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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 1/24/2014 2:54 PM

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 conferencing, 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. 

Class is Disruptive During Conference Time 

Solution — Re-Teach Routines & Display Guidelines
Inappropriate behavior need not interrupt conferencing time. The early WriteSteps lessons are intentionally short to allow time for establishing expectations and classroom management techniques. If you’re dealing with interruptions, noise, etc. after beginning formal conferencing, use our Self Reflection Checklist. It provides 14 tips to help teachers prepare lessons, materials, and behavioral expectations. Be consistent.
 
Tip: Be sure students know what to do when they finish writing. Some teachers allow students to get up and get a book; others do not want them walking around. Whatever you decide, be clear. Display your class expectations using the What to Do When I’m Done Writing poster to support good classroom management.
By Suzanne Klein on 6/26/2012 9:45 PM
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.

How do we reconcile promising changes in writing pedagogy with this reality? That calls for a quick history lesson in writing instruction.

Message Over Mechanics

New approaches for young writers emerged in the 1980’s when process writing made its way into American classrooms. The whole language movement had made its impact on reading, and now Donald Graves and Donald Murray brought a similar holistic approach to writing.

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