Archive for the ‘in class writing’ Category

Day Four – Goals

We started today by sharing what we wrote at the end of class yesterday about good readers and writers and how we saw ourselves as readers and writers. Adam named his sister as someone whom he thought of as a good reader because “she has patience to read every word carefully.” This makes sense, we’ve talked about reading too fast and not being able to remember what we read. Adam named one of his best friends as a good writer, the reason was that “she writes really neat and spells realy (sic) well.” There really seems to be a disconnect between what I mean by writing and what he means. He is stuck on the physical action and aesthetic aspects of writing; I am talking about the act of getting thoughts out of your head and onto the page. We talked about that when we shared and I think that I’m starting to make what I mean when I talk about writing and writers clear. This does illustrate a challenge for Adam, he has difficulty with writing stamina and messy handwriting (it is a bit better than mine!). I’ve started to address this today with a writing activity I’ll describe in a bit. Adam describes himself this way: “I am a fast non-carful (sic) reader that skims over to get the important facts out of the book.” This isn’t a surprise as we’d already talked about this and making an effort to read slower.

This was a good segue into talking about what Adam does as he reads. I gave him a bookmark yesterday that has reading strategies on it – Visualize, Question, Connect, Clarify, Predict, Summarize and briefly talked about each. He says that he visualizes, and in fact his imagination works overtime (and this is why the movie version of books always ‘suck’). We also discovered that he makes connections and will sometimes ask questions (specifically why a character made a choice that Adam didn’t agree with). I asked what he did if he read something and didn’t understand it and he answered that he’d ask his mom or a teacher, or keep reading and hope that it was made clear. So though he didn’t name “clarify” he has ideas about how to do that.

During silent reading time I asked him to make a connection (text to text/self/world) while reading. I also told him that we’d be writing down the page number we ended on, summarizing what we just read, putting our thoughts down, making the connection, and predicting what happens next (I did all these things too). When we finished all this and shared I asked him if he had read at his normal speed (his summary had specific details so I was curious), and he said that he tried to read slower! Having Adam write after he reads serves two purposes, one it gives him a purpose for reading and two makes him think about what he’s read afterward. I won’t do this every time as I do want him to be able to just read with no expectation attached to it, and I’ll always tell him before hand if he’s going to write afterward.

We talked about the goals we’ll be working on. A fourth was suggested by my coach (and is was a goal but it isn’t one of the official goals for his stage of literacy development).

  1. Increase motivation to read and write
  2. Increase fluency in reading and writing
  3. Develop awareness and use of study strategies
  4. Sees self as a reader and writer.

And we talked about how we’ll approach them.

  1. Positive reading/writing experiences. Books he enjoys, writing activities that he enjoys or sees the benefit/purpose of.
  2. Slowing down while reading, practice/ VOLUMINOUS interactions with text.
  3. Direct instruction on the strategies (he really already knows them but to formally acknowledge them), modeling their use, and practice using them.
  4. All of the above! Positive reinforcement for the work he’s doing.

The only feedback that Adam gave when asked was that “I really need to read slower”. I will put these goals and how we’ll achieve them on chart paper to leave up as a reminder to both of us. I really think that sharing what we’re working on and why and how is important with the student is important and I think that Adam appreciated the opportunity to not only be told all those things but to give input on all those things (even though he didn’t have much to give). It provides a sense of ownership and collaboration in learning that is important to me to foster in students and between students and teachers.

We did a writing activity so that I could see what Adam’s writing stamina was like, what kind of prompt appealed to him, and to model writing for him. The prompts I gave him to choose from were:

  • “I felt something slither across the back of my ankles and I . . . “
  • If you had your own country what would you name it and what kind of place would it be to live in.
  • Respond: The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few.
  • Free write

When I read the third choice aloud I mentioned that it was connected to the article he read during the IRI on dropping the bomb on Japan during WWII. He had said that it was right because the lives saved outweighed the lives lost. He chose the second prompt to write about and got stuck trying to think of a name but when I told him to come back to it he wrote for the full time (8-10 minutes). He talked about what he wrote instead of reading it (I just asked what he had written) and I did the same but quoted from what I wrote to give him an idea that he can talk about and read what he wrote, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I learned that Adam is will to work, he claims he struggles with writing for any length of time but seemed to have no trouble and certainly didn’t complain about it. Motivation may have played a role in this though. I’ll see how he does when a prompt is given to him and his choice is more limited.

We also talked about some projects we might do. I was surprised to hear that he didn’t really do any Language Arts projects last year, mostly tests (yuck!). We might try a comic strip, or book poster, or fake Facebook wall for a character.

Now I have to plan for tomorrow before I go to work tonight.


You can read about class one here. My summer journey – class one

You can read about class two here: First class with students

You can read about class three here: Day three – the IRI


Reflection on the Area of Writing

Through school district that I work in I am taking a one credit class on writing. It is sort of a continuation of in-service days we had with the same instructor. We have to post a reflection once a month. Our first meeting was last night. The prompt that we were given is:

Here is where you can post your reflections for this month.  It might be about what you are wondering about teaching of writing, an idea that came from class about our histories as writers or anything else that you want to reflect on in the area of writing.

What follows is the nonsense with which I responded . . . enjoy

I have a confession to make: I had to dig my writer’s notebook out from under a pile of books that I’ve recently read, or are currently reading. My last ‘entry’ was Nov 3rd, 2009. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing however, it also doesn’t mean that there haven’t been times when I wished I had it with me. I think that it ended up in that pile during a time when I was grading essays and my bag was crammed with paper and I had to make a choice, do I really want to start carrying three bags to school? The answer came to me quickly – no! So the notebook was taken out to make room for student work, a noble sacrifice for the notebook to make.

I have been writing though, I mentioned my sporadic blogging (I write it and publish it for the pleasure of. . . well I’m not sure that anyone reads it, much less enjoys it) and I have been using Facebook for my own little soap box. I should be using the blog for my soap box; the thing is that what I’m writing about I am trying to engage others in conversation about and with my limited (okay non-existent) audience the blog doesn’t fulfill that need. I was asked by another blogger (that’s one reader!!) if I would like to be a guest author on her blog that deals primarily with book reviews, but I really want to stick with my own blog – maybe it’s an ego thing. One draw to the blog is that I can access it easily as long as I have internet access, and I can’t run out of space. I know that when I fill up my notebook it will get put away somewhere (I don’t throw things out – much to the dismay and frustration of my wife) and I’ll forget about it and rarely look at it. The blog lets me organize my entries with categories and tags that make it easy to find a specific entry long after it’s been written.

Something that I realized during the histories as writers exercise: writing is cathartic for me. Now I knew that already but I didn’t really realize how early I started using writing to deal with what was going on in my life. In middle school I would write stories with ‘made up’ characters who were going through things that were remarkably similar to what I was going through at the time, to be honest it was mostly about girls and is pretty hilarious to read now. In high school I began to write poetry, again to deal with girls, but also to deal with the divorce of my parents. I never shared any of this writing, I wrote it in a journal and didn’t look at it again until years later. As an adult I write to organize my thoughts, to formulate how I feel about a subject, to relate a funny story. I still write poetry, mostly for my wife (haiku for her birthday), often for examples in class. I haven’t written a piece of fiction (unless you count some of the grad papers I wrote) for a very long time and I miss it. I want to incorporate more fiction writing opportunities for my students, and for me. The in class writings we do provide a time to write fiction but I haven’t asked them to pick one to develop, yet. The students want it, they ask me about it. I tell them that it’s a good idea and I’d like to do some creative writing pieces, but with all that the curriculum asks of me I don’t yet have the skills I need as a teacher to work it into the year.

Reading over what I’ve just written I see that it is a meandering piece that makes many stops along the way and has no real focus other than ‘writing’. I’ve always admired Kerouac’s and Burroughs‘, stream of consciousness style of writing, let’s pretend that’s what I was imitating. . .

And a Cookie Shall Lead Them

I wrote this on October 14th, 2009 during a literacy conference. The prompt was to write a “This I believe”. This I believe is an NPR program, click the link and read/listen to a couple they range from hilarious to heartbreaking. I thought I’d share mine with you. I hope you like it.

“It had to be you. . . . it had to be you” I held out the warm cookie at arms length as I swung in circles and sung to it, melted chocolate splattering the walls. I believe in chocolate chip cookies. Just out of the oven warm with the chips a little melty, it’s like a hug for your taste buds – a part of your body that is sorely overlooked in the hug department. It is also a metaphysical hug for your soul. Can you eat a chocolate chip cookie and stay mad? I dare you to try, it may take more than one but they will overcome the anger. It’s uplifting, chocolate does contain caffeine and releases feel good endorphins, no one bites into a delicious chocolate chip cookie and frowns. You cannot help but feel good while eating a ccc.

I believe that sharing a chocolate chip cookie is a very personal and intimate act. Unless you have one of the oversized platter sized cookies, it’s tantamount to giving away a little bit of paradise – what could be more personal then that.  When you find someone who will break their cookie in half and share it with you, you have found a true friend – a keeper. Even if the half that is shared is the smaller of the two, that person is still a cut above the rest and  should be celebrated. If that person gives you the larger half – well then you have found a truly generous soul. For those who will not share, this speaks volumes about that person’s personality and world philosophy. I bet George W. not only doesn’t share his cookie but wants the cookies of the people around him too and is willing to invade their plate to get them.

I believe that ambassadors, hostage negotiators, and anybody that brings bad news to people should be trained in the baking of chocolate chip cookies.

I believe that chocolate chip cookies, like people, vary from cookie to cookie in size, shape, color, and texture but all have the same basic ingredients, are good when freshly baked and if they’ve been around for a while, are best when accepted with love, and dunked in milk.

I believe that chocolate chip cookies can make the world a warmer, larger, meltier, and more delicious place.

Pondering prompts

If ice cream sandwiches ruled the world. . .
Then I realized that those weren’t my shoes.
Which is better, Facebook or Myspace and why?
Free write (of course)

These were the In Class Writing prompts I came up with as students watched as class was starting. Ignore the fact that I wasn’t totally prepared. Normally I don’t require that they share, it’s optional, this time I told them that they would have to share with their neighbor, they would have the opportunity to share with the group later in the week. I went over the choices, told them they had 10 minutes and sat down to write in my comp book. I started writing about ice cream sandwiches, the topic left me cold so I switched to the second topic – I didn’t get far. None of the topics really got my creative juices flowing, so I began writing about that, musing that I would perhaps change the prompts for the classes that followed. I brainstormed some prompts for future ICW’s (I won’t tell you now, I don’t want to ruin the surprise).

I left the prompts alone. The kids really liked them, I had one student remark, “Why did you have to put all these good ones on one day? Couldn’t you spread them out?” He came up later and asked if I would put some of the choices up again because he wanted to write about all of them. I told him to write them in his journal and he could choose one as a free write.

I was totally bored by these prompts, I’m not sure if it is because it’s Monday or the fact that I spent all weekend grading drafts of persuasive letters. Whatever the reason, nothing was coming out of my pencil. The kids were fired up though – usually I am too, especially with the prompts involving food, (it’s kind of a recurring theme that started with the line – “And that’s why you can never trust an orange” which come up in kids writing still).

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