October, 2012

Wow! A Teachers Choice Award & Positive Research Results

6 New Closing Activities to Make Your Lessons Pop!

A Change for the WriteSteps Team
"Instruction does much, but encouragement does everything."
~Johanne Wolfgang Von Goethe
WriteSteps Common Core lessons for elementary students is the recipient of a 2013 Learning Magazine Teachers Choice Award.

WriteSteps Common Core lessons for K-5 writers have been awarded a Learning Magazine 2013 Teachers Choice Award, just a year after their release. Teachers Choice Awards are among the most prestigious honors in the education market. That's because they are based on the ratings of independent teachers across the country.

"Our mission is to support teachers, so this Teachers Choice Award is incredibly rewarding," said Founder & CEO Suzanne Klein, a former K-5 teacher herself, on hearing the news.

Preliminary research on WriteSteps Common Core writing lessons for elementary children showed significant improvement in 47 of 48 classes participating.
WriteSteps will be featured in the January, 2013 issue of Learning Magazine as a winner of a 2013 Teachers Choice Award.

According to Heather Crews, coordinator of the Teachers Choice Awards program, of the programs and classroom products reviewed each year, "only those meeting the judges' stringent standards are chosen. Each program is reviewed on its own merit, according to its effectiveness for all kinds of teachers and students."

Here are a few comments from the anonymous teacher judges:

"I believe the materials that were given were wonderful. I love that it also has an e-based website with more resources that are available to teachers.  You can definitely tell this program was made by teachers."

"The kids loved the privacy folders and said it helped them stay focused on their writing as well as gave them some hints on making their writing better. They REALLY went nuts over the pens, which helped make editing and revising more exciting for them.  I had NEVER thought of getting pens like that for them to use!  GREAT idea!"

"They learned a LOT about editing and revising and really taking the time to try to improve their writing. They loved the suggestions in the privacy folders of words they could use in place of some of the boring words they had written! I think overall it just helped them get excited about writing!"

We'll be sharing all the judge's comments on our website in the coming weeks!

Research Documents Success with WriteSteps
In August, the first study including statistical analysis of Writesteps' impact on student writing was completed. Of the 48 classes participating in the study, 47 showed significant improvement.  In addition, the number of students who gained confidence and increased their enjoyment of writing grew steadily with the number of lessons completed.

The WriteSteps research included data from two Title I schools and two charter schools using the Common Core writing lessons for K-5.
Writing is thinking, and it's hard work. That's why children need teachers who will celebrate their successes as they hold high standards. The study found that the more students learned with WriteSteps, the more they enjoyed writing.

The data was voluntarily collected by teachers in four elementary schools using WriteSteps. Three of the four schools were Title I schools. Two of the four were charter schools. Coming soon to the website will be a summary of the findings.

The study analyzed pre- and post-tests (writing samples), student perception surveys after each unit, and teacher satisfaction surveys.  

"We're very pleased to be underway with research on our Common Core release, and the results are very encouraging," said WriteSteps Founder & CEO Suzanne Klein. "We've gotten a loud, clear message that we're on track, and we've identified areas for possible improvement, which is something we're always striving for."

6 Closing Activities for Lessons that Pop!
The Madeline Hunter lesson steps, a popular feature in the WriteSteps lessons, include a sequence of activities that bring each day's skills into sharper focus. There are always different components to the day's lesson: getting students engaged, guided practice, working independently or with a partner, and then a wrap-up.

The first research on WriteSteps Common Core writing lessons for elementary children showed significant improvement in 47 of 48 classes participating.

Our third-grade Curriculum Creator, Denise Dusseau, is frequently heard remarking on their usefulness. This month, we'd like to share some variations Denise has been compiling. We'll be offering them on eWriteSteps in the coming months.

To get the best results in your classroom, we recommend that you teach WriteSteps as given for the first year. Once you're familiar with the program, you may enjoy mixing up the opening and closing activities (or, as Madeline Hunter would say, the "anticipatory set" and "closure").

"We teachers love these little tricks," Denise says. "They can be simple, quick ways to get students to summarize what they've learned, and they're fun, too."

Closing Activities as Formative Assessments
The WriteSteps lessons often end with an "author share" activity in which several students read their work to the class. But closure activities can be a quick comprehension check, too.

"A lot of the closure activities I share can help teachers who are under pressure to give students more grades," says Denise. "Some districts are really big on having a certain number of grades in the grade book - many are moving toward growth report cards. Even though this makes sense, it can be frustrating for teachers."

Here's one activity that meets this need - it's called Credit Cards.

Students are given an index card and required to state the lesson's objective and whether they feel that objective was met. Credit is given for participating. This should take no more than 5-10 minutes. The goal is for students to practice thinking on their feet, to pull out the one thing they think is most important in the day's lesson. Usually, that's the first thing that comes to their mind.

It's quick, and teachers can do a quick sort afterwards for future reference - one pile for students who seemed to "get it," one for students who didn't.

"My third-graders loved this activity," Denise says. "Of course, the first time we did it, we talked about what credit cards are, how they work, and so on. A lot of them like to add credit card numbers on their index cards, which is fine, of course!"

Closing the lesson with activities like "Stand Up, Pair Up, Share Up," can check comprehension, drive the main teaching point home, and engage different learning styles.

Choosing which opening and closing activities to use also reminds teachers to think more about how to engage all kinds of learners. If we don't plan activities with learning styles in mind, we tend to teach from the learning style that's most natural to us.

Click here to print six openers and closers that you can cut into strips, laminate, and keep on a binder ring! These activities can be used in other subjects as well. For instance, Stand Up, Pair Up, Share Up works for writing/grammar and math:

"Tell me (with a show of hands) if you think the answer is 15. Then pair up with someone else who thinks that and tell why."

Bidding a Fond Farewell...
by Suzanne Klein

It's with sadness that we say goodbye to our Communications Specialist, Lindsay Passmore, who is moving on from WriteSteps. Kindness, dedication, and intelligence are three words that describe Lindsay. She has been a faithful team member since right before our Common Core debut in September 2011. 

WriteSteps Communications Specialist Lindsay Passmore.
Communications Specialist Lindsay Passmore

She's been responsible for the creation of more projects and initiatives than I can count. One of the greatest pleasures of working with Lindsay was her ability to take my seeds of ideas from texts and emails, and germinate them to life without much instruction or supervision. She has been a true blessing to us, and she will be missed.

"It has been an inspiring experience participating in the launch of the Common Core lessons," says Lindsay. "I am so inspired by this wonderful team. And I deeply appreciate the way you, Suzanne, lead with both your head and your heart. I see great things ahead for America's youth if WriteSteps keeps spreading so quickly. I would like to see all children learn to love writing the way I did as a child."

We are excited for Lindsay to start her new chapter at the University of Michigan School of Education. She's returning to roots in social studies, and will be working on a very cool initiative, the Big History Project. It's about teaching the history of the universe to 9th graders so they'll understand how precious it is that we have life on Planet Earth and perhaps be inspired to protect it. The project is personally funded by Bill Gates, and she'll work some with his team in Seattle, too. Thank you, Lindsay for letting your light shine upon us.

Speaking of Planet Earth...
Did you see our blog on the impact of text-messaging on grammar skills? Check it out here!

A new study shows that text-speak may harm grammar skills development, from WriteSteps Common Core, a writing program for K-5.
"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."


"Often, the evidence of success is slow in coming or impossible to see.  Therefore, much good work must be done by faith and by faith alone."
~Lorraine Monroe, author of "Nothing's Impossible"