Students enter my classroom with a skill set and an attitude toward reading and writing. More often than not, the two are linked.
We begin the year by finding joy in story. No matter where a student is as a reader or a writer, if we find funny, sad, dramatic, suspenseful, shocking moments in books; the attitude barriers come down and make room for growth. Finding the whatever that fills students with the desire for more is my number one goal because high interest brings volume and agency. Students’ desire to learn, to know, to be entertained by reading provides the engine necessary to move them toward meeting measured skill goals.
The trouble is, as the year progresses and pressures mount to reach benchmark goals, that joyful attitude toward literacy can wane. Anxiety can break my build-from-where-you-are stance. And that matters. I’m not saying moving students up the ladder of skill and text complexity is not the goal. Quite the contrary. The thing is, when I focus on what students aren’t doing, I derail growth.
That’s the reason I chose my One Little Word:
“Admire” roots me in productive soil, and Gravity Goldberg’s Mindsets and Moves gives explicit advice that helps tend to the readers and writers in my classroom.
My students need affirming feedback grounded in what they are doing. Rather than let me correct you, it’s let me hold up a mirror and show you what you are doing. The following sentence stems I pulled from a conference highlighted in Chapter Six: Be a Mirror. All the comments go to what the reading is doing and how she is doing it.
- You just________
- Then you_________
- Which helped you_______
- You noticed________
- You know that by doing ______ you can figure out_______
- By doing_______ you can ________and it helps you understand_____________
- From now on when you are reading you can _______________
Here are a few points I’ll hold on to when coaching and conferring with my students.
- Be specific
- Name what is
- Focus on the process
- Make sure it can transfer
- Take yourself out of it
I especially love #5. I know the potential power of my words, but I want students to own the results. It’s not because I said it, it’s because they do it. It’s about them, not me. That’s what draws me to the word admire. It starts and ends with the student.
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers Slice of LIfe Tuesday. I’m looking forward to another year and another hashtag (#sol16) with this wonderful community. Find more slices here.