Walking down the hallways of any school we will often encounter student work hanging on the walls. Most often it is either artwork or some type of writing project. Rarely do we have time to stop and read or appreciate each one as we pass by so we tend to look at them through our own lens of expectations. We often do not know the context of the work and can only surmise what the unit of study may have been by any titles given to the pieces. Those pieces were placed in the hallways so that students could have an audience for their work beyond their classmates and teacher.
Several years ago we had a superintendent in our district that was dismayed if student work in the hallway had errors-particularly spelling errors. Teachers were left with few options: stop posting any student’s work that had these errors, or fix the errors before they went out (in which case the work was no longer just the student’s!) This policy was based on what one person was looking for. With this narrow lens she missed so much great learning that was happening.
That got me thinking hard about how we can direct our audiences attention to all the work and learning that went into the creation of the posted work. Rather than leave it up to chance on what they will look for, we can invite them to look for and notice what we have been teaching and learning that resulted in this work.
Share the Process as well as the Product!
I began working with teachers on creating Look-Fors to shine a spotlight on the ‘behind the scenes’ work that went into the published pieces. Many teachers had already been using learning targets to teach for the expected learning so this was a great place to start. Teachers could post the learning targets along side the student work. These pairings show the audience “Here is what was taught. Here is how it was learned.” We could then look for these specific targets within each students’ work and perhaps spend less time noticing a few misspellings!
Because a finished piece of work was often the culmination of several smaller learning targets, we then created Look-For charts that pointed out several areas of emphasis that the students were learning and practicing. These became the classroom Look-Fors.
We then thought about encouraging the students to create Look-Fors themselves. We believe part of being a Close Writer is reflecting on our writing identities and asking ourselves, “What did I work hard on?” “What did I learn about writing during this piece?” “What do I want other people to notice about my writing?” By asking them to write their own Look-Fors we:
- Invite reflection on learning (What have I learned to do? What do I still need to work on?)
- Remind them to consider their audience. (How will other readers see my work?)
- Encourage self-directed learning and autonomy. (I have a say in what I want you to think about me as a learner.)
- Create an expectation that each time we write (or paint, draw, etc)we should be learning/trying something new or gaining proficiency with our skills.
So as you walk down the hallways in your schools, what do you notice? Can you tell from the body of work being presented what specific teaching and learning occurred? What is it you are noticing about that work? Do you think that’s what was intended for you to notice? How can you help to make the learning (process) as visible as the product? If you have examples of your own Look-Fors, I’d love to see them. You can share them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LitCoachLady/
What’s On My Book Radar?
After our January nErDcampNNE, I was so fortunate to receive two ARCs from Maine authors I love. The first was Tamra Wight’s 3rd book in the Cooper and Packrat mystery series. These are all set in a campground in Maine (something she knows a great deal about) and weaves fascinating facts about wildlife into the mysteries. The first book was about loons, the second about eagles, and this third is about foxes. The children in the books try to solve mysteries that protect the animals we are learning about. Each chapter starts with fun facts that help young readers appreciate these animals, and hopefully encourage them to safeguard these animals as well. I think this series is a MUST HAVE for 2nd-5th grade classrooms. So well written and really encourage readers to think and wonder as they try to figure out whodunnit! Expected release date: April 26.
The second book is from author Megan Frazer Blakemore. Her books are often also mysteries, but not trying to solve crimes. The characters are usually children trying to understand the world around them and how the past holds such an influence on the present. Her most recent middle grade novel is set in the future. The children of Old Harmonie are isolated from the rest of the world-it is safe and perfect. Or so they think. When a new girl moves to Firefly Lane who seems a little too perfect, their perceptions are challenged and they begin to question the lives they are leading and what it means to be a friend. For readers who loved The Giver , Eye of the Storm, or Masterminds, they may want to add this terrific book to their TBR! Expected release date: May 3.