The third graders at the Bais Yaakov Academy of Queens filed into the multi-purpose room of the school for a gallery walk celebration of their original “How to” books. Students walked around reading their friends’ books and wrote compliments. This writing celebration was a culmination of a six-week unit of study in writer’s workshop under the direction of Mrs. Susie Garber, BYQ’s writing consultant. The students and teachers were very enthusiastic about this unit of study.
Students chose their own topics, which was something they knew how to do well and could explain in steps to readers. The wide range of topics reflected the students’ personalities and preferences. They included how to make sushi, hot cocoa, and pancakes, how to draw people, how to swim, how to make friends, how to put a baby to sleep, how to do origami, how to bake cookies or brownies, how to sing, write a book, paint a picture, be fashionable, snowboard, draw seahorses, make a diorama, how to do a backbend, clean your room, tie your shoes, jump rope, play basketball, set a table, make your own song, catch a frog, and many more topics.
A unique feature of this writing experience is that it combined creativity while also covering the standards for third grade writing. It is aligned beautifully with the reading program, so it reinforced and expanded on what students learned during reading workshop time. One third-grade teacher commented, “I like how it was very organized for the students in steps. They learned a lot. They learned how to write a letter of introduction and to think about their readers, and break something into sequential steps using transition words.” Another third-grade teacher noted, “The students felt good about writing. They loved publishing. They were able to connect creative writing with core standards to create their own masterpieces.”
Students who were reluctant writers in the beginning of the year blossomed. One of these students proudly shared her book with the principal and asked if she could read it to students in other classes. She was so excited that she created her own book.
Some of the third graders’ comments about this writing workshop unit of study were: “I learned how to write better.” “I like knowing what other people make.” “I’m happy I’m able to make a book. I love drawing the pictures.”