Today was spent doing something that I do every day, something that I feel that I do quite well, but it was one of the most nerve racking days of the year so far and at the same time it was one of the most rewarding. Today was the first of two days working with Gail Loane looking at our writing within the school and reflecting on what each teachers learning steps are with regard to the writers in our class.
I regard Gail as a Guru of Writing and have been privileged , through being at the right school who knows where to invest their PD budget, to work with Gail for two whole days every term for the past 5 years. She has completely flipped my approach to writing teaching and I know that my class has benefited from the time that I have spent with her. Gail’s approach to writing is based on purpose, experiences and need; her book is titled ‘I’ve Got Something To Say” and that is her guiding principle – every child has experiences to draw from and every child arrives at school with something to say. Every child has experienced hurt or surprise or anger and it is our responsibility as educators to guide our students towards recording these experiences in detail and with the feelings and emotions and description that they occurred.
Now I am not going to describe the journey that I have been on, but do implore you to read her book if you can, it is full of pearls of wisdom and lesson plans and models of quality writers that you can use in your writing lesson. The reason for this post if for me to quickly reflect upon the journey that I have been on today and why it was so challenging and rewarding.
Today all teachers were released from their classes and relief teachers were used. As a group we al went to the hall and then one by one, beginning at year 1 we brought in 6-10 of our students and presented a writing lesson for all of our peers. The lesson was only 20 minutes long, but was then followed by a 30 minute debrief and questioning session. The scary part was sitting and watching amazing teachers share their practice and their students writing journey and having to wait until the fourth session to share my lesson. By the time it rolled around my stomach was in knots and I had changed my lesson a dozen times over in my head. The reality was that when I sat down on the mat with 6 of my students, who are neither the top or the bottom in the ability ladder, my teacher brain took over and all nervousness went away.
I had looked at our writing from the previous weeks and looked at our jottings book ad looked at what was in jottings and not in our writing – pLanned the lesson from need. We took previous lines of poetry and then played with how we could add adjectives from our jottings, so the line…
Swim bags hang in the changing rooms
Wet tightly stuffed swim bags hang in the changing room
…and then we looked at some jottings from a visit by four puppies last week. By the time that we got our first sentence on the mini white boards and shared them to each other 20 minutes was up. The lesson was over. Was it a perfect lesson? No. Does it give me things to work on tomorrow? Yes, and that is the way that I believe it should be. As teachers we should always be looking towards the next level and seeing where the next step in a child’s learning should be. Like DeBono says – Ebne: Excellent but not enough.
My next journey is to look into A Writer’s Notebook by Ralph Fletcher and see how I can develop my use of the Jottings book to incorporate phrases and sentences as many of the class are just writing key words, which is making it hard for them to take their jottings to writing in she same detail as they experienced it.
In conclusion it was one of the most amazing professional learning sessions that I have been involved in for the single fact that I was able to watch each of my colleagues teach, a thing we do not often get to do, and see the writing progression in our school from 5 year old to 11 year old.
If you have not had your teaching observed by your colleagues recently you need to. It is hard, uncomfortable, scary and not much fun to begin with, but if you are a learner, and we all like to say that we are, we need to share our teaching and be questioned about the choices we make. The words we use, experiences we arrange and the lessons we plan are the things that make us teachers and i feel that there is no better way to appraise your teaching than to have a colleague you admire and value watching you.