Monday, January 19

Working With Writers Who Struggle to Complete Their Writing

I'm a systems girl.

When I don't have a system for something, I muddle around and around and around.

And feel ineffective.

Drives me nuts.

So, I try to develop systems for the "big" parts of my teaching.

Writing Workshop is one of them.

A little background first...our district follows both the reading and writing curricular calendars from Lucy Calkin's Teachers College Reading & Writing Project. We are a "Workshop" district for both Reading and Writing, which I love!

Today I want to share with you a system for keeping track of which writers are writing and which ones need support. It keeps me on track for who I need to be nudging for productivity by checking in on his/her ideas and writing plan.

It also helps me plan mid-workshop interruptions, loud compliments, student goals and mini-lessons.

I'm a bit of an "out of sight, out of mind" kind of girl. Some might call it "visually organized."

That hasn't worked in my favor when I've implemented routines and procedures that have students put their finished work in their writing folders. Some years I tried collecting the folders. #couldntstandthemess

So, I started using this system the last two years, and this year have used it consistently with my class and it's worked well!


Here goes...

After determining the amount of student writing time for the week-ish, I set a target for how many completed pieces writers should be able to finish in that amount of time.


Students hand completed pieces in at the end of the writing workshop time each day as they complete it; I have them hand it in at the end so that they have their work right with them for partner or group sharing time (which we have nearly every single day).

I keep a skinny little class list and a big ol' binder clip handy. When the child hands it in, they set it on top of the "done pile." At the end of the day or of writing workshop (or the next morning...or...or...or) I read their piece and jot instructional notes. If it fits what done is supposed to look like, then I mark a tally mark next to their name and clip it in to the pile.

Currently, done is supposed to include completed editing circles on each page...I love having writers build the habit of revision and editing early on!! The editing circles are RIGHT.THERE. and really seem to help.

Once a writer gets to three tally marks, they are able to choose the genre they'd like to write.

For the sake of ease for grading and conferring, I clip the students work in their classroom number order. As the pile grows larger, it takes a titch longer, but there are generally only 4-8 done pieces each day so it's manageable.

My instructional notes could be about individual nudging for students, whole class mini-lesson opportunities, writer "shout outs," mid-workshop interruptions and also strategy group work I could be conducting soon.

For the particular pile in the picture above, we've been working with informational writing and based on the amount of writing time we had for a certain period, I determined that they should have three pieces completed. Once completed, they could choose to write personal narratives, work in their writer's notebook or do more informational writing. Soon, we'll begin opinion writing and that will be a hoot!

One glance at the tallies helps me know quickly who is struggling to complete their work during the work time (or who might be spending so much time on their illustrations). This helps me know which students to confer with about their ideas and plans for writing. I can also see who, after a nice string of work time over a few days who I might have a strategy group with to discuss how I can help support them to finish their work by using their work time well.


Things happen, though, and I am flexible. A systems girl with choice and flexibility within the system. #otherwiseigocrazytown

What are you wondering about? What have you tried in your writing classroom?
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