Monday, January 25, 2010

That Workshop Book: Reflection 1

I heard about That Workshop Book, by Samantha Bennett, last year from my friend and colleague, Katie (Creative Literacy). It is now a cornerstone in my teaching philosophy. I find myself constantly referring to it in order to re-focus my thinking on reading/writing workshop. When I found out that a local literacy group (Literacy Connection) was offering a course that concentrated on the book- I jumped at the opportunity. For this course, we need to reflect on and share our thinking/teaching from the book. This is my first shared reflection:

I am in the wonderful situation of looping with my students from second to third grade. Due to our long journey together, I often take for granted what they have learned and assume they remember/use what was taught last year. However, I had reason to pause on this thinking during our "Guess Who Will Win the Caldecott" study. I had placed the top 50 "most talked about" Caldecott contenders around the room, asking students to place post it notes throughout the book sharing their likes/dislikes, prediction, etc. On the back of Lion and Mouse (the WINNER), one of my students wrote: "This makes no sense." Oh my goodness- had my third graders forgot all that time we spent on how important pictures are when telling a story back in second grade? Bennett writes: "Workshop is a structure, a routine, a ritual, and a system that helps teachers answer the question 'How do I know?'" She then explains why "teaching as listening" is more important than the traditional "teaching as talking." I was not listening to my students on this topic prior to READing this post-it. I had kept "talking", teaching new mini-lessons, without taking the time to ask "how do I know" they remember/are using what was learned in the past. I listened when I saw that post-it note and heard that my students had forgotten the importance of illustrations/pictures. We spent the next couple days studying wordless (or limited word) picture books. They loved revisiting old favorites and the idea of the importance of illustrations. They noticed details in pictures that help them put stories into words. This is a perfect example of the graphic spiral in Samantha's book: it is a straight line with student understanding written on it, wrapped in a coil/spiral that has assessment, planning and instruction on it.

It was refreshing to be reminded that we need to stop and listen before moving forward. It is a great reminder to just SLOW DOWN!!