Let’s Get All Students Writing!
In this issue of our newsletter, we’re going to focus on some ideas to encourage writing. We think you’ll find these ideas useful and easy to implement in your own classrooms.
If you use any of these activities in your classroom, we’d love to hear back from you and find out how they worked and how you tweaked them to fit with your grade level and students.
Good luck and let’s get those students writing!
Harvey “Smoky” Daniels just published a new book titled, The Best-Kept Teaching Secret: How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, Grow Fluent Writers…K-12. This book highlights a strategy that we’ve used and had tremendous luck with. The idea is that rather than lead a whole class discussion, provide opportunities for students to write what they’re thinking and then share their written thoughts with other students and teachers. This method requires ALL students to engage in the thinking, learning, and writing, whereas in whole class discussions, usually just a few vocal students really participate and engage.
Daniels and his co-author, Elaine Daniels, share the sequence for teaching written conversations that work. The sequence includes what we know about good writing instruction. We recommend that you click on the following link to see a short interview that has Ellin Keene (of Mosaic of Thought fame) interviewing Daniels about this technique.
In his book, Teaching Argument Writing, Grades 6-12, George Hillocks outlines how to use the basic detective story “whodunit” as a model for teaching students the art of argument writing. For many teachers, one of the most difficult elements of the CCSS expectations for writing is argument. In the past, the focus has been on persuasive writing. Argument writing goes much further than the persuasive formats that most of us focused on for so many years. Argument requires writers to use claims and evidence from both sides of the issue and then use logic to clearly support one side.
Because this focus on argument writing is relatively new, Hillocks’ book fills a void that most teachers are feeling about how to get started.
While the book is aimed for the secondary classroom, after reading it, we believe that the structure of the lesson could be adapted for younger students.
I’ve always dreaded weak endings in student writing. I’m sure that I’m not the only teacher who has read a story from a student that ends something like “and then I woke up and realized it had all been a dream.” AGHHHH!!!! That ranks right up there with students writing “The End” in huge letters to make sure I know that they’ve finished. If I cannot tell that it’s the end of the essay or story, then there’s something wrong with the paper!
From one of our favorite websites, edutopia, that we’ve recommended before comes a great lesson on writing “Superhero Conclusions.” This lesson was submitted by Caroline Trull. In it, she lists several components of the effective lesson. These include 1) teaching your students the goal of the conclusion, and 2) focusing on conclusion models.
If you’re looking for a way to more effectively teach your students to write conclusions, then this is the lesson for you!
3 Strategies to Improve Student Writing Immediately
Years ago, when my son was in fourth grade, he struggled with writing. He TOLD me great stories, but what he wrote in school was short, basic, and devoid of voice and interesting details. His very wise teacher suggested to me that his writing was hampered by his fine motor skills. She suggested that I have him transcribe his stories to me as I typed them on the computer. Wise woman! Immediately, his writing took off, and once he mastered the computer keyboard, his less than stellar “left handed” handwriting skills took a back seat to his creative writing powers.
In this lesson, also from edutopia, Ali Parrish Offers three strategies that help students take off with their writing:
- Student talks, teacher writes
- Audio record it
- Audio transcribe it
Parrish also offers websites that allow for teachers and students to use technology to accomplish # 2 and 3.
As Parrish states it, “The sooner students (and teachers) can see that writing has nothing to do with a pencil, a piece of paper or keyboard, and the sooner students see that writing is simply communicating, the sooner they will start making incredible progress. Barriers will come down.”
For more information on these strategies, click on the following link: