HOPE principle P1 addresses the practice of intentional inquiry and planning for instruction. As I consider the standards for writing in the Lake Washington School District and plan for writing instruction in my class, I am careful to take into account the need for a variety of writing resources that meet the writing needs of each of my students. Some students need an ABC chart at their fingertips with explicit instructions on how to use it in order to apply phonemic awareness skills to their writing. Other students enjoy using “turn and talk” time with their writing partner to verbalize their writing plan before getting started.
One of my students’ favorite (and my favorite as a teacher) writing tools are the “All About Me” posters we keep posted around the room for most of first semester. The idea for this activity was passed on to me by a teacher with whom I team taught a couple years back.These posters are created by the students themselves at the beginning of the year and include photos and writing that inform others as to: Who is the student? Who is in his/her family? What are the student’s likes and dislikes? Students then are scheduled to present their poster orally to the class after having practiced their presentation at home. The posters remain accessible in order to provide a resource for students as they choose a writing topic. Choosing a topic tends to be a challenging skill for many young writers and I often hear “I have nothing to write about!” Students are taught to revisit their All About Me posters and look for details in the photos and comments that might bring on a writing idea. They are also encouraged to visit other students’ posters to see if any connections can be made between the life of another student and his/her own life.
As I reflect on the effectiveness of this strategy to help students select a writing topic, I think of all the times I have perused through my family photo albums. This activity often spurs animated conversation with anyone who is close by and is willing to listen. It brings to mind many detailed experiences I have had that evoke one emotion or another. It makes sense that it would do the same for our students.