The Big Three

May 1, 2015 by

My husband works in the automotive industry,  so to us, the ‘Big Three’ refers to Ford, GM, and Chysler.  But during the past couple of years, the “big three” has come to have a different meaning for me.  I’m talking about the three big skill areas of a writer:  structure, development, and conventions.   Understanding that writing skills can be categorized into these three skill areas has  been like lifting a veil off my face regarding writing instruction. For many elementary teachers, the teaching of writing holds a lot of mystery.  I used to feel the same way.  But once I understood how to break writing down into these three categories and then further into a number of subcategories, I gained so much clarity. I often have teachers look at samples of student writing and...

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Telling Isn’t Teaching!

Apr 15, 2015 by

I recently had the opportunity to visit my alma mater and speak to a group of undergrad education majors. I was asked to speak for one hour on any topic I chose. Narrowing it down to one topic was the hardest part! I thought about all of the classrooms I visit and asked myself, “What is ONE thing that can dramatically elevate the quality of our teaching?” I finally settled on the topic of teaching strategically rather than just telling or assigning. I introduced the topic by showing the following video clip about a father trying to teach his son how to catch a baseball. Take a moment to watch this 30-second video clip: Baseball Video Clip What do you notice about how the father “teaches” Max? What do you notice about how Drew...

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The CD-ROM Part 2: Organizing Resources...

Apr 9, 2015 by

This post is part of a collection of posts dedicated to supporting teachers who are in the beginning stages of implementing the Calkins Units of Study for Writing. Once you have explored the materials on the CD-ROM (see previous post for step-by-step directions), you might want to make a hard copy of the materials for your upcoming Unit of Study and place them in a small resource binder. I suggest making one binder for each of your four core units. To do this, click on the image of the unit of study. (If you are having trouble navigating to this page, see previous post). (click to enlarge image)   This will open up a list of the sessions with links to each resource. Click on each link to open PDF files of each resource. For...

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Navigating the CD-ROM

Apr 2, 2015 by

This post is part of a collection of posts dedicated to supporting teachers who are in the beginning stages of implementing the Calkins Units of Study for Writing.  Today’s topic: the CD-ROM.   The CD-ROM has a wealth of information and invaluable resources that support the lessons in the units. Allow me to take you on a tour and help you navigate these resources. First, insert the CD and open up your DVD drive.  A window with these four icons will appear: There are two ways to access the materials on the CD. Click on the “resources” folder. You will see a long list of documents.  Scroll down just to see the vast number of resources provided.   That’s a lot of resources to support you!   This is not the best way to access...

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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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Preparation Protocol: Working Smarter, Not Harder...

Mar 4, 2015 by

This post is part of a collection of posts dedicated to supporting teachers who are in the beginning stages of implementing the Calkins Units of Study for Writing. People often tell me I’m organized. Truth be told, organization is really not my goal. My goal is to be efficient and effective.  I also like to help others be efficient and effective, too. That is why, as I have been helping teachers implement the new Calkins Units of Study for Writing during the past year and a half, I have tried to share many tips and shortcuts for making this task a little less daunting and to help teachers streamline their planning and instruction.   As I have studied the units this past year, I have had to find ways to quickly orient myself to each unit...

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