Cheers to Writing
Remote, hybrid, simultaneous, asynchronous, synchronous- I could go on and on! Students, guardians, and teachers have been through so much this past year. After looping with my students from kindergarten to first grade, I wanted to bring everyone together to celebrate their accomplishments with an End of Year Writing Celebration.
How it Started
For the past couple of months, students have been working hard by learning how to become expert non-fiction readers and writers. During Reading Workshop they have been exclusively reading non-fiction books, learning about the different text features, how to get more and more new information, and become an “expert” on a topic that interests them. Then during Writing Workshop they wrote informational books all about topics they knew a lot about and were interested in. With the grant money, I was able to purchase each student three non-fiction books about topics that specifically interested them. This was special because students have been mostly reading online and not with physical books this year. I also included a bag with some juice, popcorn, and a surprise. Each student also had a writing template that they would write their final non-fiction book in for the celebration.
I have found that writing is the most difficult subject to teach young students virtually. Since we have been using more and more technology, especially this past year, I have noticed students no longer come to school with well-developed fine motor skills (and this was pre-pandemic). Now my 6 and 7-year-old first graders are great at typing, but their handwriting skills are lacking. It is also tricky to help a young writer through the computer screen with less instructional time each day.
I wanted to have an event that not only celebrated the students and all of their hard work this past year but also could inform parents about how to help their child with their writing at home and what first grade writing typically looks like at this time of year so they can continue to help their child write during the summer.
In typical pandemic-fashion, the End of Year Writing Celebration started with technical difficulties. The microphone on my laptop would not turn on. Thankfully, I had my old laptop and logged in with that instead, only three minutes late. Since I am teaching hybrid, I had some students in the classroom with me. I had them log in with their iPads. Their parents could also join the meeting. My students who are remote just had their parent sit next to them.
We started off with a round of applause for surviving remote and hybrid learning this past school year! I then talked to the parents about the summer. I gave a few suggestions for how to keep students ready for 2nd grade, but also to make sure they are able to play outside and be away from the iPad. I also showed them what a typical first-grader’s writing looks like but explained that everyone may be in a different place, and that is alright.
It was then time for the celebration. Students had decided how they wanted the celebration to go, and we practiced that morning. I have been with this group of students since kindergarten, and they wanted to keep it similar to like we have been doing since our first-ever writing unit. First the students would get to share their writing in two different breakout rooms, and then we would make “toasts” to all of the hard work we have done. While this is now a tradition for us, it will be the first time the parents have been able to join.
Setting up the breakout rooms was quite stressful for me! I was using my slow, old laptop and I had to make sure all of the parents were in the same room as their child. But, I did it and everyone was able to get to their room. I popped into all of the rooms. I witnessed students reading their writing and parents asking questions. The students seemed very confident! After most of the groups were finished, I pressed “scramble” and everyone was placed in a new breakout rooms with different people to share with.
Let’s Make a Toast!
After breakout rooms were complete, it was time for the part the students enjoy the most: making a toast! Everyone found some sort of beverage, mainly water and juice, and held it in their hand. The students were in charge of making the toasts and they knew it had to be related to writing workshop.
“I would like to make a toast to the class. This has been a great class and I love the writing of every person.”
“I would like to make a toast to everyone who had amazing drawings and diagrams.”
“I would like to make a toast to everyone who did a great job and tried their best.”
“I would like to make a toast to Room 119 for writing a lot of writing”
“I would like to make a toast to everyone that helped others make the best writing in the world.”
I could tell everyone was smiling ear to ear after the toasts (even under masks). I had some flashbacks to our first celebration in kindergarten when most students were only writing a few words on the page. Now most had an 8-page non-fiction book. The pandemic did not stop us!
I ended the celebration by thanking Panda Cares and explaining to families that I was able to purchase the books with grant money from them. Then, I told the students to check their goodie bag for a bookmark and a coupon for a free kid’s meal at Panda Express. They were so excited and one exclaimed, “I cannot believe that Panda Express would do something so nice for us!” They were screaming so loud I ended up having to use the “mute all” button (which I rarely press). With a few final words we ended the meeting. Students in the classroom told me they had so much fun. Several parents messaged me thanking me for organizing the event. Our End of Year Writing Celebration was a success!