The hallways were filled with the cinnamony-sweet aroma of applesauce cooking in classrooms up and down the kindergarten and first grade hallways. The annual Johnny Appleseed Day activities had been in full swing all day, and regular classroom schedules were set aside to make time for a multitude of math, reading, art and science activities, all focused around apples. A fun time was had by all, and I am quite certain that when these young students think back years later on their earliest memories of school, it’s days like these that they will remember most.
Yet, let’s think for a moment how next year many of these activities can be turned into authentic learning opportunities that are part of a Balanced Literacy Day:
- A ten-minute interactive writing lesson in which kindergarten children stretch out words relating to apple parts (flesh, core, seed, stem, etc.) while recording beginning and ending sounds reinforces the phonemic awareness and writing skills they have been practicing during writing workshop and introduces children to the kind of writing they will be doing in the upcoming “Looking Closely” unit.
- The classroom teacher has the opportunity to model a small moments story and crafting techniques, such as adding dialogue, sounds, transition words, and step-by-step actions, through an oral retell of one special part of the day. Writing partners can subsequently retell the story, recalling all those important details, which can later be turned into a shared writing piece. As our young writers learn more about leads, endings, show not tell, and other crafting techniques that grown-up authors use to bring their stories to life, this piece can be revised by children during the active engagement portion of a mini-lesson.
- Creating a “how-to” shared writing piece on the steps taken to make applesauce is another authentic writing experience that can evolve from Johnny Appleseed Day. And, these shared writing pieces make great shared reading pieces which are also another important component of the Balanced Literacy Day!
Perhaps as we get ready for our next big celebration day, whether it’s Grandparents’ Day, Halloween, or Thanksgiving classroom feasts, we can thoughtfully “revise” some of our most beloved, tried and true activities into the balanced literacy components that engage, enrich and support our youngest writers and readers.