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By Suzanne Klein on 1/29/2015 5:21 PM

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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.

What is formative assessment?

Formative assessment is a planned process that provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are still happening. It guides you in making decisions about future instruction and informs your students so they can adjust what they are currently doing.

By Suzanne Klein on 2/4/2014 1:37 PM

Dear Reader,

I’m curious, when did you learn how to write?

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. Yes, he probably had unrealistic expectations for his English 101 students, but how can we blame him for thinking that his college freshman students would come from K-12 having been taught at least what the 6 traits of quality writing are, how to use them, analyze and write for different text types, practice the art of editing and revising to make writing better, all while receiving specific and helpful feedback for writing improvement.

By Suzanne Klein on 1/2/2014 12:34 PM

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.  

I Don't Know What to Conference About

Solution — Use Organizing Tools to Stay On Top of Student Progress
Keeping good notes for each student conference will help you choose teaching points wisely. WriteSteps provides a conference sheet you can staple to the inside back cover of each student's writer's notebook. This is a handy way to record the date and teaching points for each conference. Checking these dates regularly also helps you ensure that you're conferencing with each student regularly.

http://edu.writestepswriting.com/writing-conference-sheet
By Suzanne Klein on 12/12/2013 3:35 PM

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.

In this three-part blog series, I discuss the most common conferencing challenges we hear about when coaching grade-level teachers on professional development days:

  • The Old-Fashioned “English Teacher Mindset”
  • I’m Not Sure What to Conference About
  • My Class Gets Too Loud on Conference Days!   

Continue reading to look at solutions for the first bullet point.

By Suzanne Klein on 10/29/2013 12:00 PM
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. She 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.

Recently, Teaching Channel’s new professional development platform, Teams, partnered with Educate Texas to create a series of videos showcasing Common Instructional Framework. From these new videos, I learned about an instructional strategy called “Writing to Learn.” This technique encourages the use of low-stakes writing to allow students a chance to clarify their ideas and think critically. In this video, Andrea Culver explains how “Writing to Learn” allows students to process information without worrying about assessment or judgment.

By Suzanne Klein on 10/21/2013 12:47 PM

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. (Click to Tweet!) For example, if a student recognizes that they have a strength, called a glow, in the area of organization, but a weakness, or grow, in word choice, then they have something very specific to focus on as a writer rather than just on writing as a whole.

Continue reading to learn Devin's six tips!
By Suzanne Klein on 10/9/2013 10:25 AM

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!

If you believe you have what it takes to teach teachers, we would like you to submit a video teaching a complete WriteSteps lesson(s). All teachers whose videos are accepted for eWriteSteps will:

  • Receive a $200.00 Visa gift card
  • Have their lessons included on eWriteSteps
By Suzanne Klein on 9/1/2013 2:13 PM











What are the differences and similarities between Smarter Balanced and PARCC? Since Common Core is a national curriculum, why aren’t states using one test? How does writing play a role in the tests?

I spoke with Arlynn King, WriteSteps Coaching Director, to answer these questions. We thought it would be valuable to share what we’ve learned about the Smarter Balanced and PARCC tests, and how writing is going to play an important role. Watch the vlog (video blog) below!

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