Saturday, December 17, 2016

Celebrating a Flurry of Kindness {12.17.16}

Have you read Jacqueline Woodson's book, Each Kindness?  (You can see a video of the book here if you haven't.) Each Kindness is a story about a girl who is given many opportunities to show kindness toward another, but chooses to focus on herself and her own needs instead.  Through a series of events, the girl learns that being kind not only affects the person on the receiving end of the kindness, but others too. It is like a ripple in the water.

I wanted to think of a way to share the message of this wonderful book with my students, but also create those ripples and bring good feelings to others.

Enter the Flurry of Kindness Snowflake Challenge.

Each week in December, I have challenged my students to complete at least five random acts of kindness. These kind deeds could be anything from holding the door for someone else, completing a chore without being asked, giving a genuine compliment, reading to someone, or anything else they thought of.

For those who complete the challenge each week, they cut out a snowflake and we hang it from the ceiling in the hallway as a visual reminder of the kindnesses we show each other. The other classrooms in our hallway are participating as well, creating quite the sight to see!
Walking through the hallway is very joyful. Because six classrooms are participating, our flurry of kindness is turning into a blizzard. It's hard to be there without feeling the ripple of peace.
For this, I celebrate.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ideal Readers: My Students Give ME Writing Feedback!

After following Kimberley Moran's journey with the Institute of Children's Literature's Writing for Children and Teens writing course, I decided to give it a go myself.

My first assignment was to write a 500 - 750 word story based on one of three pictures. I wrote and wrote -- and rewrote and rewrote -- my story.. Finally, I had a finished product that satisfied me, but fell short of thrilling me. I wasn't sure exactly what about the story didn't sit right with me, but I knew there was something.

Lucky for me, I teach a room full of ideal readers (10 year olds) that could help me out by reading my story and giving me their feedback. Problem solved!

In our classroom, we provide writing feedback using the TAG method:
Tell something you like
Ask a question
Give a suggestion

When a student finishes a piece of writing, they find someone to "TAG" it. Reader feedback can be so valuable to a writer, and we have spent a lot of time learning how to give meaningful feedback that can help the writer make revisions. (In other words "I like it" and "This was good" are not helpful.) 

So on Friday, it was my turn to have my writing tagged by 20 readers.

It was the best move I could have made.

My students worked in partners to pour over my writing. They knew how important this course was to me and asking them to participate in making it a successful experience was a job they took very seriously.

After about 20 minutes, I called the group back together to give me their feedback.  They noticed some amazing things about my writing that had even slipped past me. The questions they asked and suggestions they made were both thoughtful and helpful. I now realize what it was that didn't quite sit right with me and have a plan to fix it in revision.

But sharing my writing and asking my students for help did more than just help me improve my writing.

It empowered my students.

A win-win for all of us.