I believe routines and consistency build confidence in my students and makes them comfortable enough to attempt a new skill. This method is a clear, consistent routine that provides the structure my students need in a typically unstructured time – writing. ~ Ashley | First Belle ~
I believe routines and consistency build confidence in my students and makes them comfortable enough to attempt a new skill. This method is a clear, consistent routine that provides the structure my students need in a typically unstructured time – writing.
~ Ashley | First Belle ~
So, I kinda dropped the ball last year…
I found myself a little behind on my CEC’s for re-certification of my teaching license. Give me a break, though, I had a baby and I was just figuring this Teacher Mom thing out! As a result, I was scrambling to get enough points and perusing the Professional Development website for courses to take. Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed (hellooo, I write a blog!) but to be honest, I haven’t felt very confident teaching it.
So…I signed up for a course on Writer’s Workshop. Mostly because I needed re certification points, but also hoping to learn a few pointers.
I just finished this course last weekend, the culminating assignment being a 15 paragraph “reading log” about the 5 chapters of the textbook that you found most helpful. Good thing I like to write (she said in a flat, dry tone). Not the most enjoyable way to spend 3 hours, and it was the reason no blog post appeared in your inbox last week 🙁 Sorry!
I am making up for it, though, because it inspired me to create a post about how I currently teach writing, and share some tips I learned! I will say, the textbook was actually a lot more helpful than I had imagined. Originally I had totally planned on returning it when I was finished, but it now has a nice place on the shelf with my other favorite TeacherMom books! Plus I found it on Amazon for a decent price. Check it out HERE! FYI-I will be posting a roundup of the most helpful and inspiring TeacherMom books soon!
Ok, Let’s get started!
If you have been keeping up with the Kardashians (just kidding, I mean me), you have probably read my post on how I set up my Reader’s Workshop. In this post, I briefly outline how I include writing, and use a Paragraph of the Week technique that a colleague told me about. I am sure that there are many 5th graders out there who can write more than a paragraph a week, but I chose this method for 2 good reasons:
- I am an inclusion teacher. Many of my students process information at a slower, or different, rate than the average child. I believe routines and consistency build confidence in my students and makes them comfortable enough to attempt a new skill. This method is a clear, consistent routine that provides the structure my students need in a typically unstructured time – writing.
- Every student-no matter their intellectual level- can benefit from taking a closer look at their writing and examining each part of the writing process at a deeper level. This method forces those who can easily write to take a step back, analyze their writing each day, and try new elements to improve.
Here is how it works:
MONDAY- Brainstorm/Topic Sentence
TUESDAY- Rough Draft Day
THURSDAY- Final Draft
FRIDAY- Type Final Draft OR Sharing Aloud
Let me break it down for you:
Monday- Brainstorm Day!
“Brainstorming can make or break the entire writing process” ~Ashley | First Belle
On Mondays, I give the class their topic of the week. During their writing time, they create a bubble map/thought web about the topic. Brainstorming is one of the most ambiguous aspects of writing. Kids get so overwhelmed for a variety of reasons:
- The topic is so broad they cannot nail down a starting point
- They know a lot about the topic and go crazy with their bubble map. Then they have way too much information to organize into a paragraph.
- They do not know enough about the topic, then get worried about how they will ever write an entire paragraph about this topic.
The Color Coded Bubble Map!
Brainstorming can make or break the entire writing process. When I realized my kiddos were struggling, I had to sit down and peel away the layers (and papers) until I got to the root of the problem. Based on what I saw, the brainstorming day set them up for failure. I finally understood why they didn’t like writing! They didn’t have a good, solid method to follow in order to be successful!
That changed when I took a full week and walked them through a structured, methodical approach to writing-starting with the Color-Coded Bubble Map.
This, my friends, has changed our writing world in room A-29. The topic goes in the middle of the web, per usual, and then we add anything we know about that topic in a clockwise direction around the web. Now, here’s the magic: They Color Code the detail bubbles by “chunking” the information that goes together into one color. Here is an example:
Also on Mondays, I require the students to write their topic sentence. Often, I tell them what type of hook I want them to use as well. This REFERENCE page is in their writing folders to remind them of the different types of hook sentences that are good to use.
If the topic is conducive to onomatopoeia, I assign that. If we are writing about a history topic, I may assign them to hook with a fact. You get the idea. By the end of Language Arts block, they have a detailed, color coded bubble map + a topic sentence ready to go for tomorrow!
Tuesday- Rough Draft Day!
Now that the hard part is over, my students can ease into writing their first drafts of their paragraphs! Since their topic sentences are already completed, they have a strong place to start on Day 2. After writing the topic sentence, they simply need to look at their bubble map and create sentences for each color. If there are 3 bubbles colored orange on a child’s brainstorm, then those ideas all related in some way. They write a sentence or two combining those ideas and using the Transistion Words resource page. Students continue in this manner until each color has been added to the rough draft, and they underline the sentences in the color they originated from in the bubble map.
Wednesday- Editing/Revising Day!
“Adding more detail, adding transitions, and improving word choice are laborious, overwhelming tasks that threaten to derail a student if not properly guided.” Ashley| First Belle
On Wednesdays, my munchkins revise and edit their paragraphs. By this point, they know the difference between the two and what reference pages from their writing folders to use. Next to brainstorming, the runner up for “most challenging part of the writing process” goes to revising. Kids have a hard time redoing anything, much less something they spent a lot of time on! Adding more detail, adding transitions, and improving word choice are laborious, overwhelming tasks that threaten to derail a student if not properly guided. I use an anchor chart like this one to help teach this:
Also, on the editing day, it is important to have the students read their work out loud. I cannot tell you how much I have learned about the benefits of this crucial step. The textbook I used for my class stressed the importance of taking a step back and allowing student to discover things on their own. By teaching the class to peer edit and read their work aloud, they learn to catch their mistakes on the editing (grammar) side, but also they learn how to “hear” when a sentence needs revising. Sometimes just hearing strong writing can elevate a struggling writer, so pair your kids up by ability to allow them the opportunity to hear other students’ work.
Thursday- Final Draft Day!
This is by far the easiest day! We write our final copies on clean writing paper, including the revisions made yesterday. The students are taught to take their time and use their best handwriting. If you practice cursive writing with your students, this is a perfect time to incorporate this.
Friday- Finishing Up
Fridays are great for catch up days, aren’t they? For any kiddos that need more time, they finish today. For those that are finished, I like to have them type their final drafts for keyboarding practice, as well as making it look more “polished.”
Additionally, having students share their work is a great way to wrap up a week! It is not just fun, however. This step is akin to the peer editing from Wednesday. By creating opportunities for your kids to hear strong writing, you give them additional ideas, tools, and exposure to different ways they can elevate their own work. In room A-29, I have a director’s chair that they sit in and either read to a small group, or we share with the whole class at the end of the day. Make it a fun time where you really connect as a class.
So There You Have It!
That is how I teach writing, and it has worked wonderfully. After about 8 weeks of consistent practice, I am getting solid paragraphs from kids that have never written a cohesive piece before. Set your students up for success! Give them lots of scaffolding in the beginning, and they will eventually be able to complete tasks on their own (or at least, with much less assistance).
This technique also works for writing larger 5 paragraph essays. The color coding on the brainstorming simply ends up as chunking the ideas for each paragraph instead of each sentence. We are actually in the process of doing this for the first time in my class! So far, my students feel very confident about their essays, something I could not say had we done this 3 months ago. I will keep you posted on their results!
Give the Paragraph a Week method a try in your class! If you are interested in using my lesson plan, let me know and I will send you a copy of the full week’s detailed plan! Then sit back and watch the magic happen 🙂 I hope your students have as much success as mine have!