Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: The Magic is in the Organization #SOL18
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Slice of Life: The Magic is in the Organization #SOL18

She just grabbed that book, opened it up and found exactly what she wanted to model. 

I overhear the comment (or piece together enough to think that is what she said to her colleague).  I decide to let the students turn and talk for another minute, so I can let the teachers in on my secret.

Oh no!  There is no magic in this.  This is planning.  This is my book – which is the mentor text that comes with your unit of study.  This is the post-it note on the page with the craft example.  This is the student mentor text of the same craft, which I file in the book.  This is a mentor text of my writing using the same craft, also filed in the book.  I store the text, with the writing samples, in the unit of study book.  That way I always have it at my fingertips when I need it.

That is the truth.  There is no magic wand for me to wave when it comes to mentor texts.  I spend most of my planning time finding the right book or student sample to model and study with kids.  The power of my lessons is always in the books I use to model. I am meticulous about how I organize and store my mentor texts.  I always keep the texts I use to model with the materials for that unit of study.  If the book is not mine or if I would like to have it in more than one unit, I photocopy the cover and the pages I use to store with a lesson.  I even typically put a key word on the page indicating how I used it.

Throughout the unit (and the years), I collect student samples that show a variety of ways to use this craft and store them with the books.  It helps to show students how other kids tried the craft in their writing.  For some reason, seeing the craft in a peer’s writing makes it feel so accessible.  I use my own writing as a mentor as well, but I typically use my writing to customize the use of the craft to scaffold what I see the students need as a next step.  My sample provides the opportunity for me to think aloud and share the process of why I chose to use the craft, how I decided to use it and the process of revision.  Even though I typically customize my writing samples and write “live” in front of the children, I save prior examples to remind myself of different things I have tried in the past.

We continually remind our students to “show not tell” and I think we need to do the same for them in our teaching.  Taking the time to organize my mentor texts – professional, student, and teacher – makes it seem effortless!  But we all know, any teaching that seems effortless is carefully orchestrated.  That is the magic of teaching!  (I am lucky I only have to plan for reading and writing!)

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDebMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every day in March and on Tuesdays throughout the year.



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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:14h, 22 March Reply

    You are meticulous in your planning! Organization IS magic. Only when we know that we know where to find what we’re looking for can we go about our business of living/teaching with confidence. Thank you for sharing this with us today.
    As a side note, I just noticed that my iPhone adds a period ONLY when I hit the space bar TWICE!

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 11:06h, 22 March Reply

    Such an important post for teachers, Clare! Organizing and planning does take time but is so necessary and rewarding. As you say, it is the magic of teaching.

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 12:39h, 22 March Reply

    Thank you, Clare. Teaching is not a grab and go thing. You can’t go to Pinterest and say, I will try that today! You are so right – the magic is in the planning – having mentor texts that fit the class you are currently working with. To have student samples as well to be willing and ready to model in front of your students with your own writing to demonstrate process, craft, and sophisticated punctuation.. Being prepared does take some planning and organizing, but it is well worth the effort!

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    Posted at 18:55h, 22 March Reply

    Interestingly as soon as I started reading your slice I thought of ballet. All the hard work and preparation is invisible to the audience and all is left on stage is magic.

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 19:48h, 22 March Reply

    Clare, this is a great post for teachers. Thoughtful planning is so important! Teaching is not haphazard and requires us to be ready and prepared.

  • Avatar
    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 19:48h, 22 March Reply

    Clare, this is a great post for teachers. Thoughtful planning is so important! Teaching is not haphazard and requires us to be ready and prepared.

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    Amanda Potts
    Posted at 23:23h, 22 March Reply

    Yes! Good teaching is not, in fact, magic. There’s a lot of experience, thought, knowledge and PLANNING that goes into what we do. I love how you’ve broken it down here so that what is so often invisible becomes visible. Thanks for this!

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    Karen Terlecky
    Posted at 00:56h, 23 March Reply

    What a wonderful coaching and teaching tip for all. Thank you for sharing. I literally just cleaned out so much student work from my office space today. It most definitely is not as precisely organized as you have described here. Oh well, a goal for another day. 😉

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    Gail Boushey
    Posted at 01:47h, 05 April Reply

    Clare, loved reading your ideas for the texts to choose, and your true note…it isn’t magic. 🙂

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