Research doesn’t tell us much about HOW to teach K-2 writers, but there is TONS of research that says how deficient writers are becoming over time. America’s foremost researcher on writing and our learners is Steve Graham. Here’s data he sites in one of his papers. Here’s a slide from a recent training I did on writing for SDE in Orlando and also in Las Vegas.
If we believe this to be true, and teachers, I have worked with eighth graders in remedial classes, and I would totally say that I’m not surprised, we have work to do. Writing shouldn’t be a lost art. It shouldn’t be a skill of privilege. Every student, everywhere should be able to communicate themselves using the written word. Especially our students who are looking to go to college. We can do better. What would ‘better’ look like?
Well, first of all, we need to spend more time writing with kids.
The press for standardized testing and now, the alignment of these high stakes test scores to teacher salaries in states like Florida, make performance on one test more important than the child as a whole. This is the antithesis of teaching, and we need to push back on things that aren’t good for our kids.
Writing NEEDS to be part of what you are doing every day. Period. If there is no time…then something else has got to go. The data tells us that although we have made gains in reading and math, writing has remained unmoved.
Another thing we need to do is set up goals for writing that students understand.
Break down either I can statements with your little learners, or actual standards verbiage with your bigger kids. Show them what it would look like to meet those standards. If the standard is too big or broad, break it down in several parts. Teach it over the course of several weeks…or even teach it at different times throughout the year. When grading student work, use a progressive rubric that only asks students to have mastery over the parts of the standards that you are focused on teaching. Build to an end of the year goal of reaching the fullness of the standard.
Use rich mentor texts that your students can model for improved writing.
Primary teachers, don’t be afraid to use big words in your writing. Use actual published TEXTS to illustrate things to your learners. Teachers of big kids, take a paragraph from your favorite read alouds to teach certain reading or writing structures.
Be explicit in your instruction on grammar and sentence writing.
Teach your students about how sentences work. Teach sentence patterns. Have students identify the nouns and verbs in the sentences if your kids are little. As they get older, talk about the noun or pronoun subjects. Teach them the difference between action verbs and linking verbs. Remind them of the types of punctuation that need to be at the end of the different sentence types.
So, what does this functionally look like in my classroom?
Well, first, I wrote a writing progression for my class that paced out my instruction for the year. The last few years, I’ve been in first grade. This year, I’m moving up to third. 🙂 I prefer to make materials for grades that I have a good bit of experience in, and one year in second 15 years ago is not current enough to provide a resource…so, I only have one for first and third.
The next thing that I did was I looked at the standards and I built progressive rubrics to help my students achieve over the long haul of the school year.
In my Writing 101: Narrative pack for third graders, I have three different versions of a progressive rubric. In my district, we need to use both rubric scores and percentages. I made a similar copy for teachers who only want rubric numbers and also for teachers who wanted to change the percentages. There’s also an editable version of the rubric with the language of the portion of the standard being used and space for you to type in what you need in your particular construct.
I like to teach with the end in mind, or more specifically with the end goal of the standard…so, once the rubrics are done, then I go into breaking down my lessons so that students can grow to meet the goals of the standards. This year, I’ll be teaching all of my narrative standards at the beginning of the year, and using the remaining part of the year to focus on the other types of writing required in third grade. I have the standard broken up into four parts, so there are four weeks of lesson plans and four editable progressive rubrics that go with the standard. Each lesson plan helps you to focus on mentor text usage and having students analyze text and then perform short tasks toward the goal.
I like to have my students work in a journal, but there are times where for the purpose of brainstorming or drafting, it might be better to give them a different construct to do that in, so, I offered some printable pages that went with each week to support students in thinking about the overarching goals.
The last thing I worked on was some chart posters to give the students some visual cues for what I was looking for with regard to sentence complexity. Teaching sentence patterns is a HUGE part of getting students writing up to par, in my honest opinion. The growth I saw in my littles was truly phenomenal these past couple of years. I can’t wait to get into third grade and see what kind of growth I’ll get this year too!
Would you like to have a copy of my sentence patterns charts? Click on the image above and you’ll get the two page charts that include examples for simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound complex sentences.
Feel like you want to have more dialogue on this topic? No worries! Click on the image below to go to the recorded FACEBOOK Live post I did on this not too long ago. I’ll flesh out these ideas a bit more and you’ll get to see some of what I do in action.
Thanks so much for reading!
Can’t wait to journey with you all further this year! Stay tuned! It’s going to be AMAZING! 🙂