"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 7! In part 2 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.
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
Travis: 00:05 Welcome to The POPCast.
Jeff: 00:07 A Patterns of Power podcast.
Travis: 00:10 Discussing grammar in the context of the reading and writing connections.
Jeff: 00:14 I'm Jeff Anderson.
Travis: 00:16 And I'm Travis Leech.
Jeff: 00:18 And we're your hosts today for episode seven, step five.
Travis: 00:23 Part two.
Jeff: 00:25 Part two
Travis: 00:26 Of the Patterns of Power process, Invitation to Apply.
Jeff: 00:37 It's so important we have two episodes and I'm going to hand it over to Travis to tell us about these things that are in chapter three of Patterns of Power, inviting adolescents into the conventions of writing for grades six through eight.
Travis: 00:51 And in case you haven't been binge listening to our podcast, we're going to just take you back real quick to part one of the invitation to it, where we discussed invitation to apply strategies that you can use in your classroom. One that we discussed is responding to something that students are reading in the class. Another that we talked about is having students think through or summarize content.
Travis: 01:20 Two things to mention, or one thing to mention about these two strategies is that it's really successfully hitting some of the language arts standards, those standards of response in various ways and standards around comprehension. So if you want to think about really piling on some effective standard interaction during your teaching, these are two really nice applications that you can use.
Jeff: 01:50 And then there's starting a collection we talked a little bit about, but don't forget how that's really going to help develop those observational cognitive structures. And remember, observational cognitive structures are what all other cognitive structures are built upon. So this observation, this interaction with the world around us, this application of just looking and seeing and noticing and observing is really powerful to help the kids actually become confident and comfortable using the pattern or standard we've been addressing.
Travis: 02:24 And then we discussed rapid revisions.
Jeff: 02:28 Rapid revision.
Travis: 02:29 And quick edits.
Jeff: 02:31 Quick edit.
Travis: 02:33 And we talked about that rapid revision, looking at remixing writing that you have to add-
Jeff: 02:40 Waka, waka, waka, waka
Travis: 02:41 The pattern that we are working with and quick edits as revisiting our writing and focusing on the convention or that pattern as it already exists in our writing to confirm that we have used it correctly, or if not, to make that quick edit and fix it.
Jeff: 03:01 So the difference would be that I always tell the kids when you read your writing twice, the reader only has to read it once. When you read your own writing once, I mean, twice, the reader only has to read it once. Now a writer friend of mine was like, "Twice? That's not nearly enough. You've got to read it 70 or 80 times." I'm saying we're working with middle school students here, and it's a miracle to get them to reread it once. But if they reread it twice, they're going to be able to see things. And we'll talk in a little bit about a community editing checklist, which will interact with this quick edit. Or as I said earlier, quick edit.
Travis: 03:41 Yeah. Really hear where you're ensuring that what students leave on the page is what they meant to leave on the page.
Jeff: 03:46 Leave it all on the page.
Travis: 03:48 That's what we're doing with that. So we have two more application options that we wanted to discuss with you in our episode today. Just we didn't want that first episode to be 45 minutes long. So we're going to focus on these last two applications that we suggest, and we offer some support with in chapter three of the Patterns of Power Book. And one that we're going to look at today is conferring stems. We're going to talk about that to kind of set the tone or set us off with our episode today.
Jeff: 04:23 The first thing you might notice about the conferring stems, of the six, it's the only one that the teacher actually does. You're still interacting with students, but early on in the book, we talked about this power of making writing not about being right or wrong, but about meaning and effect. And that requires that when we give feedback to kids or we interact with them about the writing, that we don't say things that make them feel like we're thinking about writing as right and wrong. We want to make them feel like it's about meaning and effect. So how do you do that when you talk to them, because they're going to make mistakes. We know this happens. So you might start off... The stems are like beginnings, in that you're going to just apply like, "Talk to me about your choice to not use any punctuation. Talk to me about your choice to not use a comma here. Whatever that is, tell me about your decision."
Jeff: 05:19 We're putting it back on the writer as it's a writer's choice. Authors purpose, authors craft. In another situation, they might read it, you might ask them, "Would you read this aloud to me?" And they read it out loud to you and they make pauses between their sentences or they make some sort of pause. Then you could ask them, "See, when you read it aloud, I noticed that you paused here or you-. What could we do as a writer to show the reader that pause? Or tell me about your thinking here?" And you'll notice they're kind of open-ended and they're just stems. "Do you need that comma? Do you need that quotation mark? Do you need that? Well, if you've got this first quotation mark, what do you need on the other side of it to tell me when it's over?" Another way to say it is, "Are you missing anything here?"
Jeff: 06:17 Looking at their dialogue or whatever it is. And then you can also ask them something open-ended like this. If you just walk up and you're not looking and you don't see a particular mistake or anything that you think you need to address, "Tell me about something you're doing as a writer that will help your reader understand or hear your point? Tell me something you're doing as a writer that will help your reader understand your point or your piece?" These kinds of questions invite the kids into conversation. We know that conversation about meaning and effect is what we want and if that's what we want, then we need to do that. And that's what the conferring stems kind of scaffold me as a teacher. And they're really helpful for me to look back at every once in a while to help me remember that.
Travis: 07:08 And what I appreciate about incorporating these into conferring with students is that when they've worked in this space a little bit and have had the opportunity to discuss their thinking as a writer, that transfer is over when they're doing partner or a small group writing work together, where they have the language and they have the ability to have deeper conversations. And instead of one student reading to another and that student saying, "Oh, that was really good," they have the ability to pinpoint specific places and have deeper discussions about, "Hey, tell me, why did you choose dialogue there and then not in this part right here?" So kids develop their ability to have those deeper conversations, which as you're passing around the class, it's gives me goosebumps just to hear kids having conversations like that.
Jeff: 08:07 Well, and the cool thing is going to be that that's going to transfer over to their analysis of text. So when they're asked to talk about it, why the author made choices that he or she made, they're going to be able to have a conversation about that because we've been scaffolding it in small bite-sized chunks of talking about meaning and effect as our emphasis rather than right or wrong. And it's going to happen.
Travis: 08:31 Great points. Let's talk about our next-
Jeff: 08:34 I'm full of great points.
Travis: 08:35 Yes, you are. Let's talk about our next idea for application and that is creating a community editing chart or something, community editing agreements that we as a class can-
Jeff: 08:48 I love the word agreements
Travis: 08:49 Can work with.
Jeff: 08:50 We love agreements because agreements is the word that conventions comes from. Agreement between writer and reader, that this is how this is going to be. So the community editing agreements. We probably don't put checklists, but it's up to you. But the reason we would like to say agreements rather than checklist is, you know why. We don't have to tell you, you know why.
Travis: 09:15 Yeah, it's really nice as a anchor chart, that's ongoing throughout the semester or throughout the school year. I've had it as simply as seeing it or seeing it as simply as just being on a bulletin board with either sticky notes or small colorful note cards popping onto that bulletin board.
Jeff: 09:33 Sentence strips.
Travis: 09:34 Yeah. So it's really a great for me thinking about the end of a... Moving toward the end of this process to get another check on the temperature of the class. Do we have this down, do we feel confident about this pattern, do we feel confident enough to-
Jeff: 09:56 Be accountable for it in our writing.
Travis: 09:57 Yeah, to own it and be accountable for it. And students will be really honest with you.
Jeff: 10:03 So you're saying don't put it on the list until the kids agree. So then another part of that word agreement is we don't post an agreement and say, "We all agreed we're doing these things." We ask the kids literally, "Are you ready to be accountable for this?" And they can say no. And if they say no, then we ask them, "What is it that you need to be able to feel confident enough to put that on there?" And that list starts out blank at the beginning of the year and grows and then that's what we do when we do a quick edit. We can use that list of things that we've worked through and spent a couple of weeks on, and they really know and understand to look at their own writing for it, to make sure that they've done those things, because they know them.
Travis: 10:45 It's an empowering anchor for students to look at when you suggest they go back and do some editing on their writing because they see, "Oh, these are all the things that I know." Overtly, we've worked on these things in class and interacted with them. I feel confident that I can not only pick these out and find them in my writing, but I understand how that pattern works successfully.
Jeff: 11:09 And also what ends up going on these community editing agreement lists are the focus phrases. And this focus phrase for Lesson 6.4, is I use the comma which to add detail. The focus phrase is I use the comma which to add detail. Now, then that actually gets posted on a sentence strip or on a chart, on that editing agreements list. And it's in the I voice. Remember, it's important in the I voice, because it makes them feel like that's their power, it's their choice, it's about effect. And I use the comma which to add detail, because that's craft-wise what it's for.
Jeff: 11:46 And instead of just putting up capitalization and putting a box next to it that they're supposed to check off, that's not teaching grammar. Teaching grammar is giving them to the point where they've had the experience and the understanding and the confidence. And then when they're ready, we add it to that checklist and it builds over the year and they're ready to apply it. This is application too. Remember, application is so important. That's why this is in the application choices. Well, real quick, before I forget.
Travis: 12:16 Yeah.
Jeff: 12:16 Remember each lesson has a particularly crafted invitation to apply that comes in addition to all these. We've already discussed that.
Travis: 12:27 Oh, yeah. Let's talk about that.
Jeff: 12:27 So I just wanted to look at the comma which.
Travis: 12:28 Let's talk about that.
Jeff: 12:30 So here in the comma which lesson, it actually adds something. Oh, dangerous, because it's like it's cousin. The cousin of which, W-H-I-C-H is that, T-H-A-T. I guess, I don't need to spell that. Hahahaha. Anyway, comma which and that, students begin to understand the comma always precedes which. However, the relative pronoun, that, is on its own. No comma, take that. So then we put a couple of sentences from Jason Reynolds, who did the original mentor sentence we've been studying in which he uses that and he uses which so that they get to study that same author and see him using that and which, and then telling the difference.
Jeff: 13:16 So we're incorporating that compare and contrast and that imitation in this application, giving them just one more nudge. And so the direction after studying the sentences. Oh, let me read the sentences. I always had the feeling that if I could just get on, I'd be the next LeBron. I always had this feeling that if I could just get on, I'd be the next LeBron. So we have the that in that sentence, with no comma. On the track, the high knees were followed by jumping jacks and some warm-up laps around the track comma which seemed like a really bad idea to me.
Jeff: 13:56 Don't we know that feeling in our exercise class. On the track, the high knee things were followed by jumping jacks and some warm-up laps around the track comma which seemed like a really bad idea to me. So here, they're getting to compare the use of which and that no comma with that comma right before the which and [inaudible 00:14:17] that it says, "After talking through each sentence and what the students see, pairs choose one to imitate that or which." But don't forget the comma which, if you use which."
Travis: 14:27 Yeah. So this application suggestion just broadens students' understanding around relative pronouns. So they should have a really solid grasp of comma which, and its usage, but the cousin, that, has very similar meaning and effect to it. So we add that in as another option for students in their writer's toolbox to use.
Jeff: 14:50 Because contrast teaches. So what about the pitfall? Give me a pitfall and let's put the pit out of the fall.
Travis: 14:57 Yeah. I think a big pitfall might be, you notice in the invitation to imitate that your kids really knocked it out of the park. It seems like they really have this pattern down. So you think that maybe you could save some time by skipping this and moving onto either the invitation to edit.
Jeff: 15:15 It's Friday, I must move on for next week for something new.
Travis: 15:18 Yeah. Or another convention. So talk the importance of the invitation to apply here, if we haven't talked about it enough.
Jeff: 15:25 I think we sort of nauseatingly have talked about why it's so important. I think it's important because it's giving them one more opportunity and we can't skip it and we probably need to stretch it more than [inaudible 00:15:36]. Stretch it more than skip it. And you know what I'm hearing?
Travis: 15:40 Oh, yep.
Jeff: 15:42 I'm hearing the theme. So don't forget, go back and read chapter three of the book if you want more answers on this. We did two episodes already. We need to get off here because our theme songs playing. Oh my gosh. Thank you Stenhouse.com for being our sponsors. That's-
Travis: 15:58 S-T-E-N H-O-U-S-E.com. Thank you so much.
Jeff: 16:02 And next time we'll be talking about the invitation to edit, which is really helpful with testing and all that stuff. So come back and see us in a couple of weeks.
Travis: 16:12 Looking forward to talking to you soon.
Jeff: 16:13 Bye-bye.