tag LisaThe halfway point has arrived! This week marks the official midway marker of our summer vacation!! When I announced this to my unsuspecting teacher friends as we were relaxing by the pool, I will admit that I wasn’t the most popular girl in the crowd. But why not view the last half of our “freedom” with a glass half-full attitude?
This is always the point of my break in which I firmly believe all accomplished teachers should pause from their rest and relaxation, reflect on their previous school year, and determine the next steps they need to take to prepare for a new action plan for the upcoming school year. As we use this model of analytical reflection and critical application to achieve National Board Certification, I like experiencing that nostalgic mixture of feelings when taking time to digest my teaching- familiarity, excitement, curiosity, and hope.
My biggest ah-ha from this year (returning to second grade after teaching 1st and 3rd grades for almost a decade) is the power of project-based learning. I have published a post about this already (see “The Less I Teach, the More You Learn”), and to sum it up, I finally have returned to a grade level where I am comfortable giving the resources, tools, and objectives to the students, facilitating a student-driven, hands-on, collaborative learning environment. I loved integrating literacy within my social studies units and exciting the students and parents to get 99% parent involvement with student presentations. Our classroom came alive!! I am hoping to build upon my initial creation of PBL units by reading “Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning: A Proven Approach to Rigorous Classroom Instruction” by John Larmer, John Mergendoller, and Suzie Boss and revising my units to incorporate higher levels of rigor, engagement, and collaboration.
So now to reflect on what I need to improve—my writing instruction. Although it is one of my favorite subjects to teach, I always feel like it is pushed to the side by some other prioritized part of education, dictated by a new curriculum, professional development, pedagogical trend, and/or administration. As I love to write, it is fun for me to teach and facilitate the students to enjoy writing at their own level. Usually my language arts instruction incorporates Writer’s Workshop with Six Traits of Writing and the writing process. I love having guest speakers, and even my dog makes a guest appearance to create excitement of bringing in “real life” to the classroom. In addition, making writing instruction a priority in my classroom has helped me get more in touch with the students’ personal lives. I have accurately pinpointed students with speech disorders with the analysis of their application of phonetic rules in writing assignments as well.
So why do I need to improve my writing instruction? I did not provide enough individualized, constructive feedback to each student about their writing. I feel like I failed my students in this area during our year together. Although I did organize my Writer’s Workshop through inspiring ideas from Pinterest, all the cuteness in the world does not make up for one-on-one, purposeful conversations with students about their writing. I look at my teacher bookcase, and it is literally filled with pedagogical books about writing instruction. I have read them all, applied them all, but is there really a magic book which helps solve my specific failing as a writing instructor—the lack of personalized dialogue and reflection about their writing skills? I think the only way to inspire my students is leading by example. So I am going to write every day for the next month. I am going to write when I do and don’t want to write, write on subjects I enjoy and despise writing about, then reflect about my writing, and finally revise the writing based on my reflections. I am hoping that this disciplined application of writing, reflection, and revising will give me a deeper understanding of how to inspire students to pause, analyze, and revise their writing.
It’s time I practice what I preach! To become a better writing instructor, I must become a better writer.