Differentiated Writing Instruction

When teaching writing in elementary and middle school, one of the challenges is how to keep moving forward with the different genre studies (narrative, expository and opinion … and don’t forget poetry!) while giving students the differentiated instruction that they need.  At La Cosecha I learned of a way to do just that.

Using the units proposed by Lucy Calkins or the units created by your district (or by you) the first step is to begin each unit using a simple prompt that will let you complete a pre-assessment to find out what the students already know.  You can assess their writing using the rubric to guide your instruction during the unit.  My experience has been, though, that those first drafts show too many holes to be of much use; the students need instruction in many areas.

pic26633Then, after teaching the unit while referring often to the rubric and publishing a final draft, use the same prompt you used at the beginning of the unit.  This time, it is important to use the rubric to deeply analyze the writing.  The first thing you will most likely notice is a vast improvement over the initial use of the prompt.  However, if you use the rubric and turn the information into numbers (see image to the right) you will see trends including areas that need specific attention.

This is where the differentiation can happen.  Based on the needs you notice, you can form groups of students for differentiated instruction just as you would do during reader’s workshop.  This small group work could happen during the first week of the next unit or you could schedule a week in between each unit for the differentiated instruction.  Use the CCSS to decide which areas are of greatest need.  You might also decide that a change in tier 1 instruction would be most appropriate (e.g. focus on punctuation during morning meeting).  You can let this assessment guide you during the next unit of study.

One more idea that I loved: sketch the story then touch and tell.  Oral rehearsal!

Resources: Lucy Calkins: Writing Pathways, WIDA Writing Rubric


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BiliteracyI learned of two texts at La Cosecha 2014 that can help us teach for biliteracy.  Biliteracy is one of the three goals of dual language education: students who are bilingual, biliterate and bicultural.  I will add them to my wish list!  Click on the image for more information.


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Words in Motion

I heard of a new (for me) resource while at La Cosecha 2104: Words in Motion.

Words in Motion is a cognate-based curriculum that introduces academic vocabulary in meaningful contexts and promotes strategies for academic vocabulary acquisition.

“The full curriculum consists of seven units that include lesson plans, teacher materials, and student worksheets for each day. The materials are organized first by unit; within each unit they are organized by day; and within each day they are organized into lesson plans, student materials, and teacher materials. In many cases, there are separate materials for the monolingual and crosslinguistic versions of the curriculum, as well as Spanish translations of the crosslinguistic versions to support the delivery of the bilingual version. The VIAS team is pleased to provide these files for use by educators.” (from the CAL website:  http://www.cal.org/vias/subproject4/wmc/index.html )

This could be used by classroom teachers and/ or ESL teachers to help students acquire academic vocabulary.  Check it out!

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Writing in English/ Escribiendo en español

Stages NivelesAt La Cosecha 2014 I attended a session by Freeman and Freeman.  Loved it! Here is a copy of their handout that I downloaded from the conference website: Writing handout- Freeman.

The presentation was a summary of part of the text, Teaching Reading and Writing in Spanish and English which is also available in Spanish.  Looking at the writing children do while knowing the stages teachers can admire the amazing work that students do while coaching them on to the next level.

A few highlights:

  • Drawing is the starting of writing;
  • Student scribbles mirror the environmental print they see around themselves;
  • As very beginning writers, students may use the letters in their name, perhaps the only letters they know at first, to represent all letters;
  • In English students learn consonant sounds first- in Spanish they learn vowels;
  • As students work out consistency they may spell the same word in many different ways in the same sentence or paragraph;
  • All students can be accepted where they are and coached to higher stages.

As a teacher, I love coaching writers because it involves all four modalities of language- speaking, listening, reading and writing.  Students tell their story (or information), they write it, they read it back while listening to their work.  Then they revise.

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Visit to El Camino Real Academy, Santa Fe, NM (La Cosecha 2014)

We had a wonderful visit today to El Camino Real Academy in Santa Fe, NM as part of La Cosecha 2014.  Here are some pictures of artifacts that I saw.  The first 8 are from Kindergarten and 1st grade; the others are from 6th and 7th grade.

IMG_0113 IMG_0112 IMG_0109 IMG_0108 IMG_0107 IMG_0106 IMG_0105 IMG_0104



IMG_0103 IMG_0102 IMG_0100

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Centros de aprendizaje (lectura)

Algunas ideas para centros de aprendizaje:
(se puede añadir ideas, cambiar ideas, juntar ideas, …)

Es importante enseñar y practicar cada centro de aprendizaje antes de que los estudiantes lo hagan solitos.

Formando palabras
Usando las sílabas que han aprendido, estudiantes forman palabras juntando papelitos que tienen las sílabas escritas. Durante su tiempo en el grupo tienen que formar 10 palabras reales, escribir las en un papel o en su cuaderno y dibujar tres; pueden añadir 5 no-palabras (sílabas que han juntado que pueden decir pero que no son palabras reales: “me-pe”).

Escuchar y contar
Estudiantes escuchan/ leen un cuento. Después, tienen que contar el cuento usando las frases, “Al principio…, Después… y Al final… .” Pueden usar títeres si son disponibles.

¡PUF veloz!
Usando un cronómetro, estudiantes repasan las palabras de uso frecuente que han aprendido para ver si pueden decirlas cada vez más rápido. Uno compite contra uno mismo, no contra otros estudiantes. Pueden escribir su tiempo y/o las palabras que no sabían en una hoja o en su cuaderno.

Estudiantes elijen una palabra de un montoncito y tiene que decir y escribir 5 palabras que riman; la meta es que 4 de los 5 sean palabras reales. Después tienen que marcar las palabra que no es una palabra real. Añade un cronómetro para otro desafío.

Leyendo con pareja
Estudiantes leen un libro juntos alternando:
Una página cada uno;
Una oración cada uno;
Una palabra cada uno.
Después cuentan el cuento o dibujan su parte favorita.

Los libros de la maestra
En este centro los estudiantes re-leen los textos que la maestra ha leído en lecciones de lectura compartida, rimas que han estudiado, canciones que han aprendido… cualquier texto que la maestra ha leído con el grupo (“Big books,” “charts,”…)

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A veteran teacher turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days – a sobering lesson learned

Originally posted on Granted, and...:

The following account comes from a veteran HS teacher who just became a Coach in her building. Because her experience is so vivid and sobering I have kept her identity anonymous. But nothing she describes is any different than my own experience in sitting in HS classes for long periods of time. And this report of course accords fully with the results of our student surveys. 

I have made a terrible mistake.

I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!

This is the first year I am working in a school but not teaching…

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