Monday, February 20, 2012

Most Successful Writing Activity All Year

A change of plans for my writing lesson on Friday resulted in the most successful writing activity my students have done all year! All week, I had been reading Ready, Freddy - The One Hundredth Day of School to my class. My students LOVE the Ready Freddy books!

At the very end of this book, the students in the class share their collections of 100 things for the hundredth day of school.  A little girl in the class brings 100 worry dolls.  She explains what a worry doll is and where she got hers.  My students were very interested in the worry dolls and the fact that I had worry dolls when I was little.  Even after the "super-sized" clean out I did in my room last summer...I  just happen to have a bag full of worry dolls in my cabinet that parent gave me a few years ago.  Last summer, I kept lookin' at them wondering what I was going to do with them.  When my students expressed so much interest in worry dolls, I knew I had to change my writing plan for the day (right after I scanned the hallway for the ipad patrol).

*The ipad patrol is really my principal (who is not scary, thank goodness) with his ipad that he just started carrying around to do our spontaneous observations (scary - but I'm trying to have faith that his fancy ipad evaluation program will catch me doing something worthy of being highly effective).  I'm actually pretty sure my principal would have loved my writing lesson (even with the change of plans), but without the time to change my "detailed lesson plan" checking the hallway like a secret agent seemed like the best solution.

The coast was clear, so...
1.  I gave each student a worry doll to take to their desk.
2.  They named the dolls and brainstormed ideas.  I gave them some suggestions of things to include on their brainstorming sheet (which is just a web).  I wanted them to include the name of their doll, a few details about what a worry doll is where they might keep it if they had one.  I also asked them to write down one worry that they might want to share with a worry doll.
3.  Before I gave each student their writing paper, I walked around to have a quick conference with each student about their brainstorming.  I almost always do that during writing time, so they don't start writing without developing a solid plan.

The enthusiasm was building as the students began to write.   As I walked around to conference with each student, some of them whispered their worry to me.  Others were only comfortable handing their paper to me to read.  I was shocked about some of their worries and the fact that I was able to solve some of them by simply taking the time to listen to each child individually.  Isn't it sad that we don't have time to really talk/listen to kids sometimes about something unrelated to the standards? 

Here are a few of their worries...
One little girl was worried about a boy (who she is assigned to sit with on the bus) being mean to her.  I offered to write a note to her bus driver.  Her mom emailed me yesterday to say thank you - her daughter now has a new seat.

One little boy was worried that foxes would eat him in the middle of the night.  I told him that I used to worry about coyotes when I was little.  He responded, "I thought I was the only one!" He also gave me a big hug.

One little girl was worried that she might never find her special bracelet.  She had already checked the lost and found last week.  She never mentioned to me that she lost it at school before. When she shared her worried with me, I convinced her to go to the office to check because we keep lost jewelry in the office (not in the lost and found).  She came back with the bracelet and a huge smile.

I'm still working on solving a few more worries that I think I might be able to "fix" and I'm praying about a few others that were kind of sad.  It was an eye opening experience for me.

Their writing was AMAZING!  I was so impressed by their work and was extremely tempted to force them to leave their writing with me (so I could at least make copies).  But... I didn't.  When I told them that they could keep their worry doll forever they jumped up and down and cheered.  They were so excited to take their worry dolls and their writing home.  A spontaneous change of plans = motivated writers who produced the best writing they have done all year.  Score!

I'm definitely buying more worry dolls for next year.  I found this set on Amazon, in case anyone else is interested.

I'm signing off with a quote that one of my friends sent me last week...

"Faith is taking the next step, even when you don't see the whole staircase."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Faith is my olw.  Thanks, Jenny...for being such a great friend and reminding me to have faith.


  1. That's awesome! I think I might have to try this lesson. Thanks for sharing.

    Sara :)
    Smiling In Second Grade

  2. Oh I love it! It's amazing what kiddos worry about. And some of them worry about things that no one should have to worry about. Thanks for sharing ;)

    Journey of a Substitute Teacher

  3. This is great! And honestly had the iPad patrol came in he would have saw the best learning available. Some of our best ideas and outcomes begin on the fly. Yes it may not be in the lesson plans but you cannot plan for things that happen when the students take control of the learning. Thanks for sharing!


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  5. This is sweet and fabulous all rolled into one. Isn't it nice when we can actually help fix their problems? There's some though, that I just have to pray about. Thanks for sharing.

    First Grade and Fabulous

  6. I copied the wrong link back to my blog. Sorry about that!!!
    I have never heard of Worry Dolls. This is amazing!!! I love it. What a great opportunity for your kids!
    PS I can't believe you have to check with your Ipad Patrol before changing your plans -- are you sure we don't work at the same school?
    A Teeny Tiny Teacher

  7. Wow... that is so awesome! I'm sure some of those worries just broke your heart... but I'm so glad you were able to fix some of them. You must've felt great! :)
    I've never heard of worry dolls before, so this is a totally new idea to me- thanks for sharing!
    You're blog is so cute. Have a great night!

    -Mrs. Thompson

    Adventures in Teaching

  8. My students love Ready Freddy books. I am definitely keeping this lesson in mind for next year. How fun!!!


  9. How lucky are these little ones having a teacher like you around :)
    And such an intense topic to write about. You handled it so, so well (I won't lie, I'm feeling all fluffy and inspired right now).

    Thanks for sharing Kim xx
    Daydreams of a Student Teacher

  10. Wow, that is awesome! Sometimes we have to just sit and listen. Its amazing all the things that we don't know about our littles, but could easily find out if we only asked!

    Teachery Tidbits

  11. What a fabulous post. I love how you handled their worries. I totally want to do this. Now to find worry dolls!

    First in Maine

  12. My principal (who is great) uses his iPad to record us teaching! I haven't seen myself yet..........
    I love your blog!


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