Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Writing Takeaways Part 2: Ideas for Next Summer

Our Summer Writing Academy is only one week long, but is packed full of writing and learning for both teachers and students. Last week, I wrote about some of the activities that we did with the students throughout the week in Part 1. This was my second year of running it, and I worked hard to have the learning be impactful for teachers, as well as for students. This post has more to do with the reflections, insights and learning that we had as teachers. Each day, we met after the students left and exchanged ideas for a half hour. The conversations were unstructured and organic, led by a talented five-some of writing teachers.

This year, we focused our students on narrative writing, but with a more imaginative twist than most get within our academic year's curriculum. For example, many of the students developed their main characters as animals, a la Poppleton, Frog and Toad, or the Lighthouse Family. I saw several stories with mermaids and princesses. (Yes, there are many more girls than boys who opt into a summer writing camp!) Other students had characters and action figures come to life.

One of the goals for this summer was to have students complete at least one story that could be entered into the state writing contest, and this goal became the topic of conversation and debate for the teachers after the last session.

  • Did the pressure of completing a piece motivate students?
  • Did the product become more important than the process?
  • Could students have learned better/more deeply if they had been working on parts of stories each day, rather than trying work through one story each day?
As a group, we value process for these students and without planning to, we found ourselves planning for next year's writing academy. The teachers all loved Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic, and if you have not read it, I highly recommend it as summer reading! Our proposed theme for next year? Learning from the magic of the masters to develop our writing toolkits. Each day we could have author studies, focusing on their expertise on certain aspects of story telling.

For right now, we are envisioning:
Day 1: Captivating beginnings (Jon Scieszka or Eve Bunting)
Day 2: Plot development (Kevin Henkes)
Day 3: Bringing the setting to life (Patricia MacLachlan)
Day 4: Voice, dialogue and emotions (Cynthia Rylant)
Day 5: Lasting impressions (Mem Fox or Patricia Polacco)

And so, next year is evolving into developing a magical writing toolkit by studying the masters. No, we may not complete pieces, but we will send students of all levels off with tools and skills that will help them in all writing genres throughout the year!

Bring on Summer Writing Academy 2015!

No comments:

Post a Comment