Last summer, my school launched a teacher book club. We started with a question. What happens when a group of teachers reads Ralph Fletcher’s Joy Write? What we found was that some of us explored some ideas inspired by the book over the course of the school year. Our book club was also an invitation to write. Some people wrote at our meetings and others used the meeting as a launch to push themselves to grow as a writer on a more regular basis.
During the school year, in the midst of one of our staff developer days with Mary Ehrenworth, she said something that resulted in the springboard for the title of this year’s book club title, Independent Writing, by Colleen Cruz. Mary said that we should be thinking about growing lifelong writers, just like we think about growing lifelong readers. That made sense to us. So books were purchased, invitations were sent, plans were made for a summer rendezvous. Most of the original players were ready for more and we even had some newbies.
My friend Dawn invited us all over and set the agenda. There would be plenty of time for sharing our thinking and ideas from our reading as well as time to write!
I had only read three chapters of Independent Writing prior to our first meeting, but I had plenty of ideas to mull over in response to Dawn’s first invitation: Writer about a line or an idea from Independent Writing that has you thinking and wondering.
Starting to read Independent Writing has me thinking about how we can make the writing process more explicit so that kids can replicate the process independently. How can we take what we are already doing and zoom in on the parts that kids can then take to their independent work, so that they are applying thinks from the workshop to their own process?
In first grade this year, the team ended with Independent Writing Projects. Kids were all over it-engagement was high! However, there was a bit of resistance to studying the genre they chose to work in-a bit of resistance to growing. Was this because:
- They were so excited for the freedom?
- They didn’t see the value in studying and applying all they had learned from the workshop to their independent projects?
In reading the mentor text chapter, chapter three, I had some many ideas. Not about independent writing projects necessarily, but about our every day workshop work. How can we enhance that to feed and empower our writers no matter what they are writing?
We could study just our use of mentors all year:
- Read first for enjoyment!
- Learn what it means to “read like a writer.”
- Teach kids explicitly how to study a mentor. “Study, name, try”
As we all finished up responding to this first invitation to write during our meeting, I was eager to hear what others were thinking. People talked about past studies of authors such as Katie Wood Ray with longing and love. We grappled with Ralph Fletcher’s suggestion to step back during “Green Belt Writing” time and whether we were missing opportunities. What was it about independent writing that produced so much joy? Was it a time filled with less pressure? Less of a need to please?
Listening to the ideas of others, I kept coming back to our every day work and Mary Ehrenworth’s original push: How are we growing lifelong writers? So I’ve decided that my research question for this coming school year will be, How does workshop feed the writer?
I’m excited to see where this question will take me and the teachers and kids I work with. I’m also beyond grateful for my community. Sitting around our summer book club meeting reminded me how amazing the people I work with are. They are so dedicated to their lives as teachers and are continuously thinking about ways to give more. They give me energy.