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Day 60: A Little Informality Goes A Long Way

As a staff developer, I taught the pre and post on-demand assessment process in the Teachers College Units of Study formally. On day one of the unit, students wrote in the genre we were going to study and on the last day of the unit, students wrote a final piece. Then they used a checklist to compare their writing to decide what they had learned and set goals.

Now, as a first-grade teacher, I took the formality out of the process.

  1. I introduced the new type of writing by reading a student mentor text and said, “Give it a try. I can’t wait to see what you create today.” Then, I collected those pieces as students’ finished.

2. At the end of the unit, I did the same thing. “Today is our last day of opinion writing; I know your last review will be your best. I can’t wait to see what you create today.”

3. Several days later, after students had some distance from their writing, I handed them back both pieces of writing and the Teachers College checklist with the “Yes, Starting to.., and Not Yet” columns removed.

4. I told kids, “when you work hard at something, you want to take time to notice all that you have learned. Here is a sheet that lists what we learned as writers. As I read it, I want you to think about yourself as a writer.” Then students set off with both writing pieces in hand. Their task was to create a video (my students use SeeSaw) that celebrates what they had learned.

I wish I had recorded the buzz in the classroom when they saw their first piece of writing. The squeals of laughter and the smiles were priceless.

  • “What? I wrote this? I didn’t even put spaces.”
  • “This doesn’t even look like my writing.”
  • “I didn’t even write one reason.”

After work, I sat on my couch with a cup of tea, and listened to their reflections:

  • “I am doing so good with spaces.”
  • “What I love about my reviews are the conclusions and the illustrations.  Really, I love everything about my review writing.”
  • “In my first one, I didn’t do, you know, one reason, another reason, or use labels. But in my last one, I did it all.”

After break, I’ll send families a quick video encouraging them to listen to their students’ journal entry on SeeSaw. More importantly, I’ll kick off this new unit, by having students listen to themselves. I want kids to draw or write what they did well and put that on their writing goals page. Celebrating a past accomplishment seems like the right way to begin something new.

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