You finished your writing unit and kids worked hard to plan, write, revise, and edit their stories. You worked hard conducting mini-lessons, conferencing, and guiding kids to become better writers. The writing unit is over and you’re about to start a new genre.
But, wait! Celebrate all of that hard work with a writing celebration!
A writing celebration is not just a way to acknowledge the hard work that went into writing the current pieces, but it’s also a way to remind kids of everything they learned, as well as motivate kids for the next genre (unless it’s your EOY writing celebration)! Kids love to share and celebrate and knowing they’ll partake in a culminating event helps to motivate them throughout the unit.
What to include in your Writing celebration
At the end of your writing unit, have an author’s celebration, or publishing party. Each celebration can be different and they don’t have to be complex. The basic components include sharing work and celebrating everything learned about writing in that genre.
A note on publishing: I don’t ask students to rewrite their stories for publishing. This is definitely overwhelming in kindergarten and first grade, especially if it spans across pages. Our publishing consists of coloring in the pictures if needed, adding a cover (which I staple onto a large folded piece of construction paper and place the pages inside), and an About the Author page.
That said, there are times when a student wants to rewrite their piece and that’s fine with me.
1- Review the Writing Genre
Gather students and ask them to tell you everything they learned about writing in that genre. Write these on a chart. This will be a helpful reference when kids leave feedback for their peers.
If it’s your last writing celebration of the year, you may want to review the genres you learned throughout the year as well.
2- Writing Celebration: GALLERY WALK
Ask students to pick one of their “published” (finished) pieces of writing to display at the “writing museum.” Tell them they will get a chance to read others’ work and leave feedback.
Give each child 3 post-it notes. Allow them (if possible) to walk around the room and read 3 different stories, leaving feedback on the post-it note and making sure to add their name to the bottom.
The first time you have this type of celebration, you will want to teach kids what types of feedback are helpful, as well as how to leave suggestions in a tactful way (see next section). If you are teaching kindergarten, you may even want to focus on positive feedback and discuss as a class overall suggestions, rather than have kids write both on a post-it.
Teaching Kids to Give Feedback
If this is the first time students are asked to leave feedback for one another, you may get a ton of “I like your story.” or “Nice pictures.” You may even see “This is sloppy!”
Most kids don’t inherently know how to give constructive feedback so it’s important that you take the time to teach them. It can make the difference between a child beaming or crying when reading their feedback! Plus, when kids learn how to give constructive feedback, it also helps them learn more about good writing.
First, let kids know they will get to enjoy their peers’ work and give feedback. Tell them it’s important to give positive and specific feedback to help each other grow as a writer.
Have a couple of books ready that have simple reviews (you can find many on the back covers of books). If the reviews are long, just pick a sentence or two to read and discuss with your students. Why are these reviews great? Make a chart with key elements to include in a review:
Write a list (with their help) on the board. Some examples: I love your pictures. You have great details! I like the part when . . . Your handwriting is very neat!
For more advanced writers, encourage them to be specific and even refer to what they’ve learned from other authors. For example: When you described the roller coaster ride, I could really imagine what it felt like. You used Show, not Tell just like Julie Brinckloe! I like how you compared how soft your dog was to cotton balls.
Next, teach kids how to give suggestions for improvement. Use obvious examples. Say, “Should you write ‘This is terrible!‘? No way! Instead, you can write what the author can include to make it even better! For example, instead of writing, “This is so sloppy!” you can write, “If this was a little neater, it would be easier to read.”
Make a chart with “Instead of…” and “You can write…”
Allow a few minutes for kids to share about the stories they read: first, the positives, then have a conversation about things that made reading the writing difficult.
Without mentioning names, kids can tell the challenges they had when reading. Among these may be:
- sloppy writing
- misspelled words (you may want to discuss inventive spelling)
- missing capitalization or punctuation
- missing information
- events were out of order
Make a chart of these to use for making writing goals in your next writing unit! To help your students learn strategies for specific writing challenges read this post: HOW TO GET STUDENTS WRITING INDEPENDENTLY DURING WRITING WORKSHOP.
This is also a good time to set writing goals! Make a list of things they can improve on and ask students to choose a goal to work on. Place their name on a post-it note next to the goal. I like using post-it notes so they can be moved as students’ goals change.
4-End your Writing Celebration on a positive note
Remind kids that when they started this unit, they had no idea how to write a (insert writing genre product here). Now, they have learned so much that will help them any time they are writing said type of piece. Let them know what the next writing genre will be and show them excitement about how they will learn to create a fantastic writing piece in that genre!
I like to end with a snack while kids are reading their feedback post-its, and either a cool pencil, sticker, or certificate they can take home to share about with their families.
Other Writing Celebration Ideas
Like I said before, each celebration can be different! The important components are celebrating everything learned and sharing writing. Setting goals can also be a part of your celebration or the beginning of your next genre.
Here are some alternate ideas to a gallery walk:
- Have partners sit around the room and take turns reading their writing to each other, leaving feedback for one another only.
- Keep kids at their tables and have one student share their story with the entire table. You can make a simple “crown” for the author to wear while reading. I made one by drawing a crown with gems on construction paper, gluing to a sentence strip, and laminating. Instead of stapling, just use paper clips to hold crowns together, so you can adjust them for each speaker.
- Invite another class in and pair up students to share their writing. If you teach first, invite a kindergarten class. This can be motivating for the younger students, while the older students will beam with pride!
- Invite parents to join in the celebration! I usually did this at our last author’s celebration of the year. We decorated pizza boxes and filled them with our writing from the year and parents came in and sat with their children and listened as their child shared their writing. If the weather was nice, we took blankets outside and had a picnic author’s celebration.
More celebration tips
- Look through your students’ writing to ensure they all have at least one published piece of work to share at the celebration.
- Have them create an About the Author page with information about themselves! Add their pictures and hang them up around your room for your gallery walk.
- Optional: Decorate the classroom to make the room a bit festive. You don’t have to go crazy with balloons and centerpieces, but a few streamers or even a celebratory message displayed on your whiteboard will get your kids excited about the celebration!
- Don’t forget to take a class picture of your students holding their writing pieces! Add this to your end-of-year slideshow or to students’ writing portfolios or end-of-year memory books.
- After your writing celebration, place these new books in your class library for students to enjoy reading!
Don’t worry about making your author’s celebration fancy. Instead of spending too much time on decorations or gifts, just remember the 2 big ideas: reviewing what was learned and sharing writing. Students will feel special sharing and having their hard work acknowledged. Don’t forget to share how proud you are of their accomplishments and how excited you are to see what they write next. Your enthusiasm will be contagious to your little writers!
I’d love to know what you think of these ideas! Let me know if you’ve ever had an Author’s Celebration and what you incorporated in it!