Category Archives: Writing
Thank you to all who hopped on over and followed our blogs and TPT Stores last weekend! Your participation in this little event was awesome! We do have a winner to announce
Teachingisagift McKay – your resources and Amazon gift code are on the way! Congratulations! Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter!
I want to mention one more thing this evening. My post just went live on Global Teacher Connect yesterday and it’s about student blogging. I’d really encourage you to have a peek if you are currently blogging with your students OR if it’s something that you’d be interested in trying next year. I have a Collaborative Project: Student Blogging Form that you can fill out with your info so that you are able to contact each other and pair yourselves up! So far, there are teachers from Morocco, US, Canada, Ecuador and Bermuda who would like to blog this year or next! How cool is that?
If you would like to be contacted next year for blogging – just add that as a note on the form. We already have two teachers who have posted their info, who would be interested in something for next school year.
I’ve just started blogging with my students in the last month or so and we’re about to collaborate with another school on the Island and one in Ontario, Canada. The kids are trying to “fix up” their blogs a bit more for their audience – which is what we want! We want them writing for a purpose, and with an audience in mind! Anyhow, I can see this evolving into something more for next year. Maybe even a “Blog-folio” type of idea. Regular blogging would be great, but also, having their best pieces of writing displayed for an audience would be so cool. It would also be neat to see their writing abilities progress through the year. Anyhow, I am quite excited about what we’ve done with the blogs so far, although we all still have much to learn!
Check out the post on GTC and even if you’d be interested in having your students READ the student blogs and comment on them – fill out the form! The wider the audience the better! Plus, I’d love for my students to get comments from kids all around the world. That would be a big part of my ultimate goal. (I’ll be working on this next year…so stay tuned if you’re at all interested…)
That’s it for this evening! Please leave a comment here or on the Global Teacher Connect post if you have any tips or questions for me about student blogging.
Welcome to Kristy, from 2 Peas and a Dog, my guest blogger for today. Thanks again for such an awesome idea, Kristy. Enjoy folks!
Need a strategy to improve student achievement? Have you tried Bump It Up Boards? They are a great visual way to help your students self monitor their achievement.
How To Get Started:
Choose a curriculum expectation or focus you see as a need in your classroom. I chose the 4 R’s [retell, relate, reflect, review] reading reflections strategy.
Collect many work samples of your focus. You can use previous student work, ask colleagues for their examples, create your own, use government standardized test exemplars or search the internet for examples.
Ensure your samples represent a range of student achievement levels – not just ones that meet or exceed expectations.
Students worked in groups to read the responses and “grade or mark” each response based on their previous knowledge of what makes a good Retell, Relate, Reflect and Review.
A student in each group was the recorder and wrote down all of their ideas on what made the each exemplar a Level 2, (C), Level 3 (B) or a Level 4 (A).
We had a class discussion and compared our answers to ensure consistency among our expectations for Level 2, 3 and 4 work.
Final Process to Create the Board:
Type up student thinking under the appropriate curriculum expectation categories – this will become your Success Criteria.
Type up the assignment expectations and format the graded work samples to fit on to the display board.
Colour code your examples by level and attach to a bulletin board or poster board. Have students reference this board while working on their assignments to self monitor their progress.
Products to Support Bump It Boards
I had an excellent Professional Development Day yesterday, on assessing writing. I’ve got so much work to do this weekend now! Don’t you just love it when that happens? You attend a PD session and by the time you get to the end, you have more questions than answers? Well, that’s the kind of afternoon that I had (in a good way).
We started off the session with reading a chapter from Assessing Writers, an excellent book from our Literacy Library by author Carl Anderson. Everything was made so simple in that first chapter- confer with your students, gather evidence on what individual students need in their writing and plan your writing lessons and mini-lessons accordingly. Sounds easy, right? In theory it is, and I’m planning on giving it a shot!
Toward the end of the session, I was able to score a few minutes alone with the Literacy coach to pick her brain about a few things that I’ve been concerned with in my classroom around our new ELA resources and how I’ve been using them. I feel (and have felt for a while) that I am not as focused in my Language Arts teaching as I would like to be. (My strength is Math – that’s no secret.) Therefore, I feel like I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to teach reading and writing to my students. And, each year it’s like I start from scratch again, hoping to “figure it out” this year.
Our conversation turned toward another topic of concern for me as well - evaluation and marking. It’s not so much the gathering of information that I have the issue with. I know how my kids are doing and I assess them with rubrics, checklists, observational data, conferencing etc. However, the subjectivity and somewhat grey area that can creep into evaluating a piece of student writing, has given me a feeling of dissonance for a while now.
We operate on a 100 point scale in my province, and I truly feel as though I am working within a flawed system. Even when I use a rubric, mathematically the results don’t always convert to the percent that is most appropriate for the piece of work. On a four point rubric, if a student is meeting expectations across the board, he will receive a 75%. Did he deserve a 75%, though? Was his work a “strong three” and therefore more worthy of an 85%? Or perhaps, he met expectations, but just barely and since a pass is a 60%, he should receive a mark closer to 60%? Realistically, what’s the difference between an 87% and an 88%? I would love to give letter grades a try. Having a range of marks that is suitable for a piece seems so much more appropriate than the system that we’re currently using here.
Anyhow, we chatted for a while and it was so nice to get some of these things off of my chest and to come up with a plan of sorts for how to best work within the system. I’ve been teaching based on the themes and resources that we received 2 years ago when we got a new program. As the Literacy coach reminded me, they are the resources, not the curriculum (although of course they are based on the curriculum outcomes). She suggested that since I seem to be searching for a better way to organize my ELA program, that I do so by writing form, rather than theme. I’m willing to try anything and after talking to her, I’m quite excited to see what this may look like for the remainder of the school year.
The current book club writing focus is poetry, which works out perfectly, since we haven’t covered it much yet this year. This weekend, I’ll be looking at the other forms of writing that still need to be covered before the end of the school year and finding reading selections within our program resources that support/are examples of each writing form. That way, if we are doing Descriptive Report writing, for example, we’ll only be reading examples of descriptive reports so that we can really get a feel for how a report is written and the text features that authors may use such as captions, diagrams, headings etc. Even though this mid-year plan reorganization is going to take time and a lot of effort, I am SO okay with it if it means that I will be more focused in my teaching and my students in their learning. The thing is, I know without even beginning, that it will be! The Literacy coach also gave me some ideas for how to make my rubrics aimed more precisely at what I’ll be covering – so that’s great! Although she’s supposed to be just for the K-6 teachers, she has been wonderful to do her best to support me as well in our K-7 school.
As for my other issue, with the 100 point scale – I know that this is a shift that will have to come from above (or within). I am doubtful that things will ever change within my career – but who knows! Perhaps I’ll spearhead a crusade for letter grades and finally release us from the shackles of this ridiculous system of evaluating students once and for all!
How do you mark where you teach? Percents? Letter grades? What kind of assessment tools do you prefer?
PS: In case you haven’t heard – HUGE SUPER SALE at TeachersPayTeachers THIS SUNDAY – tomorrow! TPT is offering 10% off of all purchases and most sellers will be having sales in their stores as well. Everything in my TPT Store will be on sale at 28% off (the most I can do). If you have any items on your wishlists – it’s time to get them off of there!
I’m super excited about the book that I just got Using Picture Books to Teach 8 Essential Literary Elements: An Annotated Bibliography of More Than 100 Books With Model Lessons to Deepen Students’ Comprehension. What a mouthful!
The book covers:
~Point of view
It’s for grades 4-8 and contains 2 lessons for each of the 8 literary elements above, using suggested titles. Each lesson is based on a model text – a picture book! The title, author and brief plot summary are included for each model text. Each lesson begins with a critical question based on the literary element and the materials required for the lesson are listed. A step by step explanation follows, as well as black line masters if applicable, and a wrap-up. Beyond the 16 lessons, there are “More Books for Teaching…” each of the 8 literary elements. Along with the additional title suggestions, are teaching ideas and interdisciplinary connections for each. Over 100 titles are included in all and this book is aligned to the Common Core - which is a bonus! There is a two page spread at the beginning of the book listing which standards are addressed.
One of the lessons that I can’t wait to use is a Point of View Improv activity. The group that I have this year will love it! Most of them love an audience and thrive on acting silly! There are 10 cut-apart scenarios that willing students will draw from a basket, each putting them into a unique situation by giving them a specific point of view to speak from. For example, “You are a cheeseburger. You see a big mouth coming towards you. What do you call out?” I mean, come on! What a unique idea! There are only 10 cards included, but it would be easy to come up with some others. Students could also create their own “point of view improv” card and the cards could be added to a class set.
I just love when I buy a book that I can see so many uses for! I already own 5 titles that are included in this book and I’ll be looking at gathering more!
Picture books are so powerful and I think that sometimes we forget that in the middle and upper grade levels - I know I do. However, so many picture books are extremely versatile and could address multiple teaching points. I don’t mean for you to run out and purchase this book – although I do think it’s a good buy! What I’m suggesting is to have a look at your library, or the class libraries of teachers of other grade levels. Most picture books will offer opportunities for teaching literary elements – it’s just to find the time to read through some good ones and to make those connections. That’s what I love about this particular book – all the connections and titles are there for me!
Do you have any titles of picture books that you use to teach particular literary elements?
I know that my students are more motivated to write when they know it’s for a “real life” audience – not just me! I’d be the same way, honestly. So far this year, I’ve been conscious of trying to provide my students with real audiences for their writing, making the revision process much less painful and more motivating for them.
This year, I had all students write a personal narrative for a writing contest, the main prize being their work published in an anthology (other school and cash prizes are available to be won as well). They thought it would be pretty cool to see their writing in a book and so I was lucky that they bought in. I’ve had past students enter this writing contest and some of our students always get published and so it’s worth the effort. If you want to check out this particular contest, it’s for K-12 in the US and Canada. As I said, I’ve had multiple students published over the years (which makes a publishing party celebration extra special) but last year I also had a student finish in the Top Ten which was fantastic! For more information, you can visit Poetic Power.
Currently, my students are completing essays and poems for a local Remembrance Day writing contest and the work that they’ve been doing for this contest has been really well done - which is awesome! For grade 7 students, some of their poems in particular are quite unique! Since they know that their piece will be in front of judges, having them continue to edit, hasn’t been a big deal. I’m sure most communities have similar contests, as well. I don’t always find time to get to this one – but luckily this year, I did! Now we’ll see if anyone gets their work chosen.
Finally, I am a contributor to GlobalTeacherConnect – a one of a kind teacher blog with teacher-authors from all over the globe. I had my grade seven students do the photography and writing for my most recent post, to once again, provide a “real audience” for their writing. They’re quite excited to see if we get any comments on the post – so if you have a minute…it would be much appreciated;)
Writing – especially the revision and editing processes can be time-consuming – and for what? Kids are smart. Where does their writing go after it’s been marked? Home? Their desks? Many don’t think it’s worth the hassle to craft a piece that’s only going to be read by the teacher. Gone are the days of trying to impress the teacher. Yes, there are still some “teacher pleasers” out there who want the approval of the teacher, the pat on the back and the good mark. However, there are more students who want the quickest way to get xyz completed. Period. They can’t be bothered to go back and improve it once they’ve decided it’s done. It’s these students, especially, who’ll benefit from writing opportunities that provide a wider audience than just a single person.
Have a look around your school, community and online. There are LOTS of opportunities out there to give your students a real audience.
Your students could:
-Write a school newspaper
-Write the morning announcements
-Enter writing contests
-Create and judge a writing contest at your school (what a project that would be!)
-Read and comment on blog posts, or write their own posts
-Share their work with the class and parents in a publishing party
-Write a children’s story and share with a younger grade
-Write letters to the editor about local issues (don’t forget to okay with parents)
-Write notes home to parents (fundraising information, school updates etc.) that teachers usually compose
-Maintain a class blog (students can write blog posts, book reviews, or post their own creative writing)
-Start a class Twitter feed and have a student contribute a tweet a day (approved by you first, of course)
-Find a class/school to penpal with
-TeenInk is another great option to contribute work to for publishing
-Instead of “book buddies” have shared writing time with another class
Think about writing from the students’ perspective. If you didn’t like writing and found it difficult to begin with, how motivated would you be to revise and edit your work? Even if it meant a higher mark, it’s an awful lot of work to be committed to making a piece of writing stronger.
Make the writing process a little more meaningful, by giving students an audience!
What other ideas can you add to the list of “realistic” writing opportunities?
We just had our 2 day, Annual Teachers’ Convention. The sessions were really fabulous and I feel totally energized – and the weekend’s not even here yet! I just need some time, now, to reflect on the messages of the presenters and figure out how to incorporate them into my classroom. More on all of that in a future post…
Right now, I’d like to share with you some word choice lessons that I did with my students last week. I find that students often completely underestimate their writing potential. Their writing can be lifeless, at times. Dare I say, even boring. However, they are more than capable of recognizing strong word choice in what they read and incorporating it into their own writing.
Below are a few pages from my most recent freebie – Incorporating Strong Word Choice ~ Language Arts Lessons (Grades 6-9).
If you have a word choice lesson idea, or a book title that would be good for teaching word choice – please share!