Sunday, July 13, 2014

Digging Into... Writing Instruction

Writing Instruction: Structure of the Writing Block

... key elements that make the structure of writer's workshop successful for my second graders. So often we hear teachers say writing is the hardest subject to teach. It certainly has challenged me in the past, but it is so rewarding to see students develop as writers. This year I focused a lot on structure of the writing time. I taught a brief mini-lesson using familiar mentor texts, students went out to write while I conferred individually or in small groups, mid-workshop teaching point, and student share time.

So many students are always hoping to share, and time always runs low. I found it helpful to sometimes have the students share with a writing buddy. I did a few mini-lessons on partner talk, and as we changed forms of writing, we talked about what this feedback could sound like. When the students needed a stamina break or would benefit more from a brainstorm share time, I used the time I allowed for student share earlier in the workshop.

I am spending 4 days this coming week with The Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project. I can’t wait to share what I learn!

1. My biggest take-away from last year was that given the developmental range of writers in the classroom, it is best spend time early and revisit often independent and perseverance skills. So many students experience a range of emotions during writing time depending on their day, the topic, and their background knowledge. Not every student will be able to apply writing strategies immediately following a mini-lesson, as they just might not be ready yet. When I introduced my students to new types of writing, I taught them systems for independence. They could always go grab a blank book or organizer and use these systems on their own. This helped prevent them waiting the entire workshop for me to come by and get them started.

Here is the system they used for narrative writing:

1. Think about what you already know
2. Find the beginning, middle, and end (Sketch or write on the inside cover)
3. Touch and Tell
4. Draw and Write or Write and Draw

A system like this enabled to students to restart or move on without waiting for me or getting “stuck” for a long period of time.

2. Mid-Workshop Teaching Point: As our writing environment further evolved, I settled in as well and got better about using students’ application as a brief mid-workshop teaching point for the group. Sometimes I feel like the mid-workshop teaching point was the glue that held the strugglers independence together. When they heard what another student was doing, it gave them an idea or encouragement to keep writing. The student’s whose idea was shared was glowing and motivated to keep writing. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in conferring and small-group work, but I don’t think the mid-workshop teaching point should be skipped often.

1. Spreading Writing Energy: I like to move around the room “oohing and ahhing and laughing” and say aloud little bits of what children are writing. When children feel my excitement, they grow that feeling too. I also visit each table for a quick compliment conference. I notice something a child did well at the table and call attention of the whole table. We notice and celebrate the work of this writer.

2. Keep the Audience in Mind: As students go out to write, we discuss or I remind them of the audience of the particular piece. Having an audience helps the students maintain purpose and gives meaning to their details.

3. Tips for Small Group Work (especially if you have an assistant working with small groups consistently): The bulk of time needs to be children working and me coaching into their work. I stuck to a structure of me talking for a minute or two, then the children working for 5-6 minutes as I circle around them and coach into one writer’s work after another. Be as a direct as possible and use lean prompts. In other words, aim for your commentary to lift their work a level but not to solve all the problems you can find. Refer to familiar mentor texts. Finally, encourage students to do whatever they are doing that is new not just once but throughout their work.

Holiday Roll a Story

Writing Tic-Tac-Toe

Thanksgiving Roll a Story

Halloween Roll a Story

Head on over Where the Magic Happens for more post on writing instruction!!!

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