Spandel Ch. 10 Reflection
On the first page of this chapter, it was encouraging for me to read that letter writing was supported by the author. At our elementary school, we have a bucket filling program, which focuses on teaching kids how to how to “fill the bucket” of others by encouraging positive comments and deeds towards one another. To assist in this goal, my students and I write a friendly letter to a different student each week. These letters are assembled in a three-prong folder, as a keepsake, and given to the student at the start of the following week.
Students are given a checklist of requirements to include in their writing. They are asked to share three compliments that are deeper than physical appearance, ask three questions, share three personal revelations that the reader likely did not already know about the writer, and suggest a book including why the recipient should read it. Just as Spandel acknowledges,”Kids love to write letters that get answered. It’s like magic. Suddenly, there’s a reason for the writing.”
It’s true. My kids love doing this so much they want to know who the next letter recipient will be before the next week even starts. In fourth grade, I find this repetitive practice also reinforces important writing conventions that can fall by the wayside if not practiced consistently, such as indenting paragraphs, capitalizing “I” and the first words in sentences, using appropriate end punctuation, formatting greeting and closings correctly, use of transition words, etc. Also, letter writing seems like a natural genre for encouraging students to let their unique voices shine.
As I continued reading, I identified two areas where I would like to improve my instruction. Over the summer, I want to plan writing instruction that focuses on each of the traits. I really like how Elaine also used pre-assessments not only to tailor her instruction but also as a way of showing growth by year’s end. I was also fond of the idea of having the class score and discuss an anonymous paper. What a fun to learn the traits!
The writing coach checklist on pg. 252 also seemed like a powerful self-assessment tool. I think the way the questions are written for each trait allows the writer to become more independent and take more personal ownership for improving their craft. Searching for answers to our own questions reminded me of website I like to use when I am stumped on a writing issue with my own students: http://www.writingfix.com/.
I also enjoyed reading the conference dialogue that was shared in this chapter. It is helpful for me to see how other teachers structure their conferences and what types of questions they ask to push their students forward. Breaking students into groups to revise also seems like a powerful way to build good writing habits. Maybe one of my favorite take-aways from this chapter was the idea of “backwards planning” from pg. 255. While I am not sure this would work at the start of the year in 4th grade, I think it is something I would like to try in the 3rd marking period. I like to think about how this method could foster choice, autonomy, and personal responsibility.