In the K and 1 Teacher’s Guides, I have asked teachers to do something superhuman. What’s the impossible task? To get around to every child in the class with feedback AND to make sure each of them has perfectly completed the conventions page, every single lesson. I know it isn’t possible, because I have taught all of these lessons myself with class sizes ranging from 20 to 28. Even with a smaller group, some sloppy writing, missing punctuation, and incomplete work gets overlooked. We just don’t see everything in 45 minutes.
So, how to maintain the high standard even after the lesson is over? It wasn’t until last year, working with second graders, that a good solution emerged. I named it “Fix-It-Up” Days. It’s basically giving you the time you (and your students) deserve to re-teach, where needed.
Before I tried Fix-It-Up days, I would go through the workbooks to write comments before sending them home and think “How did I miss that?” Now I always feel good about the quality of work that is going home.
Until I write a new edition, the Teacher’s Guides for Levels K and 1 don’t have these extra support days built in. But, here is how to add them in yourself!
Fix-It-Up Days basics:
About halfway through a workbook, and when it is almost finished, take some time to go over each child’s work and underline (with a colored pen) work that needs to be re-done. I’m talking ONLY about the conventions page. This is where you really get to emphasize that high standard. Even though it will be mostly handwriting and simple words that students are fixing, they are learning the basic principle of editing and revising, which is “look for what could be better”. I do try to be sensitive to students who are really struggling with fine motor skills and only ask them to fix up what is do-able in the time of one writing period, and without creating frustration and discouragement.
2. Group Lesson:
Explain that you have looked at all the workbooks and that you are proud of all the hard work everyone has done. And, that great writers are always looking for even more they could do better. Even the very, very best writers in the world have other people read their work and make suggestions for fixing things. These people are called “editors”. Editors go through a writer’s work and correct words, make suggestions, and mark it up with a pen (or on a computer with colored underlining!) Explain that you have been their editor! Show several workbook examples with your markings. Emphasize that every page should be checked and fixed before they say “I’m done”. Tell everyone that editing isn’t always the most fun part of writing, but writers know how proud they will be to show their very best fixed up work to their readers. You can get students excited about how they will feel when they take their workbooks home to show their families (or you may want to do this at conference time to make sure it is celebrated with parents!) It is important that everyone understands they need to check all the lessons you have marked before they are finished. If it is the beginning of the year, emphasize that no one is allowed to work ahead in the workbook.
3. Independent Work:
Some students will need much more help than others. If you have a trusted volunteer, it would be great to have that person work closely with your highest need students. Or, have that person roam and help the large group while you give intensive help to those who need it. Students who finish quickly can add to workbook drawings, work on a page they missed due to an absence, or write/draw on a separate piece of paper which includes lines for writing. You can also choose to have experienced writers add some words to a picture in their workbooks. Everyone should be doing some kind of writing. Don’t allow some children to play or have an alternative “fun” activity instead of regular writing as this could be construed as “missing out” or punishment by children who have a lot to fix. Make sure that students have done all the fix-up pages and not skipped any.
4. The Rewards
For you: Knowing that no student is falling through the cracks. Seeing your high standards bring pride and satisfaction over the course of the year.
For your novice writers: Extra support. Not falling through the cracks or being allowed to fail. They will be better prepared for the next workbook.
For your experienced writers: Time to catch up on a missed lesson or to do some writing that can go home that day.
If someone in your building is teaching Level 2, you may want to check out what the Fix-It-Up Day lesson looks like in the teacher’s guide.
5. This should go without saying…
But just in case you are tempted to take a little teacher “down time” while your kids are writing, the Fix-It-Up days are meant to be extra, not in place of trying to get around to everyone each day. Of course, I know you would not be tempted to quickly get on social media for a minute while the room is quiet. But another teacher might, so this is for that OTHER teacher.
Timing suggestions for Fix-It-Up Days
Level K: Book 1 – No Fix-It-Up Days yet; Book 2 after Lesson 9 (correcting Lessons 6-9 only) and after Lesson 15 (correcting Lessons 12-15 only); Book 3 after Lesson 6 (correcting Lessons 1-6) and after Lesson 12 (correcting Lessons 7-12); Book 4 Lesson 7 (already designed as a kind of Fix-It-Up day, correcting Lessons 1-6) and after Lesson 13 (correcting Lessons 8-13); Book 5 after Lessons 6 and 12; Book 6 after Lessons 6 and 12.
Level 1: Book 1 after Lesson 10 (for Lessons 7-10 only) and after Lesson 15 (for Lessons 11-15); Book 2 after Lessons 7 and 14; Book 3 after Lessons 7 and 14; Book 4 after Lessons 7 and 14; Book 5 after Lessons 7 and 15; Book 6 after Lessons 6 and 13; Book 7 optional.
Questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact me!