It’s Tuesday. Time to head over to Two Writing Teachers and share your slice here.
For many of us, summer break is coming quickly to a close. Next week, I will gather with my colleagues to begin preparing for the 2014-2015 school year. Let me rephrase that. In a week, we will convene at school. Many of us, myself included, have been preparing for the 2014-2015 school year, in big and small ways, all summer long. Don’t misunderstand, I’ve had my share of beach days, long lazy family dinners, cousin visits, fun excursions, naps and morning Yoga classes. It has been a lovely and restorative summer. But I’ve also been working, granted at my own pace and during hours of my choosing, learning, reflecting and thinking about how to sharpen my skills, increase my understanding and maximize my opportunity with students this school year.
And now it is August, and so I began reflecting on what I have done, what I have learned and how it will influence me in my teaching this year.
This summer I read as many of the books that I make available to my students as I possibly could. I’ve always known how important this is, but I’ve never consciously cleared as much time during summer (when I have more time) to catch up, get ahead and get ready. I also read several excellent professional books, including Reading in the Wild and Nonfiction Notebooks.
What did I learn? I gained understanding and gathered new ideas about how to use reading and writing notebooks. I found new titles to recommend to students. I know the stories, so having conversations and connecting about those books with students will feel more authentic. I discovered many great nonfiction picture books that are loaded with information but also visually appealing and may work for readers who are less inclined to read nonfiction. I’ve been thinking a lot about “edge reading” and “edge writing” and the value of casual conversations in hallways, over lunch and at dismissal with students, about books, reading and writing. My plan is to try to stay one step ahead, or at least stay in step, with student readers this year. I still have an enormous TBR stack on my desk and my cart in the online bookstore grows more full each day.
I read Daring Greatly, and my intention had been to participate in a Twitter chat with my PLN about the content of the book and what we learned about how we teachers read nonfiction. I missed the chat, but I read through the Twitter discussion and the Google docs with discussion questions, and most importantly I reflected on what I do when reading nonfiction. Knowing some of my habits, hurdles and strategies will, I hope, help me teach nonfiction reading strategies more effectively.
Speaking of Twitter chats, I participated in several this summer. I learned that some of the best, free PD out there is on Twitter. I plan to make time for these online conversations during this school year. I know that what I am learning there will help me in the classroom.
I wrote. Regularly. As a writing teacher this is perhaps the single most important thing I did this summer. By doing, I am learning. What I am learning about writing, from the frustrations of not knowing how to phrase something or even what to write about, to the scary feeling of sharing… all of that will help me help student writers.
I attended Teachers College June Writing Institute. I wrote about that experience here. It was an incredibly invigorating week. I am looking forward to using the newer version of the Units of Study curriculum in several grades at our school this year. I learned about tightening mini lessons, supporting students in increasing writing volume and fluency, coaching and working with teachers and so much more.
This summer I spent more time than ever before doing, learning, making connections and thinking about craft, content and possibilities. And I am more excited than ever before about the start of a new school year.