Sunday, November 3, 2013

Using photos to inspire writing

Most of us love taking pictures to capture a moment. Why not encourage our students to do that? I recently got iPhoto, Garageband, Keynote, and iMovie on my iPad. I attended a PD led by Shannon Soger on Keynote and discovered how easy it is to use on the iPad. I was anxious to teach Keynote to someone else, both so that I would learn more about it as well as to find different uses for it within the curriculum. One of my visits to a 5th grade 1:1 iPad classroom gave me the idea that Keynote on the iPad would really enhance writing. I gave them the assignment to take photos of things that were meaningful to them. In their character unit for reading, one of the teachers had recently done a mini lesson focusing on objects in the story that were meaningful to a character. Consequently, the kids had a good understanding of meaningful objects.

I also took photos of objects that were meaningful to me in order to prepare to model. I spent about 5 minutes showing the students the basics of Keynote as I built my own Keynote. They were off and running...

 Using photos for writing:

  • capturing a "small moment" to return to later
  • using the photo to write a detailed description
  • support or illustrate a claim
  • develop a "story board" for organization
  • use for visual support when conversing with another writer about your draft piece

As always, I learned so much from the students!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Videos to learn good practices

Many people learn best by watching someone else. These videos are all available on the Teachers College Reading & Writing site,  You should definitely register as a user on that site in order to access all the resources. The videos are great exemplars in professional practice in the writing workshop.

This is a mini lesson using the mentor text to develop a good ending on endings (5th- 6th grade) 

This is a mini lesson and conferring on learning from the mentor text and bringing it into the student’s writing; giving good feedback

Showing incorporating science words into the writing; information writing

Peer work:  helping students to give each other accurate feedback; 4th grade

Using singing to reread text for increased fluency

Teaching students to study spelling patterns and transfer this to their own writing; k-2

Lucy conferring with a student during writing; she spends a long time researching what his difficulty is; showing his relationship with his friend, using precise details, sensory language in his writing. 5th

Teacher is getting the kids to assess themselves, revising their own work, use of a self-assessment tool. Informational writing 1st-2nd grade

Small group session to help students to provide closure to the story. Teacher uses goal sheets. 1st, 2nd grade

Mini-lesson to teach students to reread their writing to improve.3rd grade  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Assessing early writing...

Kindergarten students arrive at school with a wide range of readiness for writing.  I have chosen  writing samples from 3 kindergarten students.  These stories were written today (5th week of school).
I have detailed next to or under each illustration what my next steps for instruction would be with these students.

Robert's story (illustration of a bowling alley scene) shows that he can "tell" a story with the illustration.  It is clearly a bowling alley with details such as the "scoring table."  (Robert's description) When I asked, Robert to read the story, he pointed to the letters below the illustration and said "bowling alley."If I was his teacher, I would consider the writer's craft that I could teach him next.  I might focus on expanding the 2 words to use a complete sentence.  
Akira's writing also demonstrates the ability to tell a story with a picture.  When I asked Akira to tell me her story, she pointed to the letters, ran her finger under them from left to right, and said, "I'm taking a walk with my auntie."  Akira has some letter sound association demonstrated, but I may focus on modeling writing a sentence so that she expands her use of the letter sounds to form words. 
Charlie was very into drawing a detailed picture of a Star Wars scene.  He clearly has a sense that letters go with an illustration, but there does not seem to be letter/sound connection.  My instruction with Charlie would begin with modeling during frequent shared writing, demonstrating writing the letters that I heard as I said the words.  

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Getting started...structure

“If the writing workshop is always changing, always haphazard, children remain pawns waiting for their teacher’s agenda. For this reason and others, I think it is so important for each day’s workshop to have a clear, simple structure. Children should know what to expect. This allows them to carry on; it frees the teacher from choreographing activities and allows time for listening. How we structure the workshop is less important than that we structure it.” —Lucy Calkins

Time is needed to get into serious writing.  A long block of time- at least 45 minutes to start, is needed for the writing workshop.  Since you’re going to be devoting a large chunk of time for writing, eliminate any small blocks of times you may have scheduled in the past in which the students did any “free writing.” 

Students need a folder to keep their writing work from each unit as well as any reference materials (ideas lists, word lists, individual word walls, etc.) All the writing work related to each unit of study in writing should be removed and saved in a separate folder at the conclusion of a unit. 

You’ll need to consider where your anchor charts will be developed (an easel is the easiest place to write) and you’ll need chart paper and wall space to display the anchor charts related to your unit. Plan to remove the anchor charts at the end of the unit.

Students need a place to gather both for the mini-lessons as well as the share time. Plan to teach them how to move from their tables to that area and then to their writing spaces.

Sharing writing during the draft phase as well as the final product is crucial, so consider how the students will work with other students in the classroom.  They will need to practice having academic conversations regarding their writing.  Students may possibly need sentence starters as a guide.  Learning how to have those conversations will be developed in mini-lessons, especially in the first unit.