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The Road to Writing
Transcript of The Road to Writing
My school has been using the Lucy Calkins' writing program for five years. Currently, we have the latest program published in 2013. This version is published by individual grade levels and is aligned with the CCSS. The program addresses the CCSS of opinion writing (1.1), informative writing (1.2) and narrative writing (1.3). This first grade set includes three mentor texts, something new with this publishing. The mentor texts included are
Night of the Veggie Monster
by George McClements,
Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat
by Cynthia Rylant and
a National Geographic Reader by Anne Schreiber. In an ideal world, I would love to have multiple copies of these mentor texts.
My current writing instruction is simple. I begin by setting up my writing workshop according to the guidelines in
Launching the Writing Workshop
from the original writing program.
Once I establish a routine, I move into Unit One, which is narrative writing. From there, I follow along with each lesson, often reading directly from the book and using the examples from the book. The reason behind this is because I have not trusted myself to teach this program. It's dense with information and lessons and I've been more concerned with getting all the lessons
and doing them "right," rather than helping my students develop a love of writing. The biggest challenge I face with my writing program is me!
My writing program also includes word work from Words Their Way and handwriting lessons from Handwriting Without Tears. I am consistent with my word work however, my handwritng lessons are inconsistent and often take a back seat to other lessons.
Why should I change?
The first reason I must change my writing program is because the teacher sets the tone for the class and for the writing workshop. When I am uptight about teaching writing I am sending the message to my students that writing is something to fear. If I am always
reading from a book and making sure I do everything "just-right," I am giving my students the same message, that writing is something they must do in just the right way. Before they even begin, they are carrying the burden of "doing it right." I want my lessons to flow more and I want to do what comes naturally so my students will do the same.
The second reason I must change my writing program is because I want my program to reflect the best practices in writing. I have a program that is aligned with the CCSS but it's up to me to implement it using what current research supports as best practices.
Third, I want my students to enjoy writing and consider it a worthy task.
The biggest change I plan to make in my teaching is in how I present my lessons. I am going to follow the organizational format Ehmannn and Gayer use in the book,
I can write like that! A guide to Mentor Text and Craft Studies for Writer's Workshop, K-6 (2009)
. Their format consist of the following five parts:
Notice and Name
Give it a Try
Using these five parts will give me a more standard (and structured) approach to my lesson planning. I believe it will also help me take the vast amount of information available in each unit of the Lucy Calkins program and organize it in a way that helps me bring some flow to my lessons. I hope this will help me take more ownership in my writing instruction, which should also help me deliver more authentic lessons.
It is more meaningful for students to have ownership in their learning and this makes Notice and Name a significant step in their ultimate understanding of the craft (Ehmann & Gayer, 2009). Choosing mentor texts and preparing them in advance, will keep my lessons focused and moving along.
Students will also learn about using their writers ear. This is a great motivating technique to catch students' attention and tune them into the mentor text.
When students understand the craft being used, they are given the chance to Notice it and Name it. By allowing students a chance to name it first, they take more ownership of their learning.
Ehmann and Gayer have developed their craft studies to span several days. This is another reason I was drawn to this format because first grade students need plenty of time to work with new ideas. During the time when students are Exploring the craft being taught, some students will need more time to explore and learn. This is a great time for a teacher to discover and provide additional support to individual students. If I had no limitations on funds and resources, I would purchase multiple copies of all the mentor texts suggested in Ehann and Gayer's book and have baskets of these books available for my students to explore.
Give it a Try
For my first grade students, many of the craft studies we do will be done as a whole group, with practice focusing on noticing and naming the various craft elements. For students eager to try some of the craft elements in their own writing, they will be given plenty of time to work with their writing.
Celebrations and Technology
The current research is clear! Authors write for a purpose and for an audience and this should be the case for young students as well (Ehmann & Gayer, 2009). From the beginning, my lessons will begin by setting the scene for an audience.
A great way to celebrate and include technology is to publish student writing on websites like Little Bird Tales (www.littlebirdtales.com). This gives all families a chance to view and celebrate student writing. I like to look for ways to celebrate that include supporting the working families.
I am confident this new instructional format will provide me added opportunities to differentiate for my students. The lessons in both the Lucy Calkins program and the craft lessons in
I can write like that!
by Ehmann & Gayer (2009) provide specific examples of ways to adapt lessons for different readiness levels. I plan to allow for plenty of time with each lesson or unit in order to give my students the time they need to explore the new ideas and try them in their writing. Currently, I conference one-on- one with my students and help them at the level they are working. Some students will be ready to give a craft a try and others will not be ready. Students not ready, can easily slip by because they can "look" busy working on something else. By adding Notice and Name and Explore, in addition to spanning lessons over several days, my students and I will be immersed in the craft, giving us all more time to develop a deeper understand of the craft and each other. Another important way to support students is by hanging class-made charts around the room. These serve as reminders of strategies students can use and crafts they can include in their writing.
The Road to Change
Notice and Name
For these reasons, it is important to develop a classroom writing environment that is interesting, pleasant, and nonthreatening, where the teacher supports students and students support each other (Graham, S., & Harris, K. (2013) Designing an effective writing program. In Best Practices in Writing Instruction. New York; The Guilford Press.
Mentor text used to create
students share work using a document camera
share at a PTO meeting
share within an email
share on class web page
Create a classroom blog
Skype with family, friends or other classrooms and read stories while Skyping
Read and record stories
small group work
Reminders for the whole class
Students need time to pore though books , reading like a writer.
Student drawings after listening to the descriptive language used by Cynthia Rylant
Ehmann, S., & Gayer, K. (2009)
I can write like that! A guide to mentor textsand craft studies for writers' workshop, K-6. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Graham, S., MacArthur, C., and Fitzgerald, J., (2007) Best practices in writing instruction. New York: Guilford Press
Lucy Calkins Units of Study
CCSS 1.7: participate in shared research and writing projects
CCSS 1.8: with guidance and support from adults, gather information from provided sources to answer a question
A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is a reality. John Lennon
Current Writing Schedule
Writing workshop time-frame
Mini lessons are taken directly from the Lucy Calkins teacher's guide
During writing practice, I roam the room conferencing one-on-one with students
Students share in whole group, small group or with partners
This routine is the same every day.
has it's own time within the day from 9:00-9:15, every day. Three days a week we work from the Words Their Way program and two days a week we work with words from the Fry Sight Word list (first 100). I am very deliberate with this routine as I feel strong word skills provides a solid foundation for reading and writing.
is usually done on the day our class does not have a special. We spend approximately 15 minutes a week on handwriting. Our school uses the Handwriting Without Tears program. Handwriting instruction has been isolated from writing and often pushed aside in favor of other activities. I am not proud to admit this but in order for me to make effective change, I need to
address my areas of weakness.
Handwriting Without Tears
Grade One Words Their Way Word Sort
My new and improved writing portrait
Writing Workshop: Daily from 10:15-11:10.
I will be adding Notice and Name as a mini-lesson when using mentor texts.
I will now be including direct instruction in handwriting at the beginning of my writers workshop, three days a week.
Students will have time to immerse themselves in books to discover and acquire a deeper understanding of writer's crafts. This will be done on days students are not participating in direct handwriting instruction. My mini lesson will begin at 10:15 and go until students show me they are ready to move to their writing. The time may be different for each student. This allows me more time to discover student needs and work closely with individuals.
Give it a Try
Students have time for writing practice and to apply skill, strategy, or craft taught in the mini-lesson. Students also have time to work on personal writing goals.
My conferences will focus on:
praising a students accomplishments
making a teaching point
recording the conference in my class writing log
A big goal for me is to make my conferences feel natural and authentic, like the teacher in this video!
There will be daily opportunities for students to share their work.
With guidance, students will have ample opportunities to decide how they would like to share their writing pieces. One of my goals is to share more student writing on a classroom web page. I would also to like to have a place for parents to comment on student work.
Bear, D. (2000)
Words their way: word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction
(Revised/Expanded ed.). Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Merrill