Friday, February 15, 2013

Lucy Calkins - Writing

Seven teachers from Chets Creek Elementary trekked to Orlando, FL on February 11, 2013 with Principal Susan Phillips to hear literacy expert, Lucy Calkins.  These are the combined, compiled notes of Part 3 of that conference, "Pathways to the Common Core".  These notes focus on Writing, especially persuasive writing.

About Writing and the Common Core...
  • Common Core Standards #1-3 are it!
  • Three types of writing are addressed in the Common Core: Opinions (persuasive letters, personal essays, editorial, petitions, persuasive speeches...), Informational/ explanatory ( how to, all about, pamphlets, brochures, reports, answers to Reading, Science, Social Studies, Math questions), and narrative (personal, small moments, realistic fiction, fantasy, narrative biography, narrative non-fiction...)
  • Teachers should aim for the standards in the grade above because the K-1-2-3 standards have low expectations. 
  • Fourth grade standards, however, are ambitious and we are not sure fourth graders can do what is expected of them.  Fourth grade teachers certainly cannot accomplish all that is expected if they are not able to stand on the shoulders of the grades before them. 
  • Students should enter middle school with the 6th grade standards mastered if you want the students to leave 8th grade with the standards mastered.
About Writing...
  • Writing needs to be taught EVERY day in every grade.
  • Kids get better at writing by writing.
  • Kids need to be writing about what's on their minds.  Let them choose their topics.
  • There will be no "dittosh_ts" which means no graphic organizers in Writers' Workshop.  Students should be writing, not filling in sheets.
  • A first graders should be able to complete a three page book with three sentences on each page in each workshop.  By third grade a student should be able to write a notebook page and a half in a single workshop.
  • If you want to immeiately lift the level of writing in a story in first grade, start with the weather! - "One bright sunny day..."  "The sun streaked through the window..."  "One dark gloomy day..."  This is the advice given to Lucy by her mentor, Ralph Fletcher.  Who knew?  Then add dialogue.
  • John Hattie's research on achievement says that what accelerates achievement is 1) teacher/ student relationships, 2) using performance assessments, sharing and discussing them collegiality, and 3) providing powerful feedback (which includes informative compliments and next steps).

About Performance Assessments...
  • Start the year by asking students to write their best on-demand narrative small moment.  Next day write their best informational - something they know a lot about.  And then on the third day an opinion piece.  These are your baseline.  Teach the unit of study including working through the writing process to a completed, polished portfolio piece.  At the end of the unit, give the prompt again. This will tell you what the student can really do. This is the teacher's assessment of what was taught.  This is what teachers should be discussing with colleagues.
  • Instructions for these prompts and benchmak pieces to compare against are available at the Reading the Writing Project web site. 
  • Self-assessment for the genres of writing that are written in kid friendly language are also available at the Reading and Writing web site.

Persuasive Writing In Kindergarten - Using Words to Make a Change
  • This is a six week unit - writing to make a difference.
  • In your school - Students look for problems in the class and around the school and find solutions.  Children make signs ("Knock on the bathroom door before you go in." Hang up your coat.")
  • Writing letters to make a change - Write letters addressing a problem with solutions to spark change. State the problem boldly.  Build up the problem so that it is a BAD problem.  Infuse details throughout. You can embed a story or anecdote into a persuasive piece or teach politeness in the closing (Thank you kindly for listening...").  You can persuade with information.
  • Take on a persuasive project that requires research to make the world a better place. Sound like an expert.

Persuasive Writing in First Grade - Writing Reviews
  • Best in Show - Ask each child to bring in a shoebox collection of something they care about (e.g., hair bows/ barrettes, wrestlers, Star War characters...). When you care about something, you have a best. Now how do you decide which is the best item in your collection - the winner? Which is the second place? third place? and why did you make that choice? Which thing in your collection takes the booby prize? Can you defend your choices?
  • Writing reviews - First graders can write reviews of restaurants or video games or toys or movies or television shows... They learn to hook the reader, to defend their choices and to make comparisons. They learn to use checklists. They study published reviews.
  • Writing persuasive book reviews - Learn to share a summary of a book but don't spill the beans by telling the entire story. Don't make it too long or too short.

Persuasive Writing in Third Grade -Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials
  • Third grade is when you want students to write expansively with great detail.
  • Once children can write a personal essay, it is easier for them to write an opinion essay.
  • Start with transference.  Remind students of all they have already learned.
  • Be speech writers, opinion writers.  Start with a quick persuasive speech or a "flash draft," like how to get more magazines in the library.  Then the next day go back and really write.
  • Then go to petition writing.  Send the petition to someone that can make a decision.
  • Hook the audience.  (from Lucy's example - "Barbie-licious")
  • Chart what the children say. 
  • Give brave, bold opinions. 
  • Then give reasons with evidence.  Use quotes as evidence.  Use examples as evidence.  Add a micro story.
  • Use your hand as a graphic organizer.  Your palm is the topic and the fingers are the reasons.
  • Consider the audience and make sure the audience can always read your piece.
  • For an effective transition from the mini-lesson to independent writing, have the students bring their writing to the floor for the mini-lesson.  Have them begin their writing on the floor after the mini-lesson and dismiss them to their seats as you see that they have gotten started.
Persuasive Writing in Fourth Grade - Personal and Persuasive Essays
  • Start with a structure boot camp.  Teach the 5 paragraph thesis-driven essay.
  • Give the whole class the same topic, such as "I love ice cream" (a topic that cannot be rebutted).  Give three reasons and use micro stories, examples and quotes as evidence.  Give reasons playing up and stretching out the part that makes your point. Use elaboration to grow ideas. Use a closing statement to tie back to the thesis.
  • Add in a 2-day language and conventions/ punctuation boot camp, if needed.

One teacher's reflection...
I have had the opportunity to learn from Lucy Calkins through her books, her web site, and through two summer institutes in NYC.  She has changed my professional practice.  Through her passionate instruction and through videos of children doing things I had never even imagined, I was able to see possibilities for my youngest learners that were beyond any of my own expectations.  So, it is no surprise, that on this threshold of new standards, she is the one lighting the way for us all.  I feel privileged to have shared time with her.  She is a model of a dedicated, passionate, lifelong learner.

At the same time I am blessed to be at a school, and to have been at that school for fifteen years, that lives the type of model of continuous improvement that Lucy speaks about.  I am proud that I serve with school level leadership that recognizes the need to reach beyond the expectation by finding a way to provide for this type of professional development that will make a diference tomorrow.

And then,  to be walking this path with educators who are willing to risk it all for children makes me humble and proud at the same time.  These are the friends that pick me up when I fall, that listen to my whines and complaints and care about me all the same.  They are the ones that read with me, that will discuss almost any issue with me, and who challenge and push my thinking on a daily basis.

This was one of the many conferences where we listened and talked all the way home about ways to infuse what we had learned into our daily walk,
but still managed to have lots of fun!

It doesn't get any better than this!

1 comment:

jac said...

Filling out an application for the summer institute. Any advice??