The purpose of this blog is to provide a space to share teaching ideas that deal with writing - K to 12.
Recently, I have been working in schools, implementing the Calkins' Units of Study that are aligned with the CCSS. This program and the rubrics that accompany it are often used as a framework to meet proficiency guidelines.
I will continue to post articles that support these processes.
Please join in.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Here are some great resources on making formative assessments work for you. The article Treasures or Trash speaks specifically to time management in writing. Great information. Courtesy of Choice Literacy!
You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.
I could almost hear the whispers coming from my school bag:
“Formative assessments should drive instruction.”
“If we took time to write, you should take time to read.”
“What’s tomorrow’s minilesson? Which students will you meet with in small group…and why? Who needs the first conference?”
I glanced at the clock. 8:00 pm. If I set the timer for 30 minutes, I could still catch half of Antiques Roadshow. “Okay, let’s do this,” I answered the whispers from my school bag.
usual, just getting started was the worst part of the work. Once I
began reading through my students’ opinion quick-writes, one glaringly
obvious pattern emerged. Although most every student clearly expressed
their opinion in the lead, hardly any of them were using a hook to grab
their reader’s attention before they stated their opinion. Obviously,
they needed more practice. When I thought back on
the opinion articles I’d shared as our mentor texts, I identified five
different kinds of hooks:
Ask a question to get the reader thinking.
Write the opinion in a creative way.
Believe me because I’m an expert/have experience.
Give information about the topic.
Tell both sides before you tell your opinion.
I got to school the next morning, I could quickly make a mini anchor
chart for each type to hang around the room. I would sort the students
into mixed-ability small groups, and we would make our practice more
like a game. I would give them an opinion and a short amount of time to
work together, and we’d see if we could come up with each of the
different types of hooks for each opinion.
the timer went off at 8:30, I had silenced all of the voices coming
from my school bag, and I had a plan of action for writing workshop the
hate to break it to you, but this isn’t really about teaching opinion
writing. This is about time balance and management, the importance of
using formative assessments to drive instruction, and trusting ourselves
as professionals to create effective lessons and activities on the fly –
lessons and activities that meet the specific needs of our own unique
students had spent more than half an hour completing an opinion
quick-write to show me what they were doing well and what they needed
more work on. I owed it to them to spend at least a half hour looking
over that work and designing instructional moves around it.
set a timer, forcing myself to be focused and efficient in my work. I
didn’t spend my entire evening on schoolwork, and I made sure I had a
reward waiting at the end of the 30 minutes.
gave myself permission to save some of the preparation for this
activity for the next morning when I got to school. The posters, the
groups, and the list of opinions I would use as prompts could all wait.
I found a pattern of need in their work, I wasted no time wondering why
they couldn’t do something I’d already taught repeatedly. I also didn’t
spend any time assigning blame to myself for not having taught this
skill better in the first place. I found the need and went right to
In less than 15 minutes, I designed a fun activity that would provide repeated supported practice of a weak skill. Fun is a key word to me – repeated practice should feel more like play than work. Supported
is also a key word. I made mixed-ability groups so that my strongest
writers could help me in supporting the writers who needed the most
practice in this skill.
You can imagine the sigh of satisfaction I gave as I sank back into my pillow and waited to find out if the object on Antiques Roadshow
would be trash or treasure. And I didn’t use a single minute of my
precious half hour searching on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers for a
cute activity that might or might not work.
This week we look at smart and efficient assessments to use in the midst of teaching. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Mary Lee Hahn
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Mary Lee Hahn has been teaching 4th or 5th graders for more than 20 years. She is the author of Reconsidering Read-Aloud (Stenhouse Publishers). Mary Lee and her colleague in the Dublin City Schools, Franki Sibberson, blog about
their reading lives at A Year of Reading.