Celebrations

Guest post by Jordi — thank you!

Think about a time you worked hard on something… it could be a test for which you studied hard and earned an A, it could be the day you received your acceptance letter from college or graduate school, it could be the day you got your first job offer… as you reflect upon these moments, think about what you did… I am sure the first thing that you wanted to do was call your close friend, parent, significant other, etc. and share the good news! Right? It is human desire to want to share good news and invite others to celebrate our hard work and achievements!

Why should we not do the same for our students? As a teacher, it is our job to celebrate our students’ hard work and teach them to embrace their efforts and share them with others. We need to teach our students to be proud of what they accomplished. Celebrations give students time to reflect on the work that they have been doing and think about how far they have come. Celebrations can also be a learning opportunity, where students can look to their peers for new ideas. If we continuously teach without validating and celebrating our efforts, then we might lose the motivation to continue to work hard and improve.

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Frank Thomas’ Kindergarten classroom at PS 29 BK is all ready for a writing celebration!  Notice the reader’s comment card (and the daisies!).  It only takes a little effort to make it extra special!

Throughout my experiences with Writing Workshop, I’ve seen the value of ending each unit with some type of celebration. As a teacher, it is fun to make these celebrations different and creative. For example, students can share their writing with their peers bIMAG0185y placing their work on their desk, and then doing a gallery walk of the room (see right), or students can create anthologies to be added to the classroom library. It is always exciting to invite caregivers to come in and view their child’s work as well, or invite other classrooms to visit and see the great work the students have been doing. The more enthusiastic that you are about sharing your students work, the prouder they will feel, and the more they will get excited to work hard and create a piece that they feel pleased and excited to show others. Sometimes I even have students compare their published work to their first draft. It is amazing to watch them admire the progress that they are making as they note the positive changes that are visible in their writing.

I often choose to introduce the idea of a celebration within the first couple of weeks of a new Writing Unit. By explaining the end celebration to the students, I am giving them a goal and something to work towards. This added incentive helps provide the students with motivation and gives them a sense of direction.

Students don’t need fancy publishing opportunities…just inviting them to create front covers, dedication pages, About the Author bios, or fun bindings can generate big excitement and investment!

Here are some celebrations that I have tried:

Feel free to comment and add any of your own!

Gallery walk: When we do a gallery walk, the students place their published writing on their desk or at their table spot. Students circulate throughout the classroom, reading their peers’ books. Each student leaves a post-it for another student with a compliment written on it. I give students ideas of compliments such as “I like the way you edited your writing to fix your spelling”, or “I like the way you added dialogue”, etc.

Anthology: After a recent writing unit on persuasive writing, where each student wrote a review, we made class anthologies to categorize and celebrate their work. The students placed their review in a folder labeled based on the category of the review (i.e. restaurants, movies, games, etc.). I assigned a student to make a cover for the anthology (ex. The best places to eat in NYC!), and then I put their work together in a big book. I added a new book bin labeled 1-205 Anthologies to our classroom library, and students could read through their peers’ reviews as an option during independent reading. This encouraged students to write many reviews so that they could add one to each anthology and try different types of reviews.

Publishing party: We have done plenty of different versions of publishing parties in my classroom. We have invited parents in to observe their child’s work and leave compliments. The students could read their book to their caregiver and share the work that they had been doing in class. We have also invited other classrooms into our room to see the work we have done. During the All About Informational unit of study, the students were given the opportunity to share their expertise on a topic with other students. They were able to share their writing and the research that they did to learn all of the important information that they wrote about the topic in their book. Students felt ownership and enjoying taking a leadership role and sharing their knowledge with others.

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