PROUD TO BE ME!
WRITING IS A PROCESS
BY: RODOLFO RABARA
NEW TEACHER WRITING COLLABORATIVE
Last June (2020), Dr. Juliet Wahleithner reached out to me and asked if I would like to become part of the New Teacher Writing Collaborative. This was an opportunity I did not want to miss because, as a new teacher, teaching and motivating students to write can become a very overwhelming and challenging task. This writing project was made possible by California State University Fresno and was sponsored by the San Joaquin Writing Project (SJWP).
We met daily over a 2 week period. During this time we met with two phenomenal teachers; Tania and Jackie. Both of these teachers taught us several writing methods and strategies that were very creative and engaging. Some of these strategies included websites and APPs that I have never used or even heard of. Thanks to them, I have been able to incorporate Jam Board and Flip Grid into my curriculum. By doing so I have been able to assess students’ learning a lot more effectively and have been able to make lessons more engaging.
During our time together, we also worked on a family history project. This project was inquiry based. We were required to investigate our family history and create a digital presentation. This assignment was my inspiration for my Family Literacy Event.
MEETINGS WITH MARCI
Once our 2 week writing collaborative was complete, we began our monthly meetings with Marci Haas. This extension to the writing collaborative project was extremely beneficial for two reasons. The first benefit that I felt made an impact on my teaching were the different writing styles and strategies that Marci taught us. She taught strategies that could be incorporated into both upper and lower grade levels. Small writing tasks, such as writing prompts and free-writes from reading reflections. These strategies were wonderful because they allow writers to learn to love writing because students are able to write freely without a rubric. The second benefit was having Marci as our mentor. She is truly amazing and inspiring. Our sessions together were very enjoyable because Marcie made everyone of us feel comfortable and special. She is very passionate about writing and I am definitely going to miss these sessions.
NATIONAL WRITING PROJECT SESSIONS
The National Writing Project were monthly sessions where we would meet with educators from different parts of the country. During these sessions we would discuss different topics. We were given specific topics to discuss in our breakout groups. We maintained the same breakout groups throughout the project. It was comforting being able to share frustrations and strategies with other educators.
PLANNING OUR LITERACY EVENT
Our literacy event included grade levels kindergarten through sixth. Prior to the event we decided to come up with a theme that would incorporate the term “family”. We decided to have students interview their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles. etc. in hopes that they would learn a little more about their history and culture. Students at our school site often struggle with self-identity and oftentimes lack a basic understanding of their culture. When students don’t learn about their culture at a young age they often lose a sense of self authenticity that comes with being culturally responsive. Our goal was to highlight their culture by creating a book based on their interview(s). Students were expected to write, edit, illustrate, and publish a family story that they developed and created from family interviews. Each student received a questionnaire which they used to interview their family members. We modeled how to ask questions, how to document, and record their interview onto their iPads for future reference. We also provided participating families with resources on how to engage their child in the Q & A process. These resources were provided in their home language. We made sure to let both families and students know that it was okay to use their home language in their writing. We encouraged this because we wanted to make sure that their book was as authentic as they are.
WRITING PROCESS DURING LITERACY EVENT
Students were given a schedule of daily and weekly deadlines. Students conducted their interviews at home and brought their interviews with them during our whole group collaboration sessions. These sessions were twice a week. During these sessions we focused on basic writing lessons, such as, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, etc. During these mini lessons students were very engaged because they were writing about something that was very meaningful to them. Oftentimes we would ZOOM with families to support students’ writing and to assist parents/families with any issues or questions that may have come up. Some students brought written notes, journals, and some even brought recorded audio. We worked with these students to develop and write their first draft. Once drafts were written students went home and worked with their families on the editing process. This process took a week or so to complete because we worked on editing skills, such as, details, quotations, and point-of-view. Once students completed the editing process they moved on to the publishing stage. During this stage students 3rd grade and up typed out their stories while the rest of our students hand wrote them. Next, students took their final drafts home and worked with their families to get their book illustrated. Some students drew and painted, while others included actual family photographs. Once all of their pages were typed/rewritten and illustrated we sent their books to be bound. Each student received a bound hard copy of their book.
Prior to our literacy event we recorded each student introducing themselves and reading their book aloud. At our literacy event we played the video montage that we created. We also sent each of our families their child’s QR code of their read aloud. Families logged on using Zoom to our Virtual Family Literacy Event. Our Family Literacy Event was an evening for parents to learn some ideas on how to promote writing and literacy at home. Many parents know their children should write more but oftentimes lack the ability on how to incorporate it at home. We provided parents with some ideas and strategies on how to incorporate writing into their child’s everyday life. We went over the writing process step-by-step and displayed photographs of students working throughout the writing process. We emphasized that writing is involved in every aspect of life, from reading to math and science. The entire slideshow, along with links and resources were shared with our participating families.
Planning this event was a bit stressful because I knew that it was going to take a lot of work to execute. During the planning process I was able to connect and discuss my ideas with colleagues, including my principal. They were all very excited and even offered to help. They provided me with great resources and ideas. Reflecting on the event I can honestly say that it was very emotional for both myself and my parents. Parents cried when they expressed their gratitude. Parents expressed that they were so happy and proud that their child wanted to learn about their culture and heritage. One parent in particular said, “I have tried many times to get her to understand our culture and traditions but it is so challenging. I want her to grow up to know that brown is beautiful. That she is beautiful”. It brought a tear to my eye because I want every one of my students to be proud of who they are and to love their family culture. I am very grateful for having gone through this process with them.
VIDEO INTRO: JEFFERSON FAMILY LITERACY NIGHT
My name is Rodolfo Rabara, but most people call me Rudy. I am a 5th grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary in Sanger, CA. I am currently going into my 3rd year of teaching.