Tag Archives: CCSS

#ILA15: Pre-Conference Day Learning


Pre-conference day . . . a day to get the conference up and running.  For some a day to visit, vacation, or view some local attractions.

keep-calm-and-be-marvelous-3

For others, a day of learning!  Day 1 of #ILA15 in St. Louis with @LitLearnAct.  A  MARVELOUS day of learning!  Institute 09 – Reading with Rigor:  Interpreting Complex Texts Using Annotation and Close Reading Strategies wth Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul, the authors of this Heinemann text.

Friday

What is rigor?

There are many definitions of rigor and the dictionary ones are not conducive to joyous literacy learning. We created posters among our table groups of our own definitions of rigor.  This view of rigor extends the possibilities for our students.

rigor

What are some common myths about “rigor”?

1. Rigor means increasing homework for the students.

2. Rigor means students should do more and more work.

3.  Rigor is for some students but definitely not for ALL students.

4. With rigor, students should be able to do the learning without any supports or scaffolds.

5. The more resources you have and use, the more rigor increases for students.

6. No need to worry about rigor; the standards cover it.

7. Rigor is an addition to the curriculum.  So of course, you are going to have to take a favorite unit out of your school year.

8.  A teacher who is teaching with rigor will be a “Mean” teacher.

Of course, none of those myths are true according to Barbara Blackman in this resource.

rigor blackburn

How many of those have you heard?  

How many of those do you believe?

Stop, pause and have a moment of reflection.  How does this match your current knowledge and your thinking?

So just how do we keep the “FUN” and yet learn?

Listen carefully to what the girl says in this video.  Do you have any doubt about what she does and does not know?

She does say, “This is really hard.”  But she also says, “It’s so fun!”

Is that what your students are saying?

Are you sure?

We spent some time on the three components of text complexity.  There are three components of text complexity and the basic triangle has been included here before. It’s not just lexile levels and there are many “mis-matches” listed in that post that happen when ONLY lexiles are used to determine who should read any text.  Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, also explores lexile mis-matches in “Guess My Lexile”. Both Dana and Sonja encouraged everyone to consider all three elements at the same time when evaluating texts in order to truly find texts that will raise the thinking of the readers and not just promote reading through the text mindlessly.  To think about:

How are wordless picture books rated on text complexity?

( 🙂 That’s something that I have put on my list to research but it won’t happen during this conference!)

Where and how do we find complex texts?

Drum Roll, please . . .

There is NO magic list of complex text.

There is NO magic list of complex text.

There is NO magic list of complex text.

Text selection should depend on the students, their needs, the strategies they know, the strategies they need, their data, and their interests!  Text selection should not be the same, year after year, after year, after year, after year!

How much text should be used for a “Close Read”?

This has been answered previously; but only as much text as is needed.  An entire text is NOT read closely.  Doug Fisher’s beliefs in a range from three paragraphs to three pages was shared.  NOT a whole book!  Only pick the part of a text that is worthy, be strategic, because you are going to read that text over and over and over and over!  You may have to trick the students into rereading by changing the purpose and the questions. The questions you raise should drive them back into the text and be so interesting that the students want to answer them. For over forty years we have had data that tells us that rereading improves comprehension.

The session title included annotation so the next section in the day’s learning was not a favorite of mine. I love the simplicity of “Know/Wonder” charts because I don’t need to xerox story pages in order to WRITE on the texts.  (Know/Wonder source  – What Readers Really Do:  Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Vicki Vinton and Dorothy Barnhouse)The CCSS say to “read closely” but the word annotation is not in the standards.  It is one way to read closely.  However, if a list of “codes” is handed to students and they mindlessly mark up the text, the students are missing the benefit of “listening to the text” and “writing to explain their thinking”!  That’s where the power is – not in pages that are bleeding highlighting or have complicated annotated code that students cannot and do not talk about!  Goals for annotation:  Mark only the most important sections.  Write down your thinking IN WORDS!”

Texts that we used for annotations:

“Casey at the Bat”

“How to Paint “a Donkey” by Naomi Shihab Nye

“Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou

La Luna 2011 Pixar

A Nation’s Hope: Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena

I appreciated the practice with texts.  “Walking the talk” as adults for those tasks that we ask students to do is always important to me.  All of these included conversations about “What makes this complex text?”

And then we moved to Text Dependent Questions. These are huge in the Publishers’ Criteria.  However, if you have a “Word” version of the ELA standards, search for the phrase “Text Dependent Questions” and see what your results are!

“No one can analyze or interpret texts without bringing themselves to the text.”

In this section, we worked with “Last Kiss” by Ralph Fletcher and had great conversations about whether a question that required inferencing beyond the words of the text was a “Text Dependent Question”.  At this stage it really makes sense to think about a variety of questions that are well balanced at the different DOK levels!!!

Quiz (If you know the text “Last Kiss”)

“If you were to interview Ralph’s mom, what question would you ask in order to find out how his mom feels about the dad not kissing Ralph good night anymore as a part of the bedtime ritual?”

Text Dependent?  

High Level?  

What are you thinking?

Literary Elements include many areas for instruction.  We spent some time on symbols and talking about how patterns of repetition by an author could lead the reader to symbols.  We looked at symbols in the “Last Kiss” and then  discussed what they meant and how we gathered evidence to support our views. (Symbols:  jellyfish, fireflies, handshake, “the kiss”, absence of the kiss)

Cartoons (do our students REALLY understand them?) . . .  Many students don’t really see the humor so they might be great sources of short text to practice on with students. Depending on the age of your students, you might look to “Calvin and Hobbes” to see how students explain what is really happening in the cartoon strip.

We also spent some time on the pitfalls or challenges of Nonfiction.  We explored an immigration text set that included a picture, first person recollection, and immigration statistics from the Library of Congress. .

Specific Challenges from a Black and White Picture:

  • Not in color
  • Can’t zoom in or out to examine specific details
  • What is this about?
  • Main idea?
  • Need background knowledge
  • Is the title helpful?
  •  Steerage passengers taking it easy on ocean liner . . . or is that a “sad” version of humor!

Do the challenges increase or decrease when additional source documents are added? What do you think?

Who should be generating the questions?

What do the standards say?

Session Takeaways:

It is possible to teach toward the ambitious new goals of the Common Core Standards.

Teachers and students need to use knowledge to sort, question, reank, synthesize, interpret, and to apply knowledge.

Teachers need to continue to READ complex texts collaboratively and share their thinking and the puzzles that remain.ILA

#SOL15: March Challenge Day 8 – Increasing Learning


word-focus-300x300

Today’s story is the final installment in this week’s recounting of a focused professional development opportunity that our literacy team developed and delivered that included Quality Instructional Practices, ELA Iowa Core Standards and Assessment for Learning.  To recap, the first post began with much Anticipation on Day 5.

anticipation

And then based on learning with Dave Burgess, Teach Like a Pirate, I shared the Instructional Strategies Bracket on Day 6 that Dyan Sundermeyer created and used to refocus attention on common strategies in a building.

bracket

On Day 7 I shared the work that we did around Quality Instructional Practices based on scenarios in Chapter 1 of Dr. Mary Howard’s Book.

Good to Great Teaching cover

So for those of you that live and breathe in the world of professional development or coaching, here are a few more details to whet your appetite.

Modeled Grade 5 Scenario 

The scenario you read about yesterday was used on our second day with leadership teams.  The thinking behind the grade 5 scenario was modeled after everyone had a chance to read and reflect (gradual release of responsibility) Then participants had a choice – scenarios from first grade, third grade or even title 1.  Their task was to read the initial scenario and record the “Great, Good and Bad”, reflect on some questions, read the follow-up teaching scenario and consider the deliberate changes made by the teacher to move more actions to “Great”. At that point the teachers and administrators found a partner in the room and talked about the scenario and their understanding of the teaching sequence, student learning, and teacher changes.  (Each scenario was color coded so it was easy to find a partner with the same color pages.)

Deepened Understanding of the Iowa Core ELA Standards

Our PD work continued with looking at two specific ELA standards through the K-5 range and considering these questions. How do they build on the previous grade level learning? What do they require of teachers?  What do they require of students?

  • Anchor Standard RL.3:  Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • Anchor Standard RL.7:  Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Close Reading of the Scenarios

Participants ended the “Standards Learning” portion with an application piece.  Here was their task:

standards in MTSS

The teachers and administrators reread the scenario through the lens of “which standards” and then checked for grade level standards on those color coded documents.  Possible answers for grade 5 include: RL.5.10, W.5.10 and SL.5.1.

Assessment for Learning – Learning Targets

Time was going to be an issue so our plan was to just begin with Learning Targets and provide an opportunity for our participants to work on those before we meet again.  I’m going to stay with the “plan” as time did necessitate some shifting. We had some learning around the big definition of “Assessment for Learning” including Learning Targets and the fact that “clear goals” is .75 Effect Size (Hattie). Clear learning goals are absolutely essential for learning and assessment but we did not go into the difference between “goals” and “targets” at this time.  Here is how the scenarios were used for the third time (close reading).

learning tasks

And the finale learning activity for the session involved watching a video of classroom instruction and in a triad looking for 1) “Great, Good and Bad; 2)Iowa Core ELA Standards and 3) Learning Targets. Can you identify the iterative nature of our work?

How do you have teachers grapple with the HOW – Quality Instruction and the  WHAT – ELA Core Standards simultaneously?

How important is our design of GREAT work?

How do you model GREAT work in your PD?

Professional Development – Always a work in progress . . . Our state model

Iowa PD Model

#NCTE14: The Learning Continues . . .


Time to stop and think . . . reflect . . . and wonder.

 

Friday Session C.13  What the Common Core Forgot: Community, Collaboration, and Social Justice

How much time is spent on the routines in middle schools and high schools to build collaboration? And what about the subtitle:  “Step-by-Step Lessons for Respect, Responsibility and Results!”

Teaching the Social Skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We practiced “eye to eye, knee to knee, and sitting closely” so that we could have interaction!

*    *    *

Identity Webs

“Who am I?”

“How do I see Myself?”

This information comes from Harvey Daniels and Sara Ahmed’s new book.

upstanders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After viewing Sara’s web, I had some questions . . .

Where and how is Sara Ahmed connected to Iowa?

And what sports?

And exactly what team/location?

(Lots of sports choices in Iowa)

Check out Sara’s identity map!

What questions do you have?

Sara Ahmed

Editing Sticks


ImageTuesday 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 Betsey for creating that place for us to work collaboratively.

What is the purpose of punctuation?

Many believe that punctuation is most important in writing because it signifies both the beginning and ending of sentences as well as indirect (paraphrased) or direct reporting of speech.  Students in kindergarten are exposed to end punctuation marks (. ? !) as well as these marks associated with speaking (,  “  “).  But is the bigger purpose of punctuation to give the reader the necessary clues to understand exactly what the author has written?  If yes, then the reader also needs those punctuation marks.  Why? Punctuation marks are very important when considering phrasing and smoothness of reading as a part of prosody for fluent readers.  A review of the CCR Anchor Standards found these six as possible considerations when thinking about the value of punctuation for both authors and readers.

CCRR Anchor Standards Considered:

Reading

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3

Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Writing

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4

Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5

Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Language

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2

Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.3

Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

My Version of Editing Sticks

2014-08-22 15.01.39

My tools for this work are editing sticks that I created after seeing some that looked more like clear acrylic chopsticks on Twitter.  The size of the sticks that resembled chopsticks does make them more accessible to working “inside text” but the main feature is that they must be clear.

(Clear disks with a variety of punctuation including:     .   !   ?   ,  “  “ )

 

Inquiry Mini-Lesson for Professional Development with Teachers

Connection:

Remember that we are working with narratives and one way that we “show” instead of “tell” is to add dialogue to our small moments story.  Sometimes as a reader, it is hard to know exactly what a character says because when a speech bubble is not used, the writing does not clearly say or show who is talking.

Name the Inquiry Question:

How do I decide what punctuation to use in my dialogue?  How can partners move the editing sticks around to show exactly what a character says in a story?

Inquiry Set-Up:

With a partner, decide which editing sticks you will use, where you will put them and why.  Jot a note to record your thinking and any questions that develop.

 

   The   principal   said   the   teacher   is   a   great   leader.

 

Active Engagement:

Listen for conversations and watch for jottings that show there is more than one possibility for this statement. (Who is talking? The principal?  Or the teacher?)  Chart some of the jottings to help remember the lesson later. (Possibilities – The principal said, “The teacher is a great leader.”  “The principal,” said the teacher, “Is a great leader.”)

Link:

Authors have to be very careful when they write dialogue in order to make sure that the reader clearly understands who is talking.  Changing the punctuation can change the speaker and/or the speaker’s words.  Continue to study conversations / dialogue as you read to find more examples from mentor texts.  Take time to double check the dialogue in your stories with the editing sticks to make sure that the reader can clearly tell both who is talking and what they are saying.

What kinds of mini-lessons are you using for punctuation, specifically quotation marks for dialogue?  How is this lesson different from Daily Oral Language editing?  How do you combine the “editing” from writing and the “language” conventions for meaningful practice with text that transfers to student learning? 

After all, is the goal “perfect punctuation” or “increased understanding”?  What are your thoughts?

10.26.16 Tweet from Elise Whitehouse (@OAS_Whitehouse):

punctuation sticks.JPG

New York – Then and Now: Compare and Contrast #CCSS Lesson Idea


I believe in the power of bundling the CCSS Anchor Standards so I was quite happy to purchase this book at the New York Public Library while in New York for the #TCRWP Writing and Reading Institutes.

NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I loved the content immediately as each page had a picture and a text block.  The organization was also easy as each two page spread had the “then” picture on the left page and the “now”picture directly opposite it on the right page. My mind took me straight to compare and contrast with “visuals” and texts.

We will begin with the front cover.  The book will be displayed via the document camera.  Each partner group will also have the picture.  The partners will have some time to study the picture and record the things that they know and those things that they wonder.  After all groups have had time to talk and record their notes, we will record their thoughts on chart paper or on a google doc on the screen.  Students will be well aware of the power of “…and the evidence of that is. . .?” as they listen, question, and challenge each other’s thinking.  Each partner groups will then develop a draft theory about this book and its contents.

Inquiry will continue with this picture (text folded under at first).

liberty then

 

So, here’s the first draft of my plan for grades 3-5.  We are going to use the “Know” and “Wonder” chart idea from What Readers Really Do especially now that I have met both authors, Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton.  We will begin with the picture only.  Then after all partner groups have several “Knows and Wonders” recorded privately, I will read the text under the picture.  Students will be encouraged to study the text as well.  They will add textual evidence in a different color of ink as the partner groups continue to add to their “Know/ Wonder” thinking.   Before the next picture is added, students will be encouraged to consider whether their draft theory is still holding up or whether it needs to be revised.

 

Similarly, picture 3, partners recording “Know and Wonder”

liberty now

After partner groups have recorded their Know and Wonders from the picture, the text below Lady Liberty, and from class discussion, we will continue to explore whether our theories still hold true.

 

Similar process for another pair of pictures  . . .

square then

square now

 

After working with these two pictures, students will pair square so that each set of two partners will be matched up with another set.  As a group of four, they will discuss their “Knows, Wonders” and patterns and theories.

 

On the next day the quad groups will again discuss whether they have additional “knows and wonders” to add, clarify, or restate.  Time will also be allocated to add, clarify or restate patterns and theories as well.  Partners will be encouraged to take a different set of “then” and “now” photos and continue to test their theories and patterns as well as answer questions that have arisen.

 

How will this work align with the CCSS ELA Reading Anchor Standards ?

The following list of CCSS ELA Anchor Standards could possibly be included in this study.

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7
Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

Do you agree with these possible standards? Disagree?  What would you add to this instructional sequence?

Writing: Planning, Revising, Editing, Rewriting, or Trying a New Approach (CCR. W.5)


If you are in a Common Core state, you may already have digested this standard:

“CCR. W.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.”

 

If you are still trying to figure out what it means for you as the teacher (instruction) or for the students (learning) or even to real-life authors, you need to check out Kate Messner’s book:  Real Revision –  Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers.

Why?

It’s written by a REAL teacher who is also a REAL author who has REAL practical, crystal clear examples.  You can preview parts of the book online here at Stenhouse!

Not convinced?

Here is the Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1: Real Revision: Where Stories Start to Sing
Chapter 2: Creating a Revision-Friendly Classroom
Chapter 3: The Elephant in the Room (And It’s Ticking Away the Minutes!)
Chapter 4: Back to Brainstorming
Chapter 5: Real Authors Don’t Plan . . . Or Do They?
Chapter 6: Big-Picture Revision
Chapter 7: Returning to Research
Chapter 8: Magic in the Details
Chapter 9: Are the People Real?
Chapter 10: Whose Voice Is It Anyway?
Chapter 11: The Words We Choose
Chapter 12: Cut! Cut! Cut!
Chapter 13: Talking It Out
Chapter 14: Clean Up: The Copyediting Process
Chapter 15: What If the Writing Is Already Good?
Chapter 16: Technology Tools of the Trade
Chapter 17: The Revision Classroom, Revisited
Appendix
Resources
Index

What grade levels would benefit from this text?

This book is listed for grades 3-9, but it could work at any grade with some thoughtful planning by the teacher. The copyright is 2011 but the strategies will withstand time!

Check it out!
Remember:
“When you’re done, you’ve just begun!”   – Lucy Calkins

Preview here.

Image

Example:

Chapter 6 “Big Picture Revision”

“Revise for:

    • theme – What is this piece really about?
    • seeing the forest instead of the trees  – Create a “to-do” list
    • reading to revise – listen to the piece; how does it sound?”

 

And then how is this supported by what this first grader revises here in “Austin’s Butterfly”

and what Lucy Calkins says here in “Being a Good Writer”?

 

Have you read this?  What did you think?

On the Importance of Listening


 

slice

Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

As a literacy specialist, I so love the fact that the English/Language Arts Standards include, Reading, Writing, Language, and Speaking and Listening.  However, I am always amazed by the amount of “speaking” and the lack of “listening” found in daily discourse.

Calm, quiet, rational – it’s not about the loudest voice.  It’s also not about “Who talks the most?” and have they just worn down the listener who really is only listening with one ear? Or is listening and multi-tasking?  Is that really listening?  What should one really be listening for?

Are speaking and listening two sides of the same coin?

Is a monologue really communication?  How important is speaking if there is no listener?  And the flip side:  Can there be communication if there is only a listener who never speaks?  Does a “dialogue” always mean that the speaker and the listener are both equally invested in the communication?

Which of these quotes fits your schema about communication?

 

Source:  http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_communication.html#aWJ5O5Zkmvq5EKqt.99

Why is communication hard?

So why does “communication” break down?  Why is it hard to convey a precise meaning in words, coupled with our actions and emotions?  Is it complex or as simple as this quote?

Image

What message do you communicate?
Do your actions speak louder than your words?

When do you REALLY listen?

 

o5.13.14  Check out Julieanne’s post about a student conference.  This was totally about listening to understand!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slice of Life 28: Revising or Editing


(During March, I am blogging daily as a part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge!)  Special thanks to the hosts of the Slice of Life Challenge:  StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna and Beth.   More Slice of Life posts can be found at  Two Writing Teachers .

What is Revision?  What is Editing?

How would you explain the difference between these two processes?   In the CCSS, they are listed in the same anchor standard: “W.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.”

What is revising?

Once we define “revising” as literally meaning to “see again,” to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective, we can begin to teach it.  I used to use instruction that included “two stars and a wish” where partners respond with two elements of writing they like and one they wish that could be changed to strengthen the writing work.  It wasn’t specific enough.

How do we make the revision more visible to students?  Revising word choice has seemed easier to model.  “Circle two words in the work that seem repetitive, tired, or not clear.  Brainstorm possible words that would be stronger.  Make a decision to change at least one word in your writing piece.”

What was missing?  

I wondered if the  instruction needed to focus a bit more on the “why” for revision in order to emphasize that the purpose is to make the writing stronger.  Students studying written work  answered:  “Which of these two paragraphs is a stronger description?  Be prepared to state the specific details that are your evidence of strength.”     The before and after paragraphs are side by side here as they were projected on the screen:

Image

 

Which would you rather read?  Why?  How did those sentences change?   What does their “revising language” sound like when the students are talking about revising?

I did show the students the following list that I created when I brainstormed some ideas about how this old house looked and the underlined phrases showed where I had used them.

How the house looked?

  • paint peeling
  • cracked windows
  • weeds around the house
  • big house that takes up most of the lot
  • two stories
  • shutters falling off the side of the house

So this revision instruction began with students studying two pieces of writing to see the revising changes and then ended with showing them how a brainstormed list of “how it looked” was used for specific ideas that were added, removed and substituted.  The students loved that they knew the house was “old” without saying the word “kind of like a riddle.”

Student revision is now about more than just moving a sentence around as students talk about changing words or phrases as they move, add, remove or substitute in the revision process.

What is editing? 

Editing has often been explained as what a copy editor does to fix up the writing to get it ready for publication.  The goal is to make the errors so few that the reader’s thinking is not interrupted as he/she reads.  Typical conventions include capitalization, punctuation, spelling and usage.  In the Core those are found in the Language Anchor Standards:

L. 1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

L. 2. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

 

How does instruction provide opportunities to “self-edit” in order to strengthen their writing?  Technology makes this easier as squiggles under a word alert me to check the spelling, but students need to be doing the work of “editing”  – not the teacher with a red pen.

How does that instruction work? One way to literally show the difference between revising and editing might be to teach some acronyms as a part of a mini-lesson after a lesson in revising like the one above where students did the work to figure out “how” the revision happened.

I believe this photo came from a #tcrwp friend but I apologize because I cannot credit the owner as I was not saving the source or the date at that time.  Let me know if you recognize the source as I would love to add the correct attribution!

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How are your students strengthening their writing by revising or editing?  Do they “independently” revise or edit?

Reading and Writing in Grade 1


First grade teachers are believers.  They know that their students need to be “writing more” in order to meet the demands of the Common Core / Iowa Core.  But the struggle becomes more of a management than a pedagogical issue.

“How do I fit it all in?”  “How much should students write?” “What should they write?” “How much time should I devote to Writing Workshop?”  or “How much time besides Daily 5’s ‘Work with Writing’ do my students need?” are just a few of the questions that I frequently hear.

So we began by planning first grade literacy learning.  The teachers determined that the focus would be gathering evidence that the students had met this standard:

RL.1.3   Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

Teachers using the Lucy Calkins Units of Study in Writing or Reading Units have a vast array of resources to support reading and narrative writing for their students to provide evidence of meeting this reading standard.  Other teachers may consider going to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s “Unpacked ELA Standards” for further clarification of student expectations.

“RL. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3  First grade students continue to build on the skill of asking and answering questions about key details in a text. At this level, students use key details to retell stories in their own words, reveal an understanding about the central message of the text, and tell about the story elements.

Use questions and prompts such as:
• Can you tell me what happened in the story at the beginning? What
happened after that? What happened at the end of the story?
• Can you tell me where the story took place?
• Can you tell me the important things that happened in the story?
• Who are the characters in the story? What do you know about them?”

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We have been talking and thinking about a “body of evidence” that shows “mastery of learning” the standards.  How much evidence is needed?  How do we define mastery? The signposts matched our confusion!  What else did we need to consider during the planning and implementation of this study?

Before going any further our next question was, “What other English Language Arts (ELA) first grade standards are related and could possibly be combined or bundled together to provide deeper learning for students?”  In a coaching conversation with a group of teachers we identified the following ten standards as possibilities.

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Our thinking was that if we were aware of all the possibilities, we could consider and experiment with an array of recording techniques. For example, we might include a checklist format for specific standards and/or utilize a narrative writing prompt that might be a “higher level” of application that could be used to demonstrate understanding in reading and writing.  We struggled with the idea of having to record every single standard in oral language, reading and writing.  Driving questions were:  “How can we make this manageable for teachers?” and “How can we show students the learning targets?”

Our next step was a look back at the kindergarten reading standard that we would be following in this work: “RL.K.3.  With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.”

After the standards review, we created the possible checklist/rubric below. We believed that our one star rating would allow many first graders to begin with success and also showcase their kindergarten learning.  Ultimately, we would like the students to explain their own “star rating” with a reason why they chose that rating.

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What process have you used to plan reading and writing instruction?  Have you found standards that “fit or bundle” together?  Does this process transfer to your grade level?

Public Perceptions of Writing


How are YOUR students doing in writing?  How do you know?

A few years ago the National Writing Project commissioned a public opinion survey entitled “The 2007 Survey on Teaching Writing.” The results are reported here and one quote is also included directly below.

“Americans believe that good writing skills are more important than ever, but they fear that our schools and our children are falling behind. Two-thirds of the public would like to see more resources invested in helping teachers teach writing. And 74 percent think writing should be taught in all subjects and at all grade levels.”

The good news is that the Common Core State Standards do include writing standards that cover ALL subjects and ALL grade levels.  Those College and Career Ready Writing Anchor standards are:

Text Types and Purposes

  • CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing

  • CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing

  • CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Last year #TeacherWeek reported that “80% of the U.S. population surveyed think that writing well is more important than 20 yrs ago; 75% think schools should put more emphasis on writing.”  Both of these percentages continue to climb steadily upward.

Do you know the answers to these questions?

  • Are ALL teachers teaching writing in their content areas?
  • Do teachers use the same common language when teaching writing?
  • Do students know what the writing learning targets are?
  • Do parents and community members know what the student writing learning targets are?
  • Are the same rubrics used across multiple content areas and multiple grades?
  • Do students write for a variety of purposes, across content areas, throughout the day?
  • Are students making progress in meeting the writing anchor standards?

Who have you shared those answers with?

What would your community say about the progress that the students in your school are making in writing?  How would they know?

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