"How do we get better at writing? By doing it. How do we get better at applying these skills? By doing them."
About this episode
Welcome to POPCAST, Episode 6! In part 1 of this two-part episode, Revising, Editing, and Responding Through a Grammar Lens, Jeff Anderson and Travis Leech talk about the Invitation to Apply, step 5 in the Patterns of Power process. Listen and learn how it works to engage middle school students in the writing process.
Listen to the podcast
View lesson 6.4 from Patterns of Power, Grades 6-8 mentioned in this episode
Meet Jeff and Travis
For over thirty years, Jeff Anderson has inspired writers and teachers of grades K-8 with the power and joy of the writing and grammar. He has written eight books for Stenhouse Publishers. He also writes middle-grade novels. Travis Leech is currently a middle school instructional coach in Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. He has thirteen years of experience in education, including teaching middle school English Language Arts and as a gifted and talented specialist. Follow Jeff and Travis on Twitter.
Read the transcript
Jeff Anderson: 00:06 Welcome to the Patterns of Power popcast.
Travis Leech: 00:09 Discussing grammar in the context of the reading and writing connections.
Jeff Anderson: 00:14 I'm Jeff Anderson.
Travis Leech: 00:16 And I'm Travis Leech. And we're your hosts today.
Jeff Anderson: 00:20 For episode six, step five of the Patterns of Power process, the invitation to apply.
Travis Leech: 00:27 Middle school edition.
Jeff Anderson: 00:37 So why apply? Why do we have this extra step? Because you could argue that when you did the imitation, you've applied. But what did you say about that when we were talking the other day, Travis?
Travis Leech: 00:50 What I was talking with you about yesterday was that idea of really our ultimate goal here through this process is being able to help young writers express themselves and be understood in their writing. And we know we had talked about studies that look at that retention of new information and that practicing doing something multiple times, there's a crazy retention rate for that, 75% retention rate.
Jeff Anderson: 01:25 So we shouldn't just do it once. The invitation to imitate, we can say like, "Oh, wow. They did a really good job with the invitation. We're done. We're going to move on."
Travis Leech: 01:34 No, no. Yeah. It's not the, "Hey. We covered this. Let's check off the check box." It's, "Let's try it a few times." The application especially is trying it out authentically now or more authentically within the context of their own thinking and their own writing.
Jeff Anderson: 01:52 It's kind of like the scaffolding is being released a little bit and we're nudging them forward to do this. So they feel safe, comfortable and confident. And unless you feel safe, comfortable and confident, it's not going to transfer over into your other writing. I think one thing that people tend to skip the most is this application and doing lots of application experiences. The cool thing is every single lesson in the Patterns of Power inviting adolescents into the conventions of language for grade six to eight and the one through five all have a particular invitation to apply lesson that's tailored for that lesson.
Jeff Anderson: 02:31 However, there are some bigger just processes that you can add if you don't want to do that, the one that we have or you have some other just processes of application, or you want to do additional application. Because remember, we want you to take about two weeks. This is not a five-day process. It could be six. It could be seven. We could do two days of imitation. We can stretch it up. Do not rush. Give it around two weeks, a little less, or maybe start a new thing on Fridays. It's all okay. Don't rush.
Travis Leech: 03:02 I think the reality is work it within your instructional schedule in a way that works for you and works for students.
Jeff Anderson: 03:10 But give time.
Travis Leech: 03:11 Yeah. Absolutely.
Jeff Anderson: 03:12 Don't rush, thinking you have to do it Monday through Friday.
Travis Leech: 03:15 So in the book, as Jeff has pointed out, every one of our lessons in that second part, the...
Jeff Anderson: 03:25 Part two of the book. Yeah.
Travis Leech: 03:26 Thank you.
Jeff Anderson: 03:27 The bulk of the book. That's why it's so thick, because it has practical lessons for you to do tomorrow.
Travis Leech: 03:32 We have our own novel application ideas for each of the separate lessons connected to the model sentences, but we also have a suggestion in chapter three of the book around six kind of broad application ideas that you can use at any time. So if you want to substitute within a lesson for one of these application ideas that we're going to go over in just a minute, you're welcome to do that. If you feel like that's going to yield better results for your student writers, I would say go for that, especially if you're looking at novelty. We know that all students love novelty. If you want to be able to change it up, we have six options her for you.
Jeff Anderson: 04:16 Which are also routines, which we also love routines.
Travis Leech: 04:19 Yes. So we're really checking a lot of boxes here, which-
Jeff Anderson: 04:23 That's what we like to do. We like to check boxes.
Travis Leech: 04:26 So the first application option that we are going to highlight and discuss briefly is having students apply their understanding of the pattern by responding to some reading that they're doing.
Jeff Anderson: 04:40 So you mean I could just, in my reading class, add an application just in a quick way? Because I'm going to have them respond to the reading they're doing anyway. I could just add this to that?
Travis Leech: 04:50 Absolutely. So within the response, within the context of how you ask them to respond to their reading, ask them to use this pattern within that response in their writing.
Jeff Anderson: 05:02 Cool.
Travis Leech: 05:03 If you're thinking about how to have kids respond, some really successful ways that have worked in our classrooms, having kids make connections to the reading, like a text to text, text to self or text to world connection. Those usually yield some pretty solid writing where kids can go in and use that pattern. We also really like the work of Kylene Beers and Robert Propst. They talk about three levels of questioning here when they're looking at a text with students, asking students, "What surprised you about the text? What did the author assume you knew? And then what changed, challenged or confirmed your thinking in the text?" Looking at any of those, I think those are great ways to respond as starting points, but there are a lot of options there.
Jeff Anderson: 05:55 Well, the point is just you're trying get them to use the Pattern of Power that you've been teaching or the standard that you've been teaching and you want them to use it again in another context. So even if I'm just reading aloud a book, I can say the next day, give them a card, get with a partner and write a compound sentence. If the standard is compound sentences, we could just write a compound sentence about what we read yesterday. It could be summarizing. It could be about a certain event that happened in there. It could be response. So there are lots of openings here.
Jeff Anderson: 06:25 What we want is not tons of writing necessarily. It's just a real quick response that we do in writing, but they're still composing. Even if it's a sentence or two, they're still composing and they're still using the pattern. And like Travis said, it's in that doing. How do we get better at writing? By doing it. How do we get better at applying these skills is by doing them. That's a 75% retention rate. And I think if you're not having the transfer, this is one of the places you look to extending in your classroom.
Travis Leech: 06:56 That's a great point, Jeff.
Jeff Anderson: 06:57 I know. I like making good points on the POPCast.
Travis Leech: 07:00 You do it so well. Our second suggestion that we have in the book for you to take a look at is thinking through or summarizing content. It falls into a similar category as responding to reading, but in this case, we're really focusing on summarizing to build comprehension here, building comprehension, grabbing the main points, extracting the essentials from that text in a clear way, and then using that pattern within to really scaffold their thinking.
Jeff Anderson: 07:33 So basically it doesn't have to be a big deal. It can be a sentence. It can be two kids getting together. And let's say you've been working on the relative pronoun Which, and you know that the comma comes before the which, like in lesson 6.4. Don't forget all these lessons that we're going through in this series of POPCasts is based on lesson 6.4, which is available at stenhouse.com. That's...
Travis Leech: 07:59 S-T-E-N-H-O-U-S-E, dot com.
Jeff Anderson: 08:01 Thank you for sponsoring us, Stenhouse. Anyway, the big point is it doesn't have to be a big deal, but with two partners work together to do this, then there's going to be a little bit of that teaching each other going on. There's going to be a little bit of that discussion, all high retention rate things that are happening. And the more they do it, the more confident they're going to feel, but it can be just a sentence and it doesn't have to be perfect. It's just about trying to compose a sentence, pooling our thinking together, all of that synthesis that's going on.
Travis Leech: 08:34 Yeah. And really we are trying to intertwine our thinking around a text with this pattern and putting those two pieces together.
Jeff Anderson: 08:44 And it could be your thinking about anything too. We could use it... It could be about a science lesson. If you work on a team and your team works together, this is a really good kind of response. It's better than a worksheet, because they're really doing some real application and some real thinking in this process.
Travis Leech: 08:59 Yeah. They could look at their process of solving a math problem and then writing using this pattern within that context. I think there's a lot of content crossover that can happen in the response to reading or the thinking through or summarizing content.
Jeff Anderson: 09:17 Yeah. And if you've got a team that does that kind of work together, it really does help them see that this is not something that you learned for language arts. This is something that you learned to make meaning, because we're about meaning and effect, not right or wrong. And the more they use that lens of that pattern to look at the world in which they interact with and they do it with partners and they talk and they share, the better and deeper the learning in math and social studies and science will be, but also their understanding and use and competence and confidence of the pattern.
Jeff Anderson: 09:50 The other thing that I think really gets kids excited sometimes is starting a collection. Start a collection. And what do we mean by that? Well, don't think of this as just the text that they read in your class. They can be that. They can also be their independent reading. But I want to open it up to like streaming and television, social media, et cetera, any kind of text that they come across, where they see like, let's say, the comma-which used or a compound sentence, and you've been talking about that. And even if they bring something in that's not that, all is not lost, because then you get to make the clarification about why that is very similar but it's not the exact same thing. And that's teaching.
Jeff Anderson: 10:33 Clarification is teaching. Clarification is teaching. And when they're engaged in act of bringing in a song and saying, "Sir, I think they do that thing that you're talking about in this song," and we play a little bit of it and we see that they either are or aren't doing it, either way, it's still good, because it's the discussion. And the discussion is going to up that retention rate and the likelihood that it's going to be applied. We've got to nudge the application.
Travis Leech: 10:58 Yeah. And starting a collection, what I appreciate about it and where I see a lot of engagement with students is this allows them to find the patterns in the wild and in spaces that naturally engage them, where they're naturally going to go to look for information, for entertainment. And within that context, we have that curiosity, that observation around these patterns that they now have some confidence in they know it, they now are looking to find it. And I think it brings a lot of really nice enthusiastic discussion to the start of a lot of classes, like, "Sir, look at what I found here in this tweet or in this text or in this graphic novel I'm reading." It comes out in such an authentic way.
Jeff Anderson: 11:50 Well, you could even as a response project for a book start a collection, where you just collect cool sentences from that book and then maybe try to categorize them and see what are they, what are those sentences doing and maybe explore what it's called. And they get engaged and then they become curious. And then we're actually changing the way that we read, because remember that reticular activation system, the discussing, the calling attention to a pattern, then they start to see the pattern more and everywhere. Well, this is where we're giving them an opportunity to use that idea of finding patterns in the world, because the world is full of patterns.
Travis Leech: 12:28 And what's also really nice for thinking about myself personally as a teacher initiating this in my classroom, it helped me as well. So when I'm reading, when I'm looking through the news or scrolling through what I'm looking at outside of class, I see that pattern as well. So I think it really helps me to enhance this process beyond the book as well to think about, "Oh, here's another version of the pattern. Here's another one." Or if I want to come back and re-teach after a lesson, I have some other authentic mentors that I can use for it.
Jeff Anderson: 13:02 I want to tell on myself. I like television a lot. And I remember I was teaching about the subjunctive and I was like, "Nobody uses the subjunctive." And then I'm watching Breaking Bad and because we've been talking about the subjunctive mood, all of a sudden I'm seeing, "If I were this. If I were that," and they were using it and I would notice when they used it right and I would notice when they used it wrong and I would think about, "Well, is that a wish? Or is that..." It's beautiful how this can happen.
Travis Leech: 13:30 I think we have time for looking at one more of our invitations.
Jeff Anderson: 13:35 Yeah. I think this has been so broad that we're actually going to make a second episode about application. So we've got a little bit more to say here, but don't worry if you didn't get enough, we're going to be back next week, talking about application again, because it's so important.
Travis Leech: 13:49 Yeah. So our last focal point that we're going to suggest for invitation to apply is to apply it in writing through either rapid revisions or through quick edits.
Jeff Anderson: 14:02 Yeah. Why do you think those need to be separate to start off with?
Travis Leech: 14:06 I think drawing a distinction between the two, looking at... I like to look at revision and discuss that with my students as creating new content or remixing content that we already have to create something new using the pattern.
Jeff Anderson: 14:20 I like that we mix things.
Travis Leech: 14:21 So I might have students look within a piece of writing that they already have and find a space we're adding a comma-which would add some more detail.
Jeff Anderson: 14:30 Because that's what those patterns do, the Patterns of Power, if you really look at them, and they're not just grammar moods. They're grammar moods that add detail, that adds specificity and that's the power of them.
Travis Leech: 14:43 Yeah. So if I'm asking my students to, "Let's go in and do a rapid revision," I'm going to ask them to find a spot or spots in their writing to use this pattern to add meaning, make your message more clear.
Jeff Anderson: 14:57 Try it out.
Travis Leech: 14:58 Yeah. To try it out. The distinction then with the quick edit is we are focusing on the correct use of a convention that already exists, that's already in our writing. So we are looking at our usage of a comma-which in this case. Maybe we already have that within a chunk of writing. And we're going to go back and double-check that we used it properly.
Jeff Anderson: 15:21 Well, we're running out of time here, because I'm hearing that theme music come up, but I'll tell you what. We'll talk a little bit more about all the things we've talked about today so far and we're going to add two more, which should be fun. I look forward to you coming back in a couple of weeks and hearing our next episode. I [inaudible 00:15:38] thank Stenhouse Publishers for their generous support of this popcast.
Travis Leech: 15:45 Popcast. Yes. [crosstalk 00:15:47].
Jeff Anderson: 15:47 That's stenhouse.com.
Travis Leech: 15:47 S-T-E-N-H-O-U-S-E, dot com. Thank you so much.
Jeff Anderson: 15:51 Follow us on Twitter. I'm @writeguyjeff, W-R-I-T-E, G-U-Y, Jeff.
Travis Leech: 15:57 And I am @learningleech.
Jeff Anderson: 16:00 You are a learning leech by the way.
Travis Leech: 16:01 Oh, thank you.
Jeff Anderson: 16:02 All right. Bye, folks.
Travis Leech: 16:03 Take care. Talk to you soon.
Jeff Anderson: 16:05 Until next time.