Classroom publishing has always been dear to my heart. I first realized the power of publishing student’s work when I was working at a university lab school. I was studying ways to teach students with learning and emotional disabilities. One of the students I worked with was the first grade daughter of a professor. She was having a lot of trouble with reading, but she loved to talk and was very capable of expressing herself. After trying some of the new techniques I was learning, and having little success with them, I went back to one of my favorite reading methods: language experience. Together we wrote stories, revised and edited them, and printed them into little hardback books that we bound with fabric. I quickly abandoned the flashcards we had also made, finding that having a “real book” was all that was needed for learning to recognize words. We made lots of books and working from the whole text, began to explore the concept of an idea, a sentence, a word, a letter, and a sound, until she was able to sound and blend as well as other students in the class. By the end of the year she tested at grade level and was able to keep up with her peers in the classroom, both in reading and writing. The only materials I used with her were the books we created together, paper, pencils, and crayons.
The conditions I was working under were pretty ideal—I never had this type of situation in my “real” life. She and I were working one-on-one for an hour a day. I had complete control over what I did with her, how I did it, and where we worked. Still, I’ve used student-dictated or student-written stories and articles for teaching materials throughout my career. They are among the most powerful tools in my arsenal of tricks! And the funny thing is, each year they are way better than the ones produced before!