Monday, March 27, 2006

Modeled to Guided to Independent

During some observations recently I've been thinking about transfer of skills into students' independent work. How can teachers create an environment where reading comprehension strategies, for example, are sufficiently modeled and practiced so that they become ingrained into students' independent work? How do we create a connection between the basal worksheet, STARS workbook, or any other resource to independent reading? Is there sufficient practice with support (guided reading) to help students play with the strategy? Is there monitoring of independent reading to assess whether the strategy has actually transferred? Routman talks about the gradual release of responsibility and I think that phrase says a lot. This is where the art and science of teaching collide. When to release students to independence does not have a simple answer. Any thoughts?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

So What

Here's another reminder from Ms. Routman. One thing she sees a lot of in schools is what she calls "So what" writing. So much of what students write doesn't say anything interesting or important. The remedy for this is AUDIENCE. Every piece of writing needs to have an authentic audience. After all, if there is no audience (including self), what's the point of writing?

I really think this tendency to assign writing for no apparent reason leads to much of the student's apathy about writing specifically and school work, in general. We need to help students make the connections between their work in school and real tasks that they will do in life, whether it's writing, reading to understand, or doing math. All of these skills are used throughout life. I do believe that some of the lack of motivation that students develop is because they see the work they are doing in school as pointless.

Therefore, the burden is on us to make that work relevant, for it truly is relevant. So, let's get those authentic writing tasks every day and watch our students shine.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Revising as you go

Another of the refreshers that was brought to my attention by the Regie Routman conference on Tuesday was the need to model and teach revision throughout the writing process. I remember my days as a 9th grade English teacher drilling students on the writing process "delivered from the mountain", which was: Prewriting, Rough Draft, Revision, and Final Copy.

In reality, writers are constantly revising, even as they are drafting. This authentic part of the writing process needs to be constantly modeled by teachers and expected from students. I think one of the reasons it's so hard to get students to revise is that most of the writing they see teachers do is either presented as a finished product or written without revision. They don't see enough of the authentic struggle that is involved in creating a worthwhile piece of writing.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Regie Reminders

This past Tuesday, eleven of us had the opportunity to hear Regie (that's pronounced Reejee!) Routman and it gave us cause to reflect on our progress in writing instruction. Here is the first in a series of posts on some of the "Ahas" from my perspective.

First, teachers need to jump right in and write in front of their students. By this, I mean authentic writing, revising as they go. This modeling is clearly part of the equation in the success that Regie has with her students. I'm looking forward to seeing lots more attempts at authentic modeling for students. Kudos to those staff members who have already made this a regular part of their Writer's Workshop. The benefits for our students will be immense.

By the way, we also learned that Regie is not too fond of cats, a point that shifted her even higher on my list, thought it might have knocked her down a little for a few of my colleagues.