A big SHOUT OUT to Margaret Simon for setting up a Twitter Chat on Aug. 28th with Katherine Bomer, author of The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them. I wish this book made my summer reading list… I picked it up a few weeks ago at the HighAIMS summer institute and just today started reading it. So I will find myself following the chat to learn and then going back to the archive as I get more into the book (as I am only on page 22 right now).
Already I have been inspired by this text. As I read the essay “Joyas Voladoras” on page 3 (also found here), the reading teacher in me was coming up with so many teaching ideas for using this text with my 4th graders. After reading Katherine’s inner dialogue, I realized the lens I was reading through was much different. I was not considering this text from a writing point of view but rather as a reader. However this is what makes close reading with students so fantastic. We interpret what we read in so many different ways… and there is no “one correct” way.
Thus I started to re-examine the essay and the use of language. So beautiful. If only I had more time with my students… I miss the chance to really help them develop voice as they write. Nevertheless as I examine the essay more as a writer myself through this book, I know I will find ways to squeeze in mini-lessons to help my students grow more.
For now, the ‘essay’ work my students will do comes in the form of reading response letters to me each week as homework. My students pick the text and have 2 menus of prompts to choose from (fiction and nonfiction). I scaffold them from writing a few sentences into full well-developed essays. This year knowing I have about 90 eight to ten year olds to work with each day, I decided to “flip” my writing instruction and so I started a series of video lessons that take students through expectations as they “level up”. I know this is not the essence of Katherine’s book, but I do find that my more ‘structured’ essays give me a chance to teach and develop often very needed writing skills.
And so the mini-lessons are for students and families to access as needed: http://www.symbaloo.com/home/mix/responseletterresources
I have 13 lessons so far for my new 3rd graders. Part 2 is working on taking students on from where this set ends; ideally as new 4th graders who have already leveled up… The Journey to respond to text in a well written essay is everything for my readers at this time.