#SOL18: March 11

Last week I introduced you to N on March 8 and March 9. We’re hyper focused on helping this 5th grader (recent move in) literally get moving in writing.  He wants to write. He listens. He participates. He talks. He uses all the language. His first on demand was rated at a kindergarten level in November and our goal is a third grade level by the end of May.  But he writes so little each day that it is hard to verify real writing growth.

Approximately 50 days to make that growth . . . we have ambitious goals!

How do you make decisions about changing instruction?  Or Practice?  Or Allocation of Time?

I like to think organically.  I use my friend Lynn’s quote often.

“I’m old.  I forget because my brain leaks.” (Lynn Selking, personal conversations)

So I like to start simply.  I’m not adding anything new until I know enough that I’m pretty sure my suggestion(s) will be productive.

So what does that really mean? 

First Step:  Current State of Instruction

I consider the balance of writing work in the classroom.  Is everything in sync? 

Mini lessons – 10 minutes or less?

Writing Time – at least 40 minutes during writing workshop?

Mid-Workshop Interruption – daily for 2-3 minutes?

Sharing – daily for 5-6 minutes?

Partnerships – daily talk and working together?

Small groups – planful and executed efficiently?

Conferences – Teach the writer and not the piece of writing?

Other writing opportunities across the day?

What is the role of TALK across the day?

What are students REALLY doing?

All of this is internal data.

No program.

No pinterest.

No TpT.

First round thinking as we consider current classroom work.

Everything is fairly solid.

Second Step: 

Name the current student behaviors with a focus on strengths.

Begin to brainstorm strategic actions to increase intensity of instruction.

With N, our draft looked like this:

Screenshot 2018-03-10 at 7.37.56 PM.png


  • What has a history of working?
  • What will maximize N’s writing time?
  • What is feasible?
  • What is efficient?
  • Are there charts/tools that we could pull from previous grades?

At this time, we know that lack of writing instruction in these grades (K, 1, 2, 3, 4, part of 5) may be part of the problem.  How can we compress time and increase productivity?


Dependent on what actually works, we have time for three or four focused two-three week cycles of instruction.  Beginning with our end goal, we are planning backwards.  Planning for lean instruction, lean conferencing, lean teacher work and ways to increase N’s independence in writing.  Is it confidence-building that he needs?  How can we  recircuit his thinking so N has a growth mindset?

What process do you use for problem solving? 

How do you use the resources that you have BEFORE looking for outside solutions? 

What would you add to this list?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily forum each March. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.                                                                                                      slice of life 2016

18 responses

  1. I have been following your planning about N closely, as I have several students who are not making enough progress in writing this year. I have been talking with the EAL support teacher (problem solving) and we are trying various things, but kids sure are not following a recipe- the planning does not always show in the day to day results. The questions you pose at the end are key to me.

    1. Erika,
      I’m chuckling here! No one recipe EVER works for everyone. Continuing to provide enough practice and TALK for EAL students would always be one of my “go to” starting points!

  2. We all have students in our classes we could use some of the strategic actions for. My fourth graders just completed their on-demand for Opinion writing and I am going to follow the ‘closing the gap ideas’. In helping N you will guide many teachers to enable their students.Thank you Fran

    1. Juliette,
      So many possibilities when we try to peer inside a student’s work to make decisions! At some point, we must prioritize the really big ideas!

  3. In my former resource room, subject area materials were grouped together on my shelves/ closet. If I needed inspiration in planning, I would sometimes go to the shelves and start rummaging through the materials, often coming across something I hadn’t used in awhile but was still relevant. Revisiting these “old” techniques was invigorating for me and novel to students who hadn’t been with me long.

    1. So true . . . sometimes jump starting the thinking with “old” techniques is a blessing. Also speaks to the need for deep knowledge across a range!

  4. I love the way you lay out your steps for problem-solving, Fran! I love using the learning progressions when looking at how to move students forward, but checking all the state of instruction is so smart! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Catherine,
      So many moving parts to check on. Instruction, effort, checklists, so much within the UoS before moving out of them!

  5. Fran,
    Thank you for sharing your process. It’s very helpful for me to see how you break this out. Do you think he could practice using speech to text on a google doc? Or would he need more time to process what he wants to say-so more practice with a partner in orally expressing what he wants to write? Just ideas I was wondering about.

    1. Amy,
      Speech to text with google had been tried with production of two to four lines as a result. (same as handwritten). When given a choice, he wanted to “do” what everyone else was doing. When he worked with a partner, it sounded fine orally but never matched the amount of words! A real puzzle!

  6. Once again, you laid out step by step your thinking as you plan. So helpful to name it and then decide. Go, N, Go!!! Also wondering what kind of writing would motivate him best? Maybe interests will be revealed that will inspire some authentic writing and motivate his volume of writing.

    1. Sally,
      Love your thinking. Going to do a gallery walk in conjunction with revising a heart map. “How can looking at other’s writing remind you of topics or ideas to add to your own map?” Maybe the current “safe topics” are a hindrance!

  7. i like the planning backwards strategy. You know what you want and you look back to see what you need to do achieve that goal. Many times we set goals and then start beginning to try to reach them. This can often lead to frustration on everyone’s part. I am rooting for N and know he will be successful because of the program that is being developed for his specific needs.

    1. So interesting because I really started with a systemic view . . . and then an individual focus. Not a one size fits all, but also not about something unconnected. Still thinking about all the possible ways this could go! 🙂

  8. I liked the way you formatted this post and it was extremely interesting, I liked your ideas!

  9. […] How do you make decisions about changing instruction?  Or Practice?  Or Allocation of Time? in the writing context.  Think about that post. link […]

  10. […] Checking back in with N before the month ends. ( The story began Here, here and here) […]

  11. […] 1.#SOL18:  March 11 – Increasing Writing Volume […]

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