Tag Archives: Units of Study in Writing

SOL14: Opinion Writing Grade 4



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 Betsey for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.

 

What a fun day today as a fourth grade team reviewed opinion on-demands and worked on scoring them.  Conversations were rich as we focused on evidence of what the students “can do” and then moved on to consider the implications for instruction.

 

Instruction will include how students can use the Units of Study checklist to evaluate their own work and set goals.  Two definite areas that we saw for instruction were “leads” and “transitions” so that led our thinking to possibilities for charts.  (I like to “develop” them electronically in order to have a copy with me for reference as I move from building to building.)  Two charts that we are considering as we have students “reflect” on their own writing include:

lead in opinion

The first column in “rising steps of complexity” are examples of opening paragraphs.  The text boxes on the arrows name the student move(s) used.

transitions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This second chart is about transition words.  “Because” is tricky when it is used at three different levels.  Is it the only transition word used?  If so, probably not a “3 Star” use of transitions.  Because is a perfect direct link for a reason “why” but has less value as a transition as we move up the steps and through the grade levels.

After students self-assess their own writing, they can set goals and have some model words/text to help them visibly see what their targeted learning looks like.  Visible targets for students?  Increasing the likelihood that students can meet the targets – progressions that “show” students how to write better!

How are you helping your students “see” their writing targets?

Slice of Life: TCRWP Bound


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

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The last three months have seemed like a year.  Why?  I was waiting to hear about the status of my application for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s June Writing Institute and July Reading Institute.

It seemed like “forever” since I saw the first tweet that said “…accepted!”  Multiple friends received news of their status.  My reading application status was “wait list” so I tried to be patient and believe that “no news is good news!”  Finally I received notice that I was accepted for the Writing Institute. And last week my reading application was accepted!  Two weeks at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project!  Woohoo!

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After my application was accepted I realized the truth of this statement.  Institute paid.  Housing paid.  Flight booked.  Checking time frames. . . Planning to maximize time and learning opportunities.

 

Why is this blog worthy?

Simply,

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My two weeks at Teachers College last summer for the Reading and Writing Institutes was one of the most fabulous learning experiences of my life!  With the new writing Units of Study, my large group sessions every day were led by Lucy Calkins.  She can build confidence and inspire all teachers to “do more” to increase the reading and writing of students.  Anything and everything is possible with Lucy’s guidance!

 

And the many rock stars at #TCRWP. .  .  My daily choices included Mary Ehrenworth, Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts.  It was so fun to “know” many of the staff and presenters because of their “Twitter presence” and so easy to thank them for their accessibility!  Unbelievable learning.  And yet, I have to confess, I was ready to go home last year when the first night’s assignment was to write a narrative. I spent hours (some whining and complaining) writing, drafting, rewriting, drafting.  It was not pretty and basically fit the third grade rubric according to the #UoS rubric.  Frustrating, yes; empathy for students, YES!

I am so ready to learn more. Do more.  And I have been working on developing my own writing muscles this year – blogging, tweeting, and developing models.  June Writing Institute!  July Reading Institute!  Love Learning!

My NYC agenda contains:

June Writing

Advanced AM Section:  Reports, Nonfiction Books, Journals, Feature Articles: Information Writing and ELA Across the Day (3-8) Mary Ehrenworth

Advanced PM Section:  Seeing Patterns in Student Work, Then Teaching Small Groups (and More) to Build New Habits and Skills (3-8) Emily Smith

 

July Reading

Advanced AM Section:  Accelerating Students’ Progress Along Levels of Text Difficulty: Guided Reading, Assessment Based Teaching, and Scaffolds for Complex Texts (3-8) Brooke Geller

Advanced PM Section:  Social Studies Centers Can Lift the Level of Content Knowledge and Reading Instruction (3-8) Kathleen Tolan

 

 How will you continue to learn about reading and writing this summer?

Here are two writing opportunities for you to consider:

 Summer Writing for You, The Teacher (Two Writing Teachers blog post by Betsy Hubbard)

#TeachersWrite (Kate Messner)

 

Slice of Life 23: How much reading is enough?


(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 .

I LOVE to read.  I LOVE reading.  I typically READ just about anything. Reading is my preferred activity over cooking, cleaning, or crafting. I could be considered a voracious reader by some.  I read quickly when I am reading for fun.  I will read almost anything but I do not like vampires, fantasy or science fiction very much.  When I find an author that I like, I devour ALL their texts.  When I find something I really like, I may reread it.  There are times during the year when my reading life seems to suffer.  While writing blog posts every day, I do have less reading time. Is it “okay” that my reading seems to have an ebb and flow?  How much should I be reading? What should I be reading?

I believe that I need to be familiar with authors and texts in the field of literacy.  I have my favorite authors and this year they all deal with loving literacy:  Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts, Donalyn Miller, Penny Kittle, Kylene Beers, Dorothy Barnhouse and Vickie Vinton, Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, and all the authors of the fabulous Units of Study in Writing from Teachers College. My reading of YA varies according to the favorites of students in the buildings where I work.

How does reading play out for our students?  How much should they be reading?

In Book Whisperer, Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna and Beth. More Slice of Life posts can be found at Two Writing Teachers Donalyn Miller challenges her middle school students to read 40 books per year.  That is basically one book per week, including reading over holidays and school breaks.  A student who has developed those “reading habits” is likely to be successful as they move through life.  In Reading in the Wild, Donalyn is more specific about the “habits” that students need in order to be life-long readers.  Those numbers seem to make sense because a student will “be in the story” and stay connected to the text in those time frames.

For our struggling Middle School and High School students in Second Chance for Reading, I have suggested teachers set 30 books per year as the goal for students.  If teachers have expectations and are carefully monitoring student work, 30 books is ambitious for students who have been less than successful in reading for years. It’s doable, a stretch but yet highly possible if the habit of reading becomes a part of a daily routine.

But is that “good enough” for our children? How long to read a book?

I was following the Twitter stream from the Saturday reunion at Columbia’s Teachers College and several tweets caught my eye. Exactly what books should students be reading and for how long?

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So taking Hatchet and spending a week and a half on it would fit with Donalyn Miller’s goal of 40 books per year. Is this happening?  Are students allowed to read a book like Hatchet in a week and a half?  I believe this also fits with the belief behind CCSS Reading Anchor #10:  “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently. Yet, it seems like I should be doing more in order to have teachers and students consider the “sheer volume” of what they are reading.

Are there books that should be “whole class” books in grades 3-6?  If yes, what would be the characteristics of such a book? And how “many” of these would a child read during any given year?

I remember working on Language arts curriculum 20 years ago when teachers wanted certain books to be on a “protected list” so teachers in grade 3 would not use a book reserved for grade 4 because then it could not be used for prediction.  But what is the real goal of a “class book”?  If it truly is to have all students explore specific texts, will the class read at the same pace? Is it about the “activities” that accompany the book and its reading? What about a book club approach?

This tweet of a quote from Kelly Gallagher caught my eye:

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So Kelly would agree with Donalyn Miller that students should not be spending forever on a class book.  Dragging a novel out into 9 weeks’ worth of work turns it into a “9 week worksheet”!  That belief has also been espoused by Richard Allington who has said that students need to read “more” in order to be better readers!

Are there some books that every fourth grade student should read?  That would be a great source of conversation for a team of fourth grade teachers.  What literature is that important and that interesting for the students?  The same question would apply for informational text, poetry and drama.  Those decisions can and should be made at a local level.  The caution would be in “not allowing” a whole class text to be the only reading at the time and also not to be drug out as Gallagher’s quote reminds us.

How much should a student read every day?

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The original source of this quote is not listed but think about this for a minute.  To stay on the same level (maintenance), a student needs to read just right books for an hour each day and a common expectation in about 3/4 of a page per minute. So a quick check by a teacher 5 minutes into a silent sustained reading time would suggest that all students had read at least 3 pages.  If a reading log/goal setting page includes the page started, a teacher could quickly move about the room conducting a visual scan.  This would be data that could allow the teacher to form groups to discuss goals and purposes for reading.

The goal would not be public humiliation.  I have used “bribes” for reading – pizzas, food, parties, etc. in order to encourage students to read more.  Sometimes the food begins as the “reason/purpose” for reading until a student becomes “hooked” on reading and then begins to ask for books for gifts!  Students do not need to take quizes to show their understanding of books.  Carefully remove barriers or practices that are “counter-productive” to reading MORE!  Consider how you can help your students be daily readers who will carry that habit over into the summer even when you, the teacher, are not around!

How much are your students reading?  How do you encourage them to set HIGH expectations for their own reading?
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