Ok, now that we are all done laughing sardonically, let’s talk about what this teacher is doing this summer. True, I am sitting here sipping a lovely summery glass of cucumber mint infused ice water as I type and enjoying it. However, I am doing this as a break from working on a revamp of my writing classes.
I had the amazing opportunity to attend a summer institute at a chapter of the National Writing Project where I had the chance to collaborate with other teacher writers about things that work and things that challenge us in both facets of ourselves. We worked on our own writing and shared our work, as well as sharing strategies for creating strong writing classes to grow writers, not just students in a writing class. It is this portion of the workshop that I am now heavily focused on. It would be so simple to say, “Well, that was a fun couple of weeks. Back to the same ol’ same ol’.” Sure, that would be much less work, but I can’t see myself going back to the way I was teaching language arts before.
Like so many language arts teachers, I taught grammar and worked writing in when I could. With standards to master and The Test looming at the end of the year, it was all we could do to get everything in. Writing was worked in as we could get it in and then the usual grammar lessons halted entirely for the first two months of the second semester to prepare the students for the writing assessment. Again, a decent plan. But was it the BEST plan?
No. Writing became focused in a narrow scope and students wrote for the test and not for the purpose of becoming better writers for the long haul. That needs to change. So, this summer, I am working hard to create meaningful language arts plans that focus on building writers and infusing authentic grammar lessons through writer’s workshop and mentor texts. It will not be easy to do. Worksheets and cute Pinterest plans are tempting and easier, but not what my new mission calls for. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pinterest and worksheets can be good for homework practice. Something tells me that this will not be an easy road to take, with many bumps and pot holes along the way, but it is the road I have chosen. There will certainly not be anything that will be a detriment to my students in changing the way I approach the teaching of language arts, and I hope that there will be a significant gain in the abilities of my students to think and read like writers using mentor texts to inspire them to break down what they read into elements of grammar and analysis of style. Rather than fitting in the writing around the grammar, it will all work together.
At least, that’s the idea…..