Saturday, October 13, 2012

Turn your Students into Spy Reporters

Hi bloggy friends,

Yay! My computer is back and thankfully all of my files are intact--sigh of relief!

I was looking through my teacherspayteachers store last night with the goal of cleaning it up a little and deciding if I had any outdated/less than quality things that could be taken down. I thought my Spy Reports Community Building Assignment would definitely be one of those. Then I opened the document and started reviewing it and changed my mind. Wow! I love spy reporting. I did not do spy reports with my first looping group (say year 5-6 of teaching), but I implemented Star of the Week or Spy Reports during student teaching and my first 4 years of teaching, so with 5 years of experience, I have tweaked some of the issues of implementing the Star of the Week/Spy Reports.

During student teaching and my first year of teaching, we had a "star of the week." I think many people do star of the weeks where the star brings in personal items, maybe has some bulletin board space for pictures, and tells the class about themselves. Our star of the week meant that every person in the class wrote a "Star of the Week" paper to the star of the week. Then, we would sit in a circle at our scheduled sharing time and read our reports about that person.

Wow! What a great day for the kid that got to celebrate him/herself that week. But...I thought that system also had it's issues. Was it fair that some students had to wait until the end of the year for this day of accolades and appreciation? For me, the goal of Star of the Week/Spy Reporting is to build community and to realize that every classmate has value and brings something unique to our classroom environment. So, shouldn't every child get to hear great things about themselves every week? I thought, YES! So, I changed my star of the week to "Spy Reports." Each student has another classmate that they are "spying on" for a week (and the teacher is always included as a spy reporter---so we get a spy report about us each week, but we also write a spy report about a student.)

Second Nine weeks is the perfect time to start "Spy Reporting" because the kids have had a quarter to get to know one another (and will have a week to spy on students that they aren't so sure what to write about) and 2nd nine weeks gives you enough time to get them done by the end of the year. If you have 20 students, you need 20 weeks to work on and share the spy reports. Some weeks are short, and therefore spy reports aren't assigned, and sometimes we get behind with our sharing time. In the first few weeks of spy reporting, make sure you have really set aside sharing time so that the routine builds momentum.

I love spy reporting because it's one of the best ways for creative writing to spread like wildfire! When one student comes up with a creative idea, many students follow the next week. The students also have a sharing space for their writing each week and hear the voice of 19+ other writers each week. I also love it because:
* Students write in different genres
* Students have to show appreciation for more than just their core group of friends
* Students' work shows progress across the year (for me, this is the only writing assignment that they do routinely, so it can be a place that shows growth)
* Often, reluctant writers respond to this creative assignment because they get positive feedback from their classmates when they read aloud their report

I LOVE spy reporting and really want to set aside the time  for it with my current class (looping babies again). I feel like the folder of spy reports that they get at the end of the year is such a gift. I would be the kid who would keep my spy reports for life. I feel like it is a way to affirm and the "good people" that my kids are and encourage that they continue to uphold those values and behaviors for life.

The download includes a 2 pg student handout that outlines the requirements and expectations of Spy Reporting (what it should SAY and what it should LOOK like) and two pages of teacher tips. What creative things do you do in your classroom to build community?

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