To begin, they will need to prove a commitment to their writer's notebooks. Specifically, students will participate in one-on-one conferences focusing on these criteria: flexibility and fluency; thoughtfulness; and grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling. A notebook that demonstrates flexibility and fluency is one that contains entries that are more than just two or three sentences. Writing doesn't end abruptly, and ideas are fleshed out. Likewise, writers should show a willingness to try new ideas, forms, and genres. If every entry is a soccer narrative, it's time to attempt something new. On the other hand, assessing thoughtfulness is a little more subjective. Entries that reveal new insights to the writer's thinking and that are reflective meet this criterion. Thoughtful writing is neither a list, nor a diary entry. Finally, students should consistently employ what they know about good writing. Sixth grade writers should be able to differentiate between homophones, use correct capitalization, and apply appropriate end punctuation. Notebooks are not expected to be perfect, but patterns of errors will provide opportunities for additional practice.
Students are expected to actively read assigned texts. For each, I will ask students to 'notice and note' specific details. This quarter, they read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. As part of their interaction with the text, readers needed to annotate for glimpses of Taylor's father, the author's use of thunder, and the marginalization of the Logan family. Those annotations will serve as tracks of the students' thinking. Like the writer's notebook, readers will participate in one-on-one conferences with me. They will be expected to show how they interacted with the text to make meaning, and how their annotations shed light on the author's intentions.
Next week promises to be a reflective one as we work together to construct a picture of individual growth and participation.
photo credit: Amir Kuckovic via photopin cc