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There are many days in my classroom when 10:00 rolls around and I hear my students groan. “Not writing!!!” “Can we skip Writer’s Workshop today?” “Can’t we just go to lunch?” To be honest, there are days when I find those same thoughts going through my mind. Writing can be one of the toughest parts of the day for first graders. Students have to think of a topic, figure out what they want to say, the order they want to say it in, sound out the words, and remember how to form the letters. Not to mention when to write a capital letter, lowercase letter, or put a period. I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
While not all of my students feel the need to go see the nurse, spend 20 minutes in the bathroom, or take a nap during writing time, I’ve heard them all say at one time or another “I have nothing to write about!” This year, I’ve tried to take a different approach in my response to this statement. My students come from all types of homes and families and different background experiences. So when I ask them to write a personal narrative about something they’ve done in their life, some students can pull from a list of vacations, parties, and sporting events. Others don’t have as many experiences to pull from which leaves them feeling like writing is an even harder time of the day. I believe it is important to “level the playing field” and help my students have common experiences. I have tried to create these experiences by using things we do on a daily basis like relay races during a movement break, building a rollercoaster in science, and walking to the pond to see what notice about Fall. During these authentic learning activities, I try to make it a point to remind my students to stop and think about how they could use these activities for a new story in writing.
Part of my job as a teacher is to help my students feel and be successful in all academic areas. Building a common background knowledge and pool of experiences is one way I can do this each day. It has been great to see my struggling writers finish a story and jump up to get a new piece of paper right away. Yes writing is still challenging for many of my students, but on most days, they no longer have the blank stares and dreadful looks when it is time for Writer’s Workshop. Now my students yell out things like “When do we start Writer’s Workshop?” and “Can I keep writing instead of recess?” It’s like music to my ears!