Adventures in Literacy Land: teacher mom of three

Showing posts with label teacher mom of three. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teacher mom of three. Show all posts

Helping Little Writers Develop Writing Stamina

Welcome to Literacy Land!  It's Lauren here today from Teacher Mom of 3 to talk about writing, specifically writing stamina.  If you use a Daily 5 model in your classroom, you most likely are working on reading stamina right now. Writing stamina is also something that students need to work on, especially at the beginning of the year.

 Students need large chunks of time throughout the day to write across the content areas.  For some of our students writing stamina can be even more difficult to develop than reading stamina. Throughout the years, I have had numerous students who had difficulty "draining their brain" of ideas to develop a topic. After writing a sentence or two, they would proclaim that they had nothing more to write.  I am sure that you can relate!  I have found some ideas that have been successful with my students over the years from grades kindergarten through eighth grade. And now, I am using these ideas with my little writer (third grade) that I homeschool!

Whether you use a workshop approach, a Daily 5 model, or another curricular framework,  the following ideas can help your writers (K-5) develop their craft and strengthen their writing "muscles".

1. Use Journals Instead of Worksheets

 Use journals as “morning work” in place of a worksheet or a DOL type of activity.  Have students apply and practice the concepts and teaching points from the previous day's mini-lesson instead of completing a worksheet.   Teachers have varying opinions of writing prompts, but I like to use them for developing writers.  I have found that using prompts that include fun and thoughtful topics encourage students to write.  Another perk with using prompts is that they provide scaffolding for the writers who are having difficulty selecting a topic.  Once or twice a week I give students a freewrite where they select their own topic.  This gives me another opportunity to observe, “kid watch” to see who is having trouble selecting a topic or maintaining their writing stamina.  At the beginning of the year, we brainstorm as a class possible writing topics. I record ideas on chart paper and we continue to add ideas on a weekly basis. The journal can also be used to “harvest” writing topics for Writer’s Workshop. Through modeling and practice, students will learn to start writing in their journal as part of the morning routine or at the beginning of your ELA block, for example.

2. Use a Timer

At the beginning of the year, I set a timer for each "formal" writing activity such as journal writing or during writing workshop, for example.  As a class, you can chart progress being made with writing stamina and students can monitor their own progress.  Are students drawing and writing the entire time?  Are they quietly working? Who has put their pencil down and is about to tell you, "I'm done"?  Praise students for any progress they have made and challenge them to beat the previous day's time. Click here for a free chart you can download from Teachers Pay Teachers

3. Quick Writes

I try to provide as many opportunities as possible for students to flex their "writing muscles" throughout the day in all content areas. Quick Writes can be used for so many different purposes. I like to use them for students to express in writing their reflective thoughts they have during a lesson.  For example, in the middle of a science lesson, I may have them list three things they have learned so far and one or more questions they have.  Or, I may have them define an important vocabulary word from math and show an example. 

4. Entrance and Exit Tickets

I have used these for over ten years and love them!  They allow for a quick formative assessment that you can use before or after a lesson.  There are many fancy templates available now, but I usually just use a sticky note or an index card.  Again, just another way for students to develop their writing muscles.

5. Reader Response

Use reader response in all content area reading for students to develop and demonstrate their understanding of the text as well as to show evidence of reading strategy use.  I also like to remind students that they not only read in all subject areas, but they also write in all content areas. Writing is a tool that we use many times a day, not just in language arts class!  Emphasize that they are to use and apply their writing strategies in all subjects.  Even now as a homeschool teacher, I have my third grader keep a reader's notebook.  The first part of the composition book is for the interactive notebook and the remainder is for reader response (for all content areas) and additional reading mini-lessons.

6. Writer's Notebook

I use the writer's notebook to house writing mini-lessons including interactive mini-lessons and for all stages of writer's workshop. The journal could be a part of this, but it will not fit in the composition notebooks we are using. However, the two notebooks are often used together, as the journal can often be used as the source for writing workshop topics.  Similar to the journal, I use the writer's notebook as the place to practice and apply what we are learning.  For example, we were reviewing a complete sentence a a week ago.  Instead of using a worksheet to practice identifying subjects and predicates, my son wrote a few sentences about the topic "summer" and then identified the subject and predicate for each sentence. Another example is I will have him return to a draft he wrote in his notebook to search for all the nouns, if that is the teaching point for the lesson.

7. Personal Dictionary/Portable Word Wall

One of the most difficult things to get across to my writers is that they do not have to worry about spelling correctly in a first draft. It's ok if not every word is spelled correctly. They are to stretch the sounds, make a good try, and circle the word if it doesn't look right. Then later, they can go back and correct spelling (the words they circled) during editing.  On the other hand, there are times when you only have one chance to work on a written piece before it is "published", either being turned in to the teacher or to a classmate.  In either case, the personal dictionary is a life saver for you as the teacher and for your writers.  Students keep the personal dictionary or portable word wall in their desks and can access them anytime they need to know how to spell a word.  This teaches them independence and can increase their writing stamina because they are stopping only briefly to check the spelling of a word.  During editing and/or conferencing, I will have students write the words they had difficulty spelling in their dictionary to consult during future writing.

8. Boost confidence!

This, this is the most important tip, in my opinion, for helping writers not only develop their stamina but to develop as a writer as a whole. Many times students don't write for very long because they do not have much confidence in themselves.  They may feel that they don't have "good" ideas or anything important to say.  We as their teacher (or as their mom, in my case!) know better!  From day one I refer to my students as writers, as authors with creative, important, and worthwhile ideas and pieces to write.  I tell them, YOU are writers!".  I do what it takes to nudge them toward risk-taking and to look at mistakes and "failures" as a opportunities for growth and as a learning experience.  This is one reason why I don't assign a grade to every piece of writing at every stage of the writing process.  I want to give meaningful and targeted feedback that students can use to become better writers.  

In addition, I share my experiences as a writer, as I write when they write.  I use mentor texts a lot, but I also find it meaningful to my students to read my writing, to see me struggle, and to watch me find what works for me.

There are many other great ideas that we as teachers can implement to help develop our students' writing stamina.  What works for you and your students?  Please share in comments.


Reading Logs: A Parent's Perspective

Hi Literacy Land readers!  It is Lauren from Teacher Mom of Three.  Today I am going to try and take off my teacher hat and talk about reading logs from a parent point of view.   This post is an opinion post to generate thinking and discussion. 

The reading logs that I am discussing are the ones sent home to document a child's reading at home.  They usually are in chart or calendar form and require the parent or child to record the book title, pages read, and/or minutes read, as well as requiring a parent signature. Sometimes they are counted toward a reading grade or homework grade.

Now, a little preface to my post so you know from where I am come.  I have been a teacher for twenty-six years and a mom for twenty-two years.  Throughout my teaching career, I have utilized a reader's log in various forms over all grade levels as a classroom teacher and as a reading specialist.  As well, my oldest son is now twenty-two, and he was required to complete a reader's log throughout most of his school career.

There is no disputing that students of all ages need to read at home to become better readers.  You can call it reading practice, independent, or recreational reading.  We all know that to be a better reader, kids need to read.  A lot.  And they need to read both at school and at home.

Ok, now that I have put my parent hat back on, I will say that from my family's perspective, the reading log does not promote authentic reading, nor does it create life-long readers. But let me get to the why.

Why Reading Logs Should Not be Emphasized
  •  First, many times the completion of reading logs is tied to a reward, whether it is a grade or a prize.  Sometimes students are rewarded for the total number of minutes read.  In this case, the incentive is extrinsic, not intrinsic.  Intrinsic motivation creates lifelong reading,  Extrinsic motivation is short-term and the motivation to read becomes not about reading for enjoyment, but rather to earn an ice cream party or a good grade.
  • The log is usually a form of accountability to document whether students are reading at home for the required daily or weekly minutes.  I understand that teachers need some sort of accountability.  I also understand that not all students will complete the reading or have a log completed. Sometimes even teacher-moms forget.  At least this one does.  We get so caught up in the reading, that many days pass and no one can remember how many minutes Noah read last Tuesday.  All that Noah knows is that he finished his book and he can't wait to read the next one in the series.

        Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, believes that students will read if you give them great books. She doesn't require her students to keep a log for at-home reading. Teachers must help students to find books that they can get totally engrossed in.  Books that the students want to take home.  Books that are of interest to the students and books that the student has chosen herself.  There's two points here that I want to make. 
  •  First, when students must document the minutes read or pages read, this can and does interfere with reading.  It sets up an artificial reading experience. not an authentic one.  Students and parents have to remember to set the timer, reading magically stops when the timer goes off, and someone has to document the minutes.  The reading experience can become tedious and frustrating.

  • Second, many researchers, including Miller and Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide, emphasize that teachers must, must allow time for reading in the classroom throughout the day.  Both understand that for many students they may not have a support system at home to encourage reading or a parent available to sign the log.  When I taught middle school, many of the students came from single family homes with the parent working night shift.  The students had to remember to make arrangements for parents to sign the log before the due date. Seems like they should be responsible, but these same students were the ones caring for younger siblings and in charge of making dinner and other chores.  Sadly, reading was not a priority in the home.  Staying safe in high-crime neighborhoods and caring for younger siblings was the priority.  Reading logs aren't going to change that.

  • The goal of education is to create life-long learners and readers.  The log isn't going to do that either.  For my sons, they read because they find it interesting and enjoyable.  The reader's log gets in the way.  We end up estimating exactly how many minutes they read because I will not have them or me running to the timer.  I do not want to communicate to them that reading stops when the timer goes off or when you have read 10 pages.  It's unnatural in this setting.  Real readers don't set the timer.  Real readers read in bits and chunks throughout the day. I don't document every time my boys read.  I can't.
  • And the reason I can't is because very early in the school year, they got the impression that reading is about completing the log and racking up the minutes.  "I want to go the ice cream party".  "I want the special tickets".  No, I had to gently remind them.  This is not what reading is all about.  I want my discussions with my kids to be about the book, not how many minutes or pages they read.  We read for enjoyment and to learn not for recording minutes.

So in my house, the boys logs are completed each month, but I don't emphasize them.  My boys read much more than the required 15 minutes a night.  They read at breakfast, when they are bored, in their beds at night, in the car, and when their Lego magazines arrive in the mail.  The reader's log did not create these "wild" readers.  No, not at all.

Stay tuned for a second part to this topic where I will discuss my ideas for alternatives.

What are your thoughts as a parent and/or as a teacher?