Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Following My Own Advice

Today was the first day back after Spring Break.  In an ironic twist of events, after an incredibly dry winter, it was pouring down rain when I left for work.  Rain is too badly needed around here for me to complain about, so I simply placed the million papers I had brought home to read during the break in plastic bags and dashed from door to car and then, once I arrived at work, from car to door as quickly as I could.  

Fortunately, the papers stayed dry.  These weren't just any papers, after all.  These were the first drafts of the informational books my students had started writing prior to our two-week vacation.  I had brought them home to read so I could plan which lessons to teach next.  I hadn't realized at the time that I would be learning some lessons of my own.

At the end of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, I wrote about what I had learned from the experience.  Learning is one thing; doing is quite another.  I was determined to not let that learning go to waste and to apply it to my teaching.  Because I had experienced firsthand the power of positive feedback, the first thing I did was compliment each student's writing. I will admit that it was more challenging to do in some cases than it was in others, but when my students received their writing today, the first thing each of them saw was a bright pink, heart-shaped sticky note with a positive observation.  To alleviate any anxiety, I told them ahead of time that I had only written notes on what I had really liked about their writing. When it came time to return the papers to their owners, one of my students exclaimed that she was excited to see her note from me.  All around the room, I could hear students reading their notes out loud. It was a nice change of pace to see students actually excited to read my feedback on their writing!

Next, I shared with my class some of the things I had learned about myself as a writer over the last month and identified three areas I wanted to improve in.  I then asked my students to look at both their work-in-progress as well as an earlier piece that I had assessed using the informational writing rubric from the Units of Study in Writing and choose their own goals to work toward.  Each of us wrote our goals on a piece of paper, which was then hung on our writing wall.  As we revise our work, I will refer my students back to those self-determined goals and help them find ways to achieve them.

What I didn't tell them was that when I wrote out my compliments to them I also made notes to myself on areas that needed further development.  I made a really simple chart with each student's name and the three main categories of the writing assessment:  Structure, Development, and Conventions.  

I will refer to this chart when I confer with students and use it to help me guide them toward improving their writing.

As we finish up the unit, I plan on constantly revisiting my own learning to help me better direct theirs. My hope is that they will continue to enjoy writing and want to push themselves to make their writing the best it can be. In the meantime, I will relish in the fact that writing time is actually something that both my students and I can look forward to.


  1. Seeing the hearts on their papers made me smile. I loved hearing hw excited they were to read your comments. Since we are most often their initial audience, they need positive feedback from us to want to continue to write. So glad yoou shared this reflection with us!

  2. I love how your writing lessons informed your teaching. Great anecdotals sheet, too!

  3. Your classroom sounds like an amazing place. I love how you are learning along with your students!


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