Writing Part 1: How to get students to write

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

So many teachers have asked for assistance with writing – so here is Part 1. Stay tuned for more parts devoted to helping students become better writers.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start with writing. Do you have these thoughts?

  • What type of paper is best? Lined, unlined, wide rule, college rule, dotted lines?
  • How much should I help them with spelling? Does it need to be spelled correctly?
  • Should I use prompts or free choice journaling?
  • How do I get students to space correctly?
  • How do I get students to stay on a topic?
  • How do I get students to use the conventions we have worked on (capitalization, punctuation, etc.)
  • What do I do about handwriting issues?
  • How can I connect it with reading, math, or other subjects?

At the root of all of these issues above, I believe the following are musts for any grade level:

  1. Students must be exposed to quality literature which highlights a variety of writing styles. This is accomplished through the books you use in guided reading, whole group reading, and especially your daily read aloud time. Through this rich exposure to literature students become familiar with various authors and their styles of writing, as well as how authors use their “voice” to relay their message. Voice is the ability to project the way you talk into print. (More info in later posts about books that really show different types of “voice.”)
  2. Students can’t be expected to write if they don’t see the teacher model writing. Through modeling, teachers can use dozens of “think alouds” to share the decisions they are making. In this way, the strategies a writer (the teacher) uses are being exposed. Then the students are more likely to emulate these strategies.
  3. Writing needs to be scaffolded in the same way as other lessons: I do – we do – you do. Students observe and watch the teacher as he/she models various writing strategies. With shared writing, the teacher and students work together to “share the pen.” Then we gradually release students through guided writing sessions before expecting independent writing. This is a year-long process.
  4. Sometimes your writing strategy lessons might best be accomplished through your small group literacy time. Students are probably grouped based on their reading needs, so they likely have similar writing needs. From my experience, it’s a lot easier to monitor 4-6 students’ writing than a whole class. In this case a  goal could be to write once a week as part of your weekly routine. (Example: Monday and Tuesday are spent on the guided reading text for the week, Wednesday on word work, and Thursday for writing.)

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Guided Reading and Literacy Stations Part 6: Final Summary

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

Well, I have finally come to an end of this series on the topic of Guided Reading and Literacy Stations. This last part will be short (I promise) and will hopefully tie it all together . . . along with some of my ideas on what should go on at your teacher station. Here’s the summary:

  1. Build and sustain your classroom community.
  2. Assess students to determine instructional reading level (90-95% text accuracy).
  3. Practice procedures for the activities which students will be doing.
  4. Decide how to group students.
  5. Decide which type of scheduling system you will use (rotation, flexible).
  6. Organize materials: book sets, activity materials, teacher materials

Another important aspect of making your guided reading program work is collaboration and professional development. Talking and working with others is a way to share ideas and problem solve. Yes, you can find plenty of activities via TPT and Pinterest (and via me), but just because you find it on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s the most effective materials / methods you should use. The same goes for instructional videos. If you are reading this , it means you ARE seeking out professional opinions and resources – THANK YOU! I base my posts on researched methods and advice from the leaders in the field, plus some practical application and personal experience thrown in the mix. Please see my resources section (home page in black bar at the top) for those I consider to be the most helpful.

Teacher Station

Do you have the following materials handy?

  • Basket for each group to keep books and materials organized
  • Letter tiles / magnetic letters
  • Small whiteboards and markers
  • Teacher aides such vowel patterns chart, alphabet chart, sound box template, and sorting mats
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Writing journals
  • Blank cards for adding sight words or vocabulary cards to each group’s basket
  • Writing surface for teacher (table-top easel, chart paper, white board)
  • Strategies chart for teacher and student reference

Suggested 15-20 Minute Schedule for Each Group:

Day 1:  Introduce the book and reading strategy. Then provide children opportunity to silent read (while teacher taps in and listens to each child softly read 1-2 pages).

Day 2: Discuss the story. Praise strategy use. Provide another opportunity to read the story – via discussion or partner reading.

Note: If the books are at the emergent level (A – C), you may be able to combine Day 1 and Day 2 together in a 15-20 minute session. If the book is a higher level (late 2nd and up), you may want to read and discuss a few pages at a time over a 2 day period. Example:  Intro part 1, highlight tricky vocabulary or language structures, give a purpose or strategy, silent read until specified page, listen in to individual students, then discuss that section. Repeat with other sections. This works well with non-fiction books divided by sub-headings too.

Day 3: Word work — phonics and/or vocabulary practice related to the book or to needed skills

Day 4: Writing related to the story. This can be guided (K-2) or independent types (3rd – 5th). It can very easily complement your whole class comprehension skill such as main idea, summarize, sequence, cause/effect, character analysis, story elements, etc. Plus the teacher can monitor and informally assess all sorts of writing (mechanics, spacing, spelling, ideas, punctuation, letter formation).

Day 5: Familiar or independent reading practice. Reread previous books or independent level books  to build confidence and fluency.

Watch for future posts which expand on the above teacher station lessons (book introduction, strategy lessons and prompting, silent and oral reading, word work, and writing in the guided reading session).