What went well...
First of all, I was committed to making my reading/writing workshop really work this year. I spent a good part of last summer reading just about every book I could get my hands on that related to the reading/writing workshop, conferring, and reader's notebooks. After teaching for fifteen years, I know that I cannot take a book like In the Middle by Nancie Atwell or How's It Going? by Carl Anderson and just expect it to work in my classroom. I know that I have to think about my specific kids and my specific classroom and figure out how to make things work for me. Overall, I think I did a fairly good job. I managed to keep the basic structure I had figured out going for the whole year, and my kids read and wrote more than they ever have before in my class. The quality of their writing steadily improved over the course of the school year, and many of them told me how much they appreciated being able to write about topics that were important to them, rather than topics I assigned.
Another positive for me was the language arts block I share with another teacher. In my school, the teachers teach five classes each day. This is fine for the math, science, and social teachers but not so much for the LA teachers. We are the only subject that's blocked, so we have two double-period LA classes and then this single period that's hanging out there that we have to teach. The solution has been to have two teachers share a block. Usually what happens is one teacher is responsible for the reading and one for the English. The other teacher and I want to keep our shared class as much like the other LA classes as possible; we firmly believe that the reading and writing need to be taught together - that one builds off of the other. We decided to structure our time differently. We alternated days, meaning that one day I would teach six classes (so I could have both parts of the LA block) and the next day I would only teach the two blocks that are mine. This worked out very well for us, as we both got to talk to the kids about their reading, and we both got to read the amazing writing our kids produced. Our administration was very supportive of our solution, and we plan on continuing this system next year.
What I'd like to do better...
I did not do such a great job of keeping my reading conferences and my writing conferences going for the whole year. I found myself often getting sidetracked by so many other things that kept sucking at my time. What they were, I can't actually remember, which tells me that they were not as important as I thought they were at the time. I truly believe that the most authentic assessment I can do in my language arts classroom is to have conversations with my kids EVERY DAY about their reading and their writing.
So what is this blog going to be about anyway?
The past few summers I've set a goal for myself to focus on my own writing. I've never actually achieved this goal, so I decided that this summer I would blog about my thinking and rethinking about my classroom and my practice. That way, I am documenting the changes in my thinking while at the same time putting my writing out there where anyone who stumbles upon it can read it. This, to me, is a very scary thing! Sometimes I'll write about the books I'm reading, sometimes I'll write about the conferences I'm attending, sometimes I'll write about the tangled mess of ideas and thoughts that are swirling around in my brain at any given moment. Should be an interesting journey!