At this time of year, it’s natural to experience a flagging of energy - both yours and your students’. Attention is divided between school and all of the holiday goings on, and there’s a sense that everyone could really use the December break. It’s perfectly fine to respect this time of year’s natural rhythm, and you can do so while also being the driving force in keeping your young readers and writers motivated and passionate about their work.
As in the oxygen mask analogy, the first step toward helping others is to help yourself. When schedules are demanding, it’s more important than ever for you, the teacher, to take some time to recharge and re-ignite your own passion for the work. To do this, you may want to first think about your own physical well-being: make sure you are well-rested and getting good nutrition during this high-stress, busy time. Next, think about ways you might recharge your own reading and writing life. Take a few extra moments, though they seem hard to find this time of year, to jot in your own journal or read a book you want to read. Giving yourself these moments is a way to remind yourself how powerful it can be to lose yourself in a reading or writing project in which you are deeply invested.
Another way to re-ignite your own passion for reading and writing instruction is to look ahead to the second part of the year and set goals for your students and make plans on how you’ll support your students to reach them. This might involve you choosing professional texts to read, reaching out to colleagues to plan together, setting up visits to other classrooms to get ideas, and of course planning for additional support or instruction to add to the plans you set at the start of the school year, now that you know your students better.
Once you’ve ignited your own passion, you can think about how to channel this to your students. Two powerful ways to do this are by emphasizing student choice and independence, and by infusing a sense of celebration into your workshops.
One way to highlight choice and independence is to build in some time at the end of the year for students to engage in reading and writing work of their choosing. This might mean allowing some time for students to read or write outside of the genre of their unit of study, perhaps outside of workshop time. They might record ideas, observations, and feelings in a journal, or they might plan for future writing projects they’d like to take on outside of school. For reading, you might set aside some time for students to make book recommendations to each other, and perhaps to plan for reading a book with a partner or in a club over the break.
Infusing a sense of celebration often comes naturally at this time of year, as units are designed to wrap up before the break. You might plan reading and writing celebrations that feel a bit grander than usual. It could be that more public celebrations of kids’ work - ones that are school wide or that include family members or other classes as audience members - will provide students with the kind of feedback that leads to increased passion.
At this week’s TCRWP Twitter chat, staff developers Kara Arnold and Meghann McDonald will lead a discussion on igniting energy and passion back into reading and writing workshops for teachers of grades 3-8. If you sense your students’ energy might be flagging (and perhaps yours as well!), join this chat for tips on getting the spark back.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @karnold022 & @TCMcMeghann to chat about re-igniting energy and passion in reading and writing workshops tomorrow evening.
Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Anna Cockerille, Heinemann Editor and Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series, was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She also served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. Anna has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Anna is currently serving as an editor on the forthcoming Phonics Units of Study series for grades K-2, and previously served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.