Trading Spaces Tuesday Guest Blogger

I'm not blogging on my own blog today, I'm over at A Day in the Life of a Title 1 Teacher.  After you read Carla's Writing Post, hop over and find out what SNOGGLE is!

Are you feeling stressed about how your students will do with your state's writing assessment?  In Virginia, the state writing assessment was revised last year, and each time a new test is issued, we know what that means.  Yes, a lower pass rate!  If you're feeling sort of stressed about that or about how your students are doing with their writing, I hope that this post provides you with a few ideas to move your writing program in a positive direction. My name is Carla, and Deniece and our other reading blogger buddies are switching things up a big.  I am visiting This Little Piggy Reads today to share a few ideas I've been trying with my students to increase their writing knowledge.

Before I move on, I probably should to give you a little bio.  I am a reading specialist in Virginia where I've taught in first, fourth, and fifth grade regular classrooms and in Title 1 as a reading intervention provider and literacy coach for 23 years.  My blog, Comprehension Connection was started seriously in May, and I started it as a way of sharing what I've learned along my teaching journey and as a tool to coach teachers interested in literacy instruction. Well, just when my blog kicked off, we got our scores back for the Writing Standards of Learning Assessment.  Let's just say they weren't stellar, but they weren't dismal either.  The writing assessment was new and we analyzed our performance compared with instructional practices.  From those observations, we decided that writing "boot camp" in fifth grade just wasn't going to cut it if we really want to make our students strong writers. Building strong writers is a process that requires increased rigor along the continuum, so our expectations needed to be raised and greater emphasis placed on the writing process from day one in kindergarten.  With this post, I'll share five writing tips, and if you like them, you will have to drop back by my blog for Six Traits Sunday.  I started Six Traits Sunday as a way to collect mentor text, mini lesson, and process writing ideas.  Once school started, I took a little break from it to focus on book recommendations, comprehension, and word study, but I'm ready to get that back in motion.  So let's get the started with the tips for this week.

Include in your daily plans as many opportunities as possible for written responses.  Writing can be incorporated into reading instruction via graphic organizers, responses to questions, or journaling about the reading material.  In social studies and science, keeping a separate journal to add foldables, written responses, and samples of work encourages writing.  You can also encourage writing with a mail system in your classroom for students to write back/forth to each other, family or class journals to write notes back/forth to each other, and class books that can be kept in the reading nook of your room for rereading later.  
Model process writing for your students.  Using the language of writers is very important.  Not only do students need to know the word revising for example, they need to have a clear understanding of the revising process.  My students have struggled with revising.  They're idea of revising is recopying to make it neater.  Children need to understand that writers revise many, many times before publishing, so in order to become a writer, we need to do the same.  With my students, I insist that they skip a line for their rough drafts and use a highlighter to mark words that are "dead" and that need to become "wow" words.  We also keep an editor's marks cheat sheet handy until using them is habit.  My students turn in all parts of the writing process when they complete their pieces which really helps when conferencing about weaknesses.  They keep all of their work in a pocket folder.  In K/1, sewn composition books may be best, and editor's marks at your stage might be just marking capital letters and punctuation.  
Use read aloud time as a place to show students the Six Traits.  Mentor texts can be used for both reading and writing mini lessons.  Which books you use should be carefully selected based upon the needs of your students and the skills you are addressing.  If read aloud time in your classroom is used as relax and hear a good book time, you might consider whether it could be more. Read alouds build student word knowledge and schema for reading comprehension and writing.  As you share read alouds, post "wow" words from the reading on a "Wow" Words Word Wall or this great Wow Word Book by Gay Miller.  If you see great examples of description, talk about what the readers visualize, but also talk about how the author carefully choice his/her words to help create an image.  If the expression is cleverly written, talk about sentence fluency and how the reading flows.  Most importantly, read to your students.  They get so much from hearing quality literature used with purpose. For suggestions of texts, you can look at the writing tab on my blog and visit this website geared specifically to the Six Traits.
Writing skills develop in stages, so scaffolding instruction to your students' needs is important.  If you notice that your child struggles with ideas, you might conference to brainstorm or pair students for a collaborative effort.  If your students struggle with spelling, you might provide a word bank as support.  I love {this handout} I found for transition words.  For primary or struggling writers, shared writing opportunities and use of framed paragraphs/stories really help model how to compose sentences and paragraphs. Shared writing can be done in multiple ways...using Smart Notebook, projecting with an Elmo, or on chart paper.  Again, regardless of the media used, student interaction in the process helps reinforce the Six Traits and the composing/revising stages.
Include writing for a variety of purposes.  Just like students need to read a variety of texts, they also need to learn to write for a variety of purposes.  I love matching fiction and nonfiction texts when I can.  For example, I might use Owl Moon by Jane Yolen with Owls by Gail Gibbons or Stellaluna by Janell Cannon with Bats by Gail Gibbons.  If you teach thematically during your literacy block, you can easily vary the writing assignments you choose.  To mix it up, you might use a RAFT assignment.  RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic.  You could have your students take the role of a bat writing to the birds in the form of a letter about how they should could change and be more like bats.  RAFT papers would work best with grades three and up in my opinion.  If you would like to give a RAFT paper a try, you can use {this freebie}.
Remember that writing is a process just like our instruction.  Great writers aren't developed overnight and neither are our instructional practices.  Increasing our repertoire of strategies and resources helps us better help our students.  It's important that we exchange ideas and materials with colleagues to keep instruction for our students fresh and varied, so there is definitely more to come on the topic of writing.

I appreciate the opportunity to share a few ideas and freebies here.  If you'd like to follow the discussion further, I'd love for you to drop back by my blog.  Here's the link back to it.  
If you'd like to read more of the post for Trading Spaces Tuesday, you can click on any of the blog buttons that follow, and until next time, happy reading!


Carla said...

Deniece...I stink...I did not thank you for letting me visit!!! Thanks so much and have a great break...in 3 days!
Comprehension Connection

Andrea Crawford said...

So, true! We can't wait until the writing assessment to focus on writing! Good writing instruction begins in kindergarten! Thanks, Carla, for the wonderful ideas!

Reading Toward the Stars