Monday, September 7, 2015

Moving From Quantity to Quality

You are just getting started with your Writers Workshop and your students are finally gaining some stamina. They are using their seed ideas, Best/Worst Days lists, and Maps of their Hearts to generate some QUANTITY of writing. So, it's about this time that you begin to consider supporting these newly confident writers with understanding QUALITY writing.

Over the years at Buckner this Teaching about Quality Writing has occurred in several ways.

For some it's showing students a variety of writing that spans 3-4 levels of "greatness."

  1. Teachers offer a texts that span the 3 modes, a variety of engaging topics, and demonstrate the levels of novice to exceptional with the 6+1 Traits and clear evidence of Stoplight (Step Up to Writing-type) paragraphs
  2. They ask writers to read, make meaning, appreciate  and analyze with others the quality of the writing. 
  3. Great dialogue occurs in the form of healthy debate (finding evidence within each text to prove points) and decisions are eventually made as the writers place the texts into categories. 
  4. The bar is set. The quality the class is striving for is visible. 
  5. Rubrics may be made and students begin to pursue personal goals.

For others, the analysis of mentor texts that sets the bar. Makes the quality visible.

Just a quick example of
a primary anchor chart.
Clearly your students will
additional noticings, and
intermediate grades will have
more in-depth descriptors.
  1. When students engage in this type of work, they first hear or read the texts offered and make sense of them as readers. They appreciate these mentors for the "greats" that they are and meaning they hold for the reader.
  2. Then, the partners or groups dig into them through the lens of the 6+1 Traits. They read like writers and notice word choice, writer's voice, organization, unity, sentence fluency, correctness, developed ideas, and more! Evidence is essential and statements about why it makes writing great or powerful are non-negotiables. 
  3. Finally, "great writing" lists are generated and displayed for all to see (and even housed in student folders or notebooks!
  4. The bar is set. The quality the class is striving for is visible. 
  5. And students begin to pursue personal goals.

I would be willing to bet that there a number of other ways that teachers have moved from the focus on quantity to an intentional focus on quality. As your writers become fluent, once again, please consider how you and your team will support your young writers so they discover the big picture of what writing can be- the goals they strive for throughout the year (and years to come).

What strategies have you used that have had a direct impact on student writing? Please share!

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