This blog is a place for us to share information, thoughts, reflections... as a team. Enjoy!!
The thing that struck me most about the idea of using checklists in writing instruction was the idea of using them to help students know where they are and where they’re going. It seems to me that checklists, benchmark passages, and learning progressions could be very useful in helping students set and achieve goals, which also makes the students more accountable for their own learning, something that’s crucial as we push them toward increased independence. One potential difficulty I can see arising is finding the time for the self-assessment, goal setting, and conferencing discussed in these chapters. I’m interested to see what the classroom teachers think—do you foresee that being an issue in implementing these tools?
You are very insightful. Yes, I do see that as a challenge because there is still a belief that grading writing is a "test" of sorts and checklists give the answer. I also agree that teachers may not have the time or see the value of using the time for self assessment and goal setting!
I agree that time may be an issue. However, it may become less on an issue if we were to get students to better understand the language and the process. Then...where does that time come from. I often think that if we could put a halt to "school" for a few months, to front end load some of this information, it would make our lives and the lives of our students much easier. The question is how does that happen? Who makes that happen?
It definitely needs to start early in the grade levels, and be built on each year. I think we are overwhelmed because we don't have that it place. Its like the foundational skills in reading...we had to agree on common language and process to minimize confusion and increase continuity as students move through the grade levels (something as simple as how students tap out syllable and/or sounds in words, and also using the same methods for guided reading). I believe that getting this is place will take as much time and dedication as the whole process for teaching guided reading did.
I agree with your comment about how important conferencing is and how difficult it can be to make time for conferencing. One of the questions that came up as I was reading Chapter 7, was how Calkins found time to work with each of her students one-on-one. Were these entire class periods? How big were the classes with which she worked? I'd be curious to hear from others about their experience making time for effective conferencing.
Helena, How has the online conferencing worked with your students? It appeared to me that the program you set up would work very well for conferencing. Is there anyway you could work with several students on a rotating schedule? I am hoping you will share your site with us during our next meeting. Thanks for sharing.
The chapters on checklists, benchmarks, and learning progressions are most helpful. I found the remark on page 44 interesting. It states that "...the checklists represent the end-of-year standards for each grade level." So, it makes sense to begin the year using the previous year's checklist for a while. Interesting. Never thought of that. I'm also looking forward to using the learning progressions. Don't ask me why I haven't yet. BUT I'm going to. The section on conferencing made me sit back and reflect on my teaching. I informally conference a lot with my students, but very little is written down anywhere. I used to do it in MS, but it's been five years and I've gotten out of practice. I will develop (steal) a conferencing sheet to use when meeting with students. I was pleased to see "echo-write" included. My students are currently writing a compare contract essay. I created the body paragraphs on my computer and displayed via Apple TV for the kids to see. They saw and heard the process of taking notes to determine similarities and differences, how to decide their strongest pieces of evidence, and how to place them in order in the paragraph. They also learned how to create a topic sentence. They were told they could "steal" mine if they were stumped, figuring that over time they will have opportunities to develop their own.
Thank you for sharing how you used echo-writing in your class; I was a bit confused about it as I read the chapter, and hearing how you used it was helpful. I'll be interested to hear about how you help them transition to doing those thing on their own.
I'm so glad you brought up "echo-writing!" I thought Calkins's observations about using benchmark papers as a way to get students to "use someone else's writing as a model for your own" to be incredibly effective (83). I regularly keep my former students papers because I know they have a long-term value for future writing projects. Right now, three of my classes are using benchmark papers as they draft. They seem to really understand what the writing assignment is when they see another student's work.Question: has anyone used echo-writing in a blog or forum atmosphere in their classrooms?
I do not do this with my students. I am realizing that, if I did (use a checklist), it may actually produce better results than hovering and helping. (For example, something as simple as a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence seems to take FOREVER for students to learn, even though I constantly remind them.) The benchmark papers I have never considered using, and I am not sure why (well, I don't have any on hand is one reason). I guess because with the youngest students seem to copy ideas from a model instead of using it as an example (check out the Grade 1 papers in the hallway...all of the turkeys are going to the beach, just like the teachers!) I had this happen to me countless times when teaching Kindergarten. Getting little ones to understand that its about the process and not the content is tricky. I am also not sure about the time factor...this whole guided writing process, along with conferring, would seem to take us much time as the guided reading. But there's only one teacher...how do you fit it all in?
I also wondered about the problem of students copying from a model instead of using it for ideas, especially when I was reading about the echo writing technique--how do you transition them from echo writing to using the techniques on their own?
Wouldn't it be ok for them to copy from the model in order to get the know the structure better? While it may be "copying" at the beginning, it may become second nature later. Possible?
That method that you used Robb, was fully supported by Caulkins. I was surprised that she even suggested that students look around at another students idea and copy it or steal it. I am more in support of allowing them to use the teacher's idea or model than other students. Probably you are right; if we just allow it for a time, students will eventually transition to using the techniques on their own.
Hi Cherie, I am thinking the checklist would work to help students focus as well as turning over the editing and revising to them. When we "hover and help" (we all do it) ... we are revising and editing, not the students. I see the checklist as a scaffold. I agree with you that the earlier it is used, the better.
Robb, I am glad that you brought up the echo-writing technique and am hoping you will model it for us. Cherie will be contacting you. I see the echo writing - accompanied with the think alouds - as a way of providing students with further understanding as they copy the words scaffolded by your comments - and in the end, using them as benchmarks. Perhaps reviewing them as you have them write - finding topic sentences, etc. - would be a good way to go. Do you have the kids put it in a folder? RE: conference notes, a simple lined paper with a column on dates on the left is always helpful. Short, clear notes or directions are most useful for students.
One of the aspects of Chapter 7’s use of checklists, benchmark papers, and learning progressions that struck me as significant is the importance of conversations with students as they write. Repeatedly, Calkins referred to her case studies as a kind of “conversation”: she’d sit down to a student working diligently at his or her desk, watch him or her work, and proceed to review her own notes from their most recent writing conference. Yet, it was when Calkins went straight to asking questions like, “What are you working on as a writer?” that I really connected with her message. When I worked in the Academic Skills Center (ASC) at Columbia College, we trained tutors to ask questions and listen before ever providing feedback on written work. In some ways, I think this part of the conference is the most important one because it gives the student writer an opportunity to articulate his or her writing goals outside of the strictures of pen and paper. If you listen closely to students, they will typically do what Calkins’s students did in Chapter 7: they will state their paper’s main ideas, content, and goals in a way that is interesting and usually easy to follow. For example, Nate, the eighth-grade student writer described on pages 78-80, was a wonderful example of the importance of this kind of student-teacher interaction, and I found myself repeatedly underlined his responses to Calkin because I was so impressed by the sophisticated language he used to articulate his writing goals. Students often know what they want to say in their papers, and I was impressed that Calkin showed how to conference well by how teachers talk with their students.The other side of this realization is that once a student articulates his or her writing goals, the teacher, like Calkins, will often begin to notice disparities between what the student has just said, and then, what he or she has just written. At this point, assessment tools such as checklists and benchmark papers become powerful. Not only do checklists provide a concrete way to communicate goals to a student writer, but they also provide an opportunity to self-assess if done correctly. However, checklists, like everything else, need to be used appropriately and carefully. In order to avoid the “checklist mentality,” it is important to keep students from writing, “Check! Check! Check” (82).(I had to stop short with my Calkins Quote, but I would add that "conversing with a student" helps to prevent the checklist mentality.)
Helana, I really enjoyed the connections you made. I agree with the combination of strategies, but also agree the teacher talk is important as it comes at the teachable moment and offers the student the opportunity to learn (and clarify) a writing vocabulary. Hopefully, once we have this rubric in place it will help our teachers and students to develop that common vocabulary. Thanks for sharing.
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