by Jennifer Jacobson
Reviewed by Allison Sampish
Kindergarten Teacher (CO)
TLN New Millennium Initiative
“I’m done!” “Me too!” “How do you spell dinosaur?” “My pencil needs to be sharpened!” “I need another piece of paper!” These are the anthems that so many primary teachers hear during writing time in their classrooms. Creating a writer’s workshop where these young students are truly writing and — most important — SEE themselves as writers can be a very daunting task.
As teachers, we have been given the curriculums, and we have seen the videos of amazing teachers working with small groups of students who are actively listening and participating. But we still find ourselves wondering, “How would this work in my room? Where do I start? Do you have some sample lessons that I can try?” The book No More I’m Done!: Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades by Jennifer Jacobson has answers to these questions and so many more.
I found this book extremely easy to read and based on the amount of pages I highlighted, tagged and earmarked, I know Jacobson’s book will be referenced frequently as I begin my fourth year of teaching kindergartners the art of writing.
The book is well laid out, beginning with a chapter on how to set up your room and what supplies you will need to have an effective writer’s workshop. Next is a chapter on routines — what to do before, during and after your writing time each day. Many of her suggestions and ideas are easy things that I can quickly tweak, but they can make all the difference between a successful writer’s workshop or a disaster waiting to happen!
Jacobson provides numerous sample mini-lessons laid out for each month, based on topics, writing traits, and common stumbling blocks teachers encounter as we work with primary students to develop the craft of writing. These brief lessons incorporate the teaching strategies of mentor text, modeled writing, interactive writing, graphic organizers, and examination of other writing. You’ll also find extension ideas to help your young writers stretch. The mini-lessons can easily be paired with other writing curriculums, including those by Lucy Calkins, Don Graves, or Ralph Fletcher.
Throughout the book there are also great tips on ways to improve a young writer’s independence and confidence. Lastly, the author addresses many of the common problems and questions that teachers have as they begin the transformation of their classroom time devoted to writing.
As Jennifer Jacobson herself says, “I am a writer and a teacher of writing — each role continually informing and shaping the other.” This book has helped me realize that I am a writer, and by allowing my students to see me as such, and helping to foster their opportunity to see themselves as budding authors of their own ideas, they too can master the craft and emerge as confident and independent writers for a lifetime.
Allison Sampish teaches primary grades at Fall River Elementary in Colorado’s St Vrain Valley School District. She is a member of the Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative in Colorado.