Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille
To move a child to become a lifelong reader and writer takes commitment, passion, resources, and teamwork. The most powerful teams extend beyond the child and her classroom teacher to include other students, other teachers and administrators, and, not least, the child’s parents and caregivers. Certainly, in most cases, everyone on the team wants the child to succeed at reading and writing. But on the best teams, everyone shares an understanding of what success looks like and what it takes to get there.
To those who believe in a workshop approach to foster the kinds of literacy skills that extend far beyond one classroom and one school year, success looks like this: a child who chooses what he wants to read, takes charge of his own understanding, talks about his reading with others, and reads lots of different kinds of books. It looks like a child who believes that the details of his life are worth writing about, who writes for lots of different reasons and in different ways, and who knows and uses lots of ways to make his writing better.
To help foster that kind of success, workshop teachers keep in mind a set of bottom lines for their instruction, non-negotiables that they believe all students need and from which they don’t veer, no matter what. These often include: plenty of time for reading and writing, a teacher who offers individualized help and who shows his own love of reading and writing, exposure to high-quality, engaging literature, student choice over what to read and write about. Imagine, then, the power, if parents understood and held fast to some of these same bottom lines when they worked with their children at home. Imagine, if students were getting the same messages about reading and writing all across every single day: that reading and writing matter, that adults do these things too, that these are things worth dedicating time to and working to get better at. All of this is possible, and more so when teachers and parents connect on the best ways to support children’s burgeoning literacy skills.
This week, at the TCRWP Twitter chat, staff developers Mike Ochs and Emily Butler Smith will lead a discussion on how schools can help families to understand the principles of Units of Study and the foundations of workshop instruction. They’ll help chat participants to brainstorm ideas, to share suggestions, and to imagine ways to make this year be the year that they foster the strongest possible parent-teacher relationships, and that they best support students in becoming true lifelong lovers of literacy.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @readwritemike & @EmilyJBSmith to chat about helping families understand Units of Study and workshop teaching tomorrow evening.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Anna Gratz Cockerille, Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series.
Anna 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 served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the Content Literacy Institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.