Saturday, September 28, 2013

Common Core Writing

  Admittedly I am overly-consumed with the writing standards, but my job is coordinating our district's literacy  curriculum and our focus this year is implementing Common Core Writing.  Here's what I hope teachers know about the writing standards, not just because students will be ultimately assessed on these concepts, but also because these standards require students to write and develop their understanding of language.

    What writing looks like in the Common Core... 

  • The Common Core writing standards are comprised of ten anchor standards. 
  • Writing Anchor Standards:
    • Text Types & Purposes (W.1, W.2, W.3)
    • Production & Distribution of Writing (W.4,W.5, W.6)
    • Research to Build & Present Knowledge (W.7,W.8, W.9)
    • Range of Writing (W.10)
  • Within text types and purposes there are three writing types.  These writing types are referred to as "text" types. The writing text types are --narrative, informational, and opinion. Once students enter sixth-grade, the opinion writing shifts to argument writing because older students should be writing about debatable topics. In the Common Core Standards, students are expected to write within these text types routinely and for a range, or variety, of tasks, purposes and audiences (Range of Writing-Writing Standard 10).  
  • Students should be writing a lot. Students should have opportunities to do quick flash drafts in narrative, opinion and information pieces, as well as longer sustained research reports. The more that students can understand and appreciate that writing is an important way to communicate ideas and knowledge, the more success they will have as student writers.   This will ultimately help better prepare them for the college or workforce by making it easier to write as an adult writer within a range of writing applications like: drafting an email to a work colleague, the job application, the request for a day off, or the annual report.
  • Students should be writing on a keyboard.  Provide multiple opportunities for students, even our younger students, to compose drafts, generating ideas and take revised and edited drafts to publication whenever possible. If you are in a district that is fortunate to have computers students should be using those computers in writing whenever possible. Even third-graders will be taking the new assessments on-line and they will need to keyboard their responses. Our students need multiple opportunities to feel comfortable and successful on computers since the Common Core Assessments will be technology driven. For more information on this see Smarter Balanced Consortium for a sneak peek at some practice ELA assessments
  • Keep in mind, in the Common Core language and grammar do not live in the writing standards but they flourish in the language standards, another sub-section of the Common Core. By the time that students are fifth-graders, they should be proficient at the following writing mechanics skills using quotations, dashes, parentheses, commas, correct pronouns, and correct spelling.  This means that all of the other skills have to be mastered in earlier grades, as they are enumerated by the language standards. 
What does Common Core writing looks like in the classroom?
  • Students writing daily for extended periods of time 
    • Thirty to forty minutes independently writing depending on grade level
    • Teacher conferring with individuals or groups of students or leading small group instruction
  • Students writing for different purposes and audiences and in different text types...
    • Students identify their audience and the purpose of their piece for example-  a possible student response might be I'm writing an All About Skateboarding piece to teach my classmates about skateboarding
    • Teacher providing modeled instruction in all three text types: narrative, opinion, and information writing
  • Students planning, revising, editing, rewriting and publishing
    • Students cycle through the writing process 
    • Teacher provides writing workshop structure for students to learn the writing process
  • Students studying the work of authors and expert writers to learn a writer's craft and study literary devices
    • Students study the different text types of writing 
    • Teacher provides modeled instruction through the use of mentor texts or exemplar papers
  • Students receive modeled explicit instruction in order to develop and strengthen their writing
    • Students study writing strategies and skills 
    • Teacher provides demonstration and guided practice instruction of writing strategy and skills 
    • (I do, we do, you do model)
  • Students using technology to produce and publish pieces as well as gather information from digital sources to support their research reports
    • Students using computers in writing whenever possible
    • Teachers providing technology as a resource whenever possible in the classroom through the use of computer labs,  classroom computers,  tablets and ipads, electronic books for demonstration lessons etc.
  • Guiding Questions-
    • How will I increase the rate and rigor of writing in my classroom?
      What is the connection between reading and writing instruction?
    • How will I integrate the use of media?
In my role as District Literacy Coach, using the Lucy Calkins Common Core Writing Curriculum as a guide, writing workshop essentials, that reflect much of what I have mentioned above, were developed by myself and my team of elementary instructional coaches.  These essentials are a guiding tool for teachers to develop their writing workshop instructional best practices and for an excellent tool for administrators to guide them in conversations with teachers about the best practice writing instruction taking place in their classrooms. I hope to share more about these writing essentials in a future blog post. If you would like to know more about implementing writing workshop in your primary or intermediate classroom please check out my TpT store for mini lessons addressing the management and routines of writing workshop in primary and intermediate classrooms

We are no longer getting ready for the Common Core in schools across the nation. The Common Core is here.  This spring, many districts will be administering pilot tests and the more that we educators understand the CCSS, the better for all of our students. 

If other readers or bloggers have additions to make about what we should know about the writing standards, please share!

Happy Writing!


Friday, September 6, 2013

Building A Community of Learners

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Back to School! I can say that as an educator this time of year is always exciting. This school start has a special excitement, my grandson, Zackary, started Kindergarten. What a thrill it is to see school from his perspective with a fresh pair of little eyes. That milestone for our family caused me to pause in the midst of my “back- to- school” chaos to reflect on what an honor it is to share this journey of discovery and learning with children.

We teachers are truly blessed that we can hone our craft, reinvent our teaching practice and ourselves afresh each year. I know many of you are already back at it, but it’s not too late to make sure you are laying the foundation for an awesome school year.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you go through the first month of instruction.

·     Establish strong classroom community. It’s so tempting these days to jump right into content. The Common Core Standards are here and there is a lot of pressure to “get it all in.” However, if you skip the community-building step, you will find yourself dealing with lots more behavior “drama” issues than necessary all year long. Want to learn more about how to build community? Visit the Responsive Classroom. That site is FULL of great resources and ideas for community building.

Morning Meetings are a great way to start the school day with a positive sense of community. Now that I've seen the power of daily meetings and their impact on student attitudes and behavior, I would never teach without them again.

These are some of my favorite sources of professional books that I have collected over the years for morning meeting activities. Even if you don’t use “Morning Meeting,” some of these activities and ideas make great icebreakers at the beginning of the year.

·     Take time to teach procedures and routines. You already know this. It is the same idea as community- do it right up front so you don’t waste time for the rest of the year dealing with classroom procedures and routines. The goal is to enlist students in developing the classroom rules as well as management and procedures. This is the foundation of a classroom community with the goal of each student being a proficient self-regulated and independent literacy learner. Think of it as going slow to go fast.

I’ve just posted a great resource for teaching the procedures and management of Writing Workshop on my TpT store. 

Building A Community of Writers: Procedural Writing Workshop Mini-Lessons provides mini-lessons on the procedures you’ll want to remember to teach when starting writing workshop. Tuck them into writing workshop before you start a writing mini-lesson. These procedural min-lessons help you lay a strong foundation for our students to become self-regulated writers for the remainder of the year.  

Building A Community of Writers: K-2 is the expanded version of the writing workshop launch support documents I provided teachers in my district. Many teachers have shared that these Building Community lessons have proven to be very helpful in launching workshop successfully!

Building A Community of Writers: K-2 includes a list of great read-alouds for launching narrative in a primary writing workshop as well as examples of anchor charts, workshop tips and strategies.  I think this read aloud list is so helpful I've featured it as a new free product to my TpT store.

·     Make Movement Part of Your Daily Routine. Movement is such a powerful motivator for students and is also a fantastic learning tool. Movement enhances memory – We have learned so much about the human brain and how it learns.  Physical movement is a powerful hook for memory and long-term learning.  Numerous brain researchers tout the benefits of hands-on learning experiences. Learning that is experienced kinesthetically is much more likely to “stick” than sedentary learning experiences.

·     Connect with Parents. Aside from the “normal” communication methods (weekly newsletter, homework agenda, etc.) try to find a simple and personal way to let each child’s parents know that you see something valuable in their child. Here are some ways to do this: a short note home, a quick email, a brief phone call home, a concise conversation that communicates:
1) You are getting to know their child
2) You care about their child
3) You are excited to share in their learning journey
That simple reassurance goes far with parents and will set a positive foundation in the event that in the future you need to communicate with them about academic or behavioral concerns.

I am so excited to start a new school year with you. Stay tuned… I have a lot of ideas for literacy learning up my sleeve. Have a FABULOUS beginning to your school year! 

 What’s on your Back to School to do list? What do you make sure to do during the first month of instruction? I’d love to hear!

Happy School Year!