Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Visit to Jay Middle School on December 7, 2009

On Monday, we used our new meeting format at Jay Middle School.  As I mentioned earlier, we had decided to try a different format for my time spent teaming with the teachers.  Each teacher met with me as we reviewed their lesson plans regarding organization.  

Following are the highlights of the conversations we had.  We are sharing them with you in hopes that they will help you tweak your teaching:)
  1. Lynn O. is working with her students on a 5 paragraph essay.  She has had them write about personal topics and is now moving them into writing based on research.  Lynn began instruction with sorts - requiring students sort the facts based on what made sense to them.  She followed this with modeling how she would put her facts together into cohesive paragraphs.  We decided to focus on cohesive paragraphs - a little longer - by having her model thinking/logic when organizing the the paragraph as well as providing students with opportunities to "talk through" their paragraphs with peers.
  2. Diane M. met with me to discuss organizers for posters her students were making.  She had provided students with paragraph starters along with the topic that was to be covered in that section.  Added to this organizer were boxes for students to list verbs and descriptors.  This had been a project for a while and Diane wanted to continue using it.  It came out of the book, A Year Full of Writing for Middle School, by Teacher Created Materials, Inc.  Many teachers have excellent writing projects that can be used with 6 + 1 - by adding a slight shift in focus.
  3. Colleen S. wanted to discuss a social studies project.  She had used a similar approach to Diane's.  This works well since they share the same students.  We looked at how to assist students when they respond to text in the content area and settled on Constructed Responsand how to create a rubric based on traits Trait Based .  We have included the sites here for your use. However, the high point of the conversation came when Colleen talked about instructing students regarding the reciprocity between reading and writing at this level. (I am hoping she will write a post for us soon!) 
  4. Susan S. met with me next.  All of the 5th and 6th graders are in the same wing now and their teachers are trying to co-ordinate rubrics, etc. in order to maintain consistency with their students.  During our discussion, we were able to look at what kinds of organization worked best for what genres and which format was more supportive.  Teachers had created rubrics with clear identifiable elements.  Rubrics reinforce organization as well as setting clear goals for students when shared with their students before the project is begun.  
  5. Nancy G. met with me to discuss how to use some graphic organizers.  She had purchased a book, Using Graphic Organizers to Increase Reading Comprehension in the Content Areas, published by Mark Twain/Carson-Dellosa Publishing Co. Inc.  Nancy and I discussed the importance of think alouds when using these graphic organizers as well as the reciprocity between reading and writing once again.
Lessons Learned:
  • Rubrics are key for all students when writing - especially when given to the students before they write.
  • Reciprocity between reading and writing strategies are crucial at this age as well.
  • Many writing projects can still be used by simply shifting the instruction to focus on one of the traits.

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