I took a fantastic week long Writing Workshop course this summer. I wrote a blog entry about it in July. As I started reading the lessons on my own to plan, I realized that I needed to rewrite them in a simpler way so that they would be at-a-glance lesson plans to be used year after year. When I was done teaching the lesson, I was then able to write notes on the lesson about how it went and what I will do differently next year.
The easiest system for me was a spiral notebook with perforated pages. I wrote the abbreviated lessons then ripped the pages out and placed them in my Writing Workshop binder. I used the same spiral for my reading workshop lessons too, so ripping them out and placing them in their respective binders made sense. I have seen other teachers create a template with the lesson sections and use that for their at-a-glance lessons. I prefer the notebook for many reasons including the fact that I don't have to bother with making copies of the template. Using the notebook is easier for me because I am not locked into the way I designed the template. Different lessons warrant more writing for some things and less for others, etc. No matter what format is used, all the teachers I have worked with in our Writing Workshop P.L.C. (professional learning community) have felt the need to simplify the lessons. Reading the lessons in full is extremely valuable, but the book is not set up for quick glance teaching.
It takes time to read through the lesson and plan how you will attack it so that it fits what you are doing with the kids. This was not an issue with personal narrative, but with the information writing unit, my students are working on the Age of Exploration. The book gives examples and mentor texts related to Westward Expansion. Reading and planning a few lessons ahead at all times has been vital to the success of my lessons. For instance, there is a section about writing with the lens of geography. The book uses a map related to the Oregon Trail. I read the lesson about a week ahead and had time to find a map that was age appropriate and related to the Age of Exploration. I used a map of the Silk Road that showed the routes and the students were amazing in analyzing the map and making connections to what they had already researched. Their questions and ideas motivated me to find more maps of the Silk Road that would continue their analysis. There is a fantastic website devoted to the Silk Road and it had maps of the religions along the road, the geographical features, countries along the road, climate, etc. Students worked voraciously to answer the questions they had from that first map. I followed the original lesson, but made it work for my students.
Another reason to be a few lessons ahead in planning is that you can prepare the charts that go with the lessons. The charts are a took and allow students more independence when they are stuck. They can look at the charts and try something.
Charts are a tool: