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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    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.

  3. Candace Palmesano – August 9, 2017
    Essentials of Writing – Assignment # 4 Section 2
    Chapter 4 Reflections:
    I found the same thing as the fourth grade teacher did at Gail Westbrook’s school, my students wrote well on the Smarter Balance test, but they did not follow the test’s directions of “writing several paragraphs explaining why you like doing….” This skill is what many of my students most lacked last year. They had a difficult time giving important details and explaining the unknown to the reader.
    Handwriting has been an uphill battle for me. I have a good handwriting and get compliments on how nice and easy it is to read. However, the state of Oregon no longer says it is a requirement to learn. Even our principal has said, just teach the students to write their names in cursive and call it good. I think is important that they at least know how to read cursive. I copy and bind cursive practice books for students that they practice in during our snack read aloud. It is fit in and sometimes a lot for students…Listen to the story, eat snack and practice 1 letter in cursive. Most Third graders want to learn how to do cursive, it’s a grown up thing. I have noticed in recent years that when students write their assignments in a poor handwriting, it is when they have no interest and find no meaning in the writing. We write letters to Mushers (Dogsled drivers in the Iditarod Dogsled Race in Alaska) and I pretty much do the “Teacher Talk” on pg. 67 when we write the rough drafts. Students love writing the letters and I do make some rewrite in better handwriting, using correct conventions. I also tell students not to doodle in their “little Red Writing Notebooks” which is where they write all rough drafts; I try to keep the outsides nice and neat with just their name stickers. We write on the next clean pages; we don’t write on both sides so student learn what side is the correct side to write. I do need to work on relaying to the class that I expect nice writing and correct spelling, punctuation and grammar in their work. I want to share their well written papers on the Iditarod, etc. on the bulletin board and I know I have been so exhausted after a long writing assignment that I end up displaying some less than perfect papers.
    After reading this chapter, I am encouraged to keep my expectations high for my third graders, demonstrate writing skills by writing more in front of the class for short amounts of time, have children collaborate more on the writing were are doing in class, encourage and respond to student writing with respect. I do not use worksheets in writing lessons, unless they are graphic organizers that might assist in planning and organizing thoughts.

    1. OH MY GOSH!!!! Ahhhhh... Students need handwriting practice, in my opinion. YIKES.

  4. Chapter 5 Reflection:
    I have gotten away from Shared writing with Third Graders so it surprised me when Regie wrote “regardless of student age, shared writing needs to be a major part of every writing program,” even in upper grades and middle school. I can definitely see the benefit now and can’t wait to follow the Optimal Learning Model. It makes sense to use shared writing when identifying the main topic or briefly summarizing it, which are two things that my students usually struggle with writing. I love to point out specific things in the stories we are reading like how the author describes the characters, how one little thing the character does leads to another event, how conversations take place between characters and how the author begins and ends his/her stories so I have always seen the importance of the connection.
    Regie’s list of Shared Reading ideas is very extensive and probably why I have dog eared the most pages in this chapter. It would help to make a copy of several pages (“Concise Framework” and “Teaching Tips” to name a few.) before creating my curriculum map in a couple weeks. I can see me using Shared Writing in my reading, writing and social studies units to start with and maybe move to Science and Math later in the year. Just beginning the year with shared writing on procedures for classroom, lunchroom and playground or a survival handbook/guide for third graders excites me. Every year we write a class book for open house, I usually use The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, and the students write and type on the computer 3 – 5 lines of things that are important about them with the same design as the book.

    1. It is awesome you are excited to add Shared Writing back into your instruction and in so many areas. So glad you found this section so useful!

  5. Chapter 6: Capitalize on the Reading-Writing Connection
    I think our new reading curriculum, ReadyGen, integrates reading and writing very well. The writing lessons are way too quick and students never have time to finish one before the next one is being assigned, but with some modification the stories are wonderful models for writing. The lessons encourage higher order thinking and students are able to connect the texts to their writing, speaking and listening. There is a response journal, but we didn’t order them and my students answer some of the questions on the reading for that day on Nearpod (an app that connects the student IPads to the active board so everyone can see what they write-they write in pairs) The questions from the program are very thought provoking and students usually enjoy answering them. Students learn to find evidence in the readings and write brief but solid answers to the thought provoking questions. I have found that students work hard to use proper conventions when answering these questions, but them slide back at times when handwriting the answers to the questions.
    We know how important Reading is and how important it is to read than to write about the reading. Our school has made it a goal to have all students reading well by third grade and there are usually only 1 or 2 students who are a little behind. I have had book reports due every month, but they are usually fun assignments like make a mobile of the main events, make a puppet of the famous person you read about in a biography, post card to someone from the main character, letter to the author, or make a movie poster advertising the book you read.
    We have students read 20 minutes every night and write a one sentence summary of what they read one of the nights. I don’t think I have done a good job of modeling summarizing. I can see what I am missing from the Procedures in Brief for Teaching Summarizing in Shared Read-Alouds. There are so many steps that I leave out that would be beneficial for my students. I will also refer to pg. 133 regarding Note-Taking. I have my students research and take notes on the Solar System (usually on 1 planet), Iditarod, and History of Ashland. I usually provide them with a graphic organizer. ReadyGen uses several graphic organizers which can be used in other subjects.
    The second grade teachers do a good job of getting the students interested in Non-fiction because they usually come into my room and go right to the Non-fiction books. We also purchase Scholastic News every year. I encourage students to highlight and take notes when they are reading so they can answer the 10 questions on the back. I also have students complete nonfiction reading and worksheets during an intervention time. The worksheets usually have a one-page nonfiction story and the students answer 5 -7 comprehension questions on the back. The questions are varied in length and style, some are multiple choice, some are one word answers and some are answer with a complete sentence. Students love the stories because they are Guinness World Records Readings.

    1. I love your school's goal...all students should be reading close to grade level by 3rd grade... Kudos to you and your staff.

      I'm also interested in the NearPod app. We are (finally) allowed to get Apple products again, so I have 6 mini ipads coming even though IT won't support them. :D

  6. Chapter 4:
    I don’t understand how worksheets are still seen as a viable option when dealing with writing. I can get behind a test with a multiple choice portion, but for the most part, I don’t see the benefit of trying to teach writing without writing. This can mean when talking about sentence structure, or if a student is dissecting the thoughts on the theme of a book read in class—their writing should be the thing that is assessed and upheld as the part of their learning that is looked at. Honestly, that is the great equalizer in my school and department: Each students assessed on their ideas and their conventions separately so that either can celebrated without being connected to any possible mishaps on the other.

    And I think this is where expectations are simultaneously raised and upheld for all students, but especially our lower achieving ones. Because they can have ideas that are listened to and either upheld or questioned purely based on the merit of the idea, it gives them a chance to have to worry about whether they capitalized something correctly until later. This is especially important if you truly believe that writing is a process because it’s a chance to say, “good work on the idea. Now go back and re-write this section to make it match tenses,” and you’re not saying the writing isn’t good, just that it’s not done yet.

    Chapter 5:
    I’m lucky enough to have a classroom set of computers, and during our free writes I will sometimes make them grab another person’s computer and finish the story their partner was on; sometimes with an extra prompt, sometimes I just have them read what the partner was writing and pick up from there. It’s always fun because it quickly evolves into who can one-up the other in terms of the absurdity of the story, but that is a type of creativity that I think is necessary for good ideas to be created and for good writing to perpetually happen.

    Chapter 6:
    To be honest, I know this a lame way to approach this chapter, but I don’t think I can say it any better than was already written in the summary: 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)
    Authenticity is the most important part of teaching, I think. If what you’re attempting to do is create more well-rounded individuals that will ultimately be positive, contributing members to society, then they better learn how to do that with authentic assignments that are “worth their time.”

    1. Dustin, I love these quotes of yours enough to re-write them. Well said! :D

      I don’t see the benefit of trying to teach writing without writing.

      (Y)ou’re not saying the writing isn’t good, just that it’s not done yet.

      Oh, how fun...having the students finish up each other's writing. We can always use more fun in the classroom for not only the students but ourselves as well!