“Can’t we have indoor recess so we could finish writing our poems?” The request, which was made in the first-second grade Hebrew classroom yesterday was a moment of magic that did not happen by chance.  The process of engaged writing allows for moments such as this to emerge.

The classroom culture dictates that every child receives what he or she needs, be it curriculum, materials, or one-on-one attention from a teacher or a peer.While the objectives for lessons are the same for the class, the finished product may be very different.  It is not unusual to see a writing project tackled in multiple ways, some students sketching and labeling their drawings while others writing full stories.  We have created a culture where differences are the norm, and expectations are set to match each child’s current level.  I often share how proud I am that the practice matches the philosophy, that when we offer individualized instruction the class, as a whole, benefits.

In preparation to writing Tu B’Shvat poems, the children learned vocabulary, read Tu B’Shvat themed books, poetry, and sang songs. The poems were the second or third writing assignment of the unit, so the vocabulary was already deeply ingrained.  At this point in the year, the new readers were challenged to write a complete sentence rather than just labels, and the more experienced readers were challenged to write with more details.

Three of the first graders wrote their first Hebrew sentences and went on to write more. Sonia exclaimed, “I can’t believe my first Hebrew sentence is a whole poem!” Other students in the class asked if they could put their words to music.  We are looking forward to hearing the songs they will produce.

So did we have indoor recess so the students could finish the writing? No, when it comes to weather, we only know what we have in the moment. So we go outside for recess when we can because tomorrow might just be too cold.

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