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Friday, January 3, 2014

It's Always the Right Time to Write

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School starts up on Monday and I've started thinking about all of the January hurdles that are approaching. There's "Benchmark Week" when all of our core classes will be taking benchmarks that are designed to see where we are in our progression towards the state mandated testing. It also gives our students a feel for what it will be like during testing as we go to a full testing feel to the school. We have modified schedules and lunches and students test in their testing rooms for the 4 hour duration of the test.

We also will look at the middle of the year (MOY) tests for math and reading from online testing sites. We will look at our student progress and we'll reset our response to intervention (RTI) groups for the lead up to testing.

The last January hurdle will be our writing benchmark tests in all of our ELA classes. I, for one, am not looking forward to how we score with those because our focus this year has been on reading and most of our ELA teachers have pushed that while pushing their writing to the back burner. For the early part of December we started refocusing on the writing process and the relationship with writing and reading. If we do it right, our writing processes can help our struggling readers. That will be our theme for the remainder of the year.

Writing is NOT just an ELA thing though. We need to be doing a better job of writing in all subject areas.  That will be my personal focus as we start back next week. I think the best way to get that going is to have our teachers create one written assignment for their students each week in January. And after that, I'd like to see them assign a writing requirement into each of their project plans.

Having a writing component in a project is an easy step. We can have written proposals. We can have written journal entries. We can have written explanations for steps taken by a team. It gets a bit more difficult assigning "authentic" writing into the project. A post by Sara Hallermann, a fellow BIE National Faculty member, from last year is something I recommend to people who want to make the literacy piece more authentic.

From the New Tech Network I always fall back on the expertise of Alix Horton and her Literacy For Living blog.  There are great nuggets to found in all of the posts but this one, from last July, about literacy in the math classroom is really great. Never tell me, a former math teacher, that you can't do writing in the math classroom! Don't they need to explain to you how the steps in solving a problem? How many ways could you have them do the explaining? Hmmm????

Ever hear of the Literacy Design Collaborative?  Go to their site and click on the Tasks tab and you will see some great ideas for writing assignments. And if you just need sentence starters, go to Google and type in "sentence starters for...(math, science, social studies, english, etc.) and there's tons:




If you are not writing in your classroom every week, it's time for a resolution to do so. Yes, reading is a major issue throughout the United States. Work on the reading skills but incorporate writing into your routine and you will help those low readers become better readers. And, even though we use Google (or Bing, or..) to search for spelling, our students need to use dictionaries so that they can think through the spelling process.

So, starting next week, we will have our teachers work writing into their weekly plans. I haven't talked this through with our principal or our literacy coach but I'm not worried about getting them on board. Our students need it and it's what's best for them. That's the only argument I need to use.