Writing Instruction - What's best?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by otterpop, May 15, 2016.

  1. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I'm looking for some feedback from others regarding their own writing instruction models.

    I've switched around this year and had varied success with two types of writing instruction.

    One, I've tried writing workshop. I read a mentor text, we discuss, and then students write their own story within that genre. This worked out okay. We had some good conversations about techniques authors were using. However, not all students liked the approach or seemed to benefit from it as much as they could. I'd get "I don't know what to write" or "I'm done" often from the same group of kids (even though, if they truly are done, they are supposed to be starting another story). I also got some really good writing, and several kids who like the relative freedom of choosing what to write within the genre. At any given time, students could be at any part of the writing process, depending on what their own needs were. A writing unit on a particular genre would take around 5 weeks to get through.

    Two, I tried a more traditional writing prompt approach. I'd give the whole class a prompt. On the first day, everyone would brainstorm. On the second, everyone would write their rough draft. Next, everyone would edit. Finally, everyone would do their final copy, with me setting a specific deadline for their assignments.

    Reflecting for next year, I want to have a more systematic approach to writing, and really choose one method over the other. Which one do you all have better results with? Or, is it not too bad to switch between the two?
     
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  3. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I tend to switch back and forth depending on what we are working on and the quality of writing I am getting. I think as long as you monitor and adjust for your students, you're doing the right thing!
     
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  4. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    I do a writing workshop approach so students can be at any place at any given time. Do you have a binder where you keep anecdotal notes? That has helped me a lot. I keep track of what I discuss in small group or 1:1 instruction. Kids tell me where they are in the writing process and when we set a date to meet again, they set a goal of where they'd like to be. For me, it allows freedom within accountability.
     
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  5. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    One thing that I know I could improve upon is taking more time to meet 1:1 with kids for writing workshop. As soon as I pulled one kid over to talk, the class would get loud. However, if I was circulating the room, they would be mostly on task. I did have a binder to keep notes, but didn't get to meet as often as I would have liked.
     
  6. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    Even if you don't use the Daily 5, their 10 steps to Independence is really handy. Bringing everyone back when someone is off task is annoying at first and seems counterintuitive to getting kids writing, but it's about helping their brains and bodies be on task on their own without your interference so they can work on their own when you're pulling small groups.

    Some other things that I pulled from D5 for writing workshop- dated check sheet at front so I can see who I have met with and how many times, calendar for immediate planning on when we're meeting next, small group anecdotal records, and individual student areas where I can make notes.

    When you have the notes in front of you, it's much easier to see what kids you can group together for small group instruction. If one student needed something and another student did that thing great, I would ask the second student to share during sharing time at the end. Then I could build on that next time I met 1:1 with the student.
     
  7. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Following this thread. I am still trying to get my writing system down.
     
  8. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I've got the Daily 5 book but have never actually read it. Are the "10 Steps" in the book?
     
  9. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    Our school adopted Literature Based Writing a few years ago. It sounds similar to what you are doing but well organized. The way it works is the class has a mentor text. This can be anything good literature from an essay to a novel. The class studies one aspect of the writing and imitates in their daily writing.
    For example, on Monday our class could study sentence lengths, types and uses. After reading the mentor text and studying how the author writes, the assignment for that day might be to write something with sentences like the author. By the time we are nearly through the novel, the class will have studied the author's sentences, word choices, organization and so forth. They get a culmination assignment where they (my fourth graders) must write 100 words that seem like the target author wrote them. By this time, the class has a very clear idea of what to do and how to do it.
     
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  10. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    This seems really cool. I've found my students learn a lot through mentor texts.
     
  11. nstructor

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    May 16, 2016

     
  12. nstructor

    nstructor Cohort

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    What grade do you teach?
     
  13. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    Yes, the 10 Steps are in the book and probably floating around online too. The book is a pretty decent read even if you don't end up doing D5.
     
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  14. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Question... (now I'm kind of getting excited about Daily 5)... Do you use this structure for writing instruction as well? I know one of the "5" is Work on Writing, but at what point does one lead lessons? I student taught with young kids in a classroom that did D5, and tried to implement it when I first started out in a intermediate classroom, but didn't find it very effective for older kids. I teach 4th.

    ETA: I found this powerpoint for Daily 5 which suggests 3 rotations of 7-10 minute mini-lessons and D5 choice.
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    I teach units of study within the writing workshop: narrative, nonfiction/research, opinion/persuasive and 'test prep' writing. It's more than reading a Text and writing in that genre. Yes, we use mentor texts, but you have to break down each genre into is component parts, teach those parts, teach strategies to elaborate and write with clarity, focus and voice...
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2016
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  16. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    What is "test prep" writing?
     
  17. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Writing in response to a prompt, for the most part. Current standardized tests,(PARCC in my state), are looking for specific structures and components.
     
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  18. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    This is specifically why I moved away from writing workshop. I found my kids were having a hard time responding to a prompt, as writing workshop typically doesn't use them.
     
  19. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    czacza/otterpop:

    We're running into that too. The district is going towards a writing curriculum, that while in my opinion a good one, it doesn't incorporate writing to texts or utilizing text to write a piece (with small exceptions in informational/opinion), which is exactly what our state testing looks like. I'm hoping that we'll end up doing a mix, as I think both are important (the ability to write to text and the ability to write more "freeform", for lack of a better word).
     
  20. teacherpippi

    teacherpippi Habitué

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    I always have writing as a choice during D5 but I have a separate writing workshop. I run a workshop structure but I do not have choices as with D5. I do incorporate a check in at the beginning of the period similar to D5. I have students get their writing out, look at their piece(s) and tell me what their plan is for the day. I write that down for accountability.
     
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  21. Pashtun

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    What are you guys being asked to write from a prompt? I am not quite clear on what this looks like?
     
  22. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    The most significant example (in terms of difference) is within narrative: the upcoming curriculum is mainly coming from student's own ideas, without a basis on any particular text/excerpt/etc..., whereas the state assessment would ask students to read an excerpt, and utilize the details (i.e. characteristics of the characters, details from the setting, and containing similar plot points) to create a narrative piece. Not extreme differences, but the starting/planning portion carries significant differences in where many pieces of the plan's origins are.
     
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  23. Pashtun

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    Thank you, I have always just approached this as narrative writing, not as a seperate unit.
     
  24. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Same with us currently, though we may have to adjust a bit depending on our upcoming "curriculum" adoption.
     
  25. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I love writing workshop. May I suggest Lucy Calkins? In my opinion, her units of study are wonderful!

    My students don't really respond to prompts (unless in a small group...but not during the workshop). Instead, they write within specific genres (narrative, opinion & informational), and will have choices within choices. For example, during our how-to unit, they had the choice to write books about anything they wanted to, but it had to be procedural writing (how to draw a smiley face...how to bake a cake...how to work in writing workshop, etc.).

    When setting up the workshop, it's important to establish important routines that will keep the workshop running smoothly. That means knowing how to solve problems (pencil breaks, difficulty coming up with an idea, etc.), and what to do when you are finished. One of our lessons (from Calkins) is "When you think you're done, you've just begun." They learn how to reread their writing to make improvements (including using a checklist, a partner to give feedback, etc.)..then, once they have done everything possible to make that writing piece the best it can be, they start a new piece. Essentially, a writer is never finished. Setting up the workshop is the first thing that needs to be done. If done correctly, your workshop will run itself allowing you to confer with writers, and/or work in small groups.
     
  26. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Oh, and in terms of writing to a specific prompt, I would do that for the pre and post "on demand" writing during each unit.
     
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  27. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    I agree. It seems the only difference are the strategies that are being used (using a mentor text, demonstrating with a teacher-written piece, interactive writing, etc...just different strategies to get to the same end goal).
     
  28. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Yes, what I use is based on the Lucy Calkins books.
     
  29. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    All the more reason to stick with WW and teach response to prompt as a unit of study. Not all writing is, nor should be, in response to a prompt.
     
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  30. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's pretty much CCSS and test driven.
     
  31. otterpop

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    If you look up the writing performance tasks for SBAC, those are what I'm trying to emulate.
     
  32. Pashtun

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  33. Pashtun

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    Literary response is CCSS and test driven?
     
  34. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Writing in response to a prompt is a worthwhile skill which has become high stakes under CCSS and tests such as PARCC. So it might look like a paired text with comprehension questions and a written response. Both kinds of questions require 'evidence' to support the writers thinking.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2016
  35. Pashtun

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    Did you mean writing in response to a prompt?
    I don't understand what you are saying here?
     
  36. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    That file wouldn't load entirely on my phone, but I have seen it before. Yes, some questions say "Explain why the author says..." but some also say, "Read these two articles and then write an imagined narrative from the point of view of ___." The second kind is more what I was referring to, but I've found it really necessary to explicitly teach both .
     
  37. Pashtun

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    Yeah, I agree about teaching both. I never thought of either of them as "test prep" and thought of the first as literary response. Neither of which I thought had anything to do with sbaac, Paarc, or common core.
     
  38. Tyler B.

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    We have to teach our students to respond to a prompt like "write an essay from the point of view of character A" despite it being a waste of their time. What we should be teaching our students are writing skills that will actually be useful as they proceed through their schooling and into life.

    How often will adults be called upon to write something from another's point of view? Adults should know how to write and edit solid non-fiction like letters, essays, opinion, and reports. To be considered literate adults, they should know how to construct a poem and short story.
     
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  39. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    By this logic, though, your writing work that you have your students do, where they imitate an author, would seem equally useless. My point being, I don't believe what you do with your students is useless by any means!

    It's a critical skill that forces you to apply understanding of point of view (a literary skill both in reading and in writing, just ask the author of Wonder!). Doing that also requires them to step out of their own shoes, a skill that goes beyond the walls of writing, and connects with most jobs, I would say.
     
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  40. Pashtun

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    Mathmagic.....well said.

    Not just a literary skill in reading in writing, but a real life skill.

    I also add that how often do adults write "insert" is not valid to me. Learning how to think, organize your thoughts, use good "writing" skills, and you can EASILY learn to write in different formats.

    Process over product.
     
  41. a2z

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    Too much emphasis on either one can be a problem. In our local elementary school almost all writing was creative writing. Each year they had one project that was sent home to write a few sentences about facts learned about a person or a place. Other than that, all of their writing was creative writing. "What would you have done differently if you were Jim?"

    When the kids get to upper grades they are just expected to be able to use factual information to analyze but have no experience doing.
     
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