Reflections on a Deliberate Closing Activity

Getting into the daily habits and routines of the workshop model has been a rewarding challenge. Making the time for conferring, for book talks, and for mini lessons was my main focus last year, and this school year is no different. All of the elements of workshop are important, so I am working to keep the daily agenda transparent to my students, and I am constantly keeping an eye on my watch in order to time my classes just right. It’s not easy to get the rhythm just right, but with time and practice, it can only get better.


This fall I’ve been trying to follow the class agenda that is described in chapter four of Penny Kittle’s Book Love, and which is also described in Write Beside Them.

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One of the elements in her daily agenda is a closing activity, what I’ve heard her call Beautiful Words. So, I’m following suit. During the last few minutes of class, I ask students to share some beautiful words that either they read or wrote during the class period, and as we get more comfortable with our class discussions, I’ll add the category of beautiful words that they hear from each other.

It’s been a lovely way to end our classes. Students are learning that sharing out is low/no risk to them, and I think it eases them into feeling safe during the lengthier class discussions and debates.

They have shared words that they like hearing out loud. Yesterday a student talked about how she likes the way the word vinyl sounds.

We have shared first lines of books, and discussed how they hook the reader in right from the start. Yesterday we heard the first line from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Impromptu book talks have come out of this closing activity. When a phrase or sentence is especially intriguing, students want to know where it came from, and what’s that book about?

An interesting comment that came from our closing comments yesterday was about the book Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 5.18.26 AMThe student who was reading it commented that her book is sometimes hard to understand because the characters don’t seem to be speaking “normally.” This comment took the class into a quick discussion about dialect, and strategies for understanding it. It was almost as though we had an impromptu mini lesson in the last three minutes of class. I’ll follow up and go into more detail later this week. We will talk not just about how to understand dialect, but what the purpose of it is, and why an author would choose to put it in a text.

After this quick interaction yesterday, I’m more firmly a believer in this particular closing activity. It’s going to drive one of our mini lessons this week, and it seems particularly relevant to my students. I wasn’t necessarily planning a lesson about dialect with them right away, but now that I know I have a class full of students who are curious about it, it’s a no-brainer. Of course we’ll study it.

The closing activity Beautiful Words is a great way to get to know my students as learners and as people, and it’s going to help drive the direction of our mini lessons. It serves more of a purpose than I expected, and I encourage others to make it a habit. It’s worth our time.

Author: adventuresinhighschoolworkshop

Julie has been teaching secondary language arts for nineteen years, spending the first fifteen in rural Central Oregon, four in Amman, Jordan, and is currently in her second year teaching in Managua, Nicaragua.

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