End-of-the-Year Reflection Writing

As the school year comes to a close, teachers are already thinking and planning for next year. We, as teachers, look forward to a fresh start and are trying to remember all the mental notes we took during the school year about what to do differently to make next year even better. We encourage teachers to make time at the end of the year to reflect and set goals. It is a good time to teach students to do so as well.

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The Best Elementary Writing Program Ever

I’m thrilled to relaunch this blog. It’s the first week of Spring, the start of April, a big holiday weekend, and there’s a gorgeous full moon. I’m John, sometimes known around the office as the Mayor. I’m the founder and designer of VocabularySpellingCity and now, I’m pleased to announce that I’m also leading the way forward for WritingCity.

WritingCity? What happened to WriteStepsWriting?
WriteStepsWriting is a fantastic writing program developed and nurtured for most of a decade by a dedicated team of educators. In late 2017, VocabularySpellingCity acquired WriteStepsWriting and renamed it WritingCity so that it fits with its new sister sites: VocabularySpellingCity and Science4Us. Together, these three services form a product line known as LearningCity.

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Lack of Time to Teach Writing-How Joanna Van Raden Solved the Dilemma

Over the years I encountered several dilemmas when teaching young students to write. First, there was the issue of time.  There was never enough time:

  • To gather all of the materials I needed
  • To teach a complete lesson
  • For students to practice writing

Second, there was the issue of motivating all of my students. Some students were difficult to motivate, especially for writing.  I fought the battle for years.  I’d run through hoops to create some kind of excitement when it came to teaching writing skills. I tried mentor texts, dressing up in costumes, and more. They worked, but wow, they took up a lot of time. I’d give the lesson and find that there was very little time left for actual writing practice. As the years went by, I tried new teaching strategies to build successful writers.

Continue reading “Lack of Time to Teach Writing-How Joanna Van Raden Solved the Dilemma”

Blend The Writer’s Workshop-change The Delivery Model

Lack of Time to Teach Writing-How I Solved the Dilemma

Over the years I encountered several dilemmas when teaching young students to write. First, there was the issue of time.  There was never enough time:

  • to gather all of the materials I needed

  • to teach a complete lesson
  • for students to practice writing

Second, there was the issue of motivating all of my students. Some students were difficult to motivate, especially for writing.  I fought the battle for years.  I’d run through hoops to create some kind of excitement when it came to teaching writing skills. I tried mentor texts, dressing up in costumes, and more. They worked, but wow, they took up a lot of time. I’d give the lesson and find that there was very little time left for actual writing practice. As the years went by, I tried new teaching strategies to build successful writers. 

Continue reading “Blend The Writer’s Workshop-change The Delivery Model”

Let’s Get Something Straight! Not STR8!

I’ve noticed an increase in “texting” type lingo in student writing. I’m not talking about when students text each other in on the go instant messages, or write short Tweets that are limited in the number of characters that can be used. No, I’m talking about when students write and are publishing their work to a broader audience.  Formal writing deserves more than text type language.

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Back to School! Set the Tone…

Back to School

In August, I traveled across the country to Eugene, Oregon.  I had the opportunity to visit McCornack Elementary School, just one of several schools in the 4J District.  I was immediately welcomed by smiling faces, even though the school year had not started.  I noticed the dignity wall, where students agree to treat others with respect and the Principal’s Wall of Pride.  The signs of a caring school community made me feel at ease, even in a school far away from home.  Many teachers, as they do in all schools, were busy setting up classrooms well before the first day of school. This is just one of the many signs of dedicated hard working teachers I see when I visit classrooms all over the country. 

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

As a veteran teacher with a background in special, general, and technology education, I knew the importance of a strong face-to-face presence in the education setting. I also realized that the world of teaching as I knew it, was changing quickly. Our district received iPads for all students and teachers. We went from one or two computers in a classroom to 1:1 iPads. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, waking up after the storm. I was suddenly in a new place. Always the educational adventurer, I knew there had to be a way to use this new technology to optimize my limited time in the classroom. I had the tools, now I had to figure out what to do with them. I surrounded myself with Professional Development, attended conferences, and used Social Media to learn more. Blended and Flipped Learning just coming to the forefront. I recognized that an online presence could benefit my students. Students could reference my teaching 24/7 and they could move at their own pace.  I searched for a way to provide myself, the face-to-face component, with more time to work 1:1 or in small groups with my students, rather than lecturing from the front of the room.  I said to myself, “Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

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How Do We Develop a Writing Identity?

A special thank you goes to Dana Murphy for allowing us to share her blog post, “How Do We Develop a Writing Identity” I support what Dana says on how we can help students develop identities as writers. To make writing meaningful, we need to make it a social experience. When students have a real audience, they start to look forward to writing and see themselves as writers. Keep reading to learn more about Dana’s thoughts on this topic. I am a writer. There was a time in my not-so-distant past when I would never have uttered those words. I didn’t believe them. After all, I had no published work. I was not getting paid to write. How could I call myself a writer? Continue reading “How Do We Develop a Writing Identity?”

A Gift During Teacher Appreciation Week

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” –Kathy Davis

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week! I’d like to take a moment to tell you how much I appreciate the work you do. As a former teacher, I understand the sacrifices you make. I also know the positive impact you make on your students’ lives daily.

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4 Ideas to Encourage Writing This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching!  If you don’t usually incorporate writing when you celebrate, do something different this year and share the power of words with your students. Continue reading “4 Ideas to Encourage Writing This Valentine’s Day”

Leadership Truths for Curriculum Leaders

The following blog post is published with permission from the author, Steven Weber. Connect with him on Twitter @curriculumblog. You can read the original post here.

What is a curriculum leader?  A second grade teacher can serve as a curriculum leader. Principals and assistant principals should also be viewed as curriculum leaders.  A central office staff member may have the title of chief academic officer or curriculum director, but that does not mean they are the only curriculum leader in the school district.  Once teachers begin communicating with teachers in the same grade level and make connections with the next level (i.e., middle school and high school transition), students will benefit from increased clarity on the essential learning outcomes.

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How Does Technology Affect Student Writing?

How Does Technology Affect Student Writing?Take a look at the world around you today and compare it to twenty years ago. What do you notice? I notice how technology has changed so many aspects of our lives. Now, compare when you were first learning to write to present day students learning to write. How has technology affected student writing? Below I’ve outlined the pros and cons related to technology and the effect it has on student writing. 

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Get to Know Your Classmates! A Back-to-School Classroom Activity

“Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.” This quote, from the movie You’ve Got Mail, always makes me reminisce about my childhood and the memories of that first week back-to-school after a fleeting summer. I remember the feeling of the butterflies taking flight in my stomach, never knowing exactly what to expect, stepping into my new classroom for the first time. Little did I know that those first days would introduce me to lifelong friendships and lead me to that special teacher who helped shape who I am, long after I left the classroom behind.

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3 Things You Can Do This Summer to Be a Better Teacher in the Fall

3 Things You Can Do This Summer to Be a Better Teacher in the Fall style=This entry was originally published in Education Week on June 10, 2015. Thank you to Elizabeth Stein for granting us permission to share the article.

As the school year winds down, effective teachers everywhere are reflecting on their experiences and translating them into a plan for another successful school year ahead. It doesn’t matter what grade or subjects you teach, how long you’ve been teaching, or where—there are three universal things that all educators can to do be a better teacher in the fall.

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How to Encourage Your Students to Write More

No matter where you live in the world, writing is an important skill to master. We were contacted by Open Colleges, an education company based in Sydney, Australia, who asked us to share a blog from their Community Manager, Tess Pajaron. We were happy to do so. It shows two countries think alike when it comes to writing! Read on to learn Tess Pajaron’s tips for encouraging students to write more.

When it comes to education, writing is an important part of every subject. Writing allows students to practice crucial learning skills like integrating new information or reframing their knowledge in logical structures. It also enables instructors to identify issues that students find difficult to understand. The best thing is, writing doesn’t have to come in large pieces like term papers. Using some of these shorter assignments, teachers can effectively encourage their students to write more and polish their language skills.

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5 Formative Assessment Activities for the Classroom

Now that you’ve learned what formative assessment is, why you should use formative assessment in your classroom, and six practical tips, it’s time to take what you’ve learned and apply it to your class.

These five formative assessment activities can be used across content areas to quickly gather information in regards to how well your students are mastering content or concepts.

Shrinking Summary

Use this activity to assess individual students’ understanding of the lesson or a particular focus skill. Give your students approximately 3 minutes to write a summary of the day’s learning/lesson.

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National Poetry Month: Opposite and Found Poetry Lessons

“My skin is kind of sort of brownish pinkish yellowish white. My eyes are greyish blueish green, but I’m told they look orange in the night. My hair is reddish blondish brown, but its silver when its wet, and all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.”  Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Visit any elementary school classroom and most likely you will find a copy of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. It was one of my favorite books during my younger years.  I enjoyed reading the short poems chock full of words that sounded like music to my ears.  Since it’s National Poetry Month, I want to share some poetry lessons with you.
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Formative Assessment: Providing Feedback

I ended part one of my formative assessment blog series sharing the various types of formative assessments with you. If you missed it, you can read it here.  Are you ready to dive a little deeper into formative assessment? If so, read on.

Why use formative assessment?

Watch the video below and listen as this teacher provides her second grade student with oral feedback on his writing. She has gathered information about his understanding by looking at his writing product, which in this case, serves as a formative assessment. She helps him understand where he is going, where he is now and shows him how he can close the gap. She also offers him more opportunity for practice.

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Formative Assessment: An Introduction

There’s a term that has been floating among educators for some time, and it’s called formative assessment. I’ve been asked by many teachers about formative assessment and how it can be used in their classrooms to improve their students’ writing. In my next blog series, I’d like to share with you the what, why, and how of formative assessment. Let’s start off with the basics first to get our feet wet. I’ll dive into the nitty gritty for you in three more follow-up blog posts.

Continue reading “Formative Assessment: An Introduction”

Why Handwriting Helps You Learn

Did you see our last blog post, “From Symbols to Siri: Where is writing headed?” that compares the differences between speech-to-text versus pencil to paper? Though we feel the future of writing is headed in a much different direction for generations to come, we know handwriting and keyboarding skills play an important role in they way children learn to write right now. 

Nowadays it’s less about putting pen to paper and more about turning on your laptop. But are we losing out by letting the art of penmanship die? Lots of evidence shows handwriting for kids stimulates the brain and offers benefits typing doesn’t.

Continue reading “Why Handwriting Helps You Learn”

Calling all Teachers: Share Your Expert Advice and Earn $50!

TeacherFeature

Do you have a solution to share for the problems teachers face while teaching writing? Help teachers around the nation by submitting a video with your tip. If we select your video for use in our future professional development sessions, we will send you a $50 check! Better yet, submit as many videos as you like.

You don’t need to be using the WriteSteps program to participate. Please spread the word to your elementary teacher friends and colleagues. Together, we CAN improve writing in elementary schools.

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A Culture of Writing: Writing Instruction at Washington Elementary

One of the most difficult challenges I have had in my career was to instill a culture of writing at my school. It’s not that we weren’t doing writing at our school, but the question was, “Were we doing the writing effectively across the grades to make our children better writers?” This has been challenge that needed to be met head on during the past years. My quest was to find a writing program where my school could create a culture of writing and utilize this program to improve writing and writing scores across the grade levels.

Continue reading “A Culture of Writing: Writing Instruction at Washington Elementary”

Is Anybody Listening to Teachers?

I am an English teacher who has been in the classroom for nine years. As an experienced educator, I have endured and complied with many new school policies and changes, most of which mainly affected teachers. But earlier this year my school was informed of some changes that would ultimately affect our students, and that I couldn’t stand for.

The district had decided to cut teachers’ planning time in half by instead sending teachers into other teachers’ classrooms to serve as aides. The assumption was that teachers are not using that time effectively anyway so why not put two teachers in every classroom?

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On the Road to Recovery: Writing Instruction at Chauncey Davis Elementary School

By Kresta Byington, Principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary School

It’s a rainy, breezy day as I walk through the quiet halls of Chauncey Davis Elementary, nestled in a sleepy town along the Willapa River in Washington. I hear the sound of the rain pattering on the building, and the mossy trees are glistening outside, leaning heavily from the rain, as I begin my walkthroughs for the day. I step inside one of my fourth grade classrooms and witness an encouraging sight. The students are deep in concentration.  The only sound is the collective hum of their pencils scribbling and scratching as they write their words on the paper.

Continue reading “On the Road to Recovery: Writing Instruction at Chauncey Davis Elementary School”

Education is a 7 Trillion Dollar Industry?

Did you know this? I had no clue until I went to the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale last month. Watch the interview I participated in to hear my take on the future of EdTech and what it means for the education industry.

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Professional Development & Common Core Writing: What Works?

We know that standards cannot impact student learning if they’re just sitting on the shelf. We need teachers who can teach them. Standards accomplish nothing alone. But many teachers have told us they still feel unprepared when it comes to the Common Core. Are you one of them? Continue reading “Professional Development & Common Core Writing: What Works?”

4 Tips to Prepare Students for On-Demand Writing

Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.

On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.

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5 Keys to Teaching Writing

Helping elementary students sharpen their writing skills without hindering their creativity is hard work. It’s not like teaching math or phonics; but it’s not rocket science either. There is a well-established body of best practices in writing instruction that works beautifully for children. What you need is:

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When Did You Learn How to Write?

I’m curious, when did you learn how to write? Suzanne Klein, pictured as a young teacher.

It wasn’t until my first year in English 101 at Hillsdale College that I began to realize that my teachers throughout my K-12 education failed teaching me the craft of writing. You wouldn’t believe the sea of red marks all over my English essays. It didn’t help that the semester before, my professor was teaching graduate English majors at Harvard. I never really knew the background story of why Dr. Adcock came from Harvard to teach at a small, private, and very conservative college in Michigan. Needless to say, having no formal writing education, I was not Dr. Adcock’s favorite student. In fact, I had to procure an English major tutor after receiving several D minuses on my essays. Continue reading “When Did You Learn How to Write?”

3 Classroom Management Tools You Can Use During Writing Conferences

I’m reminded of author Frank Herbert’s advice, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story,” as I begin the third and final installment of the writing conference blog series.  This won’t be the last time I address conferences, but it’s the end of the series highlighting conference challenges teachers face.

So far I’ve shared tips on how to combat the challenge of the old-fashioned English teacher mindset and what do to when you’re not exactly sure what to conference about.  Let’s take a look at tips for when your class gets too loud on conference days.

Continue reading “3 Classroom Management Tools You Can Use During Writing Conferences”

Teaching Tips for Successful Conferences with Elementary Writers: Part 2-5

In part one of this blog series, I shared tips on the conference challenges of the old-fashioned English teacher mindset. Keep reading to learn about another common conferencing challenge I hear from teachers during coaching.

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Teaching Tips for Successful Conferences with Elementary Writers: Part 1

Conferencing lies at the heart of effective writing instruction. Why?

Because, unlike math or even spelling, writing offers no single correct answer. In some ways, it is like playing a sport. You have to put a variety of skills together to hit the target. As teachers, we demonstrate the “rules of the game” and then guide our students in strengthening their “performance.” It’s a step-by-step process. Like the coach who offers personalized advice to help each athlete improve, we give individualized feedback that helps students discover their power as writers. Continue reading “Teaching Tips for Successful Conferences with Elementary Writers: Part 1”

You’re So Much More Than Just a Teacher

Thanksgiving is always such a hectic time of year. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the tasks that need to be completed prior to enjoying that long-awaited, delicious dinner with family.

I sometimes find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday that I forget to step back and take a moment to really think about what I’m thankful for. Continue reading “You’re So Much More Than Just a Teacher”

The Top 3 Reasons Why Teachers Struggle with Teaching Writing

John Rumery, Editor of Rapid Growth, interviewed Suzanne Klein (Founder & CEO) about WriteSteps. Watch the video to discover Suzanne’s inspiration for creating WriteSteps, information about investing in the growing company, the top three challenges teachers face when it comes to teaching writing, and her plans for WriteSteps’ future!

Continue reading “The Top 3 Reasons Why Teachers Struggle with Teaching Writing”

Low-Stakes Writing Exercises: 3 Tips to Get Started

By Lily Jones (Guest Blogger)

A special thank you to Lily Jones, Education Content Manager at Teaching Channel, for giving us permission to re post her blog. Lily shares her tips about the instructional strategy called “Writing to Learn”.  You can read her original entry, posted on Teaching Channel, here.

When we give students writing assignments, the purpose is often to share ideas and demonstrate understanding. We have students write persuasive essays to demonstrate their ability to make and support arguments, or write answers to questions that we use to assess their understanding. But, as Joan Didion explains, writing can also be a way to develop understanding. Continue reading “Low-Stakes Writing Exercises: 3 Tips to Get Started”

6 Tips to Successfully Score Student Writing Samples

Scoring a student sample or grade-level appropriate writing with the WriteSteps’ rubrics is effective because it gives your students the opportunity to see how each of the six traits works separately and together to make a strong piece.

Devin Dusseau-Bates, a 3rd grade teacher using WriteSteps, shares her tips on making the most of the six traits rubrics. Using the six traits rubrics helps students identify their own areas of strengths and weaknesses, which really boosts student confidence. Continue reading “6 Tips to Successfully Score Student Writing Samples”

Teachers Change the World One Lesson at a Time

Be A TeacherStar!

We know from experience that modeling is a powerful tool. We are seeking TeacherStars to model WriteSteps lessons for our nation’s teachers. This is an opportunity for you to make an impact outside of your classroom. In an effort to increase our videos to teach the nations teachers, any teacher that submits a video we use to publish on eWriteSteps, will receive $200.00!
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The Flipped Classroom: An Infographic

I discovered this great education infographic and thought it would be worth sharing with all of you. The flipped classroom method is a fairly new teaching concept I find interesting.  It reminds me of the Montessori way of teaching because it allows students to completely master a subject before moving on, enabling them to work at their own pace. Students watch the lessons at home and are able to spend more individual time with their teachers mastering the subject content in the classroom. Continue reading “The Flipped Classroom: An Infographic”

Response to Text Writing: Text-Dependent vs. Non-Text Dependent Questions

Standards based assessments call for both types of Response to Text writing. Arlynn King and I continued our conversation on Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing with an emphasis on text-dependent vs. non-text dependent questions. 

Non-text dependent questions ask students to communicate their own thinking, self expression and exploration.  Text-dependent questions ask students to respond to sources and answer questions by drawing on evidence from the text in support of their ideas.

Continue reading “Response to Text Writing: Text-Dependent vs. Non-Text Dependent Questions”

Top Ten: Teaching Writing in the Common Core

By Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld
Originally published by Pearson on February 18, 2013

Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld

We came across this blog, written by Pam Allyn, Founder of LitWorld, and wanted to share it with you as a guest post in The Inspired Writer this month.  If you haven’t heard of LitWorld, check out this global organization that advocates for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners, here. Enjoy these ten writing tips from Pam!

The teaching of writing can be formulaic, but this era requires us to step beyond the confines of formula and really dig deep into craft, synthesis and production.

Continue reading “Top Ten: Teaching Writing in the Common Core”

All Teachers Aren’t Cut Out to Be Curriculum Creators: How Districts are being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?

In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the state standards. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch standards based lessons when they are in classrooms every day?

There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free standards based material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators. Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.
Continue reading “All Teachers Aren’t Cut Out to Be Curriculum Creators: How Districts are being Penny Wise and Pound Foolish”

10 Writing Apps to Inspire your Elementary Students

Do you know what I love the most when I meet teachers from around the country during my travels? The fact that it gives me the opportunity to hear how WriteSteps is making a positive impact in their classrooms. I also enjoy learning about writing apps teachers have discovered that inspire students to become better writers.

I love my iPad and am an advocate for combining education with the use of technology for the purpose of engaging and motivating students. The following apps are great for students to use outside of the classroom that reinforce their writing skills in a format that is fun and enjoyable! They cover a wide range of writing skills for all levels of writers. From apps that help beginning students just learning to write, to apps that help more advanced students organize their thinking prior to beginning a narrative, there is an app that will inspire any elementary school writer! Continue reading “10 Writing Apps to Inspire your Elementary Students”

An Encouraging Message for Schools

December 14, 2012. This date will forever remain in the hearts of people across our nation. Months have passed since the tragic events unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the scars will never completely heal.

The Newtown community will continue to struggle with the remnants of that day while trying to look toward the future. The wide spread debate across the country on the best ways to keep schools safe and prevent additional tragedies like Newtown from occurring again are important. It is also important to create a welcoming school environment that is a safe haven for students, both emotionally and physically. These inspirational We are a Family posters portray an encouraging message for schools and are a tribute to the remarkable teachers and children of Sandy Hook Elementary.

We invite you to hang these remembrance posters in your school hallways and classrooms so the Newtown community knows the lives of the children and educators lost will never be forgotten. Continue reading “An Encouraging Message for Schools”

Advantages of eWriteSteps in Elementary Classrooms

At WriteSteps, we realize the importance of integrating technology into elementary classrooms. Students have higher motivation, immediate access to quality instructional materials, and increased engagement. Utilizing technology in your classroom also prepares young students with the skills necessary to succeed in our technology driven lifestyles. Technology provides teachers like you with an unlimited wealth of resources and tools to teach and expand your knowledge; there is no limit to the resources you can use to help your students in today’s information age!
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Act of Kindness Campaign: Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy

The unspeakable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have shaken the WriteSteps team to the core, like so many people around the world. Many of us are former elementary school teachers and educators, so this tragedy felt very personal. We are still trying to make sense of the events in Newtown. Though this senseless act can never be explained, we hope those personally affected can find comfort from the outpouring of love that is being sent to the victims and families.

We decided to pool our energy and resources into honoring the precious lives that were taken on December 14, 2012. Many students, whether it be those directly affected, or those that have heard about the horrific accounts from the news, will be shaken and changed forever.
Continue reading “Act of Kindness Campaign: Writing Prompts to Help Students Deal with Tragedy”

Supplementing Writing Lessons with Picture Books

I am a firm believer that students learn best by example. In our WriteSteps K-5 Common Core program, we provide teachers with real student t writing samples demonstrating the different writing topics students learn. We include low, medium and high quality samples so students can see all levels of works.

Picture books can also be a great way to demonstrate a specific writing skill to your students. If you are looking to supplement your writing lessons, in addition to the student writing samples provided in our daily lesson plans, here are some good suggestions.

Below you will find five examples of picture books and how they can be used as mentor texts when teaching a particular writing skill to your K-5 students.

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New Study: “Text Messaging May Harm Grammar Skills”

New Study - Text Messaging May Harm Grammar Skills

“The human race wasn’t very advanced… They mostly spoke in monosyllabic grunts… In fact, the last words from their civilization before the meteor hit were “OMG” and “WTF.”
 

This cartoon would be hilarious if it weren’t so ominous. It’s ominous because it pokes fun at a distressing problem: text messaging may be harming kids’ language skills. That’s the finding of a new study published in New Media & Society, a top-ranked, peer-reviewed journal. The authors of Texting, Techspeak, And Tweens say:
 

The question to date was whether or not adolescents were able to switch between writing text messages and using correct English grammar for class work. The results of this study indicate that most adolescents are not able to do so.
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Text Messaging Does Not Negatively Impact Literacy Skills

Chris Drew is the creator of Pocket Literacy Coach, from WriteSteps, a Common Core writing resource for elementary teachers.

Guest blogger Chris Drew is the founder of Pocket Literacy Coach, an innovative resource that provides parents with literacy activities to do with their children.

Thanks to my friend Chris Drew, for permission to re-blog the following post, originally published in the Pocket Literacy Coach blog on August 14, 2012.  ~Suzanne

A friend of mine, Suzanne, at WriteSteps recently shared a story about how “Texting May Undermine Language, Spelling Skills.” It’s an interesting summary of a new study about correlations between “techspeak” and grammar test performance. We had a friendly back and forth about our disparate perspectives on this issue. In a nutshell, she generally supports the claims of the article, and I do not. The issue of texting impacting language and grammar skills is much more complex than this one story would lead us to believe. As pop news reporting on academic research usually goes, though, the author, Rick Nauert, doesn’t quite flesh out the whole story from a much larger context.
Continue reading “Text Messaging Does Not Negatively Impact Literacy Skills”

K-5 Blogging to Publish Student Writing

K-5 Blogging to Publish Student Writing

WriteSteps Curriculum Creator Katie Davis meets the Common Core technology requirements for publishing K-5 writing with a simple and engaging blogging platform.

Last week, we published “4 Free Technology Tools to Jazz Up Writers Workshop” in the August issue of Inspired Writer. If you missed, it you’ll definitely want to check out these powerful motivators for young students developing Common Core writing skills: StoryBird, Little Bird Tales, ePals, and iMovie.

Then, if you haven’t found your way into blogging yet, try another publishing option your students will love: a free blogging platform that’s so simple, even first graders can use it! Our fourth-grade curriculum creator, Katie Davis, recently gave WriteSteps Coaching Director Arlynn King the scoop on Kidblog.
Continue reading “K-5 Blogging to Publish Student Writing”

Promise and Paradox: Writing in America’s Schools

Image of student-author by WriteSteps. The Common Core writing standards demand something new to overcome decades of flat test scores despite promising advances in pedagogy. Promising advances such as writer’s workshop have changed the face of writing instruction, but national measures still tell us that two-thirds of our graduates can’t write. How do we solve that paradox?

Why do America’s children write so poorly? Writing instruction has seen a lot of innovation since I was a kid. Like many of my peers, I struggled with writing under the old system of the 3 A’s – assign, assume, and assess. My teachers assigned a topic, assumed we could write about it, and assessed our finished pieces.

Today’s kids have it better. Yet there’s still a disconnect. Despite the advances in instruction since I was a child, most teachers still don’t teach writing well. On the last national writing assessment (the NAEP), less than a third of 12th graders, and less than a quarter of elementary students, could write proficiently.

Continue reading “Promise and Paradox: Writing in America’s Schools”

The Write Stuff

Photo of Suzanne Klein of WriteSteps presenting Common Core writing strategies to elementary principals at the 2012 NAESP conference. Suzanne Klein presenting at March, 2012 NAESP conference.
A report on Suzanne Klein’s Common Core writing presentation to the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

I was drawn to this breakout session not only because Common Core was included in the title, but because writing is an area of challenge for my school, and from what I understand from my peers, for many others.

How many schools have a dedicated “writing time”?
WriteSteps is a Common Core based program that teaches writing to elementary-age students. One of the things I picked up early on in this session is that it is not just the process, but also an attitude, that will make the difference. If teachers are afraid of or unsure how to go about the teaching of writing, the time that is dedicated to writing will continue to be negligible. It seems that most everyone thinks it is important, but the proof is really in the intentional time it is given. Continue reading “The Write Stuff”

5 Ways to Cure the Common Crank

Image of frustrated teacher from WriteSteps Inspired Writer blog.
Feeling cranky? Even in those long days
when we think we’ll never make it to
Spring Break, we need to find ways to
give our best to our students.
It is hard for a fussy teacher (or parent) to teach. Our negative body language is hard to overcome. Kids need to know we care. When I find myself going down this thorny path, this is what I do:

1. Start smiling
You feel better and somehow forget about the reasons you had to be fussy in the first place.

2. Do something kind and totally random
Find a stewardess or service person and call the company to give an honest compliment. Call a product support line of something you love just to tell them.

Continue reading “5 Ways to Cure the Common Crank”

3 Great Reasons to Collect Your Own Student Writing Samples

Student sample writing collected by WriteSteps Common Core 3rd grade Curriculum Creator . Binder of 3rd grade writing samples collected by Denise Dusseau for next year’s class. Once teachers have a strong foundation in the WriteSteps lessons, collecting class samples can be a great way to honor student work and help your evaluations.

Today I’m pleased to welcome back our 3rd grade curriculum creator and incredible teacher, Denise Dusseau. Here’s Denise, on using anonymous student writing samples with K-5 writers:

Denise: WriteSteps provides dozens of excellent anonymous samples for each grade, but I started creating my own collections when I was still using the Lucy Calkins program. Whether or not you already have plenty of anonymous student sample writing to use in your lessons, using samples from your own students can be powerful. Why?

• they honor your students’ work
• they reflect the unique culture of your school
• they can help your evaluations

Inspiring Confidence

I mentioned in our December Inspired Writer eNewsletter that when I started using WriteSteps, I saw a wonderful difference in the writing of my students who have learning disabilities or ADD. They used to have a hard time getting anything on the page, but now they’re motivated, they’re staying engaged, and they’re making real strides. Continue reading “3 Great Reasons to Collect Your Own Student Writing Samples”

My New Year’s Resolution: Turn Frustration into Fuel!

Suzanne Klein's inspiration for WriteSteps was sparked for her own search for teacher-friendly solutions for writing instruction as a first-grade teacher. The inspiration for WriteSteps came out of my own search for teacher-friendly writing solutions when I was a K-5 teacher.

K-5 writing instruction has taken some baby steps forward since I first began offering WriteSteps lessons outside my own school in 2007. Because the many state standards elevate the teaching of writing at all grade levels, I see more districts starting to take writing seriously.

But we have such a long way to go! As I travel the country to address school leaders about writing, I still find teachers everywhere who are completely lacking the support they need to give their students the gift of clear written expression. I just feel so disheartened when I hear their stories.

Continue reading “My New Year’s Resolution: Turn Frustration into Fuel!”

Motivating Young Writers to Revise

Motivating Young Writers to Revise Teacher Denise Dusseau created the 3rd grade curriculum for the Common Core WriteSteps

Today’s blog features simple and effective teaching tips from our 3rd grade Curriculum Creator, Denise Dusseau. Denise is a gifted classroom teacher who used the Lucy Calkins writing program until we launched the Standards Based WriteSteps in September.

She reported in our December Inspired Writer eNewsletter that since she started using WriteSteps, even her struggling writers are making wonderful gains! A quarter of her students have learning disabilities and/or ADD.

Continue reading “Motivating Young Writers to Revise”

3 Secrets to Great Conferences with Young Writers

Conferencing with the teacher is a time of personalized coaching and encouragement for students practicing Common Core Standard writing skills. Conferencing individualizes instruction and reinforces new skills, ultimately helping K-5 students discover their power as writers.

“Teaching writing must become more like coaching a sport and less like presenting information. You have to do more than call out the errors.”

~Lucy Calkins

Conferencing lies at the heart of effective writing instruction. Why?

Because writing, unlike other subjects, offers no single correct answer. In some ways, writing is like playing a sport. You have to put a variety of skills together to hit the target. As teachers, we demonstrate the rules of the game and guide our students in strengthening their performance. Like the coach who offers personalized advice to help each athlete improve, we give individualized feedback that accelerates learning. Continue reading “3 Secrets to Great Conferences with Young Writers”

Is the Pencil Becoming Obsolete?

Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand seems to stimulate brain development far more than keyboarding. Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand does far more to stimulate brain development.
Helping children become stronger writers while making sense of the Writing Common Cores can be challenging. WriteSteps offers techniques that bring teachers and students success; this is what we want to discuss in our newly launched blog.

For our first post, however, we want to join a different conversation: the question of whether handwriting instruction in elementary classrooms should go by the wayside. This has been hotly debated ever since “Handwriting is History” first appeared online. Throw in the fact that the ELA Common Cores are silent on the topic of handwriting (while saying plenty about essential writing skills), and the decision by some districts to make handwriting instruction optional after second grade — what are teachers to do?

Continue reading “Is the Pencil Becoming Obsolete?”