While reading chapter two, I found myself underlining, starring, and placing poorly drawn hearts all over the pages. The authors' insistence that reading and writing were "two sides of the same coin," while not really revolutionary, was refreshing to read. The first few pages, with Murphy and Smith discussing the ways language activities are connected, a quartet, spurred a conversation between me and my husband while we sat on our porch watching neighborhood fireworks. We both attended the same high school only one year apart, and can recall very few instances of meaningful writing that was tied into reading, or discussion, or anything really. This made me worry that my own students may feel the same way.
As a still fairly new teacher (I just completed my third year), it has been my continuous goal to create a community of readers and writers. Each year I've felt like I've made more and more progress with my reading community and have looked to others for inspiration. This past year especially, I've taken notes from Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle to adjust the way we practice reading in the classroom. I noticed a fairly dramatic change in my students' attitude towards reading, at least when it came to choice based novels, but I still felt like I struggled to build that community of writers that I yearned for. As I read this chapter, I felt like hitting myself on the head because, duh!, I should have been looking at them as one in the same. It makes sense, because, as the Murphy and Smith stated, "Seldom does the writing muse do a solo dance. It takes a flurry of language activity-- the quartet of reading, writing, speaking, and listening-- to move our ideas forward," (11)
I really appreciated the simplicity with which the lesson was laid out-- informative, but still bare bones enough to make it my own-- and I loved the idea of bringing the students back to the "show, not tell" format that they are familiar with. I especially loved the many ways a student could take ownership of their writing, and best of all practice and celebrate themselves as writers. It seems so simple, but celebration is probably the piece that I falter with the most. My school has a stringent writing policy (eight district required three-page essays per year, MLA style, etc) that keeps students writing at all times, but it often feels like we are just rushing to the next piece. This chapter reminded me that the celebration piece is fairly crucial when building that community, and how little I focus on it in my own classroom while I'm trying to move the curriculum along.
Even as I continue to plan for next year, I'm trying to find ways to build my community. How do you do it? Have there been moments that you felt you had a true writing community in your classroom? What strategies or routines did you use to build the sense of trust, respect, and ownership that is necessary to a classroom writing community?