Practicing What I Preach…as a Coach


Today, I had fun.  I had the opportunity to model a Writer’s Workshop minilesson in a second grade classroom.  The teacher asked me to teach a minilesson on how to add dialogue to writing. It was exciting.  One of the only downfalls of coaching, in my opinion, is the missed opportunities to work with students on a daily basis.  So, here was my chance.

First, I had to plan the lesson.  The class is revisiting narrative writing, personal narrative writing.  I knew I wanted to demonstrate how to come up with an idea, how to get my ideas down quickly, how to illustrate, and, finally, how to add dialogue.  

My lesson started with the minilesson statement, Writers add dialogue to their writing to make it more interesting for the reader.  Then, I added, “I’m so happy I get to write with you today because I’ll be writing in my favorite genre–narrative.  I get to write stories, stories about me, stories about my life!”  Of course, as you know, kids love it when we tell our stories.  It reels them right in. On I went, “I have to think of an idea.  What do I like to write about?” Yep, you guessed it. I whipped out my heart map of my writing territories and listed a few. “I love to write about my dog, but I know some of you heard those stories last year.  I like to write about beaches…and my family…and my grandma and Papa. Hmm… I just saw a photograph of my Papa the another day where he was husking corn, and it reminded me of that time he taught me to husk corn on his back porch.  That’s what I’ll write about.”  And on I go with my story idea. “I have to think about what was happening and what I saw and what we said.”  Next, mentioning the kind of paper, the kind with a place for an illustration at the top and lines at the bottom, I begin to quickly write my story.  I scribble about 4 sentences. Rereading, I add onamonapia, Bang! the sound of the back door slamming behind me…always nice to model revision.

Then, the fun really began.  I start talking about about all the details on the back porch:  the nylon-webbed, folding chairs; the cellar door which required pantomiming and descriptions; the clothes Papa and I wore, colors and all; the large, grocery bag of unhusked corn on the bench, etc., etc., etc.  I was drawing the whole time I was talking. Instant student engagement.

As I finished my rough sketch, I thought out loud, “What did Papa say to me?  Hmmm… Do you think he just pointed to the bag? No. He said, ‘I’m going to husk some corn,’” and I wrote that in a talking bubble.  “Do you want to help me?” I added to the talking bubble. Continuing my think-aloud, I began “I was a little nervous because I didn’t really know how to husk corn, but do you know what I answered?” looking straight into the sparkling eyes of my audience waiting in rapt attention.

Hands flew up, smiles breaking out on different faces.  One student, unable to contain his excitement, shouted, “Sure!”

“Yea, yea,” chorused others.

“Yes, that is exactly what I said!”  I added the word to a talking bubble by the little girl drawing of myself.  I went on about how I wanted the reader to be able to read that in my writing, how to mark the beginning and end of the exact talking–the exact words in the speech bubble–with quotation marks.  The lesson finished up with, “Who has an idea they are going to write about from your life?” and “Turn and tell a neighbor what you are going to write about.”  Reminded them to add dialogue, I continued, “Off you go, Writers!” My little writers scampered happily to their desks.

Pencils scratched across papers.  The time flew. Two students added dialogue, shared out at the end.  I felt the thrill of teaching! ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Today, for once, I thought to bring the video camera.  I wanted to reflect on my practice, even though I knew I wouldn’t like my outfit with my green head scarf, in recognition of St. Patrick’s Day.  Later, watching myself, I noticed my timing was pretty great, just a smidge long. Time and I continually battle for supremacy. Time usually wins. Reflecting, I mentally plan for next time: write part of the story ahead of time, stand facing the clock, skip the revision on day 1, change this,  change that. I have some good ideas for next time.

Mostly, today reminded me that it is important to continually practice what I preach. What is it I ask teachers to do? That I, too, need to do. Teach, reflect, respond, reflect, change, reflect…


About bjdonaldson

I'm an average woman who enjoys reflecting on life, writing poetry and ponderings, and having a good laugh. DIY, baking, and cycling are fun, too. If you visited me, I'd invite you in for a cup of coffee and a little chat. I am a Literacy Coach, Reading Specialist, and former classroom and Reading Recovery teacher at an elementary school. Getting up in the morning is not hard; I still love making a difference in the lives of children and teachers.

6 responses »

  1. Your story makes me feel like I am there, and your reflection captured the wonderings I had along the way, too. This would be a great tool to share with your teacher. I hope you do.


  2. Thank you for sharing your lesson and thoughts. It sounds like it was very successful and this group will continue to add dialogue in their writing. Writing is one area that not only requires but deserves adequate time!


    • Your comment about needing enough time for writing is so important and true. This teacher has been shifting her practice as I’ve had opportunities to coach. Our relationship has really grown in trust which is so valuable. Thanks for the stopping by.


  3. I’m a coach, too, and absolutely love time in classrooms. I love how excited student were to add that “sure” to your speech bubble. I can just picture them leaning toward you. Way to go, teacher/coach!

    Liked by 1 person

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