Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Writing Best Practices

Writing is not simply a way for students to demonstrate what they know. It is a way to help them understand what they know.

What are the best practices? Why??

As Resource Teacher, I don’t spend any time teaching in the Writers Workshop. I tend to focus on the science of writing. Can the student write in complete sentences? Does it make sense? Spelling? Handwriting? What accommodations does the student need to do Workshop in class?

Over the last couple of weeks, I have had parents ask me about writing. I have never really thought about the best practices in writing and how to guide teachers to build them into their writing practices.

The effective teaching of writing involves all three of these learning experiences, with an emphasis on the writer’s craft, the use of high-quality writing exemplars, time for classroom writing practice and thoughtful reflection before, during, and after the writing.

Best practices in Writing

1.Establish a positive atmosphere for writing, reading, and learning by:
  • Creating an inviting classroom with flexible seating, accessible resources, and attractive surroundings
  • Modeling respect
  • Sharing the teacher’s own writing with students
  • Establishing routines and expectations
2.Organize for writing by:
  • Setting up a writing workshop routine which convenes every day of the week
  • Using writer’s notebooks/portfolios
  • Teaching writer’s craft techniques based on an understanding of the writing process and student  writing needs
3.Provide meaningful student writing activities by:
  • Promoting student choice and ownership for both fiction and nonfiction writing
  • Providing opportunities for authentic writing
4.Ensure that students read, respond to, and use a variety of materials written for a variety of purposes and  audiences by:
  • Giving reading an integral role in the writing classroom
  • Providing diverse reading materials modeling the importance of craft and idea

5. Write regularly across the curriculum and grade levels by:
  • Collaborating on assignments among content area teachers
  • Sharing writing rubrics across grade levels and subject areas

6.Arrange for students to have a constructive response to their writing and to offer a response to other writers by:
  • Making teacher and peer response a part of writing instruction
  • Providing class time for revision 
  • Responding intermittently throughout the writing process, not only after the final draft
  • Using many techniques to respond to student’s writing
7.Provide opportunities for students to collaborate as writers, thinkers, and learners by:
  • Using collaboration techniques such as furniture placement, modeling collaboration, providing checklists and forms, and organizing writing pairs or small groups
  • Providing guidelines and demonstrations of appropriate student interactions and creating specific tasks for students to accomplish during their collaborations
8.Conduct effective mini-lessons on writing by:
  • Choosing writer’s craft lessons that relate to students’ needs
  • Structuring mini-lessons so students can observe, discuss, and simulate the targeted writing craft lessons or skills
  • Providing specific responses to these simulated practices

How do I all of this in Workshop Model?

  • Teacher demonstrates
  • Teacher models aloud what they are doing, thinking and rethinking while writing, rereading and revising a draft
  • Teacher talks aloud about topics such as appropriate writing mode - narrative, expository, persuasive; spacing needs; organizational patterns and transition words; writer’s craft lessons such as persuasive details of statistics and expert opinion; effective repetition
  • Teacher points out skills such as spelling conventions, punctuation needs, vocabulary choices, sentence structures, revision techniques
  • Teacher and class compose aloud, collaboratively
  • Both negotiate topics, purposes, and word choice with each other
  • Teacher acts as scribe and encourages all students to participate
  • Teacher provides explicit questioning and directions, encouraging high-level thinking on focus, support, organization, language use/ conventions, writer’s craft
  • Core of the program – whole class, small group, or individualized
  • Student writes and teacher guides
  • Explicit teaching in form of mini-lessons for reinforcement of skills depicted in shared writing or for the introduction of new writer’s craft lessons
  • Rubric development and review conferences take place along with peer response and  sharing
  • Writing may be responses to literature; authentic responses; relating to information/ reports; description of classroom experiences; personal reflections; writing to learn in content areas
  • Writing activities are embedded each day
  • Students work alone, using their current knowledge of writing process, often choosing own topics
  • Occurs daily in writer’s workshop format
  • Teacher and student monitor through daily log journals, conferences, teacher  feedback

Balanced Writing Workshop?

How do these four components look in the classroom?
  • Reading-writing connection - tying together books being read aloud and/or studied in class to writing lessons and research reports/projects
  • Meaningful print-rich environment – using labels, posters, captions where they catch student’s attention and serve a purpose for writing; literacy centers at K-5 such as post office, supermarket, bookstore, office, kitchen; real-world assignments 
  • Teacher modeling – regularly modeling aloud the drafting of narratives, leads, poetry, punctuation conventions, along with writing in response to reading assignments
  • Real purposes and audiences – providing students time to write each day about topics they have knowledge of and care about, using rubrics which describe levels of achievement
  • Writer’s craft – specifically teaching the techniques of writing such as the importance of audience, the use of dialogue, connotative and sensory language, parallel sentence structures
  • Writing various genres – producing picture books, recipes, brochures, essays, social studies reports, movie reviews, website reviews, letters to the editor, book reviews, memoirs
  • Emphasis on revision – revising pieces thoughtfully over time—not a new piece of writing each day
  • Conferencing– keeping a log or portfolio on each student’s writing progress
  • Spelling and vocabulary – connecting both to writing, reading and language use (Spelling should be part of writing)
  • Sentence structure and conventions – practicing in context, using mini-lessons, not isolated skills sheets.

Caveats Regarding Two Teaching Practices

Teaching just the science of writing is the first area of concern. Too often, the science writing leads to mediocre, dull writing where student engagement with the text is absent.

It is not that most students who just use a form cannot write; it is that they cannot write at the level that today’s businesses and colleges expect. Writing which is purposeful reflects insight into the writing situation and demonstrates a mature command of language.

While a formula may be useful for beginning writers who need scaffolding in organizational techniques and in the crafting of elaboration,  it should not be an outcome expectation for student writers at any grade level.

Students need the art of writing to encourage student engagement with the text. This learning and practicing an array of organizational writing patterns also encourages higher order thinking. Teachers who teach a menu of organizational patterns, along with each pattern’s linking expressions and signal words, implicitly help students make sense of the ideas they want to express. Among these patterns are chronological order, comparison-contrast, description, concept/definition, and process/ cause-effect. Creative, thoughtful modes of writing may be developed through the use of these patterns– modes such as the personal essay, research report, autobiography, feature news article or editorial, as well as, the short story or poem.

Providing models of the art and craft of writing by excellent writers for student imitation is considered a best practice.

Like all Best Practices--it's about knowing your students and what they need to do their best work. With writing, the challenge is balancing the art and science of writing is required to create powerful, college ready writers.

Chat soon,

May Pinterest Pick 3

I think Colorado has decided its time for Spring. Or maybe its just this week since by Thursday it's going to be 80. I'm not sure though.

As its the end of the year, I'm thinking ahead to the fall and things I want to change. The big thing is--creating pathways to personalized learning.  This is a big on my teacher rubric. This is not a small idea because I also need to integrate technology into this grand plan. Oh, I almost forgot IEP goals still drive instruction.

One thing that is big with my teacher rubric is student goal setting. The point being the instruction is student driven. I'm not sure if the IEP goals and student driven learning go hand in hand but I'm game to take it out to play. I like this idea because it's a SMART goal minus the SMART goal language. Students can focus on an IEP goal and set a short term outcome. The hard part is right know I don't have tons of extra time but next year the team is looking at moving to a three week instruction with the fourth week being progress monitoring. This idea is used with out SLPs this year but I'm thinking it may be worth trying next year. 

I'm not a fan of handing student's an iPad just to have them play a game or something else that's just plug and play. Student's have to do something with them--technology has to be a jumping off point to something even better. SAMR provides that. A big piece of the teacher rubric in students using technology in a meaningful way. I see students of a limited time. Students have to use them but I want them to do more than just replace a task for a task. Tat's harder than you may think. These guys have tons of apps but not clue what any of them do. Yup-fun times. So, as the year winds down they are going to become familiar with different apps and what they can do with them. Of course, they love this idea but they have not seen a rubric attached to their work.

The big push is coming in the form of personalize learning. I'm not totally sold because I'm not sure how this meshes with IEP goals and the like. However, with the reading I've done it doesn't seem to be a totally bad idea. This is something I will play with this month before leaving on break. I really like that this idea is ground in differentiated instruction. Any more its the hallmark of great things regardless of who is watching.

Just in case you didn't know, the TpT site-wide Teacher Appreciation Sale is this Tuesday and Wednesday! Everything in my store will be 20% and you can get an additional 10% off by using the promo code CELEBRATE at checkout. This a great time to load up on bundles as they are already discounted, so with the sale you save...well, a bundle! You might also want to check out no-prep Interactive math picture book or my Errorless Sentence Stems.

Have a great week. Happy shopping.

Currently, April

Spring Break is over. In those two weeks I came an Auntie to a very cute EJ--he will be a lady killer when he's older:)

The weather has been great in Colorado post Blizzard, warm with the sun shining meaning lots of time outside at the dog park to make two greyhounds very happen. With nine weeks left in the year, its going to be over before I know it.

I have been thinking about how to grow my students vocabulary without losing the little instructional time I have left. I'm hoping my two ideas of Errorless Writing Prompts and Building Number Sense with an ebook (no print) will help without taking up tons of time.

I'm forward to having my students create their own ebook and play with the possibles of having these guys lead their own conferences with them. I hope you had a great Spring Break. (click on the pictures to go to my store.)

April Pinterest Pick 3--Guided Writing

As the year winds down, I have time to start thinking about those things I want to change. This has been the first year, where I have had strides making direct connects for students between reading and writing. I have in the past made things two very different things because that's what classroom teachers are doing. This year with the lack of time, I had to make them go together. My students have always written about what they read this year they do both in the same day. These are ideas I want to take out for a spin
 before Summer break.

I plan to do this on Monday. We had 2 weeks for break--this would be a great way for them to share in either in pictures or words about what they did.

I'm always needing paper. It doesn't help that my OT is only in the building a day a week but finding the right paper when I need it is a problem--finding it free is even better and I don't have a remember to ask my OT when I see her. I can also change the paper on a whim. I really love having paper when the picture on top and the lines under it. It's not something in my building that is used. 

One of the hardest things I found this year was getting students to tell me if they liked the book or what part of the book they liked. I like this as a way to get them to tell me if they liked it or not either in pictures. I think this is as hard as getting them to make connections to what they have read. 

I'm looking forward to trying all of these before Summer Break a great week.

Project Based Learning in a Resource Room

Coming back from Winter Break, I had a couple of girls want to be "The Teacher." I said okay and asked what they had in mind. They wanted to something other than guided reading. After asking more questions I pulled out ideas like animals, camping, or rain forest. I have three second grade reading/math groups and they each chose something different. The fun part was working out how IEP goals were going to fold into the mix. In some cases, it was easier said than done.

I had students start with making a KWHLAQ chart. This gave me an idea of what they wanted to do and learn while working on they Project Based Learning Experiment.  Starting this way gave me a template on what the group wanted to do while I focused on making sure IEP goals were met. Plus, they didn't get hung up on spelling and went to town. (This will be used as an assessment though out our project.)

From here I was able to complete my Google Presentation and create a road map of where they were going. This Presentation for each group, became the working list of what each student needed to get done.  They all started out with creating group expectations before setting them off to start their research. The list of requirements aligned with IEP goals. As I have them only 30 minutes, I didn't put a timeline on each item but let students move from task to task as they completed them. My thinking was it would give me a chance to differentiate each task for each student and they could move at their own pace--not getting hung up on the whole-the end being more important.

From this, the group moved to building their background knowledge through Symbaloo and Google safe for kids. This allowed me to pull the places together that would information they could look at, read and watch. I had the opportunity here to create a scored example of what the final written product needed to look like. I did this because their written work needed to align with their IEP goals. Their writing needed to include a circle map which could be turned into a five sentence tree map frame and then became their written paragraph. All with the help of the internet and books.
The thinking map frame is a Tree Map which was created to support them writing in complete sentences. They have a topic and concluding sentence with three compound sentences. Both thinking maps are designed to be a thinking frame and students are encouraged to use critical thinking and the information from their "resources" the books to create the final written product. Even when the same text is used, students will create their own paragraphs. Its that critical thinking that we celebrate as a group moving them away from always using my examples.

The example I created for them has all the pieces they have to create using their own topics. It also has the scoring rubric attached to it. Students have seen all pieces of my examples with each piece modeled and independently practiced before this project.  They paragraph will be used as part of the portfolio of examples since it targets multiple IEP goals.

Each tree map is corrected by me after students have completed their draft. I help them make sure sentences make sense and double check their spelling. The ideas are strictly these and supported by the resources their used. Its cool to see students work on the same topic but create very different paragraphs and they love sharing what they have found. I think I'm going to have to add a sharing aspect--probability somethings they will hate but I think with all the sharing they are doing it will work out.

I can't wait to see where they take the part of their project which is everything from a science experiment to make s'mores to making commercials  to save the rain forest and save endangered animals. Where ever they take me, I'm sure it will be fun. Until next time,

Beginning Writing Skills in Preschoolers

It’s easy to keep track of your preschooler’s growth in height and weight. But how can you measure your child’s development in other areas? For instance, can you tell if there is learning and mastering age-appropriate writing skills? The questions and tips that follow will help you understand what type of early writing skills your 3- and 4-year-old child should be developing and how you can support her budding writing skills.

What are age-appropriate writing skills for Preschool?

The most important thing for parents to remember is that writing during the preschool years is, well, messy! The goal is to help children understand how writing works, that it connects in meaningful ways to reading, and that it communicates information, through words and symbols. Do they:

  • Express ideas and stories through pictures she draws?
  • Use pencils, crayons, and markers for drawing and writing?
  • Copy and draw lines and circles, and symbols like “X” and “+”?
  • Attempt (with some success) to write some of the letters in her first name?
  • Show an understanding of how writing and drawing help us communicate and function in everyday life?

What to do at home?

Now that you understand some of the beginning writing skills your child should have, you can reinforce those skills and help her make further progress. It’s easy to practice writing with your child throughout the day. Here are some activities to try:

  • Let your child use writing tools such as pencils, washable markers, chalk, and crayons. Gather and organize these materials, along with some paper, in a box that your child can decorate and have access to.
  • Encourage your child to use drawing to express ideas and tell stories.
  • Show your child that written words are a part of daily life. From grocery lists and email messages to billboards and signs in stores, writing is everywhere!
  • Teach your child to print her first name. (Be patient, as this will take practice.) This is very empowering for a preschooler!
  • Label your child’s belongings with her name. And, let your child label some of her own things (such as a notebook or crayon box).
  • Let your child mold clay letters for hands-on practice shaping letters of the alphabet.
  • Help your child create a pretend menu using pictures of food from newspapers and magazines

Promoting early writing skills at preschool

There is a growing emphasis on structured learning in today’s preschools and while there is still plenty of play time, time in school tends to follow a more rigorous curriculum than in the past. To keep track of how well your young child is learning to write, you’ll want to:

  • Ask your child’s teacher how writing is being taught and practiced – and whether your child is doing well or struggling.
  • Find out what specific early writing skills your child will need to master in order to have a successful start in kindergarten.
  • Collect samples of your child’s writing in the work and projects she brings home, display them at home, and discuss them together.
  • Encourage your child to talk about school and learning, and try to gauge how she feels about writing.

Cause for concern? 

If you’re worried that your child’s writing skills are below-average for her age group, rest assured that not all preschoolers learn to write at the same pace. However, you may want to seek help if your child:

  • Dislikes and avoids writing and copying.
  • Is late in learning to copy and write.
  • Has trouble remembering the shapes of letters and numbers.
  • Frequently reverses or otherwise incorrectly draws letters, numbers, and symbols.

Read, Write, Publish--Repeat

I work with students that have a love/hate relationship with reading. Some love it and will read anything I put in front of them but won't write about it-no matter what. Others hate reading but love writing. My students this year have learned to at respect both because they read, they write about what they read, and then they publish what they wrote. And they do it every week. We have read more and written more then we have in the past. The students know that their work gets posted on the class website for them to share with their family.

Students can choose from just typing their work in Google to using Talking Tom or using StoryBird or Haiku Deck for their work. With the exception of typing and StoryBird, they need just a day to get the work done. Which for me is great because I only have them for 30 minutes a day. So, short and sweet is a must.

StoryBird is a free web site that can be used to create and publish. They have free teacher accounts where teachers can set up student accounts. I embed the projects but you can buy the books. Haiku Deck is a free app. It is a very cleaned up and simply version of a power point. It's designed to create presentations with very few words. Students create and email their work when they are finished. It can be viewed online once you have the address but I've found it easier to embed the work. The students that have used both of these love them. They have said that Haiku is harder because they have to summarize the summarized paragraph into one or two short sentences.

Students know at the beginning of each book what they will be expected to publish. I post this information on the Learning Target.  The group has one comprehension strategy plus a high order thinking question which  will be published.

Other groups are working on mastering all the comprehension strategies such as writing summaries and making connections. My students are well versed in internet safety because I post their work on line. Make sure you do the same. Here are couple of student examples using Haiku Deck and StoryBird:

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

My students love doing this work. Its not something extra that I have built into our week. They know that if they don't work hard during the week--publishing doesn't happen. But every Monday we start over and do it again. Reading, Write, Publish--Repeat.

Non-Fiction Texts

What is it about summarizing non-fiction text that sends everyone into a tail spin????

A group of my 5th grade students began reading a non-fiction text and had to summarize it as they went. I had them write one sentence that summed up each one or two paragraph sections. They spent to whole week grumbling about it. And the whole idea of having read it and then write about what they have read--is a new idea for them. Well-I don't know what they have done in class but this is the first book with me that they have done. But then all my students reading books write about what they read and publish they work. They have let to revolt--maybe it has something to do with the technology???

I created a couple of scaffolds for them to use. They were created with non-fiction text in mind, however the retelling and student conversation cards can be used with any text type. The student conversation cards are a way to get students to take control of the conversations about what they are reading. I use them to teach students how to have meaningful conversations about books without me having to lead the conversation. I'll have to give this one more time--they don't like talking about books on their own. But this too will come. What strategies or scaffolds do you use to help students with non-fiction text. I'd love to hear from  you.  Have a great weekend. Spring has sprung in Colorado.

Summaries and More Summaries

Sometimes I think summary writing will be my undoing this year. My students do summaries with just about everything they read. And yet they still struggle writing them when it counts. I encourage students to use their resource (the book) to help them. As I have been thinking through what students will do during State assessments (Yes, its before Spring Break.) I think I'm going to use two different apps to make it fun.

The first is free, Story Spine.

I have my students either do their summary as they are reading or after they have read. This app allows them to type it in to write in complete sentences and then generate it. This app does not have any export options, so students will need to rewrite their summary. I think this app because it will force them to think deep about what they read. Examples to come.

The other app is Comic Life ($): The idea for this app came from the need to find something that targets a variety of learning styles. Comic Life helps students to develop their writing skills and it has options of adding pictures. Its a tool for students who need practice at writing and are ready to connect images with text. It will help students to show how they analyze information included in the written book. I'm hoping that this tool with help my students (they are reading at different levels) create summaries with pictures to support the text to give others enough of a clue of what happened to understand what is going on in the story. And for other just the organization alone would be helpful to help them and be more interested in writing.

I'm hoping for this app will support my students need to draw through visual representation of knowledge. Its easier for them to recall visual information, engaging them through thinking, creating, and writing. Motivate them to write more and provide a means for them to organize their thinking.  Check out this site for lesson plan ideas and examples using Comic Life.  Examples to come. Do you have any great ideas to help students with writing summaries?  Have a great week.

About Me

Welcome to my all thing special education blog. I empower busy elementary special education teachers to use best practice strategies to achieve a data and evidence driven classroom community by sharing easy to use, engaging, unique approaches to small group reading and math. Thanks for Hopping By.
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