Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things to Keep in Mind When Working with Striving Writers within a Whole Class Community

I have learned a lot about this particular topic from mentors, such as Lucy Calkins, Katherine Bomer, Mary Ehrenworth, Colleen Cruz, and Chris Lehman over the years.  Here are some of the bigger ideas I have extrapolated from conversations, speeches and/or workshops I have attended.

Principles We Can Reflect on When Working with Striving Writers
  1. Expect ALL students to achieve goals in writing and celebrate milestones toward those goals.
  2. When students are able to complete the work with independence, the modifications are successful.
  3. Build on a student’s strengths versus focusing or working on areas of weakness all of the time.
  4. Be explicit when teaching writing stamina (Quantity before Quality, at least, at first) – Teach into it – it doesn't happen overnight.
  5. Help students discover his/her writing passions – Ralph Fletcher calls these life topics, which are topics we revisit again and again.


Some Practical Tips to Keep in Mind when Working with Striving Writers
  • Keep teaching points the same for all students – the way that students access the teaching point will vary.
  • Modify the levels of support needed for students to learn the teaching point according to the strengths and needs of all students.
  • The work will look different from student to student, however, the process students will have gone through, will have been similar.
  • Focus on the main objectives of a UoS (Unit of Study) and or m.l., rather than getting caught up in the small details – what are the big goals of the unit – see CCLS for direction with this in planning.
  • Read aloud the child’s writing to him or her on a somewhat regular basis, and do it with an incredible read aloud voice (read it as literature).  Calkins calls this reading it ‘like it’s gold’
  • It helps to think in 3s – What are three goals for this student inside of this unit?  Remember that we can build smaller milestones into larger goals.
  • Provide students with alternative methods for planning and drafting: storyboarding/booklets, planning boxes, webs, index cards
  • For ELLs, encourage sketching and labeling as an access point to expressive language.
Community is everything.  Build a place that honors struggle, reflection and goal-setting. Make all kids an expert at something, so that we have ‘go-to’ people for help.  Create charts that teach.  Recognize and celebrate the efforts of all, while nudging writers toward new heights and more ambitious goals.

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