Tuesday, after school, was the first day of writing club, an after school activity modelled after writing workshop. I had four students, three girls in grade 3 and one boy in grade 4. Whenever I’ve sponsored a writing club in the past, I’ve gotten at least 40 kids. This was in my previous school in Calgary when I offered writing club during the lunch hour. This is the third time I’ve offered writing club at my current school and to have a total of four students register, again, was disappointing to say the least.
Nevertheless, I decided it was important to offer these students a quality writing club experience so I pocketed my disappointment and planned for the first day.
I modelled how to choose a topic by writing down two or three big ideas and smaller, more manageable sub-ideas below these. I used a think aloud strategy so that my students could listen in on how a more experienced writer selects a writing topic from a sea of potential ideas. Then, I had my students do the same thing and share their list with a partner. Next, we wrote silently for the first 10 minutes of club time. I believe it’s important for writers to have a quiet writing time during some portion of the writing workshop. At the end of the 10 minutes, we shared our writing with a partner.
During the last 15 minutes, the students had a choice to continue writing or drawing, or to start working on something new. This is my time to confer with students about their writing – the most important part of writing workshop for me as a teacher.
This predictable structure – focus lesson, 10 minutes of silent writing, sharing with a partner, writing (alone or with a partner), teacher conferring with students – will remain the same throughout the writing club sessions to allow students to plan for their writing.
I experienced a deep sense of satisfaction at the end of writing club, not only because all four kids were writing and engaged but because I practised letting go of something that never works for me – holding on to disappointments or resentments (in this case having only 4 students register for writing club) and finding what works: accepting what is and planning for that, enjoying my students, and celebrating writing.
I am trying to stick to all of my New Year resolutions.
It hasn’t been easy.
I read every day.
I write every day.
And, sometimes, not so important.
I try to remember to stay in the moment.
I have finished two books.
98 to go.
I am not eating as healthy as I would like.
I have yet to start an exercise program.
At least, I have the schedule written down.
Now, I just have to start going.
Now, I am sitting in writing club.
The four girls in my class
are writing away.
Well, at least three of them are.
One is arranging her crayons in some kind of order.
She distracts herself and those around her.
Which is about everybody else since there are only
four girls in the class.
I try to ignore it.
10 minutes to go before the end of silent writing time.
I’m doing pretty well, I think.
Until one little girl approaches me
ready to ask me a question, I guess –
at least she’s whispering –
“Can I use my notebook to make a chapter book?”
“Of course”, I say.
She was the same one who whooped a cry of joy when
I announced silent writing time.
“Yeah,” she said.
“I love silent writing time.”
They’re giggling now.
So much for silent writing time.
5 minutes to go.
At least I wrote something today.
Ready to post.
Posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday
Yesterday we had a meeting of the children interested in writing club. There were about 70 children present from grade one through grade four. Although I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was. This year we’re starting late. Normally, we start in October but the start of 2011 was fraught with atypical personal and professional challenges. So, here we are, it’s mid-January and just getting ready to start. Yet, despite the late start, there were lots of children interested.
Of course, it’s encouraging that so many children want to stay once a week during their lunchtime to write because they love it. However, there are only two us sponsoring writing club so we needed to set some parameters so that the children who finally end up staying would do so because (1) they love to write, (2) they are willing to spend a lunch period writing, (3) they are fairly independent when it comes to writing – they won’t need much supervision (a concern in the past with some playful grade one boys) and will use the time they have in a productive manner, (4) they won’t quit in the middle of the semester (we go until May) because another more enticing club has come along. In other words, writing is their passion.
We’re starting on Thursday this week and I, for one, can’t wait! I plan to spend a few minutes at the beginning of every writing club time doing my own writing, as well. I’ve recently come to call myself a writer who can write well. Therefore, I need to make a habit of writing in order to become a better writer. So, I’ve started a commitment to writing every morning for about an hour when I wake up. Since I’ve started doing this I find my days go more smoothly and I feel calmer. This last result is not something I was expecting. In New Orleans, where I lived for four years, we call this lagniappe!