Thursday, July 6, 2017

Assignment Four: Written Reflection - Section Two

ASSIGNMENT FOUR: WRITTEN REFLECTION-Section Two- Teaching Essentials Chapters 4-6

Read Writing Essentials, Chapters 4-6 and BRIEFLY reflect on the following thoughts written below and any additional comments that you have after reading these chapters. Post your reflection to the course blog.

Chapter 4: Raise Your Expectations
• Why we need to raise expectations – ESPECIALLY for our minority and lower socio-economic students
• How to raise expectations in your classrooms as well as in your grade level and throughout your entire building
• What about handwriting, spelling and editing expectations?
• How to use the Optimal Learning Model to support your students’ needs

“Raising expectations” for our students is a big push in all of our districts. Under “No Child Left Behind” many schools have been identified as “in need of improvement” and have been working furiously yet unsuccessfully for over ten years to “close the gap” for our minority children. But more important than improving performance on high stakes tests is remembering that if we raise our expectations and teach explicitly, then our students will rise to the occasion and astonish us with the high quality work that each of them is capable of.

Regie has some great insight into the need to raise expectations of our students and feeling comfortable and confident with the decision to set high standards for all learners. She raises the question, What are our clearly articulated, rigorous yet reasonable expectations? This is a question that we should reflect on as individual teachers, and one that should be the starting point for a conversation within our grade levels, buildings and across entire districts.

We’d like to know what you think of one of our favorite quotes from the book: “Worksheets aren’t good enough. The students who can do them don’t need them, and the ones who struggle with them feel defeated by the red marks, which only reinforce their feelings of inadequacy. WORKSHEETS FOSTER MEDIOCRITY!” (We personally wanted to shout out when we read that!) Please include your thoughts in your Section Two Reaction.

In this chapter, Regie also sheds some light on several topics that teachers often ask about. “What about handwriting expectations?” and “Conventions, Editing and Publishing?” It’s always helpful to get another professional’s point of view on these pressing issues! Enjoy the chapter!

Chapter 5: Do More Shared Writing• Where does Shared Writing fit within the Optimal Learning Model?
• For which learners is Shared Writing appropriate?
• How can we link Shared Writing with Shared Reading?
• How can Shared Writing be used to support word work?
• What are some “Tried and True” ideas for Shared Writing?

Regie's idea of Shared Writing is very different than that of many other professionals in the field. So often we use Shared Writing only with the primary grades. As Regie states, “What a great way to teach and engage all students in all aspects of oral and written language.” If we are to consider teaching through all phases of the Optimal Learning Model, we can begin to see how important Shared Writing is for our students. We think that the idea of using Shared Writing in both upper elementary and the middle schools is a new way of thinking for many of us.

One of the reasons Regie encourages teachers to use chart paper and an easel, instead of projecting to a screen with an overhead or document camera, is that the children are seated right with you on the floor, which usually holds the children’s attention a little better. Another idea that has worked great for me is to move the overhead machine to the group area and place it on the floor in the middle of the group in front of the easel. I then project the machine onto the white space of the easel. It’s great because you’re able to be right there in the middle of the group and have the benefit of writing more quickly onto a transparency rather that chart paper. You’ll need to consider which of your Shared Writing activities you’ll want students to be rereading (don’t forget that you can hole punch transparencies and put them in a binder for future reference) and which you may want posted to your walls on charts.

Regie’s list of “Tried and True Ideas for Shared Writing” (page 112) is very extensive. It would be helpful to take a look at Regie’s list as you create your curriculum map for the year. Where would some of her suggestions fit within your science, social studies, math, reading and writing units across the year?

Chapter 6: Capitalize on the Reading-Writing Connection
• How can we become more effective integrating our reading and writing instruction?
• Are we as efficient as possible with our responses to reading?
• The benefit and necessity to integrate our content area teaching with both reading and writing
• The importance of writing (and reading) more nonfiction

We know research shows that reading achievement affects writing achievement and vice-versa, and we also know that it continually gets harder to fit “it all” into our day. Effectively using reading and writing connections throughout the day in all areas of language arts, math, science, social studies, and even specials such as art, music and library, is our only option.

Regie’s suggestion of taking a closer look at how we use written response to reading is a very important one. Careful consideration is needed to decide if what we’re asking the students to do is “worth their time.” For example, if the response we’re looking for will “deepen comprehension, cause the writer to reflect on the content, and/or foster appreciation for the text” then it’s worth it. We whole-heartedly agree with her statement that many of the overly structured assignments such as book reports can alienate our readers! While response journals do have their benefits for us professionally Regie states, “they also take up a lot of our time!” It’s a very organized teacher who can effectively keep up with their responses without feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. Don’t forget the bottom line – “Be sure that students spend more time reading than writing about reading!” (Page 126)

We are so glad that Regie addressed how to effectively teach summary writing. We know that many teachers have a difficult time differentiating between a summary and retelling – I (Jackie) was one of them until several years ago. The snapshots and procedures that Regie shares on how to teach summarizing are invaluable and should be a reference that we all refer back to throughout our teaching year.


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    1. The quote, “worksheets foster mediocrity,” is an interesting quote. I believe the strategy in this book is to really get students to write authentically. When students are praised and taught specific skills, while having a teacher model and implement shared writing, students writing will grow. I really like the idea of having the teacher expect, explain, demonstrate, and and provide time, and then students almost always meet our expectations. However, even though I do not use many worksheets in my ELA block, I still feel there is a time and place for them.
      One quote that stood out to me was, “If you’re reading everything your students write, they’re not writing enough.” I appreciated this quote as it reassured me to just allow my students to write after I have provided the modeling. As I mentioned before, in order to become a better writer, students need to write. With high expectations, students will gain stamina, fluency, and probably most of all confidence as they share and learn from their peers and mentor texts. This almost made me reflect on building solid relationships with my students as I expect excellence from them.
      The idea of incorporating more shared writing into my classroom seems very beneficial. After reading through the list of tried and true ideas, I realized that I have incorporated a few ideas already into my teaching practice, but there are many opportunities to be had. I especially like the idea of doing a shared writing after reading a short story and responding to the stories question with text evidence in this structured and engaging way. After modeling the response structure, I feel more confident my students will be able to structure their individual responses in a similar fashion. I also like the idea of 5th graders writing the class expectations down for a class book, so that each student has a copy. This is a great way to start the year off with teaching the expectations in class and getting students to write. I also love the idea of writing parent letters with my students. Not only would this build community, but also expose my students to a different audience and purpose.
      One question that I continue to ponder is if shared writing can be done on a google doc and projected so that all students can see effectively. In the past, I have used this format and have seen it work well. I can highlight words, underline words, and draw lines where I feel that I need to rework an area of my writing. At the upper elementary level, I feel that it is important for students to be able to construct a story on a document as they learn to edit, revise, and publish their stories.

  2. Yes, I think you could do shared writing on the doc cam. :D Glad you took away some new ideas from this section.