my writing journal.  Every year our students work in writing notebooks during Writing Workshop time. I love this because it keeps a collection of their work, shows improvement throughout the year, and is such a treasure to send home at the end of the year.  What I learned last year in first grade is that most of my beginning of the year journals went home with a scribble on the picture part, and maybe 2 words in the writing part-not exactly a treasure.  This summer, while ready, "No More I'm Done" by Jennifer Jacobson, I decided that in addition to teaching mini lessons on note-booking 101, I actually needed to have a journal with several entries already in it so that my students can see the "whole" of the notebook.

What Will Ours Look Like?
We are using these awesome primary writing journals from Lakeshore learning this year.  In the past, I have used just regular composition books and primary composition books, all of which seem to work wonderfully.

Once I picked up my own journal, I decided that I wanted 5 prewritten/illustrated journal entries.  This forced me and my team to think about what do we want in an entry?  We decided that we want each entry dated, best handwriting, a "5 star" picture, at least 3 sentences in the beginning, capitals and periods.  We looked at our school requirements from kinder, and started there.  As we grow as writers, our expectations will grow as writers.  My first entry is about the baby bird nest on our front porch.  One thing that I find it important to remember as a writing teacher, model what you expect from students.  I try to write from the mind of a 1st grade when I am modeling, a high achieving first grader, but a first grader.  I want my students to see something that I have written and to think, "Hey I can do that". After spending time jotting a few things about my birds, and drawing a detailed picture, I had an end project I was proud of:

Tomorrow I will add to my notebook and write about our summer vacation to Harry Potter.
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Friday, July 1, 2016

Read, Write, and You...5 Star Illustrations

Why Illustrations are Important
One of the very first lessons that I teach my students in Writing Workshop is the importance of their illustrations.  We use the word illustrations over pictures because books have illustrators not picturers.  In first grade, our writing skills can sometimes be so limited at the beginning of the year, that we need to know that it is okay to tell a story through pictures.  We might spend some time looking at wordless books (that blog to come later), drawing stories just using illustrations, and really adding detail to illustrations help my students understand what a quality illustration might look like.

To help students self assess this, I have come up with the 5 Star Illustration check list.  It is a simple, student friendly check list to help them decide if they have put in enough details.
Download it free
In the beginning of the year we practice drawing backgrounds, details, more than one thing, using 5 colors, and coloring neatly.  The students love getting time to "color", while learning that our pictures in our writing are telling a story just as much as the words are.  These detailed illustrations carry into our science and social studies journals, and other work that we do in the classroom.  I also feel like it helps my first graders understand the importance of slowing down and doing detailed work instead of rushing through it.  Finally, it also sets up a foundation of self reflection and assessment during the very first days of school. A win all around.
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