Monday, March 26, 2012

The budding authors of Grade 3...

One initiative that has taken shape over the last few years that I am most proud of is our outstanding language arts program. The direction this curricular strand has taken over the last few years has been incredible and eye-opening for the entire faculty. We have done a lot of self-assessment and research to understand what best practice looks like in other excellent schools. Our faculty has worked to create a  program that prepares students with a comprehensive language arts experience. The next several posts are going to focus on three different strands of the language arts curriculum - writing, word work, and literature circles, with examples of each and discussion of why we focus on them.

Let's start with the why. I can give you all of the normal reasons, but the fact of the matter is that in a dual-curriculum school, finding time to really write can be challenging. I mean, our students do plenty of writing, but the kind of writing I am talking about is the sort that gets our students to think and explore, where the students show teachers their deeper understanding. The kind where students become passionate about who they are as writers. As educator and curriculum developer Lucy Calkins wrote, "When your writing is lousy, you throw it out.  When your writing is alive and beautiful and full of potential, you revise it.  Revision is a compliment to good writing!" I am proud to say this type of writing is now an important focus of our language arts work. The difference is in the caliber of the writing being produced in our classrooms. 

Julie Kearns's grade 3 students have become authors, with the end product being a bound book that will become a part of their personal library. The process of writing has become fully embraced by this class, but it's more than that. For the past two Monday mornings, students in her class have stood up at Monday Morning Meeting, in front of the entire school, and read us their works of literature. Each work was different and alive with emotion. They are not only learning the art of writing, they are becoming public speakers, they are becoming illustrators. They are beginning to understand what a multifaceted writing assignment looks like, and that being an author is more than just writing the words on a piece of paper. It is delving deep and truly find meaning in the words that you choose.  

I am sharing with you a few examples of pages from one of the books. I perused through all of them -- each great. They are truly models in differentiation. The works are at all different levels, but they all have the same goal in common, which is to teach the skills of writing. Kol hakavod, Kitah Gimel!

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