Archive for December, 2012

10 Questions for Jeff: Responding to student writing

Question 2: What suggestions or tips do you have for managing editing and/or grading large numbers of students? I teach 9th and 10th ELA (have for 16 years) and struggle with getting papers back to students in a timely manner, often up to a month later for final grading. 

I want to incorporate more writing into my lessons and units, but am overwhelmed with the grading and management aspects.

Kimberly Payton

Jeff’s response: Many teachers out there feel your pain, Kimberly. In fact, I think this conundrum of how to grade more and more student writing often keeps writing from being assigned. First, I lean on Benjamin Britton’s quote: “If teachers read everything students write, then they are a bottleneck in the writing process.” In other words, if we are able to read everything they write, then they are most certainly not writing enough.

So, go ahead assign more writing. Students get better at writing by doing it.

Then, we may have to change the paradigm of how we give feedback on some of the students’ writing. For example, many teachers equate reading student writing with editing it. To many, if they don’t correct every error, they are doing their students a disservice. Poppycock!

In fact, I think we all know that’s not the only feedback students want or need—or even pay attention to. In some ways, we are doing their work for them. Don’t hear that you shouldn’t ever mark anything on student writing. But be judicious. Perhaps you have been showing them mentor texts for quoting information and citing it within the their own writing. Students have practiced, received corrective feedback, and then are explicitly told that these are the specific conventions you are focusing on in this particular piece of writing. And, once you assess the student writing, then those are the only errors you mark. Once you have marked three to five things, then stop. Draw a line and say you stopped correcting at that spot. Confer with the student and have them fix their own mistakes.

Keep a note card or a sheet of paper and note patterns of error you see. You can put hashmarks when you keep seeing it, and voila, you know what to address in mini-lessons. Once you’ve taught the concept again, have them correct their own writing or highlight where they’ve used the concept correctly.

So focus on certain conventions, and never be compelled to do your students editing work for them. And realize that the two-minute conversations you have with students about their writing ripple into their writing lives a lot more than a red mark with a pen ever will.

Revisit Question 1

3 comments December 11th, 2012

10 Questions for Jeff: Journals in social studies

It’s December 10th, so what better time to begin our 10-day series with Jeff Anderson. We received dozens of questions about writing and teaching writing over the past few weeks and we will post Jeff’s responses to ten of these. So check back every day this week and next to see if your question was chosen. At the end of the series we will announce the winner of our Jeff Anderson giveaway that includes all of his books and videos!

Question 1: What is a good way to use journals in social studies?

Elizabeth Wilson
Smethport, PA

Jeff’s response: I love this question. I hear a desire to include more writing in social studies, which is an admirable goal. First of all, I wouldn’t call them journals in the social studies. I call them writer’s notebooks in my English class, but journals have too many associations that won’t serve you well in social studies. Maybe call it a History Log or Historian or Geographer’s Notebook. Be creative. Just don’t call it a journal.

One of the best uses of a social studies log I have ever seen is a teacher using the History Alive program from Joy Hikam. As part of the routine, most days students use an “interactive notebook.” Students draw a picture or symbol or map on the left facing page that symbolizes or synthesizes what was discussed in class and then reflect or summarize on the right-hand side of the page. I like this because students use more than one mode, and the drawing actually supports the writing. This is a meaningful tool for thought in your subject area.

That to me is the essence of how you could use a learning log in social studies: a place to record questions, reflections, notes, wonderings. A place to draw maps, cartoons, write persuasive letters, plan PowerPoints or other media and yes, maybe even include a pioneer child’s journal entry as he or she goes out into the wilderness or witnesses any event in history.

Whatever you do, don’t make it a boring thing. Of course, you can’t use the kids as a gauge as they will always complain when they have to write. Short spurts. Talk in between. Share. Gather information. Discuss. Write more. Sharing will keep the writing alive and interactive.

8 comments December 10th, 2012

Preview now: Math Tools in Action

Math Tools in Action is an exciting new DVD series that shows teachers in grades 1-5 how to use anchor charts, journals, and manipulatives to deepen and improve mathematics instruction. Chris Confer and Marco Ramirez (authors of the recent book Small Steps, Big Changes) demonstrate complete lessons in real classrooms and offer expert commentary and teaching tips before and during each lesson.

In Anchor Charts, Chris discusses the purpose of this essential tool with fifth-grade students and Marco leads a fourth-grade class through a lesson on building and decomposing an array. You and your staff will see how anchor charts can help students comprehend and remember key concepts and skills.

Journals will help you bring the Common Core State Standards’ Mathematical Practices to life every day. Watch Chris use math journals to invite first-grade students to document their own ideas, experiences, and prior knowledge while improving their math vocabulary. Chris also works with fifth-graders to investigate a mathematical argument and defend, revise, and reject conjectures.

In Manipulatives, Chris and a third-grade class learn about comparative sizes by exploring the dimensions of a variety of insects, animals, and birds using tape measures, linking cubes, number charts, and themselves. You’ll see how manipulatives help students think, remember, and communicate their ideas.

Viewing guides for each DVD provide discussion questions, activity suggestions, and handouts that will help PD facilitators and viewers engage with the ideas at a deeper level and make connections to their own classrooms.

Buy all three DVDs now and save $50!

Add comment December 3rd, 2012

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