Writing Pathways

Mar 13, 2015 by

I’m taking a break from the Preparation Protocol posts for the Calkins Units of Study to reflect on a recent experience. Last week my daughter, a college sophomore, called to tell me she had aced her English mid-term with a 3.9 out of 4.  While she was pleased with her grade, she wanted to know what would have made it a 4.0.  There were no comments or suggestions on the paper, so she approached the professor after class to get some oral feedback in order to know how to improve the next time.  When the professor looked over her exam, she couldn’t really find any specific suggestions.  She said, “I think what must have happened is that I graded your paper first and my expectations were higher at the beginning of the stack than at the...

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This Seals the Deal!

Oct 17, 2011 by

I will continue to add to the series of blog posts on the importance of student choice in writing, but today I feel compelled to share on the topic of technology in the classroom. Recently I have been thinking seriously about purchasing an iPad.  It started about a year ago when a friend showed me her new toy.  With her new iPad she had constant access to her Kindle, her e-mail and Facebook, her to-do lists, and more.  I thought that was pretty neat but just couldn’t justify purchasing a new device when I already had a Smartphone that could do most of what she showed me.  But I still thought it was pretty cool! This school year, as I have attended many meetings, I have often found myself in the minority (sometimes the...

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First You Need to Love Me

Jul 29, 2011 by

The author Avi once told a group of teachers, “If you are going to teach me to read and to write, first you need to love me.” I love that thought!  Our students are human beings first and one of their most basic needs is to feel loved.  Lucy Calkins says that our first job as teachers is to fall in love with each and every child—right away.  One of the best ways for me to do that is to use a few tools that help my students and their parents teach me about themselves.  One of my favorites is this parent survey: Download Parent Survey I have found that this simple survey, with just a few open-ended questions, gives my students’ parents the opportunity to tell me anything they feel I should know. ...

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But How Do I Give a Reading Grade?...

Feb 3, 2011 by

I have heard this question many times during the past several months.  I have been working with a number of teachers who are in various phases of implementing a workshop approach for reading and/or writing.  Most of us who have moved to a workshop approach have at some point asked this question and have had to reconcile  doing what we know is best for kids and fulfilling our obligation to report to parents and administrators where kids stand. When I am asked this question, I usually begin by clarifying the difference between assessing and evaluating our students.  For me, assessment takes place every minute of the day as I observe my students, listen to them, confer with them, watch them interact with text and other students, read what they have written, etc., etc. I...

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Thumb Thermometer

Nov 11, 2010 by

Yesterday I had the opportunity to observe a fabulous 3rd grade teacher present a writing minilesson on personal narratives.  Toward the end of her lesson she used a little technique that I hadn’t seen before.  She called it the “thumb thermometer”.  I have used “thumbs up/thumbs down” to engage my students in a lesson, but this was a little different than that.  After she had concluded the teaching portion of her minilesson, she asked her students to get out their “thumb thermometers” to show her how confident they felt about trying out the minilesson strategy in their own writing.  If they felt like they could do it on their own, they put a thumb up.  If they felt totally confused, they put a thumb down.  And if they weren’t sure or if they felt...

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Assessment Notebook

Sep 3, 2010 by

I always tell teachers that my very best teaching tool is my assessment notebook.  Honestly, I couldn’t teach without it! At first glance my assessment notebook might appear to be just a glorified gradebook.  The first few pages are actually gradebook types of forms with students’ names listed down the left column and assignments and dates across the top.  But if you page past this section, you will find sections labeled “Reading Conferences”, “Status of the Class”, “Writing Conferences”, and “Spelling Workshop”.  It is in these sections that I record important information about my students’ progress in the form of observations, anecdotal notes, and rubrics.  Each section contains a separate form for each student which I add to throughout the year.  I have my assessment notebook by my side whenever I conduct an individual...

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