I was back in some classrooms this week and I was continuing to think about generative writing, in particular with younger students. See this earlier post for the nuts and bolts about generative writing. I continue to believe that it’s a powerful strategy not only for writing but also for formative assessment.
I saw students working with tubs of objects based on the vowel sounds of the words. The tubs looked like these.
These first graders were using the tubs to name the objects, write the words and / or use the words in sentences as part of a focus on Word Work during Daily 5 rotations. Students could choose the vowel sounds tub that they wanted to use. Some students were writing words, others were writing sentences, and still others were filling a page with sentences that clearly demonstrated their understanding of the items in the tubs.
How did I know the students were learning?
At first glance it seemed that students were working on many different levels of writing. How could I capture that information? My mind was buzzing. What did I see in front of me? How could I capture that information and make it usable as well as “teacher friendly” so that it could be one piece of formative assessment that was used to guide future instruction?
What if I created “messy sheets” to “sort the work that students were doing? See Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan’s blog (@ClareandTammy), “Organizing and Displaying Assessment Data so We can Use It” for an explanation of messy sheets (or check out their book here).
Here are my drafts of two types of messy sheets (student names would surround the ovals – initials are shown for the first two ovals on the left): one for volume of writing and one for quality of writing. (Do note that I did not have a complete set of classroom data and I was operating on the basis of what I saw students doing at that point in time.)
What do I know about a writer who only uses the “word” as the last word in a sentence (thinking back to the previous post about generative writing)? Which “Messy Sheet” helps me better understand these writers? Is it an either / or? Do I have to choose one? My questions continue on and on.
Take a deep breath.
Remember my “OLW15” (“One Little Word”).
Can my questions guide my continued study of the student writing? If yes, then I might also consider adding ovals or even a third “Messy Sheet” for conventions. From this writing sample, I could gather data about the “transfer” of learning from one writing activity to another. Which students consistently have capital letters at the beginning of their sentences? Which students consistently have end punctuation? (I don’t need to give students a prompt. I can use this “data” to add to my picture of each student as a writer!)
How could a teacher use the information from the “Messy Sheets” to guide instruction?
In order to determine the need for additional small group or whole class explicit instruction, I could develop instructional groupings! Here are three examples:
◦Use generative writing in small groups to work on missing skills in writing for the students.
◦Tape record instructions of generative writing for students to complete in small group with a leader in charge of the recording. (interactive white board with picture and recording or ipad)
◦Revise and expand generative writing in a mini-lesson during Writer’s Workshop. (ie. Work with revising sentences in writing pieces to further develop sentence fluency and/or to show word meaning when deepening word understandings)
Additional Word Work:
Let’s consider the “long a” tub that is open in this picture. It contains the following miniature items: snake, scale, whale, bacon, baby and a cage. Students can practice naming each of the items and can record those words on paper because they are listed on the under side of the cover. Additional activities that involve sorting could be combining items from the long a and short a tubs and sorting them into columns based on the vowel sound, the location of the vowel sound, or even the number of syllables in the words (or even the spelling patterns that are used for that particular vowel sound – How many follow the cvce pattern?).
How might you use generative writing in the primary grades or to teach the writer?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to share our work.