7th Grade ELA--Writing Help PLEASE :)

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by nsatterfield, Aug 18, 2007.

  1. nsatterfield

    nsatterfield Rookie

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    Aug 18, 2007

    My lovely district called all ELA teachers in on Friday afternoon and said that they would be giving Benchmark tests each 9 weeks this year. The first 9 weeks we are to cover the writing standards. That's it. That's all we get!

    The problem for me is that I'm only a second year teacher and I feel that writing is my weakest link:unsure: . I saved the bulk for the end last year and just hoped and prayed my kids would pass the standardized state test. (92% BTW):D

    Please help me out with ideas!:help: We start school tomorrow, the 20th. I know I have the first couple of days to talk about the class and procedures, but what do I do on Wednesday? I have no idea where to start!!!:eek:
     
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  3. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Aug 19, 2007

    ay yay yi...

    I hate the fact that schools push testing like this, especially for something like writing which should be creative and organic, not objectified. Oh well. I want to try the writer's workshop approach this year...so, in your situation, I might try it and combine it with intensive skills review...more specifically, maybe on one of your first days, have them write and then assess what the class' top five writing issues are and make those your mini-lessons for your first ten minutes of the next five days...then have students write freely some more each day practising the new skill...just an idea, good luck!
     
  4. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Aug 19, 2007

    Creative is fine, but not all writing is creative, so I would save those types of assignments until after the test, since generally creative writing is not what they tend to test. Not sure about your state, but in mine, if they can write an organized 3-5 paragraph essay with an identifiable intro and conclusion, details going with the main idea and a transition between paragraphs., they score well.

    Make sure they understand main idea and details. That is often the area kids are the weakest in. Their details are vague, some do not fit the main idea, or their aren't enough. I teach mine power writing. That has helped immensely!

    http://www.thewritingsite.org/resources/approaches/power/default.asp

    Work on transitions, word choice, and varied sentence structure if time.


    LA/FL: I have been teaching for a long time so I know terminology changes, so could you explain what "creative and organic, not objectified" means? I get the creative part :D, but not the rest.
     
  5. Mrs. R.

    Mrs. R. Connoisseur

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    Aug 19, 2007

    I think what she means by "organic" is that the writing should come completely from the student. In a true workshop environment (which admittedly, I don't have), all writing springs from the students' interests. They choose the topic, the audience, and the format. The "not objectified" is a bit fuzzier to me.

    I think you can combine the "creative" type of writing with the "test" type of writing. I use many of the activities from writingfix.com as we work through our writing lessons through the year, since the 6 traits model works nicely into the rubric for our state testing here in Illinois. Working on teaching kids voice? There's a great, fun activity using the picture book Cindy Ellen (a wild west Cinderella). Working on support and elaboration (Illinois term for detail)? Use Patricia MacLaughlin's "All the Places to Love", then have the kids write about THEIR "Place to Love". Use the parts of your rubric that apply, then bind together into a great class book.
    The things that make creative writing good: voice, support, organization, etc. are the same things that make essay writing good. The kids need to know how to do both.
     
  6. ValinFW

    ValinFW Comrade

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    Aug 19, 2007

  7. LA/FLnewbie

    LA/FLnewbie Companion

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    Aug 19, 2007

    Hi again, I think I was on an emotional tangent late last night reading the original post, because like pretty much everyone, I just hate what testing does to writing and writing teachers in the schools! Mrs. R. got it pretty right what I meant by "creative," although I meant to include persuasive and expository writing in that descriptor, too, since good persuasive writing still requires creativity! By "organic," I meant that real writing comes from the writer's heart and mind, not from a prompt; and by "not objectified," I meant not scored objectively using some artificial standards.

    ...

    That being said, I realize that all that is exactly what students will be asked to do on a test, and so I suppose it would be a dis-service to not let them experience the test situation a few times before they and their schools will be judged on the results.

    However, I still hope to be able to use some of the workshop techniques along with standard test prep and see what happens...I heard about it on this listserve and got into reading Nancie Atwell all summer, and really want to try her ideas...does anyone have any suggestions about using the writer's workshop technique?

    Thanks! And again, my heart goes out to the original poster!
     
  8. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Aug 19, 2007

    I can't imagine having only nine weeks at the beginning of the school year to prepare students for a writing assessment. I agree as Mrs. R said that you can include creativity within the structured writing piece. On the other hand, with the assessment out of the way, it will leave her freer to go beyond the test.

    For many years all teaching of writing was called creative writing. In other words, write what you want, how you want, with very little beyond the conventions taught. I still see some teachers stuck in that mode. So red flags start going up when I hear the word "creative", which is silly, I know.

    Voice is definitely where the creativity comes through and should be encouraged.
     
  9. cheeryteacher

    cheeryteacher Enthusiast

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    Aug 20, 2007

    What I do is take the standardized tests from years past and have them do the writing portion from the test, or I make up some that are similar to it. We talk about all of the components that need to be included when they do this type of writing, graphic organizers, making sure they stay on topic, etc. I make sure they know how they will be scored and we look at good essay and poor essay samples from previous standardized tests and score them. Then we take the score that the student really got on the standardized test and talk about that. (my state has fabulous resources online)
    I also do a writing workshop where they create their own writing, and I use 6+1 writing traits for that.
    We test in September, so I have to make sure they know what they are doing early. At the end of the year I do the whole process gain, but with samples from the next grade. I try to balance it throughout the year so they will be better writers no matter the situation.
     
  10. ELAteacher

    ELAteacher Rookie

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    Aug 20, 2007

    nsatterfield-- my suggestion is to locate "old" state tests to get a feel for how the test is structured and how it will be scored. Then have your students practice, practice, practice using writing topics that interest them and are relevant in their lives. This is to get them more comfortable with the testing process. I teach in MA and I did this last year with my students. They also looked at actual student samples at each score level (they saw the best and they also saw the worst) so that they could SEE real student responses and compare their own responses. They can then identify the areas they need to improve (introductions or "leads," supporting details, transitions, word choice, conclusions, etc.) and then you can work on those areas as necessary.

    We may not like teaching to the test, but unfortunately thanks to No Child Left Behind, we have no choice. At least you can "get it over with" at the beginning of the year and have the rest of the year to get to the "good stuff." Good luck!
     
  11. nsatterfield

    nsatterfield Rookie

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    Aug 25, 2007

    Oh my gosh! I am in over my head!!!

    Here's my problem:
    I am a second year teacher. Last year I taught 3 GT classes and 1 "regular" class. I taught them at about the same pace with the same assignments. No problem. My state scores were wonderful!!!

    This year I have an inclusion class(a teacher comes with them), a GT class, and 2 low "regular" classes.

    I'm going to start next week with info on Writing Workshop I got from the Power of Writing website suggested here. Wish me luck and keep me and my students in your prayers:) I'm going to need all the help I can get!
     
  12. teacher83

    teacher83 Rookie

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    Aug 26, 2007

    I would tell you to become familiar with the benchmarks and the writing rubrics. Also look at essays with high ratings as opposed to essays with low ratings - make note of the differences. Nonetheless, the writing rubrics will give you a great insight as to what good writing includes. I would also share this rubric with your students. To become familiar with writing you need to know the standards and read good AND bad writing. I hope this helps. :cool:
     

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