Celebrate! Silly Snowmen Stories

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Teaching writing is hard work. Every classroom of students presents unique and different challenges for the classroom teacher. This year I am teaching kindergarten for the first time, and working alongside these little learners has proven to challenge me in ways I did not anticipate.

Simply holding a pencil for some of my students is a challenge. Others arrived in my room with stories already churning inside of them, eager for pencil/marker/crayon and paper. Between those ends of the spectrum were many who have been slowly finding their way as emergent writers, leaning in during mini lessons, willing to try new ideas in their writing along the way.

I purchased a book at NCTE in November titled Text Structures from Nursery Rhymes. Authors Gretchen Bernbei, Kayla Shook, and Jayne Hover present 53 lessons using nursery rhymes to help our youngest primary grade writers grasp an understanding of text structure in writing. What I love about this book is how they reveal how we can break down simple nursery rhymes to reveal the story telling taking place in them. From there the fun begins, as together, teacher and students apply these elements to their own stories, first in shared writing experiences, and finally to students infusing the structures into their own story ideas.

I am just beginning to introduce these lessons to my budding writers. Over the past 2 weeks we have been focusing on descriptive writing using the nursery rhyme, I’m a Little Teapot. Most of the children grasped the text structure elements in our shared writing, but applying it to their own ideas during independent writing proved challenging for many. At times I felt defeated. Some days as we closed our workshop, I questioned my approach, wondering if we should (or I could!) continue. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I had the stamina to keep trying.

What I have learned in my years of teaching writing in grades 1-3 is that often writing is messy. Many days can be down right ugly. Venturing into new and more challenging work is tricky, but when I have persevered with my students, patiently re-teaching when necessary and adding support  where needed, time and time again they flourish. So when their initial attempts to apply the structure lesson to their own ideas was missing the mark, I decided to try a shared entry point for writing, and have everyone write around the same topic.

Enter Snowman craftivity!

Who doesn’t love a snowman project in the middle of the January doldrums? Our frosty snowman scenes (thanks to a final wash of “magic water” to create a blizzard-like look of snow) were just the inspiration my kiddos needed to share funny stories of their snowmen. 

 

At the close of this week, I proudly poured over my students’ snowmen stories. From my independent writers to those who needed step-by-step support and everyone in between, I could not be more excited to celebrate where each of them are in their writing journey. I won’t say the days we spent this week were all easy, but I will say they were filled with lots of laughs, smiles, and joy as proud writers sat up a little taller when it was their turn to share their writing from the Author’s Chair.

Celebrate: Montana National Writing Project 2017

I just completed 2 weeks at Montana’s National Writing Project. It was an incredible 10 days of learning full of writing, sharing, and fantastic, focused learning around writing instruction. The 30+ teacher educators I learned alongside were amazing and represented a wide variety of teaching backgrounds, making the overall experience unforgettable.

Having never attended a NWP institute, I was not entirely sure what to expect. What I came to discover was the NWP experience is what you bring in, what you presently & concurrently engage in as you participate in the work, and what you purposefully take back to your classroom and implement with your students.

You will write! A lot. Makes sense, since it is the Montana Writing Project, right? After all, we are all teachers of writing in one capacity or another, and if we are going to expect our students to write, we should ourselves embrace & delve into the writing process.

And what better place to do that than here! Surrounded by supportive leaders who want only to see each participant grow and succeed in bettering their instructional practice. The MTWP is a safe, inviting, and engaging environment for any educator who wishes to improve both as a teacher and a writer.

The leadership team painstakingly ensures that everything participants do has been thoughtfully planned in advance and is meticulously supported with the appropriate balance of resources, activities, and solid model teaching. Despite the fact we are a group of 30+ educators who teach K-16, each one of us I am certain left class each day having been challenged, renewed, and feeling empowered as teachers.

The MTWP builds literacy leaders. The leadership team models this for us as classroom teachers themselves just like the rest of us. This is powerful to me personally. Often I think classroom teachers equate educational leaders to consultants, professors, and administrators exclusively. While these educators certainly do sit in positions of leadership from whom we can and do learn a great deal from, classroom teachers must also see themselves as powerful leaders who have valuable and insightful first-hand knowledge to share.

The daily in-the-trenches experiences we all have from our presence in classrooms each day, working side-by-side with students gives us a different platform to stand on. Not to imply that we know more or are the experts, but rather that we can share the here-and-now of both the challenges and victories that come right out of our classrooms. We understand the struggles that come with unmotivated learners, unreliable technology, and unrealistic demands on our time. We live it. Every.single.day.

Those who don’t let themselves get weighed down in the muck and mire of the struggles but instead persevere, believing that their unmotivated student will show up in class today, the day’s lesson will be engaging, and the students will meet the learning goals for the unit of study are the teachers who need to step into leadership roles.

It doesn’t have to be a 3-hour Powerpoint presentation to every teacher in the district. It doesn’t even have to be sharing at a staff meeting (but that is a great place to start). Instead, it could just simply be sharing with your grade level colleagues and a PLC. Inviting them to watch you teach a lesson, then offering to watch them and share feedback with each other.

My experience at the Montana National Writing Project taught me that leadership can start small. It just needs to start.

Thank you, Ruth Ayres, for creating a place for teachers to Celebrate. Share your story of celebration with others by clicking the image below.