Category Archives: Writing

My Writing Identity

by Jill DeRosa

My writing identity is something I lived a long time without.  Until I was in my thirties, writing for me was a task to complete; a report for school, a reaction paper, a letter to a parent.  My writing was driven by something I needed to accomplish for my job, my school, or for my family.  Writing was not enjoyable for me, it was always done with a purpose that was driven by outside forces.  I did not see myself as a writer. Not for one minute.

It wasn’t until I became friends with, Jenn Hayhurst.  She is a writer who knows how powerful our words can be.  She is not afraid to take risks and put her ideas on paper and into the world. She says we have ideas to share with the world and asks if I would be willing to write alongside her.  I am afraid because I don’t see myself as a writer.  I am confident in my ability to teach but writing about it is a totally different thing.  Jenn is supportive and I decide to give it a try, starting out small.  As we write together, I start to see a change in me.  I am a writer.  I just needed to write about things that mattered to me.  I needed to write for myself first and then for my audience.  My writing had to be sparked by things I cared about and wanted to share.  

I take my writing experiences with me into my classroom each and every day.  Do I provide time for my students to find their writing identities?  How do I make room in our curriculum to provide room for choice in writing and tools?  In classrooms, I often see teachers facing a similar dilemma; when we are writing in a certain mode or in a unit of study, how can we make room for authentic writing that is sparked by what matters to our students.  We need to make the time, this is the place where our students will find their identities; writing alongside partners or in groups, creating comics, writing series about characters they have created, writing informational pieces about gross insects or dangerous animals. Nothing makes me happier than looking around my classroom and seeing kids fully engaged in writing that matters to them knowing that their words are powerful and can make a difference.  Students bringing in writing they have done at home or bring their writing to recess because they just can’t stop writing; it is a part of who they are.  

It is through a friendship and a deep appreciation for writing that my writing identity was formed. It’s never too late to find yours.  

 

Generative Learning In Action: The Reunion Continues #TCRWP

Session 3: How Can We Help Students Become Reflective, Goal-Driven Writers? Checklists, Feedback and Goal Setting Can Accelerate Student Growth – Alexandra Marron

Take-Aways:

  • Strategy Seminars: This is a way to teach strategies that makes the learning transfer to student need. Students sign up for a strategy for example, how to find the Main Idea, this builds in choice, and formative assessment.  Choice because students are determining their needs by making a selection.  Formative assessment because teachers can observe the choices made. This tells us a lot about mindset:
    • Does the student have a fixed mindset, are they selecting strategies that they are already good at?  
    • Do students know themselves as learners?
    • How effective was my instruction? Do certain methods work better for certain children?
  • Using the TC Learning Progression from the Reading Pathways Book as a multifunctional tool for teachers and students during goal setting. This idea was first introduced to us in Brooke Geller’s session. We are the kind of teachers who think it is so important to integrate all our learning into a cohesive vision.
    • Teachers use the progression as a record keeping device (insert pictures)
    • Students can cut them up and make micro progressions, and goal setting tools (insert pictures)

What this means:

  • Independence: either of these take-aways work as structures to promote independent work. Choice and tools work together to empower students. The whole goal of workshop is to lift the scaffold and foster independent learning.  
  • Agency: Our work aims to p
  • ut the learning in the hands of our students.  Together we explore student potential which means we have to let them shape the path for us to follow. This work resonated with us because it is additional thinking that informs our current practices and makes us think deeply about the vision for what might come next.

Session 4: Structures and Rituals (and a Calendar) Can Make Your Writing Workshop Support Your ELLs K-5 – Jen DeSutter

Take-Aways:

  • The way we can get to know our writers is by using three lenses to study student work to set goals: language, word study and genre knowledge. The way we view their work is shaped by the different expectations for each stage of language acquisition.
  • Everything we do in our classroom needs to be rooted in context.  Knowledge integration means that we make connections for learning throughout the day. We have to provide instructional variety to engage learners.  We can do this through shared writing, interactive writing and writers workshop.  

What this means:

  • Once we look beyond the way students’ writing looks on the page, we can learn to embrace how their language knowledge is conveyed through their writing.  This will change how we view progress for their writing. We are moving away from only looking at mechanics/spelling and closer to process learning.  We loved the idea of using the three lenses (language, word study, and genre) to evaluate student writing. Jill was able to look at the different stages of language development and match her students to their levels of language readiness.  It was a natural fit and that just made sense. As we do this, we are looking at possibilities opposed to limitations.
  • We’ve been thinking a long time about using instructional techniques in strategic ways.  Shared writing is a natural fit for learning syntax and grammar.  Interactive writing is a great way to promote elaboration through group discussion.  What better way to teach academic language than having children apply their learning right there on the spot?  As we listened we began to think about how we would integrate tools as part of our instructional practice. A focus might be on generating cognates, synonyms, or  suffixes/prefixes to promote meaning making. Where there are tools there is also engagement.  As we incorporate pictures, gestures and phrases, we can reach many more writers.
  • We believe in the reading/writing connection. Our next thoughts turned  to taking Jen DeSutter’s ideas and transferring this learning to reading work. Context is extremely important, and it is especially so for our ELL students. Every writing move can be made more meaningful through reading work. How can we do this? Student work offers us opportunities to teach into language, word study and genre.  If we use student writing as a mentor for shared reading and interactive read alouds, we can teach them how to look at writing through the three lenses: language, genre, and word study.  This is a way to tap into language that is easily accessible to them and values their work.

Reunions Come But Twice A Year However Inspiration & Thinking Lingers On

Inspiration Sparks A Plan:

Teachers’ College offers two Reunion days per year.  This is a time for us like minded educators to come together for a kind of salon only on a colossal scale. This free day of learning, offers access to their current thinking and leaves us all feeling very inspired.  In March, Jill attended the Teachers College Reunion Day and amongst the many take aways, one idea really resonated with us.  It was demonstrated during a writing workshop presented by Mary Ann Ehrenworth focusing on persuasive essays.  Children were being taught to write in a more artful way – not merely following an organizational script first I write the lead, then I write the… Instead, children wrote from a place of engagement, writing  different elements of their essay as they were moved to do so -they were not in a fixed order.  After all elements were written,children made important decisions as they evaluated  how to move the elements around to see which organization was most powerful.

Readers, if you follow our blog, then it’s obvious that this was something Jill just had to try with her third graders!  Our new UoS is  Persuasive Speeches and after much thought, we found a way to test this technique out.  We chose the following elements for the children to include in their speeches and then when all elements are completed, they will try different ways of organizing them, test them out on their peers, and decide on the most powerful one for their speech.  We can’t wait to see the results.

Planning & Implementation:

The thinking is that students will choose from this list of elements to write about just in the same way Ehrenworth described during her presentation.  Here are the elements we will focus on in our minilessons:

  • State bold opinion (thesis)
  • Lead
  • Posing questions for your audience (craft)
  • Reasons for your opinion- We began by having a dialogue about  different issues in the world that really get us thinking and bring out our emotions.  We then brainstormed a list of issues that really matter to us.  Next, we took a trip to the computer lab and each child had time to research the different topics that interested them.  We did it this way to bring in both the narratives the children shared and connected to on the first day and the informational piece they researched in the computer lab.  Finally, they were given the chance to write down their reasons as they started to plan and brainstorm about their topic.
  • Narrative stories to support (elaboration)
  • Information/Facts/statistics to support (elaboration)
  • Word choice- catch phrases, figurative language, strong words, emotions (persuade craft)
  • Endings
  • Visual representation/props (Text Feature to teach & persuade)
  • Organization- last since we are using this new technique

Final Thoughts (for now):Writing toolbox

The goal is for students to see that modes of writing are like tools in their boxes.  Promoting the understanding that an author’s intention is what moves a reader to action.  As writers they need to construct each part as if they  were guiding readers along a path of their own making. Their decisions to use narrative here to make connections, or to use informational here to amaze, and then, very strategically, to follow up with opinion so readers will believe.