Thursday, December 6, 2012

Feedback from the Field

"All of our teachers agreed that CraftPlus has been a fantastic program.  We are very excited to see results in another couple of months.  As we "dissected" writing samples, we saw evidence of CraftPlus in every child's piece."
-Amber McLaughlin, reading specialist, STEM Magnet Academy, Chicago, IL

Monday, November 5, 2012

Feedback from the Field

"I am a 4th-grade teacher at Mermentau Elementary. This past summer, I was introduced to your writing program by my instructional assistant, Jackie Hanisee. I looked over the program and received special permission from my school board to utilize the program this year. I am now going into week eleven of the program, and I can't tell you how impressed I am with my students' progress. This is my 12th year teaching 4th grade, and it is the first time that I actually feel like I'm getting through to my students in writing! Writing time is now something my students and I look forward to each day. My students have taken to the skills I've taught them. They are not only using the skills in writing, but in other subject areas. When we are reading, they stop me to tell me about some good writing practice they see in the reading. I am so confident in my teaching of writing that I asked my principal to observe my teaching of writing for my formal observation. I just wanted to share with you the success I'm having, and let you know how thankful I am to be using this writing program."
Amanda Miller
4th-grade teacher
Mermentau Elementary

Monday, October 15, 2012

Feedback from the Field

"We are loving CraftPlus and thank our lucky stars every day for having it. Our children are enjoying learning about a thesis statement, strong verbs, and descriptive attributes. We like how the assessments are built in each week and how grammar is integrated throughout...we find it very user friendly."
-Lori Rosenberg, primary writing teacher at Imagine Charter School at Broward in Coral Springs, FL

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ways to End an Expository Piece

A good ending is like a great dessert: it ends a delicious piece perfectly. Many students struggle with ending their writing pieces, but good endings are not rocket science. They are chosen by the writer from a list of possible ending types.  The K-5 writer should have practice with at least four
common expository ending techniques:

· Remind the reader of a piece’s major points: “Remember, if you ever find yourself in a house full of germs, drink lots of fluids, get your rest, and wash, wash, wash your hands.
· Give advice: "Take it from me, if you want to save yourself a lot of trouble, just do your chores.”
· Feelings statement: “I love the way that butterflies change during their lives.”  

Give your students a chance to create a satisfying ending by helping them master just three simple writer’s techniques. (Reader, you’ve just been reminded. J )

Yours in joyful writing education,
Susan Koehler

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Free-writing: Bringing smiles or tears?

Free-writing time should be a joy for young writers. Sometimes, though, when you announce a time for writing about anything that comes to their active little minds, students react as if they are being punished. Or tortured.  What’s up with that?

How do you handle a student with writer’s block? Or the one who finishes after two sentences? What if a student is reluctant to share his or her free-writing with you? How do you handle the writer who wants to draw? And what about the student who doesn’t want to stop free-writing and move on to the mini-lesson? As teachers, we’ve seen them all.  This Free-writing Troubleshooting Guide from The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop helps you keep free-writing in the smiles-only column!  I would love to hear how you handle free-writing challenges!
Susan Koehler

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seven Ways to Begin an Expository Writing Piece

Ever notice the different ways that writers begin their writing pieces? I just used a question, which—along with onomatopoeia and an exclamation—is one of three hooks that young writers should have under their writing belts as they enter second grade.

By the time young writers are in third to fifth grade, they should have been introduced to many more hooks. Four good ones for expository writing are a startling fact, an anecdote, a definition, and a quotation.

Introduce these one at a time with a literature or teacher model, and ask students to try it out for a social studies or science writing assignment. As always, choose positive student examples to share during response time. What you've done works double duty: they have practiced a writing skill that is easily integrated into content-area studies and which can be applied to other genres as well. Here's a list of hooks with examples from The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop. I'd love to hear how this works for your classroom.

Yours in creative writing education,
Susan Koehler

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Practicing Setting

When young writers practice setting a scene,  describing a character, or otherwise explaining how something looks or works, they are also practicing seeing.  Writing a personal description offers a good starting place to hone this skill. As you ask them to write a personal description, set their Target Skills: use interesting descriptive attributes (adjectives for specific attributes, like size, shape, color, texture, etc.), try a comparison, use strong verbs, and begin sentences in different ways. As they begin looking at themselves and write to hit the Target Skills, they will begin to learn how to evaluate what is before them – a handy skill to have in writing, and in life as well!  Teachers of grades 3 and up can use these worksheets from my book , The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop, to scaffold and assess their first attempts. Click here for the worksheets.
Let me know how this works for you! 
Susan Koehler

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Getting Started with Your Daily Writing Workshop

A new school year is an opportunity for new resolutions. This year, resolve to dedicate a daily block of instructional time to the teaching, practice, and process of writing. Voices across the field continually tell us that best practices in the teaching of writing include the following:

·         Daily workshop environment
·         Process-oriented writing experiences
·         Explicit skill instruction / Mini-lessons
·         Literature models
·         Self-selected topics
·         Teaching meaning, purpose and audience
Whether you are learning to play an instrument, or learning to read and write,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Practice Describing a Character

Susan Koehler modeling The Complete K-5 Writing
, a perfect addition to CraftPlus
Young writers can practice describing a character by describing themselves. This handout focuses on descriptive Target Skills like color adjectives, comparisons, strong verbs, and sentences that begin in different ways. Reduce the expectations for younger or less experienced writers and, remember to model specific Target Skills explicitly before the activity. "The Personal Description Activity" from my book, The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop, is the perfect exercise for developing description. Click here for the handout.

Stay in touch for more helpful handouts,
Susan Koehler

Practice Describing a Setting

This setting handout builds descriptive language Target Skills and allows students to review and practice parts of speech. After the interactive exercise, students in grades three and up can work independently to create their own free verse poems. "The Setting Poem" from my book, The Complete K-5 Writing Workshop, gives you a ready to go handout, click here.

Keep writing and stay in touch,
Susan Koehler

Pictures Help Teach Descriptive Writing

Descriptive writing creates a “Word portrait,” so what better way to teach that than to use pictures from old calendars, or greeting cards, pictures from magazines, art projects, or scenes from your school campus as a writing catalyst?

"Lucy, the sleepy Maupin House
mascot, relaxes after a long weekend."
To get started, project a picture for the class and work interactively to describe it. Focus on the Target Skill your class is trying to master. For example, if you are working on descriptive attributes, you can work together to make a list of adjectives and descriptive phrases, and then craft sentences to build a description. If you are working on strong verbs, find an action oriented photo and begin by listing action words. Start with simple skills like these, and then move to skills like alliteration, metaphor, personification, or abstract attributes.

After the interactive model, provide students with individual picture prompts or place an array of magazine photos at a center and allow students to choose a picture and complete a craft-based descriptive writing activity. Younger writers should focus on a single skill for this activity, but intermediate student can handle applying two or three skills at the same time. As students become proficient writers, picture-prompted writing can include genre organization, composing skills, conventions and writing process steps, too. 

Put pen to paper and stay creative,

Susan Koehler

Keeping Student Writing Organized

K-1 students can use a two-pocket folder to hold their pieces in progress and their completed work. Just label each pocket for easy identification. Children will have easy access to their pieces, and you will have easy access for reviewing progress.  Keep a separate writing portfolio for each student, which can be stored in a file cabinet or milk crate. This portfolio should contain works chosen by the student and the teacher that represent an array of finished genre pieces. It’s a great resource for genuine progress monitoring, accountability, and documentation for parent conferences.

In grades 2-8 students can organize their writing in a loose-leaf notebook with tabs. Core tabs might be:
·        Resources. This section fills up during the year as you teach skills and create models, lists and examples.
·        Practice Pieces. Students refer to practice pieces when they write to apply the Target Skill they have been taught that day.
·        Assessment Pieces. Weekly formative assessments are kept here to record student progress.  If you require students to review and revise these pieces, they become valuable learning tools.
·        Published Pieces (or Portfolio).  This section provides a chronological record of a student’s growth as a writer. 

Stay organized,
Susan Koehler

Listing: A Great Pre-writing Technique

Most pre-writing can begin with making lists. The foundational organizational skill of list-making helps writers of all ages gather ideas and gain focus.

·         Narrative writing: Lists help young writers put lots of events in chronological order and allow for easy re-organization to strengthen the plot.
·         Expository writing: Listing allows students to call on a wealth of details that relate to the topic, without putting them in order. The details are easily grouped to become the content for body paragraphs, and the details collected will help the young writer shape the focus of the piece. They can list-link by color-coding related details, or by using an icon. For example, all blue-highlighted details go together in one paragraph; or, related details are sorted with a triangle; another set by a square.  

Tell me how it works for you,
Susan Koehler