I recently attended the National Reading Recovery and Classroom Literacy Conference--I've been going for several years, and always learn so much. This year was no different. I'm still rereading notes from the sessions I attended and am thinking about how my conference experiences will impact my classroom practices.
Tony Stead (author of Is That a Fact? and others) did a session that has me thinking. As he talked about doing investigations with kids, he stressed doing one together before having the kids engage in the work of research and writing.
I've done a lot of work with kids that starts with studying mentor texts and I've guided kids through research and planning and writing. We've worked together on whole class projects with interactive writing. But you know what? I don't know that I've ever worked alongside kids to write something together after studying mentor texts but before asking them to have a go on their own.
What I'm envisioning is beginning a unit of study as usual--by exploring and studying mentor texts. Then, as we talk about how to go about writing in this genre, we'd all try it out together--a group writing project in which we'd all talk about what to write and how to go about writing it using what we learned when exploring the mentor texts. We could chose and try out structure and craft moves together and discuss how and why we were doing it.
After that, the kids would move into their independent writing projects. What I'm wondering is if this will help the kids be more confident and deliberate in how they go about their writing when learning to write in a new genre. Doing it this way certainly fits what I believe about gradual release of responsibility--and it sort of just makes sense.
While I know I've done bits and pieces of this when using interactive writing, what occurred to me during this conference session is that it might be a good idea to try to use this technique much more deliberately. Besides, the kid work Tony shared with us spoke for him about how well it worked in those classrooms.
That's one of the reasons I love attending conferences. Not only do I learn new things or deepen my knowledge, but the sessions I attend always get me thinking about how I might tweak what I'm doing in my classroom to be a little more purposeful.