Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Look: No More "I'm Done": Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades

No More "I'm Done": Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades
By: Jennifer Jacobson
Review by: Melissa Wilcox
Recommended for: Elementary Writing Teachers

Anyone who desires to grow knows that growth means learning: acquiring new knowledge and applying it. As professionals we keep an eye out for seminars, books, articles, and numerous other resources that can help us to acquire that new knowledge. Now if you're like me, you're busy, busy, busy trying to balance family, teaching, friends, and maybe even church or continuing education. That's why when you choose a book in which to invest your time you really hope it's something worth your while. I know for me it takes months sometimes to read a book because my baby just doesn't want to compete with anything for my attention! All these factors considered, it's a good thing I chose No More "I'm Done": Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson as my latest professional read.

Now before I go any further, I feel compelled to tell you that I am not one of those people who sees or reads something and is immediately gaga over it. While I always try to find something to draw out of the information set before me, it's not always easy to do, and I'm not always impressed. Having said that, I'm going to go ahead and tell you that if you are an elementary teacher who teaches writing, this book is worth your time.

I personally love writing. I always have, according to stories my parents have told me! That's one of the reasons why writing is probably one of my favorite things to teach, but it can be frustrating at times when my students just don't seem to catch the fever! It's a quick scribble of half-hearted sentences, and suddenly there's a first grade munchkin by my side insisting that he (or she!) is done. That's when you start trying to figure out how to keep the kids engaged in writing without the activities becoming time-fillers. How do we get them engaged…and then keep them engaged?

No More “I’m Done” is an easy read with great anecdotes that can help you to build a productive and effective Writers’ Workshop time. For those worried about the amount of time they'll be able to devote to professional reading, take heart! This book is only six chapters long. The first 3 chapters run you through setting up and running your Writers’ Workshop. (That's only 50 pages.) This next part may be the best part…are you ready? The next two are nothing but a resource of mini-lessons to use during your Writers’ Workshop! Jacobson even lays out Chapter 5, A Year of Mini-Lessons for Growing Writers, with suggested mini-lessons by month! The final ten-page chapter shares her secrets to independent writing formatted almost like a troubleshooting guide.

I've been teaching Writers’ Workshop in my first grade class for about eight years now, and it hasn't always gone well. Lately I've felt like I might be hitting my stride. I have been seeing my students engaged and showing wonderful growth in their writing, but I'm always looking for ways to make it better. One thing I've gotten out of reading No More “I’m Done” is confidence. I was surprised to see that much of what I have implemented in my Writers’ Workshop line up with Jacobsen's successful workshop time. While some might then question whether this would be a beneficial read for me, I would answer with a resounding yes! I think we all need someone to confirm that we're on the right track, and I'll bet you'll have similar results in reading the book. 

But wait! I would be remiss if I left you thinking I didn't get anything new out of reading No More “I’m Done.” While the affirmation I received reading this book gave me a new confidence in teaching writing, I found many, many new techniques and ideas to implement into my Writers’ Workshop as well, helping with organization and taking my class to the next level. Oh, and don't forget…I now have a great resource for mini-lessons to last me the year through! My suggestion to you is that in reading this book, remember that this is one way another excellent teacher has found success with her students in writing, so read it and draw from it what can benefit you and your class. You don't have to do exactly what she does. Use the knowledge she shares to help shape and enhance your classroom. 

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