Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Low Down on On-Demand

The response below came from the Cindy Parker from the Division of Program Studies (KDE). In it, she shares her insight into On-Demand writing and reinforces our strong belief in the power of supporting our kids as writers.

From her statement I synthesized a few key points.
1) Our kids need to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.  They need multiple opportunities throughout they day to share their thinking in writing- always considering and working to demonstrate these traits:
  • audience awareness
  • idea development
  • organization of ideas
  • the best words to support the message and mode
  • appropriate conventions they need to truly convey their message
So whether they are sharing information learned through research in a form of some sort, crafting a story, establishing their opinion, responding to learning, reflecting, writing in a family journal, or simply thanking a volunteer or field trip guide....we are pushing them to always work toward communicating with clarity, development, and refinement.

2) Our kids need an understanding of the traits/ characteristics of quality writing. In a nutshell: the focus ought to be on the traits, rather than the form. This is because the traits transcend form. Students here gain access to those traits through analyzing model text and/or creating a class rubric that mirrors the state's Scoring Rubric as well as through specific  mini-lessons and experiences writing.  What seems to be most critical is that our kids understand that writers communicate coherently with an audience using the above bullets, regardless of the form (i.e. letter, story, Prezi, essay, feature article, etc.) Are forms obsolete? No, they are a form of organization and still need to be taught and experienced, but they are not the "end all, be all" of writing.

3) Our kids need support, but the goal is always  independence. BES teachers really live this one. You know your writers may need graphic organizers to scaffold them as they work to become organized and developed writers, but eventually they need to wean themselves from them as they demonstrate the ability to write without them. You all are always pushing your students to try their own and use what works for them. I have yet to see anyone force a child to use a graphic organizer every time they write. It's always a form of support through Gradual Release of Responsibility. Go us!

Please share your synthesis after you read Ms. Parker's response in the comment section below.

As you know...Together We Grow. -Sarah

MS. PARKER'S RESPONSE: The craft of writing is a long, developmental process requiring a variety of strategies and scaffolds at each level. Requiring students to use a certain form (5 paragraphs) can stifle the creativity and growth of the writer. It can also create in the students’ minds a false sense of good writing.

For students to do well in On Demand Writing, it is critical that they first understand the traits of writing as outlined in the Scoring Rubric. According to the K-Prep Assessment Basics, form, although stated in the prompt, is there only to provide context for purpose and audience. Form is not part of the rubric; rather, students will be evaluated on their ability to communicate effectively with an audience by supporting complex ideas in a coherently.

So what does this look like in the classroom? It means that students write, write, and write. They regularly analyze a variety of texts, including their own writing, to understand purpose, audience, idea development, and language. Knowledge of these traits is critical to allow constructive conversations about writing. This can be done in large or small group settings, as mini-lessons in response to formative assessment needs, or as part of a planned instructional sequence. There are numerous resources for teaching the “Traits of Writing” that can be adapted to each grade level.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time or a place for structured organizers as an instructional scaffold. However, because our goal is to develop independent writers, we should gradually release the use of these tools as students evolve in the craft of writing. Remember that on-demand writing is merely an assessment meant to allow students to demonstrate independently the skills they have gained through instruction and that the standards call for students to be able to write well in short and extended timeframes. The standards do not address the strategies for teaching writing, although they do align to a writing process approach.

A resource you might find helpful is Addressing the Three Modes of Writing in the KCAS, available here KDE will also be posting soon on the assessment page on-demand writing samplers, annotated student work, and instructional resources.

Hope this helps you—I appreciate your interest in helping students be better writers.

Cindy Parker, NBCT
Literacy Coordinator
Office of Next Generation Learners
Kentucky Department of Education
500 Mero Street, 1911 CPT
Frankfort, KY 40601

Monday, November 12, 2012

Leveled Non-Fiction and Ficiton Passages: Arming Yourself

Fitting readers' needs and being aware of exposure to complex texts is a challenge. Lucy Calkins quotes Richard Allington in her book Pathways to the Common Core, "You can't learn much from books you can't read" (2002). Allington defines these books as those students can read when they demonstrate 96% accuracy, fluency, and comprehension. That challenge seems tough enough, but we also need to be exposing them (though modeling and think alouds) to those texts that are on grade level and will further our students' understanding of the standards though use of the thinking strategies. Basically, we need to have access to an arsenal of texts to use in our teaching, conferring, and classroom libraries.

So, what do you do? You seek support such as: books, booklets, colleagues, LMSs, online sites, etc. Check out sites listed below as they may make your search a little easier and support your ELA, social studies, and science contents as well. Consider them as you work to find your mini-lesson and student practice passages (those we sometimes offer them to try out before they get into their self-selected texts.) You may just find something you like that fits a variety of needs. :)

Happy Clicking! Many grade-leveled passages on various content concepts 3rd -6th grade Use the sidebar to find the grade level you are interested in finding texts for.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Must Have New Apps

Sometimes I just find myself App Shopping. Like those times when I am trapped in the house, and the dishes sit piled in the sink waiting to be washed, I might just engage in some task avoidance and click on AppShopper or the App Store and see what catches my attention. Tonight I found several great (and mostly FREE) apps that called me to click "Install". Time might be running out, so click it yourself before you miss it!

McGraw Hill Education books: County & City Mouse, Jack and the Beanstalk, Why the Sea is Salty, and Little Red Riding Hood. These books are great for early readers who might need the book read to them,  (when they need help with a word or page, or just need fluency modeled for them), or when they need a just right book to read to themselves.

Word Mover:  This app was created by ReadWriteThink- the well-clicked resource we know best from our ELA units. The app "is used to supplement classroom instruction, reinforce concepts taught in class, and offer increased student engagement". Students can create "found poetry" (we might have schema for this concept though our Magnetic Poetry Center).

Book Creator: This app costs $1.99 and students can use it to create their own books, save them in iBooks, and send them via email, or submit them to the iBookstore.

Please sure your newest, greatest apps for all to see and CLICK!

Happy Installing!