Teaching

But I wrote FOUR pages!

Excited school girlFrom my teaching career, there is one defining moment that continues to guide the mission of Writing with Design. Early in the school year, Cheyenne, a third grade student eagerly brought me her writing one morning. “Look what I wrote, Mrs. Parks!” she exclaimed. “I wrote FOUR pages!” I matched her enthusiasm as I told her I would read her story during lunch. 

Her story began: One day I walked up to my friend and I said, “Hi.” She said, “Hey.” I said “What do you want to play at recess today?” She said, “I don’t know.” So I said, “Do you want to meet at the swings?” She said, “Sure.”

The dialogue continued on to page two, three, and four. The entire piece was nothing but questions and answers, exchanged between third grade BFF’s.

As Cheyenne and I conferenced about her writing, it became clear to me that she knew the quality wasn’t great. She knew her piece wasn’t very exciting or interesting. What she was proud of was that she had written FOUR pages. She thought that would impress me “But, Mrs. Parks, I wrote FOUR pages!” she said with a confused brow.

It was in that moment that I realized how important it is for students to understand quality and length of writing are not synonymous. There is no status gained from being able to write a certain length, if quality is not present.

Fast-forward seven years, I continually observe many Cheyenne’s in classrooms across this country. Length is still very much the focal point for many students as they either proudly showcase their extra long pieces of writing, or as I hear them begrudgingly ask, “How long does it have to be?” Whether it’s with Cheyenne’s enthusiasm that they show off the length they were able to write, or want to know the length requirement so they can meet the bare minimum, the focus is on the wrong component of writing.

Writing with Design focuses on strength before length, on quality before quantity. Otherwise, writing is a waste of time for students to produce and teachers, fellow students, (you, me!) to read.

There is a process to great writing. There are steps and structures that allow for students to truly find their voice and tell a story worth telling.

Indeed, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing the Cheyenne’s of America’s classrooms grasp the notion that writing is not about filling up a sheet of paper; that the process, not just the product, is to be revered.

Righting Writing in Middle and High School

3339783Lately, during sessions with middle and high school teachers, one question continues to be asked. “How often do you recommend that students write in my classroom?” Our response, “Daily.”
This might just be one sentence, but still, writing is happening daily, in every class. If you guided students through writing one high quality sentence per day, each week you’d have a powerful paragraph, and each month you’d have a Level 9 piece of sensational writing. Just imagine if you wrote 2 sentences some days… maybe even three! World, watch out!
To be frank, writing across the curriculum isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. Writing, Common Core style, is a true team effort. This is not an ELA thing. It’s an every department, every teacher, every student thing. Writing can be time intensive, and at times, we will design it to be in every class, but generally, on a daily basis, writing can be a quick yet powerful task.
Our request of you: make writing a priority, a daily priority. Have high expectations. Use Writing with Design’s Rubrics to explain what those high expectations are. Use the rubric software to track growth (it will happen and it will be amazing!). Model great writing. Guide students through great writing. Work on transitions. Work on sophisticated word choice. Work on closings. In a word, write.
So, let’s get writing. What do you say?

 

Mind Designs are the Roadmaps to Writing Success!

4148522With the summer travel season in full swing, one of the most important items to pack for a road trip is a map.  Whether it’s a paper map or a GPS device, having a plan to reach a destination makes it easier to get there.  Without an accurate map, travelers might struggle to find their way. Whether they have to stop and retrace their route because they realize they are headed in the wrong direction or, even worse, they end up in a different place than they intended, when there’s a destination but no map to get there, road trips become torturous. Planning the route saves time and frustration and ensures travelers get to their intended destination!

Recently, I scored a batch of writing from three classes that illustrated the impact the “roadmaps” in Writing with Design has on the quality of student writing.  What struck me about the classes I analyzed was how much scores improved when students use the Mind Designs, the road maps, to plan their writing.

In two of the classes, I noticed that the writing was unfocused.  Their scores reflected this.  I could see that students struggled to get their ideas on the page because they had no plan. They were lost on their route and many ended up in destinations that were confusing and way off track.  In the third class, student scores were significantly higher.  As I scored this class, I noticed that students were using a Sequence Design to plan their narratives.  Clearly, the teacher had taught students how to use the Design to effectively organize, or map out, their writing.  Their writing was focused, well structured, and on prompt.  Good planning also freed students to be more creative and add more details.

As an independent Writing Analyst for Writing with Design, I can attest to this: Mind Designs give students a roadmap to success in writing!

-Angela
Writing Analyst for Writing with Design

Just How Far We’ve Come

2023999Before spring break, several of my 2nd grade students came up to me and asked for paper to take home. My first thought was that it was so they could draw pictures and color. “No, Mrs. Plescher, we want to write!” Isabella informed me.

In that moment, I felt as though one of my year’s goals had been accomplished. I set out the year, using Writing with Design, to empower my students to be confident, eager writers. Realizing they wanted to spend time over their break thinking and writing showed me just how far they had come since September. The same students who rushed through writing, who were resistant to writing more than two sentences, who often said, “I don’t have anything else to write about,” now had the motivation, desire, and pride to write independently.

Writing is now an integral part of our classroom culture. As a teacher, I used to think, “What can I possibly write about this week?” Now, my students and I often say, “Oooh! Let’s write about that!” several times during each day. From working on sophisticated words to creative titles to strong endings, we have all come so far with writing this year!

 

 

 

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