As the year comes to a close, it is time to evaluate how we did, our methods, our successes, and our failures. Was I thorough enough when I taught writing to my students? Were the genres clear, concise, and solid? Do my students know the difference between an essay, a story, and analyzing literature? If the answer to any of these is no, it is time to reevaluate and revamp.
In doing so, it is important to seek out my successes first. In my own personal classroom, I experimented a bit more than usual with writing this year. Instead of teaching separate classes (reading, writing, etc), I integrated them all into one large lump. We crossed science (plants and animals) with essay writing. We integrated Social Studies (communities) with essay writing as well- creating complete autobiographies and writing about our dreams for the future. RTL (analyzing literature) was tied into our after lunch story time. We discussed authors’ purposes for literature orally each day. As the year progressed, we began to think, rehash stories, and analyze “RTL” all day- not just at after lunch story time.
In retrospect, Story writing (narrative) was my weakest genre this year. In fact, you might say I put it on the back burner and let it simmer. I did teach it, but I did not revisit it as often as the other two genres throughout the year. After years of teaching, it seems to me that it is not as essential as the other genres.
Finally, in examining my strengths and weaknesses, I am looking forward to next fall. Writing factual essays will be in the forefront, followed by continuing to evaluate authors’ messages to us. I can expand our writing to include even more areas of interest. Because of the diversity of our world, evaluating the messages of authors is essential to making informed, clear life choices. I MUST teach the process of analyzation without putting thoughts in their minds. They must choose their voice and support it with facts-not sound bites. Writing stories can be tied in to the year, but it will remain secondary to the other genres.
Writing is a process. I empower my students as I teach the steps, the genres, and differences between each type. If I do not teach it, how will my writers clearly communicate their voices to the world? It is my responsibility to: Engage! Empower! Equip! The Mantle Falls on MY Shoulders!
Strategies for Writing will help you to fan the flame!
Seasonal Expository templates for all grades will be out in July.
photo by Lanc Grandahl
The countdown has begun. The race to the finish is upon us: yearbooks, deadlines, shows, portfolios, report cards, field trips, and field days.
For our classroom, we’ve decided that the more normal and consistent we keep our classroom, the more sanity we will retain. The kids will be more secure and learning will continue to happen-even until the end.
As for writing -because our schedule is choppy and irregular- I pull out the templates and we write….a bit slower than usual…but we write. We share, revisit how to write each genre, and go over the chants. We spend more time critiquing each others’ work and give as many awards as I can for stellar essays, stories, or analyzing of the authors’ messages. If time is short, I read a book, and use it to “orally” go over response to lit.
The finish line is in sight. I pull out writing from the beginning of the year and see how far they have come. I remind myself it has all been worth it; even the small steps. In my mind, I categorize what worked well and things to revise. I smile as I see them mature into little writers and those who share their voice with the world. As I look forward to closing it out, the pieces that stick with me are: consistency, sharing, engaging, editing (no marks just circles), and empowering students as writers and editors, creating students who can’t live without learning new things!
Everyone NEEDS to start Somewhere
Hate Teaching Writing?
One Step at a Time!
Nothing in life, of value, happens instantly. It begins in baby steps, followed by walking steps, followed by running, and-finally- dancing. It all took place over time- a LONG time.
As I look back over the course of my teaching career, the schools I have taught in, and observations made, many students lack in communication or writing skills. They don't feel comfortable doing it, it stresses them out,or they are clueless as to where to begin. In fact, when you mention the word "writing", most of them groan and their eyes glaze over like donuts or are like empty windows.
Many teachers, I have discovered, feel exactly the same as their students: befuddled, frustrated, or unsure of how to attack the idea of preparing their students as writers. They don't want to talk about it and, even more importantly, they don't want to attack it in their classroom. Someone else, surely, will feel the burden of responsibility!
Believe it or not, I used to feel the exact same way-maybe more so than you! Each year, I felt that my students were sliding along because I did not know to successfully teach it. Surely someone else was better prepared to teach it than I was. My reading programs had me shooting at writing in the dark or jumping through endless hoops in too many directions; other ideas were sooo complicated and time consuming (like three days for one part that they stated should be taught in 30 minutes!) or so vague they made all of us hate them (MYSELF AND THE KIDS). Others scripted all 180 days of writing class (which for me does NOT WORK because each class is different) or they were void of clarity in any of the genres (In fact, I was more confused after I read their explanations than before I began)- which I was supposed to know all about because I was the teacher.
I thought to myself, "Surely my kids will get writing without me really having to teach it!"
It was difficult. It was complicated. It was time consuming.
Well, let's be blunt and completely honest: writing was my largest struggle and I felt unprepared! Deep down inside I wanted to master it! I wanted to make my students feel empowered and successful, but where was I to begin? I was scared to ask for help. Who could I ask anyway? Who knew would know how to tackle teaching writing?
Back when I stepped into the first classroom, research had to be done at libraries, in magazines, and in books. I studied and read for hours, days, and vacations on end. Fortunately, today the internet is readily available and is jam-packed with articles informative things about writing. (However, due to the sheer volume of material presented, it is important to find several - I prefer three or four- that give the same information about teaching writing because some articles are not accurate and can lead you down the wrong path altogether or confuse you to the max.)
Because of my own frustration and lack of clarity with writing as a beginning teacher, my quest for a successful, uncomplicated, clear, unscripted program that would empower, equip, engage, and encourage my students to be successful writers and communicators took many years and numerous paths.
I bought programs, went to workshops, and even got trained in becoming a teacher trainer for two different writing programs. One was sooo painful my students and those of others using it cried. Students hated reading and writing. I threw that one off my radar screen. The other was successful, but lacked elements for teaching response to literature to my elementary students.
My boss, at the time, encouraged me to find the answers and train the teachers in the elements needed-despite the fact that that particular program was void in that area. I did it, but this drove me even farther into my quest for knowledge of teaching the writing genres.
I began to wonder and ponder this fact: if I was going to train people in these genres with material I created, why not make it my own program.
After digging deep, Strategies for Writing was born. For seven years it was refined, rewritten, and field tested. It was developed in conjunction with three different school districts utilizing and implementing ideas from a broad base of teachers- who worked the students with three completely different sets of demographics. One school's families were basically moderate income, another was (99 % FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH) low income with most students having one or more parent in an incarcerated state, and the third was in multi-cultural school with English being the second or third language. Upon completion, trial and error, revamping, consulting, and refining the material, I felt satisfied and confident in my struggle with the one area my university degree had not addressed sufficiently: teaching writing to my elementary students from kindergarten to grade 5.
Strategies for Writing reached them all. It equipped, engaged, and empowered students in ALL of these schools at all levels. Sure, everyone was not 100% successful, but ALL of the students experienced some level of success, and, in doing so, could share their knowledge articulately with others. Shy students became solid writers, students who struggle remind quick students to implement periods, commas, and semi colons. High preforming students produce powerful pieces of material. SFW was working using all strategies of Brain Research!
So, you ask, why all of this rant about the past? Why all this verbiage on teachers struggle (even if we don't want to admit it). It's simple: EVERYWHERE I LOOK, PEOPLE STRUGGLE WITH WRITING ARTICULATELY. SFW (Strategies for Writing) is a simple, concise, turnkey answer!
picture by : Me Pham Badge
Look around America. The largest problem at ALL LEVELS is writing. People can rapid fire text, but they can't write much at all. Many students enter college barely able to write two concise sentences. Colleges EVERYWHERE are adding REMEDIAL ENGLISH classes. Great communicators are few and far between. And, sadly, the majority of students have no idea the difference between genres: narrative, expository, or a response to literature piece. All three are essential to success in our world. All three are simple to learn, easy to write, and strengthen our ability to communicate successfully with the world around us IF-AND ONLY IF- they are given the TOOLS to write them!
Writing is often a subject that is brushed under the carpet, swept behind things, or shelved as teachers hope another colleague or teaching partner will address it. Writing NEEDS to be taught. Students NEED to be empowered. We ALL NEED to jump on the BANDWAGON! Even if you, like myself, do not feel confident, we NEED to do it! We MUST realize we are preparing the leaders of tomorrow. We MUST ENGAGE in the battle!
In previous blogs, I have explained each genre in depth, but below I will condense the definitions to allow for short, simple versions, which can be successfully implemented immediately.
Narratives are stories. The writer is a storyteller (we call them cavemen or cave woman in Strategies for Writing). They need to use a strong character, include an interesting setting, and sequentially cause events to flow from beginning to end.
Expository (Factual Writing) is the most commonly used form of writing. It presents the facts, details of the facts, and examples or explanations to support the details. Each essay must include a topic sentence and a concluding sentence OR, if the student is above third grade, they will need a thesis statement and a concluding statement instead of topic sentences. This genre focuses on factual information which can be proven with supportive evidence.
Response to Literature (Analyzing author's ideas) is a genre which critiques the authors words and breaks them down into our personal interpretation of their message. Students learn to state the author's words and apply their understanding of the messages in the text.
Can first graders write all of these genres? Second? Down the pipe? Absolutely! Using the simple templates in Strategies for Writing, students of all levels will find success. Modeling and providing samples will solidify their knowledge. Videos prepared on the teacher video page will assist you. Student videos will give short videos that students will relate too, as other students show the motions or chants. As you use the one page templates, students will gain confidence and articulation. And, yes, the templates, with the exception of a few in the upper grades, are only ONE page in length.
You will find that any subject, any adventure, any event, or any world event can be tied into one of the three types of writing. If you approach it with a positive attitude, your students will begin to reflect the same attitude. It will no long be painful, but a strong, full-filling part of your teaching day!
So, you ask, "Does it matter if I teach writing?" My answer would be, "Absolutely! We have a chance to impact the future! Let's take that responsibility seriously and empower them starting in Kindergarten!"
Use this month to celebrate Thankfulness.
As I think about what should be written this month, my memory recalls friends and districts which encourage or mandate the use of 6 Traits. First, let me say, Six Traits is a wonderful idea. For myself, the ideas were solid, but I often I was at a loss for how to ultimately tie them all together. Today, as I was doing a google search, Six Traits popped up in my writing search. It only took a few minutes to go over the concepts; they matched SFW in every way! The templates for SFW are the missing link to tie it all together!
Strategies for Writing dovetails perfectly with 6 Traits, providing concise, simple templates to generate strong writing for all genres. In fact, the SFW templates complete six straits, supporting it in all aspects of the program. (https://www.thoughtco.com/six-traits-of-writing-2081681)
If you are a teacher who follows six traits, but are a little unsure of where and how to implement the traits for the child who needs clarity, give Strategies for Writing a try! It might be just the gift you need for this month!
Listen. Write. Laugh. One of the most unusual things occurred this year; it was incredible empowerment for all students.
While teaching how to write each genre, I attacked them extremely methodically and slowly. As I explained each piece, gave samples, had them re-explain processes to each other and practice peer interaction, their ability to create written pieces expanded to incredibly rich words on paper.
Voice became easy and they began to move seamlessly in genres.
Writing became the favorite part of the day for many of my students. (Is that even possible?)
Additionally, they asked if they could skip less significant activities to work on pieces of writing.
By simply empowering them, handing them the tools, and having them become responsible for all areas, their writing became stronger and more passionate than I ever imagined possible.
Factual writing became strongly articulate, word choice improved, and using tools (thesauruses and word walls) became the standard.
Writing moved out of the time block and was something that was comfortable at all times of the day.
So often as teachers we want to give our feedback and redirect. Listen, sit back, laugh with them at their voice, and encourage written and oral communication that enhances vocabulary and promotes knowledge. The results will astound you!
Use simple items (Cheezits) to continue teaching writing.
My lesson looked like this.
Steps to Success
(Let kids come up with ideas. They might include: build, create, and alphabetize)
The year begins.
Breathe deeply. Put one foot in front of the other.
Tackle expository writing first. It is by far the easiest and most functional type of writing. Say something like this: How many of you have ever heard of the word expository? Do you know what it is? (Wait...take guesses)
Well, let me tell you: Expository is a type of writing that focuses on facts. It lets the reader know evidence that is true and can be proven.
Start with something your friends love: food. Use pretzels, hot cheetos, takis, popcorn, or other snack foods.
Distribute a few pieces of the food item on a napkin.
Examine with their eyes, noses, and taste buds.
Go over the rules: All great scientists must observe what they are studying before it can be eaten. Documentation must be recorded. Finally, after these steps, the item may be eaten.
Begin like this:
Today we will be learning to describe a _______________ using colorful words so that the person reading our essay will be able to understand and visualize it-even if they have never tried it.
What senses can we use to analyze or describe it?
Everyone place gently pick up your __________________________. Let's examine it with our eyes. I'm going to give you thirty seconds to look it over carefully. (wait)
Make notes on the board.
Now let's close our eyes and touch our ______________________________. What does it feel like as your fingers run around it. I'll give you 30 seconds to examine it.(wait)
Make notes on the board.
Now let's close our eyes and pop it into our mouth. Use your tongue to do the talking. What does it feel, taste, or imagine as your tongue runs around it. I'll give you 30 seconds to examine it. (Wait)
Make notes on the board.