Your students are writing Choose Your Own Adventure stories regularly, setting them in Ancient Egypt (your social studies unit) and around the world. Do you carry on with your plan to teach informational writing? Go to page 3. Or do you research CYOA writing, find some resources, recruit help, and try out a mini unit on the form for a few weeks? Go to page 7.
My life is on page 7. :) All of my kids have been writing Choose Your Own Adventure stories for the last week. Many of them have been exploring this form of writing for weeks during Work on Writing (student choice writing) time. As we finished the first quarter and I conferred with a student who was trying the form without really knowing what she was doing (but trying it because everyone else was!), I decided to try a bit of emergent curriculum with my kiddos. When I asked if they were interested in taking a few weeks to work on CYOA as a class, they cheered.
This is a growth edge for me as a teacher in several ways: teaching a form that I’ve never taught, teaching a complicated version of the genre before we have worked with fiction at all, making a last minute change from the informational writing for which I had just done an on-demand assessment. But I’m so glad I did.
The buzz in the room this week, the constant requests to take their writing to merienda (recess) and lunch to keep working on it, and the joy in planning their writing (a formerly hated part of the writing process for most of my kids) make it worth the risk. I decided on a few goals for the class in this mini unit (genuinely plan their writing in advance and see the value in a plan, transfer strategies from personal narratives to fantasy and realistic fiction writing) and the kids have their personal goals as authors. Next week, we’ll try some creative publishing methods (YouTube videos that are linked and Google presentations) with the help of another teacher.
The big reminders for me, though, has been the importance of presence and responsiveness in my teaching. It’s a basic lesson, right? Respond to your kids. See where they are, and build on that. But it can be hard to flex and easy to stick with a plan. This surprise unit only happened because I set down a plan and saw through the eyes of my kids for a moment. If my kiddo who knew very little about writing a CYOA was willing to take a risk try it out, shouldn’t I be willing to teach her?
I’m not saying that scrapping your plans is the best choice for every teacher, class, and subject. In this case, though, it was the best choice for me and my class. When the next chance arises to try something new, build on the energy and excitement of my class for learning and trying new things, and set aside a good plan to do it, hopefully I will choose another adventure. Feel free to share your own stories of adventurous teaching and living!