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The Inspired Writer blog. Writing, learning, and living with the Common Core Standards.
By Suzanne Klein on 10/16/2014 11:30 AM

TeacherFeature

Click the title to continue reading.

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 8/21/2014 7:10 AM

How do you know that the tasks your students complete will meet the rigorous standards of the Common Core? How do you know they’re reWebb's DOK Graphic by Tracy Watanabeaching the level of thinking required for Common Core assessments and college and career readiness? You know by using a frame of reference called Depth of Knowledge. While Depth of Knowledge (DOK) is not a new concept, it is a new way of labeling the level of thinking required by a question or assignment in the Common Core.

If you’ve noticed the exit questions included in some of our closure activities, or if you have heard of Bloom’s taxonomy, you are familiar with the fact that some activities require deeper levels of thinking. This is the basis for the Depth of Knowledge labeling. The CCSS ELA standards require students to produce at a Depth of Knowledge 3 and 4. On-demand activities and assessments will not include DOK 4.

Click the title to continue reading.

 

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 6/19/2014 8:55 AM

Vivian Maguire is an English teacher at Transmountain Early College High School in the El Paso Independent School District. Her post was originally published on June 10, 2014 in Education Week. Thank you Vivian for letting us share your article! Check out her blog, StoryMother, or follow Vivian on Twitter: @maguireteacher.

I am an English teacher who has been in the classroom for nine years. As an experienced educator, I have endured and complied with many new school policies and changes, most of which mainly affected teachers. But earlier this year my school was informed of some changes that would ultimately affect our students, and that I couldn't stand for.

The district had decided to cut teachers' planning time in half by instead sending teachers into other teachers' classrooms to serve as aides. The assumption was that teachers are not using that time effectively anyway so why not put two teachers in every classroom?

A teacher’s planning period has always been viewed by some district administrators and school board members as “free time” that can be taken up with meetings, extra classes, hall-duty, or any other assignment that they happen to think of. But in fact, good teachers really do use their planning time. In fact, most would say it’s essential for creating engaging lessons and improving student outcomes. Losing that time is particularly fear-inducing for hard-working teachers because we know that once we lose it, we will never get it back, and we need every minute we can get.

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

Click the title to read more.

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 5/27/2014 10:40 AM

Click the title to read more.

Did you know this? I had no clue until I went to the Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale last month. Watch the interview I participated in to hear my take on the future of EdTech and what it means for the education industry.

By Suzanne Klein on 4/28/2014 10:48 AM
Click the title to read more.

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 4/15/2014 3:13 PM


Have you ever worked hard at teaching your class something only to discover that they don’t apply that learning on the test? I’ve noticed many students seem to struggle with on-demand writing during test taking.

On-demand writing: a situation in which students are presented with a prompt (question or scenario) and are given a specific time limit to complete it.

From the prototypes we are looking at, we are finding that on-demand writing is especially prevalent in Smarter Balanced and PARCC. On-demand writing is also an important skill for students to have in situations such as the rise of social media and college and career readiness.

Time management is the ultimate solution for student success with on-demand writing.  I’ve found that by teaching my students how to allot and judge time during their writing, they’ve become more confident when it comes time for on-demand writing. I did this by having my students practice writing with different timed allocations, beginning with 40 minutes. I then gradually lowered their timed writing to 10 minutes. As your students become more comfortable with timed writing, you will notice their skills improving, especially in their shorter on-demand writing pieces.



By Suzanne Klein on 3/21/2014 11:33 AM
Click the title to read more.

Helping elementary students sharpen their writing skills without hindering their creativity is hard work. It's not like teaching math or phonics; but it's not rocket science either. There is a well-established body of best practices in writing instruction that works beautifully for children. What you need is:

1. A common set of practices and vocabulary about writing. Good writing really comes from developing a whole tool kit of abilities, including organizational and analytic skills. First graders who learn to analyze anonymous student writing by finding “glows” and “grows” (strengths and weaknesses) need second grade teachers who will use the same techniques and language to build their capacities. Consistency across the grades rewards both students and teachers.

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 1/24/2014 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 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 11/27/2013 3:06 PM

Thanksgiving is always such a hectic time of year. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the tasks that need to be completed prior to enjoying that long-awaited, delicious dinner with family.

I sometimes find myself caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday that I forget to step back and take a moment to really think about what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for so much, but right now I want to take a moment and say how thankful I am for all of you making a difference in the lives of children.

Your impact is HUGE. Your dedication and passion for being a leader and role model to children can’t be thanked enough.

By Suzanne Klein on 11/19/2013 2:12 PM

Flickr PC: USAG-HumphreysJohn Rumery, Editor of Rapid Growth, interviewed Suzanne Klein (Founder & CEO) about WriteSteps. Watch the video to discover Suzanne's inspiration for creating WriteSteps, information about investing in the growing company, the top three challenges teachers face when it comes to teaching writing, and her plans for WriteSteps' future!

Flickr Photo Credit: USAG-Humphreys
Flickr PC: USAG-Humphreys

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 9/30/2013 9:39 AM
I discovered this great education infographic and thought it would be worth sharing with all of you. The flipped classroom method is a fairly new teaching concept I find interesting.  It reminds me of the Montessori way of teaching because it allows students to completely master a subject before moving on, enabling them to work at their own pace. Students watch the lessons at home and are able to spend more individual time with their teachers mastering the subject content in the classroom.

Click "read more" to view the entire infographic on the flipped classroom method.

By Suzanne Klein on 9/23/2013 12:30 PM

The Common Core Standards call for both types of Response to Text writing. Arlynn King and I continued our conversation on Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing for the Common Core with an emphasis on text-dependent vs. non-text dependent questions. 

Non-text dependent questions ask students to communicate their own thinking, self expression and exploration.  Text-dependent questions ask students to respond to sources and answer questions by drawing on evidence from the text in support of their ideas.

Watch our vlog to learn more!

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!

By Pam Allyn on 7/23/2013 9:18 PM
By Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld
Originally published by Pearson on February 18, 2013

Pam Allyn, Executive Director and Founder of LitWorld

We came across this blog, written by Pam Allyn, Founder of LitWorld, and wanted to share it with you as a guest post in The Inspired Writer this month.  If you haven’t heard of LitWorld, check out this global organization that advocates for children’s rights as readers, writers and learners, here. Enjoy these ten writing tips from Pam!

The teaching of writing can be formulaic, but this era requires us to step beyond the confines of formula and really dig deep into craft, synthesis and production.

Here is a Top Ten for how to get students writing for their futures, in a way that is sure to leave you both inspired and ready for tomorrow’s teaching.

By Suzanne Klein on 6/20/2013 1:44 AM

We all need a superhero to swoop in once in a while to change the outcome of history and give us hope for a better and brighter future. On the last national writing assessment, less than a quarter of elementary students, and less than a third of 12th graders, could write proficiently. This is a terrible and disheartening statistic. American education needs a superhero right now. This superhero may not be dressed in blue and red, wear a cape, and have the ability to fly, but she does have a special super power that will change the world. Her name is Common Core Standards, and it is exactly what America needs to turn around writing in our schools.

By Suzanne Klein on 5/16/2013 1:11 AM
Have you ever been asked to create curriculum when you felt like you went to school to teach?

In an effort to save money, we have heard some districts are having teachers work collaboratively to design daily lessons for the Common Core. This poses a problem. When are teachers going to find time to create top notch Common Core lessons when they are in classrooms every day?

There are two ways districts think they are saving money. One is they are trying to find free Common Core material for their teachers to use. The other is they are asking their teachers to be curriculum creators. Now don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Districts might save one penny now, but waste pounds of pennies later on when they realize their plan to save money backfired. Read on to hear my opinions on why I believe districts should make curriculum decisions with their eyes wide open.

Take out the “R” in FREE and you get FEE
By Suzanne Klein on 4/18/2013 10:29 PM
Do you want to know what I love the most when I meet teachers from around the country during my travels? That it gives me the opportunity hear how WriteSteps is making a positive impact in their classrooms. I also enjoy learning about writing apps teachers have discovered that inspire students to become better writers and make writing fun!

I love my iPad and am an advocate for combining education with the use of technology for the purpose of engaging and motivating students. The following apps are great for students to use outside of the classroom that reinforce their writing skills in a format that is fun and enjoyable! They cover a wide range of writing skills for all levels of writers. From apps that help beginning students just learning to write, to apps that help more advanced students organize their thinking prior to beginning a narrative, there is an app that will inspire any elementary school writer!
By Suzanne Klein on 3/20/2013 5:42 PM
December 14, 2012. This date will forever remain in the hearts of people across our nation. Months have passed since the tragic events unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the scars will never completely heal.

We invite you to hang these remembrance posters in your school hallways and classrooms so the Newtown community knows the lives of the children and educators lost will never be forgotten.
By Suzanne Klein on 2/27/2013 1:13 PM
At WriteSteps, we realize the importance of integrating technology into elementary classrooms. Students have higher motivation, immediate access to quality instructional materials, and increased engagement. Utilizing technology in your classroom also prepares young students with the skills necessary to succeed in our technology driven lifestyles. Technology provides teachers like you with an unlimited wealth of resources and tools to teach and expand your knowledge; there is no limit to the resources you can use to help your students in today’s information age!
By Suzanne Klein on 1/11/2013 1:04 PM
The unspeakable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School have shaken the WriteSteps team to the core, like so many people around the world. Many of us are former elementary school teachers and educators, so this tragedy felt very personal. We are still trying to make sense of the events in Newtown. Though this senseless act can never be explained, we hope those personally affected can find comfort from the outpouring of love that is being sent to the victims and families. We decided to pool our energy and resources into honoring the precious lives that were taken on December 14, 2012. Many students, whether...
By Suzanne Klein on 12/10/2012 2:47 PM
I am a firm believer that students learn best by example. In our WriteSteps K-5 Common Core program, we provide teachers with real student t writing samples demonstrating the different writing topics students learn. We include low, medium and high quality samples so students can see all levels of works. Picture books can also be a great way to demonstrate a specific writing skill to your students. If you are looking to supplement your writing lessons, in addition to the student writing samples provided in our daily lesson plans, here are some good suggestions. Below you will find five examples of picture books and how they can be used as mentor texts when teaching a particular writing skill to your K-5 students....
By Suzanne Klein on 9/10/2012 12:11 AM


"The human race wasn't very advanced... They mostly spoke in monosyllabic grunts... In fact, the last words from their civilization before the meteor hit were "OMG" and "WTF."

This cartoon would be hilarious if it weren’t so ominous. It’s ominous because it pokes fun at a distressing problem: text messaging may be harming kids’ language skills. That's the finding of a new study published in New Media & Society, a top-ranked, peer-reviewed journal. The authors of Texting, Techspeak, And Tweens say:

The question to date was whether or not adolescents were able to switch between writing text messages and using correct English grammar for class work. The results of this study indicate that most adolescents are not able to do so.

Does this worry you? It worries me. But my friend Chris Drew is unconcerned. In the spirit of friendly debate, we decided to trade blogs on the topic. I’d love to know what you think, too!
By Suzanne Klein on 9/9/2012 11:11 PM
Chris Drew is the creator of Pocket Literacy Coach, from WriteSteps, a Common Core writing resource for elementary teachers.

Guest blogger Chris Drew is the founder of Pocket Literacy Coach, an innovative resource that provides parents with literacy activities to do with their children.

Thanks to my friend Chris Drew, for permission to re-blog the following post, originally published in the Pocket Literacy Coach blog on August 14, 2012.  ~Suzanne

A friend of mine, Suzanne, at WriteSteps recently shared a story about how "Texting May Undermine Language, Spelling Skills." It's an interesting summary of a new study about correlations between "techspeak" and grammar test performance. We had a friendly back and forth about our disparate perspectives on this issue. In a nutshell, she generally supports the claims of the article, and I do not. The issue of texting impacting language and grammar skills is much more complex than this one story would lead us to believe. As pop news reporting on academic research usually goes, though, the author, Rick Nauert, doesn't quite flesh out the whole story from a much larger context.

So Suzanne and I had a bit of a back and forth and we decided to trade our thoughts more publicly to see what our readers think and where they stand.  
By Suzanne Klein on 8/12/2012 2:27 AM


WriteSteps Curriculum Creator Katie Davis meets the Common Core technology requirements for publishing K-5 writing with a simple and engaging blogging platform.

Last week, we published "4 Free Technology Tools to Jazz Up Writers Workshop" in the August issue of Inspired Writer. If you missed, it you'll definitely want to check out these powerful motivators for young students developing Common Core writing skills: StoryBird, Little Bird Tales, ePals, and iMovie.

Then, if you haven't found your way into blogging yet, try another publishing option your students will love: a free blogging platform that's so simple, even first graders can use it! Our fourth-grade curriculum creator, Katie Davis, recently gave WriteSteps Coaching Director Arlynn King the scoop on Kidblog.
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.

By David M. Hanson on 4/4/2012 3:33 PM
Photo of Suzanne Klein of WriteSteps presenting Common Core writing strategies to elementary principals at the 2012 NAESP conference. Suzanne Klein presenting at March, 2012 NAESP conference.

A report on Suzanne Klein's Common Core writing presentation to the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

I was drawn to this breakout session not only because Common Core was included in the title, but because writing is an area of challenge for my school, and from what I understand from my peers, for many others.

How many schools have a dedicated "writing time"?
WriteSteps is a Common Core based program that teaches writing to elementary-age students. One of the things I picked up early on in this session is that it is not just the process, but also an attitude, that will make the difference. If teachers are afraid of or unsure how to go about the teaching of writing, the time that is dedicated to writing will continue to be negligible. It seems that most everyone thinks it is important, but the proof is really in the intentional time it is given.
By Vicki Davis on 3/20/2012 5:08 AM
Image of frustrated teacher from WriteSteps Inspired Writer blog.
Feeling cranky? Even in those long days
when we think we'll never make it to
Spring Break, we need to find ways to
give our best to our students.
It is hard for a fussy teacher (or parent) to teach. Our negative body language is hard to overcome. Kids need to know we care. When I find myself going down this thorny path, this is what I do:

1. Start smiling
You feel better and somehow forget about the reasons you had to be fussy in the first place.

2. Do something kind and totally random
Find a stewardess or service person and call the company to give an honest compliment. Call a product support line of something you love just to tell them.
By Suzanne Klein on 1/12/2012 9:22 AM
Once K-5 teachers have a strong foundation using the writer's workshop model,they may want to use their own anonymous to inspire student learning. Binder of 3rd grade writing samples collected by Denise Dusseau for next year's class. Once teachers are well-grounded in the WriteSteps lessons, collecting class samples can be a great way to honor student work and help your evaluations.

Today I'm pleased to welcome back our 3rd grade curriculum creator and incredible teacher, Denise Dusseau. Here's Denise, on using anonymous student writing samples with K-5 writers:

Denise: WriteSteps provides dozens of excellent anonymous samples for each grade, but I started creating my own collections when I was still using the Lucy Calkins program. Whether or not you already have plenty of anonymous student sample writing to use in your lessons, using samples from your own students can be powerful. Why?

• they honor your students' work
• they reflect the unique culture of your school
• they can help your evaluations

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 Common Core elevates 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 Common Core 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 12/9/2011 12:55 PM
Teacher Denise Dusseau created the 3rd grade curriculum for the Common Core WriteSteps

Today’s blog features simple and effective teaching tips from our 3rd grade Curriculum Creator, Denise Dusseau. Denise is a gifted classroom teacher who used the Lucy Calkins writing program until we launched the Common Core WriteSteps in September.

She reported in our December Inspired Writer eNewsletter that since she started using WriteSteps, even her struggling writers are making wonderful gains! A quarter of her students have learning disabilities and/or ADD.

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:
By Suzanne Klein on 10/17/2011 2:24 PM
Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand seems to stimulate brain development far more than keyboarding. Though K-5 students are required by the Common Core to practice writing with digital tools, writing by hand does far more to stimulate brain development.
There's been a lot of talk about ditching handwriting instruction  -- some districts are making it optional after second grade! WriteSteps is not a handwriting program, but we're impressed by research that connects old-fashioned pencil and paper skills to higher-level brain development.

WriteSteps focuses on the essential writing skills outlined in the ELA Common Cores (including digital tools like keyboarding), but also gives children plenty of practice writing by hand.  Have you seen the surprising research on handwriting and the brain?