Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Slice of Life Day Twenty-Six:Literary Essay Revision

 Being a retired teacher brings many benefits. One of my favorite things to do is to visit in classrooms and share the writer's workshop times. I usually just listen to the focus lesson and then slide up next to a child and have a conference during their writing time. After hearing the lesson, I know the direction the teacher is going with the students and conferencing is not hard. I love having these conversations with kids!
While visiting in a fourth grade classroom, I did my usual listening and then conferencing. The students were working on literary essays. Today the focus was on being sure they had made their thinking visible and the evidence supported that thinking. My teaching points seemed to mostly revolve around how to add their thinking. They knew what they were thinking but didn't have the tools to put why that thinking was important. We came up with the idea of simply saying, "I believe that is important to the story because..." Sometimes this little bit of scaffolding gets the child through a transition.
When sharing time came, the teacher had all the students bring their drafted pieces to the sharing area and sit in a big circle with the papers in front of them. She had suggested earlier for them to highlight the thinking in one color and the evidence in another. As the children looked around the circle, they could notice all the colored parts of the papers. This made their work visible. They each also had a chance to briefly tell what smart work they had done that day.  It wasn't a reading of the whole piece, it was simply a brief statement. Many times teachers feel they need to take a lot of time in the sharing part and therefore, don't have kids share. This sharing time was very short, but very powerful.

I can't wait to get back after Spring Break and see how their pieces have been progressing!  I have the best "job" in the world!


  1. I love this slice about being in a writing workshop. I too work in Fourth grade during WW time. We have not tackled literary essays but I think we will next year. And you are so right about providing scaffolding. I think that for some genres, as students are learning, this helps them. The more they understand the genre and fell confident writing that kind of piece, the more independent they become with their structure. I don't want them to always have to stick to a rigid formula. But a bit of support at the right moment makes a lot of sense and can take the mystery out of it.

  2. Love the idea of the color coding! It will be interesting to see the changes over time with these essays. Isn't retirement great when you have the freedom to step in and out of the classroom!

  3. Some powerful teaching and learning going on there!