My father said to me when I was young: "You are who, what, and where you are because of the choices you make." Then, I didn't want to hear it. But as I grew up and matured, I realized that truer words do not exist. If I didn't take responsibility for my actions, I had nobody to blame but myself for the outcome. It forced me to become an active participant in my own life.
One of my favorite texts to teach is The Odyssey. As we read the epic, we make connections between the mythological world and the human world, between the past and the present, between fiction and reality. I love to combine an expository and narrative prompt and ask the students to consider what a god, goddess, or character of their choice symbolizes. Then, I ask them to make connections to their own lives. Take Polyphemus, for example. He's a one-eyed giant that lives in a cave. He's fearsome and grotesque and relies on brute strength to survive, but he also has some skills. I ask students who or what is the Polyphemus in their lives?
A Story About My "Kids"
We're at the end of the first grading cycle, and my students are taking their first Curriculum-Based Assessment (CBA). I have seen the fruits of their labor (and mine) in their scores. To see every single student show improvement from their previous year's scores is quite rewarding.
Additionally, I gave them a survey and asked them to reflect on the first quarter. We covered the JSWP one-chunk paragraph, "chopsticks" annotations, and lots of grammar skills. Here are some of their responses to the question "What is something we've done in class so far that has made you better at WRITING?"
My JSWP "Aha" Moment
I had my JSWP "Aha" moment in 2011, I believe. It was the moment I realized that I had been "assigning" writing instead of "teaching" it. I have always been a strong writer and assumed my kids would be, too. But it didn't take long to realize that I would have to be taught how to teach the process, or my students would never improve. My first time at JSWP was for the new Texas State test (STAAR), the year we switched from the previous test, and I was completely sold by the end of the morning session of the first day. I saw that "WOW chart" and never looked back!