08 Mar Slice of Life: A Win-Win Idea for Emergent Readers
Where did you write that?
On your conferring note.
No, no – show me. Show me where the words are on the note.
The words are right here.
Those are too messy for me to read – can you write it so I can read the words?
Students are always curious about the notes we take. We believe that is it is important to note our formative observations while we teach. We need to take the time to capture what we are noticing and wondering about our students while we are teaching. We believe the payoff of formative data is worth the time we spend collecting it as we teach. When students ask what we are writing, we typically tell them what we are writing as they watch us. They ask questions, add ideas and encourage us to “write that down.” We love how it involves them in the process of learning. It never dawned on us to use this process to teach students how to read until this emergent reader demanded it. An idea was born! We reworked our conferring note and designed it so we could write in a print size that the students could read (and we worked on our neatness!).
We end each conference co-writing the day’s “note” with the student. We decide what to say together, plan out the sentence and then “share the pen” to write the sentence. We teach and scaffold the concepts of print we are focusing on with each student. We also begin each lesson with the student re-reading the previous day’s note. We use this time to observe, prompt, and teach the student. We have even chose some to write up on sentence strips to cut up and rebuild the sentence.
We have noticed three big impacts from doing this with early readers:
- The text we are using is meaningful and it is about what they are doing and experiencing. The students are constructing both the meaning and print that represents it as we are writing. The purpose and connections to literacy is so clear.
- Students are more engaged in the lessons because they are excited to write about what they are learning and how the process of learning is going from them. They like talking and thinking about themselves as learners so they are more invested.
- Students are invested in the assessment process. They know their goals and are providing feedback on their next steps as learners. We are also getting to know them better as readers so our instruction is becoming more responsive to their needs.
Marie Clay taught us that it is essential that readers truly understand the foundation of literacy, “What I say I can write and what I can write I can read.” This concept seems so simple but it is the essence of being literate. When readers struggle to understand this concept we find it is critical to make their experiences with literacy purposeful and meaningful. If we want them to make connections to print, we need to connect the print to what is meaningful to them. We love when we find a “win-win” practice that saves us time and engages our students!
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, Beth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for us to share our stories each day in March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts and consider joining this community.