A quick Internet check offers a plethora of activities and suggestions for making writing "sizzle," but I can't help but notice how this attempt at "correcting" writing has gone wrong. Call it what you'd like: putting said to bed; million dollar words; sizzle words; worn out words; snazzy synonyms; graveyard words. The list goes on. But the reality is this- replacing "She was sad," with "She was depressed," doesn't push our students to new levels of writing proficiency. It is only a band-aid to a larger goal at hand.
Photo: This really doesn't have anything to do with the post. Desperate times ask for random photos. I like photos.
As promised, I am back to give my report on Lucy Calkin's recommendations on teaching writers to live and write like essayists. So, jump on to the land of debates. Do we say down with the hamburger model and five sentence paragraphs or follow the pattern of real-life essays that vaguely resembles the "school way"? Come with me as I meander my thoughts on writing essays. As an added bonus, I have added the remaining portion of my notes taken during the conference.
So my husband calls and informs me to check my email. "O-kay," I hesitantly obey, knowing something is in the works. An email from Heinemann. "You have a gift from Brayan Bunyi." I open it up to discover that my husband has surprised me with a trip to see Lucy Calkins in Memphis. Without saying a word my husband then says, "I'm the best husband in the world, huh?" He is. Really. I'd like to share the notes I took at her workshop and encourage you to become more familiar with this extremely talented powerhouse. Be warned though. This one is long.
New photo added 4/13
I distinctly remember teaching myself conventions through personal literature as a child. I even remember having trouble grasping a grammar lesson taught during the day, only to have an author teach me, through their writing, later that evening. I still believe the best way to learn grammar conventions is through observation- or what we call author's craft. What better resources do we have than professional authors to learn from? Plus, research clearly does not support teaching conventions in isolation. Here are a few things we do in the classroom to teach and apply conventions.
With the beautiful weather around here, I always look forward to days of open windows, doors, and natural lighting. During writing and reading workshop, students are free to read/write in or out of the classroom (I station myself at the door to see both areas clearly). I was not surprised to see all of my boys head outdoors. The outdoors, along with other things, can become your venue to reading, writing, loving boys.
I hope I am not being too radical and out-of-the box saying this, but I think assessment just gets in the way of teaching sometimes. It just seems like we pull out that seed so much now, wondering why it hasn't grown, don't we? And with all the assessment options in the world, what is an "85%" reader anyway? Actually, the whole grading system boggles me. Who made up the scale we use in the first place? (ex- 8 point range for a "B" and 5 point range for a "D", 69 point range for an "F"). So many thoughts come to mind...how do you assess that written piece that deals with grandma's death when it is plagued with conventional errors? And that child that is reading on a first grade level in the fourth grade...but is making steady gains. How do we assess such an internal process as reading anyhow? All these questions on a Saturday morning deserve some answers. I'd like to share what seems to work in my classroom.
I am always looking for new ideas to teach and support reading strategies to my class. I usually have a pile of four professional books that get browsed while making my lesson plans during the weekend. Sometimes I wish these resources were all combined into one book, as I use them all frequently. Here are some of the charts and bulletin boards I have used from Debbie Miller, Tanny McGregor, and Stephanie Harvey to teach inferring, questioning, metacognition, and nonfiction text features.
For many adults growing up, reading focused on "proving" it after a book was finished. Sort of like an after-thought, "Did you get it?" was found through comprehension questions, book reports, or dioramas.
We are now fortunate to have resources, literature, and methodology to support assessing what a child is comprehending while they are reading. Learn how we can now combine the old with the new by addressing before, during, and after reading strategies.
Until recently I was jealous of the music resources available to lower grade teachers. It seemed like the market was limited to this age bracket, and it just seemed unfair. However, now the tables have turned! An abundance of resources can be found, purchased, and downloaded for the upper grade crowds. And, to top it off, the music really caters to the tastes of older kids. If you haven't found some of these resources yet, I'd like to share some of my finds with you. Integrating music into lesson plans has never been easier!
If I had to decide what moments I am most effective in the classroom, I'd have to say that it is when I am on the floor conferring with individual students about their reading and writing. This also happens to be the area of teaching that I have refined the most, always looking for new ways to make use of our conference time together. So much time has been dedicated to this, in fact, that I am declaring myself a reading/writing physician! This week I'd like to share with you how we now blend our reading and writing conferences to create a stronger impact.