Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Give 'em the real thing

I've been thinking about our discussion related to isolated skill work compared to the whole-part-whole philosophy espoused by Regie Routman. Years ago I heard someone describe to me how tellers were trained to detect counterfeits. According to Bankers Online training is based heavily on the trainers being able to feel the difference between counterfeit and authentic money. This is the most effective means because the tellers handle so many real dollars day after day that when they feel the fake, it stands out like a sore thumb . (No pun intended!)

I was thinking of this in conjunction with practice exercises that provide errors for students to correct. What evidence is there that this isolated skill practice transfers to independent writing? It makes more sense to me that students will benefit from more time spent immersed in reading. Read alouds, partner reading, guided reading, and independent reading all seem to me to have a greater impact on students' knowledge and facility of language.

I'd love to read the thinking of others on this.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Encouraging Words

Ms. Eilat's 5th graders took the time to write me a thoughtful and kind note on Boss's Day and I thought I would take the opportunity to reciprocate by sharing a letter of gratitude with them.

Dear Mighty 5th Graders,

Your letter on Monday really made my day. I appreciate the thoughts which were both kind and funny! I hope you appreciate the power writing has on people. Your letter lifted my spirits and encouraged me even thought quitting is the last thing on my mind. Working at Halecrest is truly a joy because of the dedicated and inspiring young people, like yourselves, as well as the professional and compassionate staff, like Ms. Eilat. I hope you will continue to develop those outstanding writing skills and use them to write notes and letters to your family and friends who have helped you along the way.


Dan Winters

Monday, October 10, 2005

Great Writing - Go no farther than Halecrest!

Today I had the chance of visiting two first grade classes that had both recently finished a non-fiction writing piece. I was impressed with the variety of writing that the students had produced as well as the detail and organization of the paragraphs. While talking to the students and subsequently, the teachers, I found several elements that contributed to these wonderful examples of independent writing. The teachers had included both fiction and non fiction read alouds or shared reading as a springboard to discussion. Modeled and shared writing was the next step in getting students more experience with the content and language they would need to write on their own. Students then had a chance to discuss what they were going to write before putting pen to paper. All of this prewriting made for some high level first grade writing, including English Learners. Whale Done Teachers and students!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Do we really have time for all this writing?

That is certainly a valid question. Here are a few thoughts from Regie Routman on the issue.
So when teachers say to me I don't have time to teach writing every day, my response is Yes, you do, if you value it; if you don't have time, you're valuing something else more (perhaps skills in isolation or phonics drills or worksheets). Take a look at your teaching day, and decide what's really most important for helping students to become independent learners. Writing is one of the best ways I know for developing deep thinking, so I make time for it.

I especially agree that writing promotes higher level thinking and reflective learning. If we ask students to explain in writing what they have learned in math, science, and social science, they will understand more clearly what was taught and strengthen those thinking muscles. Write On!