School started yesterday, and it was so unexpectedly wonderful, I don’t know if I can even adequately describe it. I was amazed, class after class, by how my students responded to my letter.
I started by explaining that I wrote them a letter. Instead of starting with a bunch of basic information about the class and a list of rules, I pulled them into the rhythm of the class right from the start. Students were so relieved to see that we were doing something different than what they expected to start the year.
I began reading my letter aloud. It felt a lot more awkward than I had anticipated, reading my words in front of a bunch of teens I didn’t know. And although they were quiet, I wasn’t sure if they were just listening because they had to or because they actually enjoyed it. So I was completely caught off guard when I finished reading and some of my students started clapping. Clapping! Imagine it: 15-year-olds clapping about a letter their teacher wrote to them. Being the introvert that I am, I felt so awkward and I’m sure I turned a bright shade of red. But it was really sweet.
Then I explained our Quick Write process:
• Step 1: Write a response to the text (video, audio, print media, etc.) in Spanish. The only rule is Do Not Summarize. I already know what it’s about. I want to know what you *think* about it. I gave some examples of responses that show your thinking and crossed my fingers. I’m new to this and so are they, so I wasn’t sure what would happen.
• Step 2: Read what you wrote and revise it using a different color pen. I explained how we ask students to revise essays before turning them in, but typically don’t practice that skill at any other time. Real writers revise – a lot! They have 2 minutes for this step.
• Step 3: Share your writing. Just like the Quick Write response, when we share, we Do Not Summarize. We read our responses word for word. I explained that this helps us learn from each other’s writing, hear how our own writing sounds, and find more parts to revise. I talked about 3 sharing formats: partners, small groups, and whole class. This time we just shared with a partner. This step takes about 3 minutes.
After reading the letter and going through the Quick Write process, we had about 10 minutes left in each class. Not enough time to dive into exploring my library, but enough time to explain independent reading and give a quick overview of the types of books on each shelf throughout my room. On their way out the door, they received a Home Language Survey to complete for homework.
Students seemed pretty engaged while I read my letter to them (did I mention that some of them clapped?!), and as I walked around and listened in on them sharing their writing with a partner, I heard some great snippets of insight and conversation. A great start to the year, right?
I was feeling pretty good with how my day was going, but when I finally got a chance to sit down and start reading through their Quick Writes, I was floored. They were so good. I realized that they really *got* it: they understood the message and intent behind my letter, not just the words. Below are some examples of their thinking about this text. It was really hard to choose; honestly, I could share 50 notecards that were beautifully thought out, that reached past the words to the meaning, that touched my heart. I learned things about students that I never would have known after just one day (now if only I could just learn their names!).
Is workshop going to be this magical every day? Probably not. But for one day, it was the best day one ever!