Monday, June 26, 2017

Assignment Two: Written Reflection- Section One

ASSIGNMENT TWO: WRITTEN REFLECTION–Section One- The Essential Writing Life Chapters 1-3
BRIEFLY reflect on the following comments written below from Chapters 1-3 and any additional thoughts that you have after reading these chapters.

Chapter 1: Simplify the Teaching of Writing• Simplify our teaching
• Becoming more knowledgeable about teaching writing
• Examine your beliefs

Regie gets to the heart of her book Writing Essentials with this quote on the final page of Chapter One: “By reducing the clutter in our teaching lives-the over-planning, the unnecessary activities, the paper load, all the ‘stuff’ that takes our time and energy and does little to improve teaching and learning-we bring joy back into our work and the world of our students.” Many of us work very hard and spend many hours complicating our teaching lives. In this book Regie will help you simplify your teaching life for your benefit and that of your students.

One of the frustrations that teachers encounter regularly is the ever changing “latest and best” writing programs that districts or states force on them and their students. With this revolving cycle of programs, teachers are spending too much time learning how to use the program rather than becoming better writing teachers. Regie explains that in the districts where students are the best writers, they are writing for real purposes and audiences and publishing their writing; teachers are not using prescribed writing programs.

Look at Appendix A (page A-2.) Examine your beliefs about writing by reading the statements about the writing process and marking true or false in your book. (Go ahead and write in your book, it’s OK! You can even use a pencil and mark very lightly if you want to.) We found this activity very enlightening. Let us know what you think after you complete the activity.

In your reflection for Section One, please include your thoughts about the following questions or statements:

• Regie demonstrates how to use the Optimal Learning Model (shown on the front cover and page 11) throughout the book. Consider how the Optimal Learning Model fits into your own instruction.
• As you think about how to teach writing so that all students can become successful, effective and joyful writers, reflect on how you presently teach the “12 Writing Essentials” (as described on pages 13-14 in the text) during your daily writing instruction. As we continue to read through Regie’s book, hopefully you will begin to see how you might make changes in your instruction to better incorporate these “12 Writing Essentials.”

Chapter 2: Start With Celebration
• Make sure writing is meaningful not just correct
• Use stories as springboards and ensure that ALL students hear stories
• Write in front of your students and connect home and school

The title of Chapter Two simply states, “Start with Celebration,” and that’s exactly what we need to do for our students. The celebration of all students’ writing needs to be put into the forefront and be made our first teaching goal. Celebrations should happen school-wide, within our classrooms and with students individually. As children begin to see themselves as successful writers, they will take more risks in their writing and in turn will become better writers who enjoy the writing process.
Another key point that Regie highlights in this chapter is to “make sure writing is meaningful, not just correct!” Students need to understand that writing is “enjoyable and for a real purpose and audience.” She also reminds us “that teaching skills in isolation does not make student writers; neither does teaching to the test. And breaking writing into bits and pieces robs children of the joy of writing.”

Regie suggests using stories as a springboard for teaching and learning. Hearing and telling stories builds our students’ oral language skills and these stories are “an entryway into reading and writing.” Only when students are reading and writing real stories can they connect the “skills” based learning to their reading and writing!

Please include your thoughts about the following questions or statements in your written reflection of Section One:

• Regie explains how important celebrating student writing is. How do you celebrate student writing in your classroom? How might you add more celebration of student writing to your day/year?
• Consider what changes you could make in your writing instruction to make writing more meaningful and purposeful for your students.


  1. Assignment #2
    The Optimal Learning Model isn’t necessarily a ‘new’ way of thinking for me, but it does prove the importance of each step and has invited me to reflect upon my own teaching practices especially in the area of writing. Typically as the new school year starts, I start teaching and modeling expectations for what writer’s workshop looks like in our class. With that being said, the demonstration aspect of OLM has been easier to implement. Unfortunately as the school year progresses, I have found myself veering away from direct modeling of my own writing due to time constraints and the lesson that ‘needed to be taught.’ As I read through this first section, I continued to think of the phrase, “to become a better reader, you need to read.” With that being said, to become a better writer, my students and myself need to write. I love the idea of celebrating our writing in class even more and understanding the purpose and audience behind each piece. I still have questions on how to effectively implement the shared demonstration aspect, but as I become more comfortable modeling I feel that the gradual release to shared demonstration will evolve.
    I also like the idea of having an anchor chart in my class reviewing the 12 Writing Essentials. It will help provide the backbone to all good writing as my students and I evolve as writers through the course of the year.
    After reading Chapter 2 on Start with a Celebration it made me think of how limited my class celebrations are and what I need to do to improve upon them. My focus for writing has been teaching towards the test and having students write a solid paragraph of the week.I have put constraints on my students writing, and know that when I have allowed them to just write on their own topic, the interest and desire to write increases. With that being said, I feel celebrations can be big, such as the final product shared with other classmates, and other classrooms. I also like the idea of celebrating small parts of individual writing, and asking questions of, “Who tried something new? Who has a great lead?”,” so the joy of writing is not squelched but appreciated and can continue to grow.
    I think one way of making writing more meaningful and purposeful is to help students to really understand who their audience is and how they are going to present their final piece. I love the idea of authentic writing where students are putting their hearts and minds into their writing as they grow as writers. I can see how their writing voice can grow and students become more confident writers.

  2. Caryn,

    YEAH, I love this reflection! You took away so many of the important points from this assignment.

    *to become a better reader, you need to read.” With that being said, to become a better writer, my students and myself need to write*

    YES, YES, YES!!! :D

    And more celebrations in class, both big and small!!!

    We talk about this later in the course, but focusing on author and purpose is the best way to improve student writing! :D

  3. Candace Palmesano – August 7, 2017
    Essentials of Writing – Assignment #2
    Chapter 1 Reflection
    Wow! The quote you took from Regie Routman’s book is my exact struggle with writing. I have so much clutter in my over-planning of some unnecessary activities that I am feeling disorganized and frazzled. Our school district hasn’t bought all the latest and best writing programs, but it has given us some writing curriculum without substantial training and support. It seems we have done pretty well in our district without a prescribed writing program. I am encouraged to read that Regie will help simplify and create better writers without extra work.
    The Optimal Learning Model fits into our instruction because we do not have a set curriculum for the whole school in writing. I need to have a plan of how to incorporate the well laid out model from Dependence to Independence. Each step is so important and as I reflect on the model, I realize why I struggle with teaching writing in a purposeful order. I don’t have the whole year planned or thought out in writing, so I kind of jump around using our reading curriculum as a guide. I like the idea of keeping a copy of the Optimal Learning Model in my planning book and using it when I am planning the week. I am going to rewrite the 12 Writing Essentials on a Flip Chart for the active board so the students can also be reminded of the essentials of purposeful writing. I follow many of the 12 essentials in my writing class, but not all of them all of the time. I would love to have all of my students become “successful, effective, and joyful writers.”
    Chapter 2 Reflection
    I love the idea of celebrating our writing in class and I know I need to do this even more than I do. I had several low students end the year with a love of writing and I know it was because we celebrated their work many times. However, they did not do well on the writing part of the Smarter Balance test. These students were low readers, but with encouragement and celebration they came to love writing. I am hoping that now that they have a love for writing that they will be able to do better next year on the state test. I do think that sometimes students need to be pushed to write on topics they are not interested in because that is life, they are going to have to write several paragraphs on a glacier hitting their boat and they are going to need some skills to persevere on a topic they don’t know about. I think what I could add to my writing curriculum is more think aloud modeling as I write. I also need to give students more time to write on their topics. The reading curriculum breaks writing into bits and pieces and students don’t finish many pieces that they would have if there wasn’t such a time crunch.

    1. Hi Candace,

      That is fabulous that you have flexibility and freedom from mandates regarding your writing instruction. You will be able to tailor your program as you see fit.

      Awesome, many other teachers have shared that they also planned to have a copy of the OLM either in their plan book or posted by their desk to remind them to make time for all of the steps.

      Hear, hear...more joyful writers (and teachers!!!)

  4. Chapter 1:
    I don’t know if I’m being delusional, or if my classroom is already working towards the 12 Writing Essentials, but over my three years teaching this course I can say that my teaching—and, by default—my students follow all of these pillars; even if they weren’t explicitly stated. Like all good teaching, it looks like these are borrowed and tweaked from other sources and compiled into a way that works best for this teacher and this program. The ones that I try and focus most on are the “authentic voice” and “elaborate on ideas.” These seems the widest umbrellas I’ve seen in that once a students starts to grasp those for themselves the other parts of writing start to fall into place as well (ie. If you haven’t found your authentic voice, then it’s hard to know if that voice is passive or active).

    Chapter 2:
    I couldn’t agree more with the idea that writing should be celebrated. I do that in few specific ways, but the most important thing I think I do is strip away the preciousness of the words. What I mean by that is that we spend a lot of time in my class normalizing the work so each student can look at it as something that has been created first, then something that might need critiquing later. The words are what need to be celebrated; the grammar can be learned and critiqued. Celebrating the process of writing is the meaningful part, which Regie emphasizes in her second pillar on page 21.

  5. Excellent Dustin. No, I don't think your are delusional. :D That's great news. It's important for us to hear what we are doing well (right) as well as areas that we need to grow in.