Today we had an inservice on the last day of school. We did it because we were contractually obligated to have one more teacher inservice day after all the snow days were made up. We were able to schedule the Collins Writing group to come and share techniques to enhance writing across curriculum.
While I typically do not love having outside PD, this was worth while. I want to share some highlights from this day. First, I believe it will help me process and reflect on what I got from this topic and how I hope to use it in the fall. I would like to respect the group that presented this information so I will refrain from posting graphics, but I will share what I learned.
The first thing I loved was what they refer to as Type 1 writing. For this writing, the only goal is to build on-topic stamina. You simply give your students an amount of lines to write (1 line per grade to start) a topic, and a short time limit (2-3 minutes). The assessment is as a quick glance. Do they have the lines filled? Does it seem to be on topic? This can give you a great pre-assessment for content area units, reading check-ins, and mid-lesson check-ins and more.
This is also a great way to solve problems w/ kids when they come in from an outside recess period. I had tons of kids come in and want to tell me about how “he did this” or “she did that” and instead, I can have them write it down in three minutes.
This is basically for building stamina. They are writing for content and information. They are writing for volume. The natural progression leads to Type 2 style writing. In this type the your class is still timed for quick writing, but you are looking for facts, specific correct answers, or ideas that fit with truths about the topic you have discussed. I would love to use this as an exit ticket, quick quiz/assessment, or a mid-lesson check in to see if I need to go back.
These two ideas are not checking writing for writing skill, but using writing as a check in for learning.
The last piece I was able to get from the day (before leaving to learn to bring people back from the dead…CPR/AED training) was something I have heard before, but it is an incredibly important factor to remember when teaching writing!
DON’T TRY TO FIX EVERYTHING AT ONCE! Focus on one or two skills at a time. When you mark up a paper with EVERY mistake, you frustrate writers. You create anxiety, noise, and a lack of caring about the feedback. Give kids a specific targets and make sure that improves from writing to writing!
These ideas have so many practical uses in the classroom. As I sat in the workshop (this isn’t unusual) I thought up dozens of ideas for how to use the information of today. Our presented told us “This week, people keep saying, I wish I could start using this right now” and now, so am I! I will be digging out this blog post, and my notes that I took on my laptop (new blog coming tomorrow on this one!) so that I can refresh my memory on the many great ideas shared.