Think Tank!

slice-of-life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

What a Meeting with a Professional Learning Community Network Can Accomplish: Follow-up to a Cluster Meeting  (minutes from an elementary school gr 2-5 meeting with key teachers)

  • Having an extended block or reading/writing time
    • This would be ideal. As we have looked at the many demands to fit in lunch and special schedules, blocks for math and other subjects, Title I and inclusion schedules, we have never been able to find a way to block it this way.  We welcome anyone who can see other ways to schedule it so we are able to make more reading-writing connections.
  • No time for spelling
    • We agree that this is a challenge but we are cautious about making a blanket statement that there is no time for spelling. We could find some solutions not to our liking.  We are willing to say that spelling might be a part of reading as well as writing or even an across-the-content area endeavor. Weekly spelling tests are of no real benefit to students, but the parents look for them. We need to find other ways to help students develop good spelling habits. Can we hold all students accountable for using environmental print?
  • Moving narrative cycle so it is not the first cycle
    • Narrative is usually the easiest mode of writing for our students. We usually get the best scores on the narrative cycles.  We wonder if a possible help would be to move the date of the writing prompt back.  We also hope that classes are emphasizing personal narrative and that teachers have been able to find good picture books or scaffolding ideas to help students have strong models. Third through fifth grade classrooms should use realistic fiction as a second cycle for narrative writing.
  • Measuring progress with different types of writing
    • We agree that we cannot compare the different samples for progress over the course of a year. We do not try.  We look to our success in each of the writing types and try to think of ways to meets student needs identified in each sample.
  • Well-formed paragraphs the goal for the end of the year
    • This is a difficult task. Students very often make progress and then have setbacks as they try more challenging writing tasks.  For some students, we would agree that greater structure such as use of the Four-Square might help them better understand expanding the content to support the big ideas. However, we caution against requiring scaffolds all the time. We discourage formulaic writing
  • Ordering more resources for writing
    • We are trying to get together some of our resources and lesson ideas in addition to the Fletcher materials that all teachers should have including A Writer’s Notebook, Live Writing, Poetry Matters, and How Writers Work. We are also ordering more mentor texts to help teachers identify lessons ideas to support needs. Craft Moves by Stacey Shubitz will be ordered for the professional library as well as a copy for each grade level to share.
  • More grammar in the program
    • We’d be happy to structure some sessions to talk about needs and possible interventions. Students do need to understand the grammar of our language.  We do have a roadmap of expectations.  We realize, however, that there is a wide gap between a lesson on a grammar book page and the likelihood that students will use the grammar in everyday writing. This transfer is not great unless students have both explicit and implicit instruction in grammar and conventions, large chunks of time to write independently daily, and significant support in the editing process. We do not think DOL works becuase it involves proofreading, not sentence construction and aims to teach writing with no writing. It is error-based. We have decided to focus on a culture of correctness instead.
  • We start at the top, we should start at the bottom
    • Most writing teachers find that it is important to start with a whole. Of course sometimes that whole piece of writing is short, sometimes more involved.  Sometimes the writing needs more modeling and shared experiences and sometimes the kids are ready to fly with an idea.  Sometimes kids need very strong scaffolds and sometimes they can be given more responsibility for developing an idea.  Long periods of specific skill work on sentences and then paragraphs and then writing ideas has not shown itself to be effective for students. Students need chunks of time to write daily in writing workshop and other content areas.
  • Transition second to third is difficult on parents
    • Let’s talk more about that. We may even want to have a discussion between second and third grade teachers.

3 thoughts on “Think Tank!

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