If you walk into a kindergarten classroom during writer’s workshop at Hinsdale, you will see a classroom of 5-6 year olds talking and learning from one another about Polar Bears. Over the past month, kindergarteners have been learning about Polar Bears and the Artic habitat. The walls and the classroom is covered with Focus Charts titled; How Polar Bears Hunt?, How Polar Bears Survive in the Artic Region?, How Polar Bears stay warm?, and much more.
At the start of the school year, the students were introduced to the process of writing, six traits and what great author’s do. Students were given an opportunity to read authentic literature, practice writing, discuss literature and ideas with peers and their teacher and begin to tell their stories with journal writing.
In regard to primary writing, Duke, Hall, Purcell-Gates, and Tower (2006) state, “Students, we believe, need to read authentic literature and to engage in authentic writing” (p.344). Using authentic literature as an example, students will develop an understanding of the components of writing. This also helps students to understand the different purposes for reading and writing.
After the Christmas holiday, kindergarteners at Hinsdale move into more writing, writing centers, writing books, researching, and independence. The writer’s workshop structure in kindergarten is:
Mini-lesson (15 minutes)
During the mini-lessons in kindergarten writer’s workshop, students sit on the rug, and partake in a shared lesson, collaborate with peers, share ideas, watch the teacher ‘write’, unscramble sentences, work on grammar and much more. While visiting, students were engaged, excited and enjoyed sharing their knowledge about Polar Bears and the Artic Region. The kindergartener were using “fancy Nancy” words such as translucent, powerful and patiently.
Using writing centers in writer’s workshop, gives the classroom teacher an opportunity to meet with a small group of student’s and work on editing, writing, craft, grammar, spelling and ideas. This small group/centers gives the teacher an opportunity to “conference” and check in with students in a small setting and meet with individual students where they are at within the writing process. The writing centers give the students time to independently work on other skills within the writing genre. The other centers were various skills that support the research/informative writing about Polar Bears.
Writing with our youngest students in important for them to make purposeful connections to reading and writing. During our hour site visit at Hinsdale, we noticed our youngest students working independently, generating their own ideas, checking for errors, working with peers, staying on task, learning content and much more. If you would like to learn more about writer’s workshop or six traits, please don’t hesitate to contact Tessa Levitt or Anne Cator or visit a classroom of kindergarteners making it happen at Hinsdale Elementary School.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES and Whitesville Central School
On Friday, December 12, sixty teachers and principals came together to learn with and from Tom Dewing of Thoughtful Education. Mr. Dewig spent the day introducing the strategies from the book; “The Core Six, Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core.” Each participant received a copy of the book, and went in-depth with two of the strategies and jig-sawed the other four strategies.
Thanks to more than 40 years of research on classroom strategies, we now know better than ever what works in classrooms. If teachers want to get results, the six strategies need to be treated as learning strategies rather than end-of-learning assessments.
The Core Six are strategies that have been refined over time with the intent of making research come to life in the classroom.
1. Reading for Meaning helps students develop the skills that proficient readers use to make sense of rigorous texts. The strategy helps build these CC skills: managing text complexity, evaluating and using evidence, and developing core reading skills.
2. Compare & Contrast teaches students to conduct a thorough comparative analysis. The strategy helps build these CC Skills: conducting comparative analysis of academic content, comparative reading of 2 or more texts, and integrating information from multiple sources.
3. Inductive Learning helps students find patterns and structures built into content through an inductive process (analyzing specifics to form generalizations). The strategy helps build these CC skills: finding patterns and making logical inferences, supporting thinking with evidence and mastering academic vocabulary.
4. Circle of Knowledge is a strategic framework for planning and conducting classroom discussions that engage all students in deeper thinking and thoughtful communication. The strategy helps build these CC skills: speaking, listening and discussing, collaborating with peers and integrating and evaluating information.
5. Write to Learn helps teachers integrate writing into daily instruction and develop student’s writing skills in the key text types associated with college and career readiness. The strategy helps build these CC skills: developing higher order thinking through writing, writing key CC text types and writing for a wide range of tasks, audiences and purposes.
6. Vocabulary’s Code is a strategic approach to vocabulary instruction that improves student’s ability to retain and use crucial vocabulary terms. The strategy helps build these CC skills: mastering academic vocabulary, improving literacy across the strands building back ground knowledge as a foundation for success.
Instructional strategies like the Core Six give teachers proven and practical way to respond to the rigorous demands of the Common Core. When used, the strategies incite students’ thinking, turn the process of learning into an active quest, and build the skills students need to be ready for college and careers.
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES and Whitesville
With teachers in grades 3-8 transitioning to the ELA Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) over the course of the past two years, much conversation has centered on the best methods for helping students meet those standards. Will my textbook be best? Should I look into the modules? Is there another option? As teachers at Pioneer can attest, reading and writing workshop is definitely a viable option for marrying the expectations of CCLS rigor and student-centered teaching.
Author and writing workshop expert Amy VanDerwater has worked with teachers at Delevan Elementary, Arcade Elementary, and Pioneer Middle School for the past two years to bring workshop to district classrooms. Professional development sessions have focused on various aspects of the writing workshop, including designing effective mini-lessons that deliberately target specific skills, fostering student choice to build investment, and incorporating various writing celebrations when finished with units. Additionally the emphasis for units of study has shifted from narrative and memoir based modes of writing to those that require students to write from sources, such as informational and argumentative. Both the quantity and the quality of student writing being produced have grown exponentially thanks largely to the work done in writing workshop.
Students are meeting the demands of CCLS with the work being done in reading workshop as well. Like the writing workshop, during reading teachers are developing targeted and rigorous mini-lessons, selecting texts that challenge all learners, and including student choice in leveled reading materials designed to build a lifelong love of reading. Units often are built around a central text supplemented by relevant, nonfiction materials that build students’ background knowledge base on the topics or themes of the central text. Opportunities for students to engage in text-based conversations both in whole groups and small groups reinforce the skills being taught at the time, and those skills are then applied to the students’ independent reading selections. Ultimately students’ time with eyes on print is greater than ever, and that time will pay off as they progress through school.
Teachers who are looking for the right fit for their classrooms may very well find that reading and writing workshop is an instructional approach worth pursuing. A workshop model provides a balance of structure and flexibility that responds to student needs while targeting the various standards.
By Amy Windus, CA BOCES and Pioneer Central School
When a professional development day focusing on writing evolved into a discussion about reading comprehension, the day took a very eventful turn. Lesa Dionne, staff specialist for Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES, was providing professional development on the writing process for fourth and fifth grade teachers at Cuba Rushford Elementary School. The fifth grade teachers arrived in the afternoon, frustrated after looking at student work and realizing the class was having a difficult time citing evidence and answering comprehension questions. Student seemed to be struggling with the challenging texts from the Common Core and teachers wanted them to become more active learners. Lesa looked at the student work and pointed out that the students cannot write about a passage that they can’t comprehend. The discussion quickly changed from the writing process to reading comprehension and the use of questioning as a strategy to actively engage students.
It isn’t very often that an entire district’s faculty has an opportunity to see the vertical alignment of standards that impact every area of instruction. Curriculum development within districts is generally saved for the summer, and at that time teachers work within departments to map out their curriculum alignment for the upcoming school years. Very seldom do we have the opportunity to see the vertical alignment of the standards and how they apply to every grade level, let alone across several content areas.
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(Lisa Byers, a Kindergarten teacher at Arcade Elementary School confers with her students)
This past October, I had the opportunity to attend a week at the Writer’s Workshop Coaching Institute at Columbia University Teachers College. One of the highlights of an exceptionally informative week was attending a workshop with Carl Anderson. For those of you that haven’t heard of Carl Anderson, he is an author and literacy consultant who has written several books that give useful ideas for effectively conferring with students about their writing. Two books in particular that provide useful, effective, and practical tips and strategies are: How’s it Going? A Practical Guide to Conferring with Student Writers and Assessing Writers.