I've been thinking about the upcoming school year and my new (and hopefully better) approach to teaching writing. This past year, I had what I thought was a flawless system. We'd spend a week on a new grammar concept, then a week on a new writing prompt where we'd go through the whole writing process and put our new skills into practice. Then the next week, it'd be back to grammar lessons and activities. It was a structured way of planning, and the kids were definitely learning the "objectives" they needed to learn, but how much of their time in WRITING class was spent WRITING compositions? *cringe* Not nearly enough! Luckily, the amazing teachers on my team were often finding ways to incorporate writing into their classes (reader's response, science notebooking, etc.) BUT STILL! There's nothing as effective as writer's workshop, and I need to do a lot more of it.
So, my goal this year is to give my writing classes a new writing prompt/new writing trait focus every Monday, spend every day going through the writing process, and still find time to weave in the spelling and grammar. How? A friend of mine, who is a very successful fourth grade writing teacher in our district, told me she only spends 10 minutes a day on grammar through old-school D.O.L. exercises, but she tailors her D.O.L. warm-ups to current objectives only and gives them a short quiz on Fridays to assess their learning. I thought this was brilliant! A little grammar homework never hurt anyone, either. With all these thoughts in mind, here's my plan so far...
A Week in Mrs. McMurrough's Class (better have those pencils sharpened!):
Monday : D.O.L., new spelling words, new prompt, plan compositions
Tuesday: D.O.L., write first drafts
Wednesday: D.O.L., peer-revise, writing conferences
Thursday: D.O.L., peer-edit, writing conferences
Friday: D.O.L. "quiz," spelling test, write/publish final drafts
Am I insane, or does that schedule sound feasible for 70 minute class periods? Of course, I'll also be modeling and sharing bits and pieces from mentor texts along the way. It will interesting without a doubt, but I really do think it will help the kids become better writers in the long run. In a nutshell, my revamped writing class will be less of a "grammar fix-a-thon" and more of a comprehensive "writer's workshop." Yay? I hope so.
The first writing trait I plan to focus on with my brand new group of kiddos will be IDEAS. You can have gorgeous handwriting, a "robust" vocabulary, and a consistent command of spelling and grammar, but what good is any story without original ideas? The best ideas also come from the heart, right? I first learned about "Heart Maps" when I came across this Pinterest pin, originally pinned by Jennifer Ferraro Matteodo:
In January, I made my own version of a Heart Map template (below), and my students loved creating and referring to it! I enjoyed it, too. There was one class period where I almost got teary-eyed sharing my own Heart Map with them... putting so many meaningful people, memories, and personal values inside one paper heart turned out to be more sentimental than I was expecting. Oh yeah, I'm also a huge sap. Then, I allowed plenty of class time for them to illustrate their own Heart Map and paste it inside the front cover of their draftbook (writing notebook). The "key" gave them some nudges on what to include and helped them incorporate a variety of meaningful parts of life. It was something special and helpful that they referred to throughout the year anytime they experienced "writer's block." I think having your own Heart Map is especially handy when thinking of ideas for personal narratives.
Here's my spin on the all-important Heart Map:
It can be downloaded for free here: My TpT Store!
Although plenty of changes are in store for next year, scrapping the Heart Map isn't one of them. It's definitely a keeper!