Sometimes a new tool or routine in the classroom works so well that I'm both overjoyed and embarrassed that I didn't connect the dots and figure it out earlier.
So, writing workshop. I love it. They love it. It's a regular festival of love and writing. Of course, there are issues. Issue number one: the stapler. Ahh, the stapler. The stapler is awesome. You put papers in, press it down really hard (showing your muscles) and then voila! Your book is stuck together. My students would probably list the stapler as one of their favorite tools.
Some of them love it so much they want to use it a lot. Every day. Multiple times per day, if possible. One of my little darlings even wrote four books one day (four books!), just so he could staple each one together. Of course these books consisted of a cover and a single sheet of writing paper stapled together. Fun, yes. Numerous, yes. But quality writing... not so much.
In December, I told the children that we were going to take a break from the staplers. Not because they weren't being safe with them, but because I wanted to spend some time really working on the content of their writing: making it better, more interesting, more compelling to other readers, and then after we spent some time doing that we would bring the staplers back.
Simultaneously, I was also trying to devise a way to get the children to talk to each other more often about their writing. They were talking, yes, but it was along the lines of: how do I write this word? Or: can you help me make a bicycle in my picture? Now both of those are valid and important questions, and I don't want to stifle that. I just want to promote more consistent interaction about writing. I had grand plans of this great and gigantic checklist; I had thoughts of a huge poster detailing how to conference and talk about writing.
Then, last week, as I was getting the staplers full and ready to be returned to our writing station, I had an epiphany:
Incorporate both of them together: before the children can staple their book, they have to reread the book and share it with three other people for feedback.
So. Guess how it worked out?
If you said beautifully, you win! Because it was. It was like... take the two things you want to see happening and squish them together and hope for the best. It was the best. I saw children offering real suggestions to other students about their writing. I heard them asking each other questions about punctuation and word choices. I heard laughter and funny voices being used for dialogue.
It was like winning the teacher lottery.
Granted, it won't automatically stay this beautiful. We will still spend time talking about ways to conference and discuss writing with others. We will need to model and practice and refine that. But as for a way to get the kids to focus on content and interact more? This was perfect.
I'm rather embarrassed that I didn't put the two together much earlier.