For the month of March , I will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (#sol19) sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I will be slicing each day for 31 days inspired by my work as a literacy specialist and coach, my life, and my fellow bloggers.
Thursday Reflection #OLW #sol19
March 7, 2019
I chose a word in January to guide some choices that I made throughout this year. It’s the eight year that I have chosen a word. This year’s word is reflection. Reflection.
I wrote a few days ago about a entry from my collaboration journal where I encouraged strongly two of my collaborative teachers to chuck the scripted assessment for the end of the Information Reading/Writing units (third grade) and take up slightly modified ideas that more closely aligned to the work they were doing in their classrooms. You can read about my initial idea here.
The first idea was to use an information topic that individual students were working on in their genius hour projects to have the students do a flash draft in information writing. The plan for this assessment was to inform their genius hour progress and complete an end of unit assessment in informational writing. In hindsight, I should have coached into two things that we consistently do when writing. The students should have had an opportunity to turn and share everything they were going to write with their writing partners. We know how important the oral rehearsal is, especially with our school population. The second reminder is also completely on me, even though we wrote about something specific to the students, we should have introduced the task with the same assessment directions that we would have used in the writing progression work.
Please keep in mind that you’ll have only this one period to complete this, so you’ll need to plan, draft, revise, and edit in one sitting. Write in a way that shows all that you know about information writing.
“In your writing, make sure you: • Write an introduction. • Elaborate with a variety of information. • Organize your writing. • Use transition words. • Write a conclusion.”
I hope the teachers were informed about many things in the students’ written essays, especially thinking about them in comparison to an exemplar. I often think we are expecting too much of some things and not enough of others. Few of the writers used parts or sections in their writing. Many of them used transition words, expert words and had an introduction and conclusion. Mostly success.
The second task we tried was more complex. The teachers selected a text that they had read often and used as a mentor text. Carter Reads the Newspaper for one class. Harvesting Hope for the other. Both of these texts are lengthy picture books with complex ideas new to all of the students. We typed the text so it would be presented in format similar to the testing protocol and other assessments. We considered presenting it through google classroom, but in the end used paper copies. Through Newsela, we located an article at a third grade level that was related to the popularity of black history for Carter Reads the Newspaper, a book about Carter Woodson, the driving force behind Black History Month and an article about the continued plight of farmworkers in the United States to go with Harvesting Hope, a picture book biography of Cesar Chavez. The first day the students summarized the informational article and the second day, the writers used cross-text synthesis to examine either black history or the condition of farm workers.
Perhaps the teachers would have gotten a cleaner assessment from the easier narrative nonfiction text provided in the unit paired with an equally easy informational article, but those articles were about roller coasters. The students thought about the development and promotion of black history and what has contributed to the rise in popularity of civil rights sites and other related black history museums. They thought about how little the conditions of farm workers whose products we eat has changed in the nearly sixty years since the Farm Workers March. Their conclusions rang of so what and now what in a way that I don’t think writing about roller coaster would have. They will walk away from these days with more than a thought that they wrote for two solid writing workshops. Perhaps they will consider both of these topics for a long time to come. I hear Lucy Calkins reminding me that we are raising citizens. I know I’ll consider how we introduced a timely, important topic to them.