Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saturday Sayings: It's a Non-Negotiable



My life is full of non-negotiables.  I make my bed as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning.  I never put in contacts or remove them without washing my hands first.  I don't eat in my car.  I could seriously go on and on.  My school life is full of non-negotiables as well, and one of them is writing.  I don't mean writing in other subject areas or in response to reading.  I don't mean self-selected writing activities.  Filling in blanks on worksheets, which I don't promote, doesn't count either.  Grammar activities don't even come close.  I mean a planned, daily, sustained writing time with a mini-lesson, followed by time to write and then share.  That kind of writing is non-negotiable for our students.  The craft of writing must be taught and practiced.  It is an essential pathway to both reading and thinking.

A handful of years ago, a new basal series and a call to implement it arrived on my doorstep.   Teachers were admonished and trained to use it with fidelity.  I didn't quite jump on the bandwagon.  Okay, I didn't even hop or budge.  (But I had permission from my administrator.  Insert smile.)  From what I could tell and from what teachers were saying, following it with fidelity meant there wasn't much time for anything else.  Something had to go.  Unfortunately, for many, it was writing workshop.  I don't know how many times I heard something to this effect.  "I just don't have time for writing anymore."  My internal response was, "How can that even be possible?"  Prior to this, there had been a welcomed push to get Lucy Calkins and writing workshop into classrooms. When the basal moved in, Lucy moved to a spot on the shelf, and many writers spent their time with a scripted basal program instead.  The good news is that the grip on fidelity (one of my least favorite educational words) has been loosened and addressing the importance of writing is back at the top of the list where it belongs.  

All classrooms experience the give and take of new curriculum and programs.  It's impossible to completely avoid the effects of such mandates, but one thing we should never hear ourselves say is, "I just don't have time for writing anymore."  It's a non-negotiable.

P.S.  I'm off to run 13.1 miles in downtown Seattle with my best friend and 20 to 30,000 strangers.  Wish me luck!  



(Look who we saw at our race expo yesterday.)


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26 comments:

  1. It is for me too! I got so much better this year at conferencing and letting them share their writing. The students wouldn't let me get away with skipping that part-they loved it! We have a state test for writing in 4th Grade so often the thought is that they don't need that instruction until 4th Grade. That kind of thinking just drives me crazy! :) It's actually one of my favorite parts of the day.

    Not Just Child's Play

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    1. Miss Trayers, I understand how that thinking would drive you crazy. If we're not testing the skill yet, then why teach it? Ugh. :)

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  2. Good luck Tammy! Writing is always the highlight of my day and year. Even with all the chaos going on in our state with the legislator and cc. I know one thing for sure- my writing and reading teaching life will never change:)

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    1. Tammy, agreed! I find writing is one of the hardest but most rewarding subjects to teach.

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  3. Have fun in the race! I agree about writing and the need for it in our classrooms. I'm so thankful that both districts I've taught in have curriculum for us, but also understand the need for flexibility.

    Crystal

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    1. Crystal, I can appreciate a district with flexibility. Mine is typically like that, except for that one time with the new basal. I too am thankful. :)

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  4. Thank you for this post! I have found myself feeling guilty because I don't always do the prescribed basal writing to make time for writing workshop...no more guilt! Could that be Apolo in the picture? Please tell us who it is!
    Jenny

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    1. Jenny, that is Apolo! No more guilt. :)

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  5. Enjoy your half marathon!! I totally agree with you on the teaching of writing being a non-negotiable. I, too, have heard many teachers say that they don't have time to teach writing or they just don't know where to start or how to do it. There are so many wonderful professional books out there for teachers who really want to learn how to teach children to write.
    Connie Anderson
    www.welcometofirstgraderoom5.blogspot.com

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    1. Connie, you're so right. There are lots of tools out there. That's what got me on the right path.

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  6. My non negotiable is reading.....so glad my school doesn't quite follow the fidelity to the curriculum plan. Did you do the Rock n Roll Run?
    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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    1. Laurie, yep it was the Rock n Roll. This was our 4th time running it.

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  7. I cannot imagine not doing Writer's Workshop. Such a vital piece to literacy! Hope you enjoyed your race!
    Lori
    Conversations in Literacy

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    1. Lori, it definitely is a vital piece. Something is missing without it, regardless of the grade level.

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  8. My kids would be shocked if I bypassed reading or writing workshop any day. Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Kimberley, they come to expect it, huh? That's how it should work.

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  9. We write all the time! I can't imagine going a day without.
    Hope your half went well!!

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    1. Barb, it went well. Some day you'll have to run it too.

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  10. AMAZING that you saw Apollo! I'm jealous that you're running 13.1. Just got my knee fixed, so in a few weeks, I'm hoping to be back to running soon! :)
    And... every one of your writing posts speak to me. I love that writing is all I teach, so I get 70 uninterrupted minutes to devote to our craft. :)
    Maria

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    1. Maria, I hope that your knee is as good as new and you'll be off running like the wind. :)

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  11. Getting rid of writing for a basal series sounds like a terrible idea! Glad you could stick it out!

    Tara
    The Math Maniac

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    1. Tara, yes it wasn't the best move. I'm sure some people felt like their hands were tied when they heard the word 'fidelity." I think that word has that affect on people.

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  12. Somehow I missed this. I've never thought about nonnegotiables in my classroom - although I'm sure I have many. Writing was a special until two years, so I'm still finding my way on it. I appreciate your thoughts that help me think through my own.
    Hope your race went well. Sara

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    1. Sara, I'm sure you do have many non-negotiables in your classroom. I had to think through my own as well. People like Regie Routman, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins sure helped me.

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  13. I am so GLAD to hear someone else has "non-negotiable" things in their classroom! I teach Kindergarten and Writer's Workshop is my number one "non-negotiable"! My kids always learn to love to write and it makes them SOOO much better at everything else. They learn how to focus, persevere, how to think, how to share ideas and help, I could go on and on! Writing is such a BIG deal at every grade!

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    1. KrazyforKindergarten, I love that writing occurs in your classroom. First grade teachers like myself adore k teachers like you!

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