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By Suzanne Klein on 10/16/2014 11:30 AM

TeacherFeature

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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.

Here are the things we are looking for:

  • A tip or an authentic solution to problems teachers face while teaching writing.
  • Videos shot in a real elementary classroom, possibly demonstrating with visuals.
  • Videos 1 minute or less in length (this is equivalent to 120 words).
  • In the video: state your name, grade level (or position), and your idea. Please be clear and concise.

Email your video to Emily@WriteStepsWriting.com. Include the topic you chose in the subject line and please provide your full name and mailing address in the message so that we know where to mail the check if your video is selected.

By Suzanne Klein on 7/18/2014 1:15 PM
By Emil Carafa (pictured on the left of the Cat in the Hat), Principal of Washington Elementary School, past President of the New Jersey Principals Association, and Educator's Leader Cadre Representative of New Jersey for PARCC National Conference

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.

Collaboration is the key to any successful program or initiative that needs to be implemented in a school. To change the perception of writing in our school, I met with a committee of teachers to discuss writing and what we were looking for. We had been utilizing a grammar and writing program that was part of our reading series, but it wasn’t meeting our needs. 
                                                                                                       
Click the title to read more.

By Suzanne Klein on 6/12/2014 1:44 PM

By Kresta Byington, Principal of Chauncey Davis Elementary School

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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.

Is this something you experience in your walkthroughs? Or, has writing been a struggle in your school? I know it used to be a real challenge in my building, where I’ve been the principal for the past ten years. Prior to being a building leader, I was a teacher in the district for nine years. As principal, I noticed less writing displayed in classrooms, and as a parent of two students in my school, I saw less writing coming home.  Last spring, my concerns were confirmed when only 40% of my fourth grade students met standard on the state writing test. This was unacceptable to me and something needed to be done. We just weren’t getting the quality and quantity we knew we could from having an effective writing community. I had to first discover the problems my teachers were facing when it came to writing instruction.

By Suzanne Klein on 4/28/2014 10:48 AM
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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?

As the clock ticks toward the transition from practice testing to the actual Common Core testing in 2015-2016, there are three things to think about:

1. The SIT & LISTEN model is not an effective way to train. Thanks to studies by The Consortium for Policy Research in Education, we have known this for a long time. Although districts continue to favor this passive, large-group model, it's clear that it doesn’t improve student learning.

2. The COACHING model works best.

  • Coaches take teachers to their growing edge by helping them to analyze their students’ work and devise plans to keep improving it.
  • Coaches respond to specific teacher questions with tips and feedback on instruction.
  • Coaches typically work with small teacher groups over a period of time.
  • Coaching taps into the collective wisdom of teachers and encourages sharing of successful practices within grade-level teams.

3. The biggest challenge in teaching the K-5 Common Core ELA Standards is WRITING. Even more than making the leap to reading complex texts, teachers are hard-pressed to meet the new writing standards without help.
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 1/6/2012 12:33 PM
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.

 
By Suzanne Klein on 10/24/2011 10:14 PM
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.

 

In the writing workshop model, conferencing is the primary vehicle for this individualized instruction. Yet during WriteSteps professional development days, teachers ask more questions about conferencing than anything else. Here are the most common obstacles we see to successful K-5 conferencing:

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