Flipgrid, Seesaw, Padlet, Canvas, Bitmoji classrooms, etc. seem to be all that we hear from our colleagues and administrators in preparation for a virtual start. If you are like me and gearing up for the start of this unprecedented 2020 school year, then you are probably overwhelmed by EVERYTHING we need to learn as teachers for our students to be successful online. As I sat in my library office thinking about all that I needed to do to get ready for this year, my heart started to race and my head was spinning. Then, I took a deep breath as I looked around at all of the books in my library, and my heart rate slowed and my mind became more open to the possibilities that books can offer me, my students, and the teachers during these tech-filled times.
These first couple of weeks should be used to give our students and ourselves grace to ease into this extraordinary school year. What better way to do that than through picture books? No matter the grade level or subject you teach consider using picture books to open the necessary conversations we need to have in order to get to know our students, find out how they feel, and get a sense of how to proceed with care–the curriculum can wait.
Before becoming an elementary school librarian, I taught for 19 years in a regular classroom. My two favorite things to do were read aloud and use a Writer’s Notebook. Now as a librarian and starting a school year during a pandemic, I intend to use the same two tools to get the year started. Picture books provide opportunities for quick, meaningful read-alouds which can lead to an entry in a Writer’s Notebook and follow that up with sharing and/or discussion. The following titles are a small sampling of books to use to get your year started or use them periodically throughout the year to maintain community and care in a virtual world:
Thankfully we have the technology to connect to our students as we start the year online. However, we cannot let it get in the way of what is important–getting to know our students and letting them know we care. In the end, a good book, a pencil and some paper (or a Writer’s Notebook) is all we need to get started connecting to our students and building the community necessary to navigate the year. So, take a deep breath and give your students and yourself grace.
Chris Kehan is a library media specialist in the Central Bucks School District. She became a PAWLP Writing Fellow in 1995 and a Literature Fellow in 1997. After teaching 4th & 6th grades for 19 years in the regular classroom where she amassed over 4,000 books in her classroom, she decided to take her passion for literacy to the library where she teaches children in K – 6th grade. She has been sharing her love of reading and writing with the students and teachers at Warwick Elementary School for the past 10 years. Follow her on Twitter @CBckehan
Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery.
– Henry Miller
We all want our students to think deeply about their writing and reading, learn how to assimilate information, and in some way take the new learning and make it their own. In writing workshop, the teacher becomes the facilitator of creative options and the students become innovators, applying knowledge in new ways.
Have you ever had the experience of discovering a new word or a new idea and then, as if by magic, you start to hear or see it everywhere? Sometimes it’s not necessarily something new, but something you have just been thinking quite a bit about. That is what it was like for me recently with the idea of reflection.
Before I sit down to write something, it is usually part of my process to think through what I want to say, perhaps engage in some internal oral rehearsal, maybe do a little research, and then start to write. So for the past few days essentially what I have been doing is reflecting on reflecting. It wasn’t long before I started to see or hear “reflect” or “reflection” everywhere. Read more
We can’t just hunt for errors; we need to celebrate what we are doing right.
– Jeff Anderson
After reading both of Jeff Anderson’s books, Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined, I started to think deeply about the concept of showing students what is right instead of asking them to correct what is wrong. Jeff focuses on correctness, asking students to look at mentor sentences and passages in the books they are reading including textbooks and independent reads. His “Express-Lane” editing system is inviting for students and provides a meaning-based process to help students proofread their writing and shape their own writing. As Jeff cautions us, checklists aren’t always meaningful – students simply check off the items on the list.
So how do you get students to engage in editing to reinforce the habit of becoming the first and last editor of their own work in order to communicate clearly and effectively? Read more
The colleague who observed my Writing Research 200 course this past spring was “shocked” that students arrived early and were animatedly discussing the class texts and their own writing even before class started. She observed, “students seemed genuinely interested in each other’s perspectives on the assigned chapter from A Whole New Mind, and they were also sharing grammar tips with each other.”
Before teaching this particular introductory college writing research course, I polled several colleagues regarding methods for encouraging reading and discussion. I was surprised when they told me they gave multiple choice and short answer quizzes in their writing classes. Their rationale, if they didn’t quiz — students wouldn’t read the materials, and thus miss out on important information. Read more