Friday, January 20, 2012

Book-making Bliss!

Writing workshop has been so much fun these last few weeks! I'm not sure who has been enjoying it more- me or my students!

With the new year, I resolved to change a few things around during my writing time. My first priority was trying to squeeze a little more writing time into our day. So, I rearranged a few things in my schedule and was able to add an extra 10 minutes, so I now I have 40 minutes for writing workshop (30 minutes was just not cutting it before!).

Here's how I break up the 40 minutes:
-Mini-lesson (10 minutes)
-Check-in: students tell me what they're going to work on that day (5 minutes)
-Independent writing (20 minutes)
-Sharing (5 minutes)

So far, I have been able to squeeze in about 4 conferences a day while they are writing independently. It is tough though! Most of my conferences are running 4-5 minutes, which I hope to shorten a bit as I get a little better at it. I have been starting each conference with the student reading me their writing, and then jumping into my praise point and my teaching point, coming up with a plan with the student about how they can try out what I have taught them, and then jotting down some notes before I move along to the next kid!

Picking just one teaching point is really hard, but I know it is so important to stick with one thing until they get it. I'm trying to remember that I'm teaching the writer not the writing, so what I teach them now will show up in their future pieces. I really need a better record keeping system for my conference notes-I'd love ideas for that! One thing that has been helpful for me is looking back over my conference notes from the entire week. It has helped me get a big picture idea of what my kids need. When I saw that several of my kids had worked with me on going back to pages in their books and adding more details to the pictures or to the words I decided to focus a few of my mini-lessons on revision and adding details.

I have also been reading the most wonderful book about writing conferences.
Sit Down and Teach Up by Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover is about how to conference with preschool, kindergarten, and first grade writers-and it is amazingly helpful!

The downside of this book is that it is only available right now as an iBook, so you have to have an ipad/iphone/ipod device to read it. Supposedly, they are working on making a PC version you can read on your computer, but no idea when that will come out.

The best part of this book is that it has videos of 15 writing conferences in it! Each chapter is set-up the same way. They briefly introduce the setting for the writing conference (classroom, student, etc.) then you can click on the video to watch the first part of the conference. Then there is time for you to think about how you might teach the student. Then there is a second video clip you can click on where you can see how Katie/Matt chose to focus the conference. Finally there is a write-up about how they decided on their teaching point and others directions they might have taken. It is some of the best PD I have ever had- especially since I can watch it laying on the couch in my PJs! The videos are just so fun to watch-and Katie and Matt are clearly awesome teachers.

So, in the last few weeks I've not only added on some additional minutes to my writing workshop and worked on improving my conferences, but I have made another MUCH bigger change. I am moving away from my students writing in their journals and have introduced book writing. I was honestly a bit terrified to introduce this to my kindergarteners just halfway through the school year. However, now that we are making books, and they are doing so well with it, I really wish I hadn't waited so long! When I taught first and second grades I always had my kids writing books, and I've even introduced it to kinders at the end of the school year-but for some reason I thought January might be too soon. is not!

I have to share some of my students' work. They are all doing so much more writing now that they have whole books to fill, and the quality of writing has really been elevated too since they are now writing whole stories instead of just 2-3 sentences on a journal page.

**Disclaimer** My camera isn't working so I photographed the students' writing with my phone which is obviously not the best quality :(

One of my students decided to write a story about his neighbor's cat (I can only assume so many of my kids wrote pet stories this week because I modeled a story about my dog last week!). He worked on this book everyday this week (I pre-stapled booklets for the kids with a blank cover and 4 inside pages).

Cover: "My Neighbor's Cat" (the print is hard to see)

Page 1: "My neighbor's cat comes to my house."

Page 2: "I like to pet my neighbor's cat."

Page 3: "My neighbor's cat almost came into my garage. My mom warned my dad."

Page 4: "My neighbor's cat is always messy."
(Can you see the mud puddle in the pic and the arrow showing the cat walked through the mud?)

Here is another story by one of my students. She wrote about her dog-and shocked me by writing this entire book all in one day! She did agree to go back and add some more details to her pictures and words though before moving on to her next book.

Cover: "My Dog"

Page 1: "My dog likes taking a bath. I make it overflow."
(Am I the only one who think that overflowing part is hilarious?
I love how you can even see the water spilling out of the tub in the picture)

Page 2: "My dog likes getting combed. I was trying to find him. I was surprised."
(Can you see all the labels she included in the picture?)

Page 3: "My dogs likes to lick me. I giggle."
(LOVE that she included a speech bubble of her laughing)

Page 4: "My dog likes playing with his toys."

These are 2 of my higher students, but even my more average and lower students have embraced book making and have done a great job. I promise to post some writing samples from some of my more struggling students later this week so you can see that too.

I encourage you all to be brave and shake up your writing workshop time as well-if there are changes you want to make just jump in and try it! If you're looking for resources to help with your writing workshop, these are some of my favorite books about writing with young students.



  1. I have really enjoyed this post. I have made a huge effort in teaching writing this year and my studetns and I are both benefiting. I love Katie Wood Ray and Matt Glover their books have made an impact on my teaching. I agree the hardest part is how to keep records on their writing. If anyone gives any advice on it, I would love to know. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I teach 4 year old kindergarten and we do writers workshop 3 times a week for about 30 minutes. I use a grid with each child listed, and write down what their stories are about, what skills I am working on with them, and or what I see them doing. I save these grids, and that becomes a good record of what I am doing and what they are doing. I also keep a sample piece each month that I have not helped them at all with so, I have some kind of record of growth. My kids are really enjoying writing this year, and they are all over the place ability wise, which of course you would expect at this young age. They are very proud to share their writing though. Thanks for sharing what you are doing in your class.

  3. voww 2 good!!!its very useful for me.I m also going to maintain a blog but due to some time managemant i can't maintain it.I m a mother of two year old boy,name gourang,U can see my boy's activity on facebook.U r a greatpathmaker n i really appricate ur work of writing.

  4. I'm your newest follower- can't wait to take a look around! :)

    Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

  5. Friend, I learned so much from you yesterday! Thanks for sharing this info...I can't wait to start book-making with my kinders.

    We really need to plan a personal day and do some visiting. Let me know what you think!