Rate Your Writing

I found this awesome set of posters to use with my kids so they can SEE what good writing looks like and learn to self assess their own writing independent of me.

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You can get your own set at Sugar and Spice! Wasn’t she so nice to make these for everyone? πŸ™‚

Has anyone else used something like this in their classroom? How did you implement it with the kids? Was it effective?

Mechanics of Writing

Do your students struggle with the mechanics of writing? Even the basics?

Yeah, mine do, too.

So this post is all about THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

THE GOOD: We have written more this year than any other year.

THE BAD: The majority of my students are still making simple mistakes.

THE UGLY: In a ONE paragraph summary last week that they submitted to me electronically, ALL of them had to make corrections, and 15 out of 16 had to make corrections THREE times, and THEN some STILL had mistakes.

We are talking about capitalization errors, simple punctuation errors, leaving words out, using the wrong word, and spelling mistakes with simple words.

I. WAS. NOT. HAPPY.

To be honest, today I almost cried.

I wanted to GIVE UP.

Are they not embarrassed? Do they not care?

But then as I was researching (yeah, I guess you figured out I didn’t give up), and reading, and tweeting, and getting some good feedback from other teachers, I realized something:

Through their writing, they are really telling me that however I have been teaching editing has not worked.

I, the teacher, have got to make some adjustments. Some serious adjustments. And quickly.

So instead of going with my original plan this week for english/writing, I’m gonna modify it a little.

Tomorrow we are going to learn how to do an “Express Lane Edit”. You can read about this concept by Jeff Anderson HEREΒ in a Voices in the Middle article that he wrote.

Tomorrow we’re going SHOPPING. For some errors. OR some good writing mechanics.

We are going to CHECK THEM OUT.

And of course we are going to write a RECEIPT for the ones we find.

Then somehow in this overwhelming curriculum, and in our stretched to the max schedule, we ARE GOING to become editors of our own writing. And we are going to get good at it. πŸ™‚

 

 

History Essay Rubric

As some of you may know by now, this is the 1st year I’ve really tried to teach writing. And I know I’m still not doing it like I should be. But I’m doing better than if I weren’t teaching it at all! πŸ™‚

I’m also trying to have my kids write in all areas(ok,math is getting the shaft…).

I decided to bite the bullet and teach the essay format. So we write one together before I asked them to write one in history. Then after they wrote one in immigration and labor unions, we made a rubric together. Yes, I think we should have done the rubric BEFORE writing the essay. Lesson learned. πŸ™‚

BUT- I did let them revise anything they wanted to using the rubric.

Here’s the rubric we created together:

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I know. I need to take a class on how to write on a dry erase board!

I’m thinking maybe we need to create a rubric together before each type of writing we attempt. What do you think??

Do you use rubrics? Do you teach essay writing?

Do you teach writing?

Writing Prompts

I’ve never had my 6th graders respond to a writing prompt. GASP!

I mean, yes, they have answered questions about a text, etc., but never just an open ended writing prompt.

I’m taking an online class about teaching middle school writing, and writing prompts were our lesson for last week. We had to read an article about them and then create one.

Here’s mine:

Emotions and feelings are a daily part of our lives. They Β include happiness, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and many others. We may feel one or many throughout our lives. Some emotions stay with us for a short period of time, while others have a bigger impact on us and tend to stay with us longer.

Think of an emotion that you have felt in your life. Did it stay with you for a short or long period of time? What caused it?Β 

Write about this emotion in a way that your reader will truly understand how you felt and why you felt this way. Your writing should be ABOUT a page long.

This is the first writing prompt I’ve ever written. What do you think? Do you use writing prompts?

I’m going to have my kids respond to it this Friday as their English assessment. We will see how it goes.

I’m telling you that writing is HARD to teach!

Well, so is math. And reading. Hmm… πŸ™‚

I’m Positive

Yep! I’m positive.

I’m positive that appositives are VERY HARD for my 6th graders! πŸ™‚

Today we imitated our model sentence again for more practice. Then we looked in the books we are reading to see if we could find an appositive.

OMG!

Every phrase or sentence that had commas- they thought it was an appositive!

Moving right along- we tried to revise our mystery short stories by finding somewhere we could insert an appositive. This went a little better.

English is so hard. Writing is harder. And reading like a writer is impossible. Lol!

Not really. But they are so not used to doing this. We are going to keep on and persevere and become better writers and readers and thinkers. We are. πŸ™‚

I’m positive!

Running and Patience

These 2 things could go together. And need to go together. But in this post they will be written about as 2 separate things. So here it goes.

Today after school I ran 3 miles in 38:47 with 3 walk breaks. This is the farthest I’ve run since school started. Actually, probably since the middle of the summer. Yeah-true slacker lately!

But it felt so good! Especially during the walk breaks. HAHA!

And now I’m drinking water as I write this post. Which is also unusual. Go figure. πŸ™‚

Ok-next up is the patience part of this post.

I have a confession. I lost my patience with my 6th graders today. A couple of times. Not the kind of losing patience where you might tend to raise your voice or yell. No-this was a “hanging my head, sort of laughing, and saying I don’t know how to get it across to you”. Yeah, that kind of losing patience. Which is not ANY better than the other kind.

So these are the things I struggled with today:

1. Math-Dividing decimals

Putting the decimal in the wrong place? Quick fix. Multiplying and dividing incorrectly? I truly don’t know how to fix that in the 6th grade. Those are 3rd grade skills that have been practiced relentlessly since then.Β 

Any suggestions?

2. English-Appositives

Do I care if they know that a descriptive phrase in a sentence is called an appositive? No. I just want them to be able to use these phrases in their writing. Hence-our model sentence each week that we look at and notice and imitate.Β 

To be fair to them, they did a good job imitating the sentence when the phrase described the subject. But when I asked them to use a descriptive phrase somewhere else in the sentence they had a hard time. Like really hard. Even after I wrote an example on the board. I guess I don’t understand why it’s so hard to imitate someone else’s writing?

3. Research-Life cycle of a star

I’ve been teaching them how to research this year. It is a common core standard. And I believe it’s a necessary skill for the 21st century. For their future.

But I guess I forgot that even though I’ve been teaching them, I still haven’t taught them EVERYTHING about it, and it’s only October. So I gave them the outline of what they would be researching. And they got stuck. If they searched for “the beginning of a star” or “the ending of a star” and got no hits, they didn’t realize that this search might have turned up something- “star life cycle”.

So after all of this, the laughing I did in my classroom wasn’t the funny kind of laughing. And now I feel bad about it.Β 

I reflected on it after school-as I was running, on the way to dinner, when I got home, and even now as I write this. This is the FIRST year they’ve been asked to do a lot of what I’m asking them to do. I’ve GOT to remember that!

I’ve got to go easy on them. I think if they COULD do what I’m teaching them and asking them to do they WOULD do it.Β 

So BACKOFF, Shannon!! πŸ™‚

Remember:

They’re not used to writing. They’re not used to researching. They’re not used to creating.

Give them time. Continue to model, model, model. Continue to support.Β 

They will get used to writing. They will get used to researching. They will get used to creating.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. πŸ™‚

Imitating Writing

This is something I’ve tried to do with my 6th graders this year, but I think I need to take it up a notch.

We use a model sentence from a novel each week to look at and imitate in our own writing. I pick a sentence that has the english grammar skill that I want to focus on.

I got this idea from Jeff Anderson’s books on writing and grammar.

It’s a great way to show students what good writing looks like while also covering the standards.

It’s a popular concept/instructional strategy that has been missing in my classroom, but I’m trying to incorporate it. All the EXPERTS say it’s great. See what Penny Kittle, author of Book Love had to say about it on twitter!

Copied from the #nctechat on twitter. (That I missed tonight!)

Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for anyone learning an art or a craft.~Zinsser #nctechat

How do you show your students good examples of writing?