Sunday, January 27, 2013

What are you working on today as a writer?

I've seen a lot of posts lately on how other teachers teach writing so I decided to join along. 

This student regularly fills up pages all the way
down to the very end with words!
So before this year, students wrote in draft books and were responsible for writing something called DTAP (or DTEP? Something like that). It was very strict and students kept all of their writing in their draft books. Now in Madison where I did my student teaching, we taught writing completely 100% different. We used Lucy Calkins writing curriculum. In a nutshell, students write their own stories and books about things that really happened to them and each day, we teach a short minilesson to help them become better writers. 

Well, when I got to my new school, I definitely wasn't feeling the whole draft book kind of writing. I was used to kids writing what they 
wanted to write about and me teaching ways to make that writing better. I feel that students learn so much more if they have some independence in their learning so I secretly started teaching Lucy Calkins to my students. Basically I would rush through the draft books (since at my school, we all share lesson plans and teach the same stuff) to get to LC. Well, my kids loved it. They loved writing their own stories in their books and becoming authors. In fact, students used to ask me (when we were writing in draft books) when they could write stories. Music to my ears. 
This girl loves to show off her folder of stories. And that's probably only about two months of books too!

See the extra flap for added writing space?
Well long story short, I was talking to my principal who said that she used to use LC and that my school had the books buried in a closet! She then launched into that our writing scores weren't up to par and that she wanted us all to use LC. 

So the very next day = no more draft books and strictly LC.
So I love LC. The end. No just kidding. The beauty of LC is (I think) that students are able to really have an autonomy for what they do. They take pride and ownership in their books and stories.  

Proud of her work!

The year-long LC curriculum has seven books in the set:
1. Launching a Writing Workshop
2. Small Moments: Personal Narrative Writing 

3. Writing for Readers: Teaching Skills and   Strategies 
4. The Craft of Revision
5. Authors as Mentors 
6. Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports
7. Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages 

There are also 2 "teacher books" The Nuts and Bolts of Teaching Writing and The Conferring Handbook. The Nuts and Bolts tell how to launch writing workshop and The Conferring Handbook tells how to best help students individually during conferences. All of the books are easy to read since they written in a conversational style. Each minilesson depicts a real classroom in New York and is full of the dialogue that was actually said by the teachers and students. There are also side notes about what is happening, what do if your students need more time, and LC uses real life authors to show children what writers do. Also, each of the books builds upon the others and each book lays out specific minilessons that go in a certain order. Writing workshop also ends with a sharing time when a few students are invited to share what they have written that day with the rest of the class. They showing off their work!

She struggled with writing at the beginning of the year
and now can write lots of words.
And most are readable!
To me, there is nothing more satisfying than the "hum" of writing workshop. Some children are writing, some children are cutting flaps for their books, other children are stapling pages together. And I am going around to different kids, checking in on what they are working on and helping them become better writers. I might be helping one student stretch out words to include more sounds so it is easy-to-read. Then I go to another student to help him add periods and capital letters. And then I might check in with another student to help her add dialogue and get the quotation marks placed correctly.

My new friend from California...he'll catch on :)
To me, this is the best way to teach writing. It's also the only way I've taught writing so I may be a little biased, but my kids are excited to write and everyone can easily write 3 or 4 page books with others often writing 6+ pages. 

I recently got a new student from California and it's so obvious that he's never written this way before. He struggles to write stories that are cohesive and on one topic, even a struggle to get him to put multiple ideas on multiple pages. I've loved seeing how far my kids have come as writers and I can't wait to see how much more progress they make in the remaining months of school! 

Totally random note now. So I started off the year with way more girls than boys. And for awhile, I was only losing boys. But now the tables have completely flipped. I keep losing girls and getting new boys. Now I have way more boys than girls! 

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