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