Saturday, July 27, 2013

Winners, Class Notes, and an Update

Congrats to my winners:

Kristen & Kim



I sent you ladies an email!

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Now I want to share some notes with you from a writing class I have been attending. Region 10 has a class, Write in Texas, that is a 3 day workshop. If you are a writing teacher in Region 10, sign up for this class NOW! It was great. Our presenters, Nancy McGruder and Sharon Runge, were fabulous!

Day 1
How do I feel about myself as a writer? Good question. I really had to think. The first day is all about coming to know yourself as a writer. The more you know about your writing strengths and weaknesses, the more effective you will be as a writing instructor and guide. We talked about writing processes and reasons to write. We had to list our writing territories, or the things we are "experts" in and could write about knowledgeably. I was able to create those lists without too much difficulty! I am more of a writer than I realized. (Blogging, duh!)

Main take-aways from day 1:
  • Writing is bigger than school.
  • Everyone has something valuable to say.
  • We never stop refining our own craft. (I really want to show students my mistakes this year.)
  • Each person has a unique writing process. (This one is hard to deal with in a school setting.)
  • No set of rules governs all kinds of writing.
  • The more a writer can use her natural process of writing, the more invested she will be. (True story.)
We really discussed how we tackle the writing process. I was amazed, when I gave it some thought, that I don't like to pre-write. (Incidentally, I don't like to teach it either.) I just want to start writing and then edit and revise as I go.

Book resources used:

Families Writing, Peter Stillman
Lessons That Change Writing, Nancie Atwell
Choice Words, Peter Johnston
On Writing Well, William Zinnser
Author Talk, various authors

Day 2
We began the day talking about state testing. I am vowing now, before all of you, that I am not going to bash my kids with the STAAR all year long. I don't want to feed test anxiety to my students. I need to set it aside and feed them confidence instead.

We spent some time talking about transitions in writing. This is something I need to pay more attention to  in my writing and my student's writing. Transitions are so much more than first, next, last, therefore, etc. I am going to provide plenty of mentor texts that have awesome transitions between sentences and paragraphs, that way students can begin to emulate that in their writing. I will focus on teaching them to "mind the gap" between sentences, paragraphs, and ideas. The instructors encouraged us to check out BrightHub.com for more resources. A suggestion for revision involved sticky notes, and who doesn't love sticky notes? Instead of having kids mark up their paper or tear through it with their eraser, let them rewrite sentences on sticky notes. I really like this idea, because it values their work. It will really show how much effort they put in their piece of writing.

Writing is a collaborative process and we need to embrace that in our classrooms. Teachers must model how to talk about writing and how to work in small groups to collaborate. We are social creatures, so teachers need to capitalize on that and put it to work in our classrooms.

Conferences were also a major discussion point. I was glad to see they were making the same points as The 2 Sisters with CAFE and the Daily 5. I will be using my pensieve this year! We watched the following video clip of Nancie Atwell conducting two short conferences.


I noticed these things:
  • Ask leading questions.
  • Begin a sentence and see if they will finish it with their own idea.
  • Students should speak about 75% of the time.
  • They need to share their writing first, then the teacher will focus on one or two things to improve.
  • Find the good and show them your interest.
  • You are trying to bring out their voice, see variations in their words, and get them where they need to go in their writing.
Basics of writing conferences: (I bet you know, but here they are anyway...)

  • Be realistic. You can't meet with every student writer every week.
  • Find the "Critical Need" students.
  • Go to them instead of them coming to you.
  • Be efficient.
  • Document everything.
Do those sound familiar? Gail Boushey and Joan Moser have these same ideals! Take a look at this video on keeping track of conferences.


Our discussion led us to details versus well-chosen details. We took a look at the STAAR writing rubrics and they mention details.

Score Point 3 Development of Ideas for Expository: The development of ideas is sufficient because the writer uses details and examples that are specific and appropriate, adding some substance to the essay.
Score Point 3 Development of Ideas for Personal Narrative: Specific details add some substance to the narrative. For the most part, these details contribute to the writer's portrayal of the experience.

Key points for choosing details:
  • Adjectives are overrated.
  • Nouns and verbs are underrated.
  • Details should add depth.
The instructors focused on 7 types of well-chosen details:
  1. Unexpected Fact
  2. Interesting/Unusual Generalization
  3. Interesting Noun
  4. Interesting Verb
  5. Character's Revealing Action
  6. Visual Image
  7. Visual Image That Causes Inference
Book resources:

Papers, Papers, Papers, Carol Jago
Lazy Littler Loafers, Susan Orlean
Ruby's Wish, Shirin Yim and Sophie Blackall
Odd Boy Out, Don Brown
Satchmo's Blues, Alan Shroeder

Day 3
The last day of the workshop was all about code switching and mentor texts for teaching.

Code Switching: the alternate use of two or more languages or varieties of language, especially within the same discourse

You can go check out a video called, Do You Speak American? on YouTube to learn a little more.

Key points about code switching:

  • There is no such thing as a single standard version of language. It depends on age, cultural group, geographic area, and socio-economic status.
  • We need to be careful when talking about "standard" English.
  • What a student speaks at home is their "standard," so don't discount that.
  • STOP JUDGING students and parents by how they speak.
  • Equate code switching to kids by talking about the way we dress for different occasions or activities.
Teachers must teach students how to speak professional English; the kind of English that is spoken in college classrooms, board meetings, and interviews. This is paramount to their education. The ability to speak, read, and write well is a ticket to the top.

We can teach our students about code switching with mentor texts like The Joy Luck Club and Flossie and the Fox. There are books out there that support learning about code switching. We must value all language and learn where best to use it.

Our final discussion topic was about using mentor texts to teach grammar. I am guilty of wanting to find and use a program that teaches it in isolation, but not anymore. Just looking at the few picture books they passed around and talking with my fellow participants, I am completely sold on using mentor texts to teach grammar in context.

I am going to grab some books from my classroom next week and begin working on mini-lessons using those books! I will share what I come up with!

Book resources:

Code Switching, Wheeler & Swords
The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
Flossie and the Fox, Particia McKissack
Mechanically Inclined, Jeff Anderson

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Update on iBook

My iBook, Earth Science, is being reviewed. I am hoping there won't be any issues and it will be published by the beginning of next week. Stay tuned for the link and more information once it is available!

What do you think about all this? Do you have something special you do for writing? Please share!

1 comments :

Amy said...

This is all really helpful information, and is giving me a lot to think about as I start to plan for next year (or rather, think about thinking about starting to plan for next year!) Thanks for sharing your experience!

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