Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Be A Brave Speller

During my thirty-four years as an elementary educator I've probably approached the teaching of spelling in thirty-four different ways, and yet I'm still looking for the "holy grail" of spelling instruction.  Nothing seems to fit just right.  I've done the drills, the rules, the developmental approach.  I've gone from workbooks, to word sorts with all kinds of paper flying around the room. I've taught  patterns and strategies, open and closed syllables.  I've required students to study lists, memorize rules, chant using Cast-A-Spell, you name it, I've tried it or I've researched it.

I'm sure many folks have done dissertations on spelling instruction, and I'm sure some have made millions from selling books and programs, but really what works?  I've concluded two things, it all works and it all doesn't work.  I believe an individual's understanding of spelling  really depends on the speller or the spellee ( that a real word?).  We know kids learn differently, and we also know when it comes to various approaches and pedagogy, most (but of course not all) of our students will make progress with a variety of approaches.  It gets down to, can they improve their spelling accuracy?  Are they able to become a consistently better speller in daily work? What role does technology play in our current practice?  If you ask most adults they can clearly tell you if they were/are a good speller or not.

Dana Murphy recently wrote a blog post on Two Writing Teachers (December 3, 2015) about being a brave speller.   I'd love to see all kids be BRAVE SPELLERS.   I'm starting to talk to my third grade writers more and more everyday about being a brave speller, using all you know, trying a word more than once, using all the strategies you can muster, but also being able to move on and keep their writing flow as they draft.  I believe can save exact accuracy for our "polished pieces".

In elementary school I was a successful speller.  I'm not positive, but I think it had a ton to do with the fact that I loved reading, and had a pretty good visual memory.  I was in fact, horrible with phonics, to the point I had to pull an all nighter to pass my phonics exam in college!  It doesn't mean I don't know how to teach kids phonics and spelling, it just means I've really got to think about it, it's my part of being a brave speller.

So now, when kids ask me to spell words for them when they are drafting, I'm going to ask them to be a brave speller, I'll throw out a strategy or two as well, but foremost, I want them to be problem solvers.  I want them to grow their independence and their thinking.  I think being a brave speller is one way they can do that.

If solid tips are something you seek here are a few tidbits I've used or new ideas I've found  that I also like.

  • Circle the word, then move on!  Sometimes just knowing what you don't know will help. Acknowledge the lack of spelling accuracy, then get back to the writing.
  • Try the word three times, three ways and three ways only.  Choose the one that seems the closest, then move on.
  • Try the five second rule.  If after five seconds,you're still stuck, take a guess and move on, approximation is acceptable when drafting.
  • GUM-when you want to write a word you don't know think GUM.  GUESS based upon sounds you hear, UNDERLINE to show you think the word isn't write, MOVE on to get the important content out, there will always be time for spelling editing.
  • Use the tools you've got, portable word wall lists, charts around the room, mentor texts, a writing partner.  BUT make sure this is quick and then move on!
Good luck on becoming the bravest speller you can be and teaching your students to do the same!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Workshop and Mini Lessons 101

This year I have the opportunity to meet with our amazing Unified Arts Teachers once a week.  During our meetings we cover a variety of topics from problem solving and schedules to technology and student data.  Throughout these sessions I'm always in awe of the talent that sits around the table and how much I'm learning from sharing time with these wonderful teachers.

This year our unified arts team meeting includes our:  music teacher, PE teacher, librarian/technology integrationist, behavior interventionist, and principal.  (We're sorry that our art teacher is not able to join us because she does not work at our school on the day we meet.)

Recently, I prepared some materials to share with this group so that they are aware of the structures, components, ideas and concepts around the Reading and Workshop Model as well as the Mini-Lesson. Following are the big ideas of each.

Reading or Writing Workshop Model Components

Mini Lesson~This is the “focused topic of the day”.  It includes a very specific teaching point or learning target.  Mini-lessons should be short-10 minutes or so.  

Independent Reading or Writing Time~The bulk of workshop.  During independent reading and writing time students develop their stamina, work on individual goals, practice the teaching point, and most importantly grow as readers and writers!

Individual and Small Group Work~This is what the teacher does during student independent work time.  During this time explicit teaching happens for individuals and small groups.  Teachers focus on helping students understand themselves as readers and writers, teach students strategies to improve a skill or strategy, set goals with students for reading and writing.

Share Time/Closing Conversations~The end of workshop time that includes a whole group conversation.  The focus is to share a skill or strategy, share something the students learned as readers or writers, or what it means to be a reader or writer in the classroom. There are many ways of sharing!

Mini Lesson Structure
The teacher and class gather on the rug or a meeting space with an easel nearby.  This is a short lesson* when the teacher teaches a very specific skill or strategy to help students become better readers and writers.  

* Keep in mind what we know about brain research.  A good rule of thumb is that 5 year olds can last a maximum of 5 minutes, 6 year olds 6 minutes, 7 year olds 7 minutes, etc.

The structure includes four components:  Connection, Teaching, Active Engagement, Link.

CONNECTION~Connect to the previous days lesson.The goal is to activate prior knowledge and focus student attention on the lesson.

  • We’ve been…
  • Yesterday we...
  • Today I’m going to teach you…
  • Because….

TEACH~Demonstrate and teach the Teaching Point/Learning Target.  What do you want students to learn today? Demonstrate and model the skill or strategy.

  • Let me show you how I…
  • Hmm...I’m thinking…
  • Did you see how I…
  • Listen to me as I think out loud…

ACTIVE ENGAGEMENT ~Students discuss or try out the skill or strategy very quickly while right at the mini-lesson meeting.

  • Quiet think time
  • Hand signals
  • Turn and talk
  • Popcorn share

LINK~State what you want students to do today during independent reading or writing time.

  • Today we learned…so...
  • Today and any day while you are reading or writing you can…
  • So, when you go off for reading or writing today remember...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Discussion Protocols

Recently, I've been working with our fourth and fifth grade students and their teachers on discussion protocols. My interest in using protocols began this past summer when I attended a "Critical Friends" training seminar with many colleagues throughout our supervisory union.

This series of discussion lessons began with the development of a rubric of expectations. (It is still a work in progress-so feedback is welcome!)  Here it is.

Discussion Rubric
Not Meeting Expectations
Meeting Expectations
Exceeding Expectations
Listening Skills
My eyes, ears, and body are not listening.

I interrupt others.
My eyes, ears and body are listening and facing the speaker part of the time.
My eyes, ears, and body are always listening and facing the speaker.

My eyes, ears, and body are always listening and facing the speaker.
I am able to help others in my group by giving subtle, quiet reminders.
Speaking Skills
I don’t use a Level 1 voice.

I don’t actively participate in the discussion.
I speak in a Level 1 voice most of the time.

I actively participate in the discussion part of the time when it is my turn to speak.
I speak in a Level 1 voice all the time.
I actively participate when it is my turn to speak.
I stay on the topic by adding comments that link to the discussion.
I speak in a Level 1 voice.
I actively participate when it is my turn to speak.
I stay on the topic by adding comments that link to the discussion.
I take on a positive leadership role in my group.
Preparation Skills
I am not prepared to participate in the discussion.

I do not have the materials I need.
I have most of my materials ready and use some of them effectively throughout the discussion.
I have all my materials ready and use them effectively throughout the discussion.
I use evidence to support my claims.
I have all my materials ready and use them effectively throughout the discussion.
I use evidence to support my claims.
I share materials with others as needed to help the group be productive.
I am not respectful to others.
I am respectful to others most of the time.
I consistently show respect to others in my group by showing empathy, taking turns and respectfully agreeing and/or disagreeing.
I consistently show respect to others in my group or partnership,  by showing empathy, taking turns and respectfully agreeing and/or disagreeing.
I am a role model for others.
To date we have learned, practiced and applied four different protocols.  These protocols were chosen and tweaked a bit for students from The School Reform Initiative Resource and Protocol Book (SRI) and The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo.
They are:
  • "Jigsaw" from SRI
  • "Write-Talk-Write" from Serravallo
  • "Save the Last Word for Me" from SRI
  • "Keep the Line Alive" from Serravallo
We've applied these discussion strategies to picture books that we've read together and analyzed for themes, author's purpose and real world applications.  
To date we've read and discussed: 
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
  • Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack
  • Mr. Peabody's Apples by Maddona 
  • Feathers and Fools by Mem Fox.  
I've been truly amazed with the level of discussion and reflection students have demonstrated by using the protocols.  Just this week, I was almost brought to tears as I watched and listened to fourth and fifth graders reflect on thoughts about differences, war, communication, symbolism, gossip, rumors, feelings of isolation and the lessons of life.  

I'm filled with gratitude for these students and their teachers. As a literacy coach, I'm constantly learning and growing from this work. I'm able to do this because I'm surrounded with my best teachers, my esteemed colleagues and their amazing students! 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's a Slippery Slope!

November is a challenging time of year for teachers.  In my previous work as a mentor trainer, I often shared a graphic with new mentors that identified different phases of the teaching year.  The graphic showed a teacher literally sliding down a mountain, reaching the bottom, and then slowly climbing back up.   Months of the school year were clustered into categories.

As the slope heads downward it correlates with months of the school year.  Each month is not exact for each individual teacher, but the relationships are generally pretty solid. The phases follow this sequence:
  • Anticipation-August
  • Survival-September-October
  • Disillusionment-November-December-January
  • Rejuvenation-February
  • Reflection-April-May 
  • Anticipation-June
Now that November has arrived, we've reached the "disillusionment phase".  The phase when teachers are easily overwhelmed by the job and become disillusioned with the profession due to the sheer mountain of work it requires.  Pile on parent conferences, progress reports, student challenges, scheduling, assessments, budget discussions, little or no time for family and we can easily be done in!  Talk to any teacher, in any building, any state, any level of experience and I think you'd find many are at this phase.

I recently read the results of a survey at This survey identified four teacher "types".
  • The Idealist-Teachers who care about making a difference for students AND society as a whole. This group identifies improving social justice as a key component of their job.  These teachers often choose where they will work based upon where they can make the biggest difference.
  • The Practitioner-Teachers who are focused on the development of their own students.  These teachers enjoy their craft, and are committed to professional development.  When looking for positions practitioners look at the "character" of the school. 75% of practitioners would recommend teaching to their younger selves.
  • The Rationalist-Teachers who joined the ranks for practical reasons.  These teachers believe they can make a difference, but also know they need a good job, and will choose to work at places  that provide a good quality of life.  Rationalists can be on the negative side, "The Guardian" identified  50% of rationalists consider leaving the profession.
  • The Moderate- Teachers who are in the "middle of the road", they typically don't have strong opinions and end up staying in teaching for ideas from a love of their subject matter to the pure need for a job.  There appears to be no one factor that keeps these teachers in the profession, 50% of them would not recommend the job to their younger selves.
So ,what do these two ideas have to do with each other?  Honestly, I've got no scientific connection, but I do think we all got into this profession for a variety of reasons. At any given time we might find ourselves an idealist, practitioner, rationalist, or moderate teacher.  I think it depends on the time of year, and the current challenges we're working on.  As we sit in our disillusionment phase in the dark days of November and December, maybe a bit of reflection is in order.  Why did I choose this profession?  What type of teacher am I on any given day?  How can I make a difference for my colleagues and help pull them back up the mountain?  The possibilities are endless, the opportunities extreme.  I know this next week I'll try to do my best to be an "idealistic, rational, moderate, practitioner" and support my colleagues as we continue this journey together.  If the crampons are necessary, I'll put my own on and then help others secure theirs as well.  My goal will be, that our students will benefit from the effort.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Anatomy of a Workshop Model

When I envision a reading/writing workshop model, I see a lot of moving parts, parts that are predictable, sequential, seamless and flowing.   The pieces of a workshop model in either reading or writing share the same major components. They are:

  • The Mini Lesson
  • Independent Reading or Writing Time
  • Individual or Small Group Conferring
  • Sharing and Closure

I try, and I use this term very loosely because success with this is tough, really tough!  However, when I plan out my workshops I truly aim to keep a  20-70-10 percent ratio in mind.  Namely, 20% of the time for the mini-lesson, 70% of the time for independent work/conferring and 10% for sharing and closure.  This is much easier to do with a 60 minute class, the shorter the class, the greater the challenge.

The Mini-Lesson
The mini lesson is the foundation of the workshop model.  My greatest challenge remains in keeping the lesson short, concise, and to the point so that kids quickly get to the heart of the workshop and spend their time reading or writing and I spend my time conferring.  It's a great goal, but in a 40-50 minute class those 8-10 minutes fly!  Yet, I still remain optimistic that one day it will be short, and it will be good!

Independent Reading or Writing Time and Conferring
In her book, The Art of Teaching Reading, Lucy Calkins stated, "We can't learn to swim without swimming, to write without writing, to sing without singing or to read without reading."

The heart of workshop is when kids are engrossed in reading and writing.  Independent reading and writing time for kids is just that, it's kids reading and writing.  During this time teachers confer with individuals and/or small groups.  Reteaching, coaching, encouraging, and even prodding kids along is the bulk of a teacher's workshop.  A time when we watch kids set and achieve goals, master new skills, and practice others.

Sharing, to be honest, is the part of workshop that gets the most neglected in my classes.  Although I know how important it is, how much it means to kids, how much it lets me see their growth over time, time is the culprit.  I've promised myself that we'll start sharing earlier, we'll make sure everyone has a chance to share in some way with a partner, a team, whole class, something! Some days it works, others it doesn't, but it doesn't mean I don't keep trying, it's a goal, I'm working on the strategies to achieve it!

What does your workshop look like?  What are your successes?  What personal goals have you set for yourself?  Keep at it, it will happen!  Some days will be better than others, but they'll all be worth it!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What's your vision of a workshop?

What do you envision when you picture a workshop?  Is it a tool shed, your garage, a place for toy making? Or, is it like mine, a classroom filled with children involved in authentic reading and writing experiences?

I was first introduced to the "workshop model" almost 30 years ago through a graduate course at the University of New Hampshire.  UNH was lucky enough to have Donald Graves, one of the true, great pioneers of the writing workshop on its faculty.  I was fortunate to benefit from his tenure there, alas, my career with the workshop model was born.

Fast forward to the present, the workshop model continues to be the cornerstone of my teaching and literacy work with students and teachers.  From Don Graves and Nancy Atwell, to Lucy Calkins and the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project, my belief in the workshop approach to instruction has continued to grow and gain momentum.

What does a workshop look like to me?  It's an approach to reading and writing instruction that provides authentic reading and writing experiences for all students.  The workshop allows students the time and opportunity to spend extended periods of time reading and writing in their classrooms.  The approach includes opportunities to talk about reading and writing and share experiences with literature. It is an approach that is rich with opportunity for students to develop into life-long, passionate readers and writers.

It's hard to choose what features are essential to my philosophy of the workshop model, but here are five I hold near and dear. (The order is purely alphabetical!)

  • CHALLENGE-Workshops need to be challenging and rigorous.  They need to adhere to high standards with crystal clear expectations and accomplishments.  Through a workshop, students need to feel the struggle to develop their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • CHOICE-Choice about what books students will read, and what text they will write.
  • COMMUNITY-A classroom community that is supportive and rich with opportunity to learn and grow as readers and writers together.  A classroom environment filled with wonderful resources that engage students.
  • RESPONSIBILITY-Responsibility relies on the student and teacher to set clear expectations and goals for individual growth.  This includes assessing need and achievement while tracking progress along the way.
  • TIME-Time for students and teachers to read and write.  Time to interact with text, reading and writing with each other and independently. 

My vision of a workshop is a classroom that "buzzes" with the "hum" of readers and writers.  One that is joyfully filled with engaged students and teachers.  A classroom where growth is evident, sharing is expected, and the love of the written word  is fostered.  What's your vision?

Soon to come...component pieces of the workshop!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Be a Storyteller!

We're in the thick of our narrative units of study in writing here at EMES.  It is amazing to see our narrative writers at work and watch the learning progression grow all the way from our 4 year olds in PreK to our sixth grade students.

In her blog post this week, at Two Writing Teachers, Elizabeth Moore, stressed the importance of narrative writing.

 "Narrative is how human beings organize and make sense out of experiences — it’s not only a genre, it’s a way of thinking. It’s a tool that applies not only to writing, but to business, history, art, and nearly every aspect of social life. Not only do kids need narrative writing as a tool for the future, many kids need personal narrative now as a tool for organizing their experiences, and making sense out of the ups and downs of life as a kid."

This week I spent a bit of time with the PreK-4 year olds. The importance of oral storytelling as the first step to becoming writers was the intent of my very mini, mini-lesson for these mini people!  They were such a terrific audience when I told them my story, "The day we saw a BUNNY in a stroller!" Foremost, students love to hear stories, our stories, true stories.  If we share our stories with them, students very quickly have their own stories to tell.  The rehearsal of the spoken word is their foray into the world of a future writer. The 4 year olds immediately had their own stories to tell, it was amazing how many true bunny stories there were, and many others as well.  These little people were doing the first step in being narrative writers, telling their own stories.  

As I journey through our building, talking with students and teachers about narrative writing, I'm reminding them about telling their stories first, then writing them.  The telling, rehearsing and practicing is so important for narrative writing.  We can't forget it!.  I've told the bunny in the stroller story over and over again with different audiences, different approaches, different lengths and different details.  The one constantt is that it is a true, interesting story of my life, (or at least I think so!) one of many I'm willing to share so that my students can use it as an invitation to tell their own stories.  Tell them first, then write, write, write. Our lives are FULL of amazing stories, no two ever the same. What little life experience will you share today?  What story will you tell your students today?  What will they share in return?  I can't wait to hear!  

Friday, October 2, 2015

Our BEST teachers are all around us!

For the past five weeks I've been working with a group of 6th graders on narrative writing.  We've focused on the structure components of writing: organization, leads, transitions, and endings as well as development in elaboration and craft.

As this work evolved it became crystal clear that these students needed many examples of writing that they could emulate.  After looking at some mentor texts, we started using a protocol for sharing their writing.  It was a simple protocol, each student shared his/her piece, and everyone in the group gave feedback, both warm and cool. It wasn't okay to "pass" when it was your turn, and it wasn't okay to skip giving feedback either.

So, what did we consider warm and cool feedback? For my sixth graders "warm feedback" was complimentary, yet specific.  It was no longer okay for these kids to say, "I liked your writing."  They provided specific feedback, often using language from our writing checklists.  For example, "I like how you used a flashback to fill us in on what else we needed to know about your story."  Or, "When you started your piece with a feeling, it put me into your story.  The descriptive words like, startled and shocked help me understand."

"Cool feedback" was feedback that asked the writer to think more deeply about his/her writing and consider revision. Respecting the writer was a key factor in giving cool feedback.  Again, feedback was specific and aimed at helping rather then pointing out downfalls.  Students in the group became very thoughtful and specific, such as, "It would help me see your story if you could put in some more details about the setting."  Or, "I think the heart of your story was really when....maybe you could elaborate more there."

During the course of our work these students became their own best teachers.  With support and a bit of coaxing they became much more skilled at giving each other feedback.  They showed courage when it came to sharing work in progress, showed empathy toward each other, and realized along the way that taking risks as writers is part of the process.  They are their own best teachers, and I'm very proud of them!

PD Week of October 5-8

Oct. 5-9
KID TALK-Alicia will facilitate
Planning for Reteach Cycle #2
Please Bring
Any necessary student data.
*Reviewing dot placement on the new writing data wall.
*KC will share some resources from the TCRWP Reading Units of Study.  
  1. Building a Reading Life Progression
  2. Bands of Text Complexity Chart
  3. Bottom Lines-What to Look for in the Teaching of Reading Grades 3-8
*Reading focus:  We will revisit The Common Core Lesson Book K-5 by Gretchen Owocki and decide on next steps in regard to working with this text.
KID TALK-Will take place on October 14th at Staff meeting time!
Please Bring
The Common Core Lesson Book K-5 by Gretchen Owocki
PD Binder
*Review dot placement on the new writing data wall.
Reading focus
*KC will share some resources from the TCRWP Reading Units of Study.  
  1. Building a Reading Life Progression
  2. Bands of Text Complexity Chart
  3. Bottom Lines-What to Look for in the Teaching of Reading Grades 3-8

Look at the Calkins Reading Units of Study
Jennifer Serravallo The Reading Strategies Book-these have been ordered for you!
PD Binder
*Sharing of Lessons taught using The Reading Strategies Book Goal #13: Improving Writing About Reading
We will use the “Constructivist Protocol for Adult Work” (SRI book p. 90-91) for our discussion.  
Please Bring
The Reading Strategies Book
Any artifacts you would like to share from the strategy lesson you chose to teach.
KC will bring protocol info.
*We will use the “Consultancy Protocol” (SRI p. 33-34) for group discussion, strategizing, getting feedback, etc.
*What are your current needs in regard to technology at EMES-this will set the stage for next week’s work.
Please Bring
Bring an idea or a dilemma you are currently dealing with in regard to a student or class, lesson or unit.
KC will bring protocol info.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What's Your Home Run Book?

I was recently reading an article in The Journal of Communication and Education entitled, "The Home Run Book Experience" (September 2015).  The authors Vinnie Henkin and Stephen Krashen identify a home run book simply as, "books that encourage students to become a dedicated reader." 

"The concept of the home run book was first introduced by Jim Trelease (2001), who hypothesized that one positive experience can be enough to create a permanent interest in reading. Many children have testified that the home run experience is real, that one book started them on the path to becoming dedicated readers." (Kim and Krashen, 2000; Von Sprecken, Kim, and Krashen, 2000; Ujiie and Krashen, 2002). The article goes on to include a case study of an ELL student who made vast improvements in reading due to his discovery of his own home run series of books.

The article made me reminisce, what were my home run books as a developing reader?  If you stop in my office you'll see some of my first home runs as an emerging reader, such as The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. These were books that quickly became best friends and encouraged me to become a dedicated young reader.  My home run books continued to change over time as my love for series books grew: The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Moffatts by Eleanor Estes, The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West. 

What home run books will we help students discover during this school year?  Will they be fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, how to texts?  How will we make sure every student hits a home run?  First, they all need to come up to bat, then we as teachers, and family members need to throw the right pitch for every unique batter.  All of our kids need to find their home runs, we'll coach them and continue to help at batting practice until we get them all around the bases. I'm sure we're going to hit some grand slams!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What I'm Learning in Kindergarten

You know that old saying that goes something like this, "Everything I needed to learn I learned in kindergarten?"  Well, that has certainly held true for me this week!  I've been spending time getting to know our kindergarten students by completing phonological awareness screenings.

It's important to note, that I've never taught kindergarten or first grade.  I've had 33 years in the classroom, but the totality of my experience has been in grades 2-6,  the vast majority in 3rd grade. That being said, phonemic awareness has not been my strongest area of knowledge or instruction. Our kindergarten students have provided me with a wonderful glimpse into their world as they develop these skills as readers and writers.  This assessment work has been important to my learning curve, as well as very engaging and totally entertaining at moments!

I've also been gaining ground in first grade this week by observing and participating with students in phonological development instruction.  WHEW!  These teachers and their kids are working hard!

To support my learning in the area of phonemic awareness the Two Writing Teachers Blog, came to my rescue once again!  Elizabeth Moore had an excellent post today, (September, 18th) entitled "Phonemic Awareness!  Yeah!"  It very clearly, concisely outlines the following big ideas.

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Correlations and Connections
  • Segmenting

Thanks, for this great post Elizabeth, my learning journey continues, and I look forward to the opportunities that will present themselves working with our teachers and students in K-1!

Friday, September 11, 2015

We're off and RUNNING!

WOW, what a great week of PD sessions!   I am truly amazed and in awe over the professionalism that lives and breathes right here at EMES!  This week's PD sessions were filled with thoughtful conversations about students. Each team brings their own expertise to the table.  It has been wonderful to add the U-Arts teachers into our mix this year.  Thank you all for your dedication and care of our students.
This week I've been working on Early Literacy Screenings in the K classrooms.  What a joy it has been for me to spend time with our youngest learners.  These bright eyed K students have given me great pause as I've listened to them rhyme, count out words in sentences, and remove segments from words.  What wonderful small people they are!   I look forward to watching them grow over the course of the year.
Next week we'll begin the challenging work of calibrating and scoring narrative pre-assessment pieces.  This week in PD we set the stage for this work.  Our process for next week will be:

  1. Review learning progressions for narrative writing.
  2. Examine benchmark pieces, TCRWP student samples, TCRWP annotated samples, EMES benchmark samples.
  3. Norm/Calibrate/score a piece together, working as a group score line item by line item.
  4. Score another piece individually, then discuss and come to consensus on the scoring as a group.
  5. Work alone to assess other pieces.

This will be challenging, important work. It will set the stage for our future work in this unit.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I'm Reading This Week

This week, I've been reading Colleen Cruz's new book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher.  It's a fairly quick read with well organized chapters so you can find what you need for the moment.

As I've been reading, I've been thinking a lot about our WCSU Inservice Day and the theme of "rigor".  I  found Colleen's thoughts  from p. 27 thought provoking in regard to rigor and independence during writing workshop.

"If our young writers rarely get to experience that uncomfortable butt-in seat feeling, where writing is challenging and might not even work right, we are taking away an opportunity for them to learn that they can fail and still be okay.  In fact, in writing as it is with many other disciplines, often the best ideas come from failures.  By not letting them fail, we can ironically undermine the very self-confidence we are trying to protect." 

Sheila Paterson was lucky enough to spend a week with Colleen as one of her leaders at TCRWP this summer. I'm sure she can share many other tips regarding Colleen's insight and helpful advice on teaching reading and writing to our students.

Product Details
ISBN # 978-0-325-06248-8
The book is available to borrow in the EMES PD Office!  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Peer Conferencing in Writing Workshop

The Two Writing Teachers had a great blog post today (August 26, 2015) on Peer Conferencing during  Writing Workshop.  The strategies shared are especially pertinent to 3-6 graders. Here is a link to the site.

One strategy that I was particularly interested in was the PQP for Peer Conferencing.  This is a sequence for partnerships to follow that includes:

P is for PRAISE  Be specific.  Tell the writer one thing s/he did well.

Q is for QUESTION  Do you have any questions after reading the piece?

P is for POLISH  Tell the writer ONE thing s/he can do to make his piece better.

The site has a sample form for students to fill out as they conference or silently share pieces with one another.  It could be easily adapted to meet the needs of any classroom or teacher.

Monday, August 10, 2015

What Does an Instructional Coach Do?

Welcome Back!

Welcome back EMES!  

I hope this blog will become a valuable resource for you throughout the year.  I will use this blog to update you on happenings in regard to PD sessions and coaching.   Please feel free to let me know what you'd like to see on our blog!  Thanks for all you do, I know it's going to be an exciting year!