Monday, December 5, 2016

How's it Going with Universal Idea at Buckner Elementary?

This new writing understanding that we are working hard to understand as teachers, and support students in doing successfully, is taking off here at Buckner Elementary. Currently, we have several grades where students are being intentionally guided toward transfer with this BIG (UNIVERSAL) IDEA so writing can unified. Already, in it's infantile stages, tying students' writing to a universal idea is leading to writing success.
What does it look like in instruction and in the work of kids, you wonder?

1st grade: In ELA unit 2, students in each class self-selected a topic to write about for a collaborative ABC book. In the past, the topic held the informative book together, but this year, Mrs. Morrison's students tied their writing together through the universal idea/abstract noun: FRIGHT. Here are some photos showcasing how they wrote with unity by always coming  back to the universal idea (fright) about the topic (Halloween).

Notice how the writer is learning more than just about the TOPIC of Halloween, they are really focusing on more than the topic. Readers are growing in their understanding about the topic based on the authors' thinking.

Scroll down more to find more examples of 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade writing with thesis statements making  claims about topics tied to Universal Ideas. (a.k.a. themes in literary texts)
You see, 5th graders are "Trying on Topics" by participating in "Warm Ups " where they respond to a prompt with reasons and a thesis that includes a claim +UI (and then apply a craft they've been noticing in model text to draft a paragraph).
3rd graders have been publishing short stories wrapped in themes about beloved family members. Both showcase the power of unity because the Universal Idea is the "thruline" that ties it all together!


This poster adds visual texts and meaning for kids in the intermediate grades to refer to when writing. Kristen Z. has a great list in LARGE font ready for her kids to lasso when they are ready to sew their ideas together with a Universal Idea. 

Please share how it's going with supporting your writers with this powerful practice of connecting ideas. If you are curious about how our 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades set up the instructional sequence for this writing practice, please ask them! They all had differing approaches to meet their learners' needs that ultimately reached the common outcome.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Celebrating Writing

Celebrating our Writers of the Month is a long-standing tradition for Buckner. For over a decade students have been entering their writing into the monthly contest. Teachers of every variety volunteer to read this great writing and winners are selected and showcased on the bulletin board, announced on Newscast, displayed on the Parent Website, and honored with a pencil.

Lately, several of our judges have taken their role of reading all of the grade level's great writing and choosing some models to a new level. Erin Marvin and Ann-Marie Elwell both contacted me separately to ask if they "could provide feedback to the students." My response, "OF COURSE! Wow! How powerful for the students to receive feedback -winners or not!"  And so they did. Each of these fine educators took the time to both read and reply to each and every student in their stack. Talk about honoring and propelling writers! Thank you to all* who took the time to read our young writers' stories, information, and opinions--you are making a difference in each of their lives by giving them an audience.
*Additional 2015-16 Judges: Jenny Graff, Rachel Martin, Ann-Marie Elwell, Stephanie Martin, Holly Dunigan, Kathy Robson, Heather McDonald, Emily Esarey, Stephanie Bailey, Jaime Ruhl, and Angelica Fotos

Friday, February 12, 2016

Why the Writing Walkthrough?

Ever wondered why we have to do the Writing Program Walkthrough each and every year? For those who have been hear, this time to analyze writing K-5 has been an annual occurrence. At this point, you may wonder, Is this just something that ______ (Insert name here: Sarah, Buckner, Oldham County, etc.) dreams up because they just LOVE writing?             No.
We actually engage in a Writing Analysis because our state values writing and teachers' participation in the process. The intended outcome is, as this KDE article states, "to use the data to refine the school's program, continue building on overall students' strengths, and addressing the needs of writing and communication skills." The article pictured below (a great read for all) sheds additional light on the importance of analyzing writing at the classroom, grade, and school levels.
Since you analyze your individual students' writing, your PLCs come together to analyze ELA and content writing, it's the job of each of us to come together as a school to analyze our BUCKNER STUDENTS' writing.
Published: 4/24/2015 2:31 PM

Our writing analysis is now March 16. We will spend time analyzing your students' writing so that you can gain a deeper understanding of how your students are doing, as well as the students in grade levels above and below the grade you teach. At both the school and PLCs levels, opportunities for making decisions about next steps will be provided. It is sure to be a powerful experience.
Looking forward to it! 
Materials to bring: 
AVERAGE BEAR (boys and girls represented in your teams)
  • ELA writing
  • content writing (ANY subject area: math, ss, sci. art)
  • Notebook and folder collection

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Challenge for YOU and Your WRITERS

Critical Friends: Trios Give Feedback

Critical Friends: Collaborating as Writers

Ask yourself these questions: 

  • Are you looking for a rigorous way to engage and motivate your student writers? 
  • Need to confer with more students, but find that time is not on your side?
  • Want to lift the level of thinking AND grow your writers at the same time?

Student writers have opinions, ideas, and critical feedback for their fellow classmates. Critical Friends: Trios Give Feedback is a fun and VALUABLE way to put the thinking in the minds of your students. This video, shows you the whys and hows of planning for your students to engage as collaborators of writing.
Writers Talking to Writers (writer of text as listener)

I argue that you could even show it to your students as the mini lesson- stopping along the way to ensure they understand what to do and the pitfalls students fall into when participating as critical friends. Or, simply model it for the group as this teacher did. 
Steps for the Protocol
Specific "Look Fors" based on what the 2-3 writing standards you've taught in this unit. (NOT ALL THINGS ABOUT X KIND OF WRITING)

Try it. Then tell us how it went for your students. What impact did this protocol have on them as writers?