Monday, July 1, 2013

Crafting Author's Craft

We alllll know this look.  It's usually followed with a little back and forth finger pointing action a la "Night at the Roxbury".  You?  Me?  You, you?  Me?  As if you as the teacher couldn't already call who was going to partner with who before the words, "Today you are going to work with a partner to..." left your mouth.  It's like the partnership isn't solidified until this look has been exchanged by both parties.
Lucky for us, however, this look is no longer necessary.  We are asked all the time to do things as partners because at this point in our careers, it is assumed that it will just be that way.  In fact, we've often joked (although it's no joke) when asked to work on a project, "We're kind of a package deal."  You ask one to present staff development for the district, we're both in on it.  Oh, you need some curriculum written for the Language Arts Department?  Gladly.  As long as we can work in partners.  And I already know who my partner is.  We've turned in to those kids who act like they can't get any work done unless the assignment is partner work.  Clearly we're capable of working independently, but why do that when working together is so much more fun? 
Currently, we are working on writing some curriculum for Reader's Workshop grades 3 through 5 for our district.  Specifically, we are looking at Author's Craft in poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, and expository texts.  This is proving to be quite a task.  It's easy enough to say that an author's craft is really just the author's purpose for every little detail that's included in the text.  But when each author and every text is as unique as a thumbprint, how do you generalize teaching this concept to cover any text a reader may encounter?  How do you teach students that this poet included this simile in this poem because it shows the progression one goes through while reluctantly waking up in the morning...while this poet in this poem chose to personify the tulips because it shows their short life cycle once they've bloomed?  Each sentence, each phrase, each word in literature is so specifically chosen by the author; how do we teach a concept that's so specific in a way that can is generalized enough to cover any and all texts? 
It's definitely pushed us to think about texts in a new way.  We're making progress, but it hasn't been as easy as we first thought.  We can't wait to get these lessons posted here to be used and tweaked by fellow teachers!  Our goal is that while teachers are busy lesson planning and hit a roadblock, they think, "I wonder if the Literacy Ladies have any ideas for this..."  If that roadblock is Author's Craft, you're in luck!  Well, soon...  Check back in a week!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Launch of Literacy Ladies!

We've talked about it for long enough.  The "talk" started when we taught fifth grade together from 2010 until 2012.  During those years, we would lesson plan together, come up with riveting reading lessons, prepare for those lessons, therapuetically create anchor charts to go along with those lessons, execute those lessons...then look across our rooms at each other in the middle of teaching those lessons and say, "Eh. That could've gone better." But then...there were other times when we would get to school, look over those well thought out lessons plans for the day, say to each other, "This will never work.  We can do better," and at 8:25 a.m. (five minutes before our students would start flooding the hallways to our classrooms) would come up with an alternative lesson.  Those were the lessons where we would look across our rooms at each other and say, "We.Are.Awesome."  Usually a high five would follow. 

The Literacy Ladies have been friends for a loooooong time.
So that's when the "talk" began: when we realized that we had our finest moments in the classroom when we were able to look at our objectives, scrap what we had spent our precious time planning, and come up with something far better.  We figured we had a knack for this whole "teaching kids how to read and write" gig.  Why not share what we come up with with other teachers?  After all, 80% of teaching is stealing ideas from other teachers!  Why shouldn't we contribute to the bank of ideas-to-be-stolen?  We should really blog about this stuff. (It's free, after all.  I mean, I know we're teachers, and we're made of money, but I'll take free whenever I can get it.)

But, as often happens with "talk", this blogging idea remained just that.  An idea.  For a couple of years.  Until one summer (which happens to be this summer), while presenting some staff development courses for our district, we again looked at each other and said, "We.Are.Awesome."  (We're also humble.)  We figured that if we were receiving compliments from excited audiences who were sitting through staff development courses, maybe we could extend our audience through the world wide web via a blog.  (Hey, haven't we talked about that before?)  Two days later (which happens to be today), we were in the audience listening to Jennifer Serravallo, when Katie scribbled a note to me: "Seriously. We could be published, too." 

So enough talk.  We're doing this thing.  We're the Literacy Ladies, and we're blogging about literacy.  Why "Literacy Ladies"?  Because it's alliterative.  Teachers take courses in how to come up with cutesy alliterative titles and labels: "book boxes", "literacy library", "sitting like a super star", "rockin' reading", "wicked writing".  Even the title of this post!  So here it is!  The Launch of Literacy Ladies!