When they are motivated, children naturally engage in deep reflection and goal-setting. An example is when they are trying to get better at their favorite sport or video game. They understand exactly where they rank compared to other players. They study other players carefully, trying to emulate their moves. They take in what coaches say, they make small tweaks to improve. They practice, practice, practice. With the right conversations and the right tools, we can teach students to approach their writing with the same level of reflection and goal-setting.
Short class periods. Moving from room to room. Limited space. Adolescent emotions. These are just a few of the challenges middle school students (and teachers) face. To be sure, teaching writing in middle school takes special planning, creativity, and patience. But it can be done, and it can be done well, even with its challenges.
Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and should cease only at death.” In no profession is this commitment to lifelong learning more important and more apparent than in teaching. Teachers know we are never finished learning. We spend our time not in the classroom studying, observing, discussing, and collaborating in order to become the best teachers we can be.
In the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch teaches his children, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings, plight, or situation of another. It is recognizing and valuing perspectives that are different from one’s own. It is the basis for relationships and, some would even argue, is vital to survival.
The start of a new calendar year brings a sense of renewal, possibility, and novelty. It is a time for reflection, and certainly, as the number of people who make New Year’s resolutions shows, for goal-setting.
Hopefully, your students (and you!) have returned from the break rested, recharged, and ready to reinvest. This is the perfect time to channel your students to reflect on their reading and writing lives and to make plans for the year ahead.
Students Collaborating in Writing Workshop: Writing Partnerships K-3
Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
As Lucy Calkins writes in A Guide to the Common Core Writing Workshop, “It’s a great thing in life to find someone who can help you with your writing (p. 48).” Lucy believes this for students, for her colleagues, and certainly, for herself. One only has to read the acknowledgements section in any of Lucy and colleagues' Units of Study books to get a sense of the influence and power of writing partners.