Head to the Caribbean in the middle of march from Cleveland? Why yes, thank you.
Sara and I brought our style of writing instruction to the Dominican Republic for the first time. It was great to be working overseas with absolutely no jet-lag! It was also great to be working with such enthusiastic teachers and students and to meet up with old friends, Chris, Diane and John and to meet some new ones in Wayne and Najela.
We spent four days in the elementary middle and high school – dipping our toes into a grade or two of each in the sea of learning that is happening at CMS. We worked on prepositional phrase poems centered around illustrations the students had done for an essay they were working on in 5th grade. Fourth, we concentrated on story structure, 9th, we extended some metaphors, and 6th, we sort of mixed it up sampling four or five different frameworks from our new Scholastic teacher resource From Striving to Thriving Writers.
We also ran into Brian – an old friend from Singapore who is now the Middle School principal and had a really great chat centered around literacy practices. Sara and I see literacy as a three-legged stool – reading-writing and speaking. Sometimes the speaking falls to the wayside a bit what with all the other stuff teachers are trying to accomplish during the school day. But, we feel that fostering that culture of conversation is paramount to giving our students the opportunity to develop their confidence and voice.
Plus, reading one’s work out-loud is a great way to revise. You catch little mistakes, dropped words, unintentional repetition, etc. But how do you find the time to give every student the time to read their work aloud? Just do it all at the same time. A seat symphony is what Sara calls it – everyone reading their work out loud bringing a cacophony of words into the room, This is also an opportunity to get the student who is a bit more reluctant to use their voice into the action. The anonymity of the whole crew speaking at once can help to build confidence on our own voice. From there we might ask students to read to one other in the room and then to become the listener.
Below – a seat symphony on progress:
After that I like to ask for listeners to “volunteer” a particularly great piece they have heard. This is not only a bit of fun, but it encourages the student selected by their peer because they have already had their work affirmed by a cohort. After this, volunteers to read their work come a bit easier and the ice is broken to call on kids to stand up and read theirs. This is a quick way of reinforcing the importance of student voice.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that some of my best teaching happens when I am not talking.
I am not shy to mention though, that we had a terrific experience at CMS and we look forward to the opportunity to return – even if the weather at home is nice!