This book is a quick read that doesn’t need to be read cover to cover. It is full of innovative lessons that will turn your everyday writing lessons up a notch. Oczkus takes traditional, everyday writing lessons and adds a twist that helps students produce better writing. Some of my favorite lessons include: Noisy Poems, Weekend Webs, Patterned Writing, and Guided Report Writing. The lessons in this book include graphic organizers, examples of the lesson ‘in action,’ and they are easily implemented. This is the perfect resource to spice up your writing block!
Personal Connection: Writing has been my professional goal for years. I’ve taken a lot of classes and read a lot of professional literature on writing from experts such as Fountas & Pinnell, Lucy Caulkins, Katie Wood Ray, and Reggie Routeman (who are referenced in Oczkus’ book too). By following their lead, I feel pretty comfortable with how I run writer’s workshop in my classroom. Do my students have a separate writing block everyday? Check. Do my students know to finish a story and start a new one? Check. Are they given opportunities for collaborating with a friend when necessary? Check. Do they have writing journals? Check. Do they have opportunities to self select what they write? Check. Are they also given mini lessons on writing different genres? Check. Do they know how to edit, revise, and publish a story? Check. Do they have access to the ‘tools’ they need as writers (quick words, dictionaries, thesaurus, pens, markers, etc.)? Check. Do they have books to “publish” their best work? Check. Do we have author celebrations when they publish their work? Check. The problem I always run into is, “Now what?” My students have good writing stamina, good story ideas, enthusiasm for writing, but there’s still something missing. Their writing is usually good, but it isn’t GREAT. There’s definitely room for improvement. Just like reading, our little writers have to develop a self-extending system. They have to think of an idea, write that idea down, remember how to spell the words they want to write, use correct punctuation, all while keeping in mind that their story must follow a logical sequence with interesting details, etc. That’s a lot to ask of a 7 year old. But we do. The middle of second grade is when we really expect things to come together, to see students use all those strategies flexibly to create a good story. But what do we do if students have all the right pieces but it doesn’t come together? What about the students who have a self extending system but need to practice doing it better? Sometimes I feel like a mechanic with all the parts but no manual on how to put the engine together, let alone how to make sure the car runs. Most of the time I can start the engine, but I’m still not sure how to tune the torque and horsepower.
This book really helped me fine tune the pieces I already had in place. It doesn’t spend a lot of time on theory, but instead focuses on practice. If you already run a writer’s workshop in your classroom and want to fine tune your students’ engines, this is the book for you! It helped me add premium fuel to my writing lessons.