Saturday, February 27, 2016

CTA Good Teaching Conference, South: Write from the Start: Launching a CCSS Writers’ Workshop (K-4)

Welcome to my session at the Good Teaching Conference, South 2016! I am delighted to be here with you and to be able to share my classroom writing strategies.

You can access today’s slides by clicking HERE.
View the entire presentation online! 

Today’s session objectives are:
  • How to create a writing community, scheduling, building stamina, organizing materials, paper choice, mini-lessons, choosing mentor text, and ideas for sharing student work.
  • Collect ideas and strategies for your classroom to meet the high expectations of the CA Standards, and how to use student work to inform instruction.
  • Gather online resources to help your students throughout the year.
Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum
One of the skills that students need to develop to perform well in higher studies is the ability to write essays on academic topics, including scientific reports, analyses of historical/political/social events, summaries of discussions and notes on lectures or texts. Students who acquire better writing skills in their early years of education therefore have better performance records at higher levels. Writing sessions in class should help develop your students’ skills to communicate effectively in writing for academic purposes.

Provide daily time for students to write
Providing adequate time for students to write is one essential element of an effective writing instruction program. However, recent surveys of elementary teachers indicate that students spend little time writing during the school day. Students need dedicated instructional time to learn the skills and strategies necessary to become effective writers, as well as time to practice what they learn. Time for writing practice can help students gain confidence in their writing abilities. As teachers observe the way students write, they can identify difficulties and assist students with learning and applying the writing process.

Writing Workshop Basics: Philosophy of Writing Workshop
Writing Workshop is not a program - it is an approach that…
  • Encourages independence
  • Gives writers a high degree of choice within a framework and genre
  • Builds stamina and volume in writing – Students write everyday!
  • Teachers teach writing everyday!
  • Focuses on the PROCESS of writing, not just the PRODUCT
  • Uses literature to teach the craft of writing
Managing a Writer’s Workshop
Mini-lesson 10-15 minutes
Connection, teaching, active engagement, link. This is best done with class gathered on carpet and you with easel for demonstrating for K-1st, and 2nd-5th  lessons can be document reader or just projected to whole group. However, it’s recommended that K-3rd have a meeting area. 
Writing 30-40 minutes
q Shorter at beginning of year. Will build stamina for this.
q Teacher is conferring individual/small group
Share Out  5-minutes
Partner/small group, (1-2 students aloud)

Provisioning a Writing Workshop
       The Meeting Area: A space for gathering close together, sitting beside partner: easel with chart paper to create charts, pointers, exemplar texts and examples of student work on bulletin boards or nearby to refer to, meeting place near the promethean board/document camera so it can be easily used when needed.
       Writing Partners (duos, trios, or quads)
       Word/Vocabulary Walls, Dictionaries, and Thesauruses - high frequency words may be posted to a word wall. Add five new words to wall each week, deleting a few that no longer retire attention.
       Writing tools (etc. pencils)

Reading as a Writer
q Stalking sentences that they like
q Stalk phrases that they like
q Techniques that they would like to try
q Wonderings about writer's craft
q Things that they would like to examine as a class
q Examples of real writers using the techniques that we learned in class
q Examples of authors breaking the rules
q Studies of sentence variety
q Studies of construction within a genre

Ways to Use Writer's Notebooks
q   Gather ideas for future writing
- at home, in the park, on the playground, in the car, at McDonalds
q    Record powerful images
q    Word lists
- parts of speech, words they like the sound of, words that they stumble across during reading
q    Notes from mini-lessons and craft lessons
- either as notes that students take, or glue ins charts that we create as a class
- record their attempts at a strategy offered in mini-lessons
q    Things that make them wonder
q    Situations going around them that evoke an emotion
q    paste in writer's helpers given to them by teachers

Volume and Stamina Matter
q Students need to write for long stretches of time 30-40 minutes. 3rd graders should be able to produce one half a typed page at a sitting, 4th graders are expected to produce one typed page in a sitting; 5th graders two typed pages
q Have students graph number of sentences they write in a sitting or time spent actively writing, and keep daily or weekly records
q The more a student writes, the more content they can build on.

Building Stamina
  • Writing time generally 30-40 min. but you’ll need to build up to this
  • Start of year shorter writing sessions. Just don’t let these sessions become the norm. Children will never write well if they are accustomed to writing briefly.
  • Set a timer and gradually increase the amount of time students write. Put on board so students are aware of this.
  • If a student finishes, he can read writing exemplars that you have given them that are like what you’re asking them to write.
  • Students make a goal for their writing each day.

Discuss their goals

During the Writing Process
       At the beginning, teachers are observing, monitoring, and assisting
       Compliment the process and not the student
       Ask questions to help them get more details.
       If you see some common mistakes, do a quick mid-workshop teaching point of about a minute or so.
       I usually say, “Excuse me writers, I see that some of you are getting stuck with spelling. You can circle the word and keep going so you don’t lose your train of thought, then come back later to your circled words.
       Thereafter, start the individual conferences to help them through the process.

Guided Writing
  • During independent writing/research time, the teacher can gather a group of students to work on guided writing. 
  • Comparable to guided reading, the teacher works with a group based on their ability or needs. 
  • This is predominantly helpful if a group of students is having difficulty with a concept and differentiation is needed.

Gathering Ideas: When writers notice something they jot it in their notebooks so they don’t forget it. In time, students come to writing workshop already knowing what they want to write about.

Determining which structure to write in- How does the content I have fit into this structure, or another? Abraham Lincoln, life cycles, personal narrative, etc.

Organize ideas – Thinking Maps


Students can ask themselves:
  • Are there sections that are unclear?
  • Do I see the qualities of writing that I was trying to practice?
It is helpful to provide the students with a rubric and a checklist for the genre they are writing

  • Teach editing mini-lessons throughout the entire workshop process. Lessons should be in the beginning to get them started. Then as they write, teach your students to read each revised draft successive times, each time with a new lens.
  • At the beginning of the year begin with editing for high-frequency words, end punctuation, and paragraphing. By March, checking for clear pronoun references and varied sentence structure.
Interactive Bulletin Boards

Interactive bulletin boards allows classroom learning to be continuous. Instead of having a culmination project, have a wall of information, that students generate so that they can refer to it throughout the unit of study.

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What is this?
The NEA Professional Practice Communities, a place where teachers, parents, school support and administration professionals, and community members share ideas and resources to improve student success. It is free and open to all!

Link to join my online community:
Common Core K-5