Welcome to my blog. I see this as a place to reflect on my teaching practices and to share ideas and strategies with other teachers.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Teaching Writing

I struggle with teaching writing to my second graders and feel like it is my weakest subject.  I have made a conscious effort to work on it this year.  It is definitely still a work in progress, but this is what I have done:
Each student has a writing folder, a writing portfolio, and a writing notebook.

  • Writing folder - This is used for weekly writing projects.  It has an editing checklist, a writing process outline, editing marks and their meaning, etc.  Next year, I think I will also put student dictionaries in this folder.  

  • Writing portfolio - This is used for saving writing samples for each student.  It is made with hanging folders labeled with student names.  

  • Writing notebook - This stays in student desk groups.  Each day, students respond to a journal prompt during guided reading time (students rotate between guided reading, centers, and writing notebooks).  Other teachers have students respond to a journal prompt for morning work.
For each grading period, I focus on one genre of writing for our Weekly Writing projects.

  • Expanding Sentence (first six weeks)
  • Personal Narrative
  • Imaginative Narrative
  • Procedural 
  • Opinion - Get my Opinion Writing unit
  • Informative 


On the first day, I introduce a writing project for the week (usually it takes me 2 weeks).  It relates to what we are learning about in some way.  I model using a graphic organizer to organize my thoughts during the prewriting phase.    After I model, then students complete a prewriting activity of their own.  It gets placed in the writing folder until the next day.  
On the next day, we revisit our prewriting.  Then, I model using the prewriting to create related sentences (a paragraph).  I am sure to model starting with a topic sentence (I sometimes call it a main idea sentence) and a closing sentence.  Next, students use their own prewriting to generate related sentences on their first draft.  Students use notebook paper for this.
On the following day, students continue working on their first draft.  If they have already finished their draft, they can move on to editing and revising using a "Writer's Eyes" checklist with a partner. 
The next day, students use their "Writer's Eyes" checklist with a partner to be sure that they have used complete sentences, capital letters, punctuation, etc.  After meeting with their partner to edit and revise their work, they sign up for a Teacher Conference.  They just writing their names on my clipboard.  I cross off the names after I have met with each student.

During Teacher conferences, I read over the students' work and ask questions to help them notice if they have complete sentences, if words are missing, if punctuation is missing, etc.  I do not mark on students' papers.  Instead, they use a red pen to make corrections as we meet.  I have them circle misspelled words and then they can correct those words by asking a friend or using a dictionary.  I do not nitpick every single misspelled word.  I try to point out high frequency words that are misspelled.  For advanced students, I hold them accountable for all words being spelled correctly.

Once students have corrected their spelling and any other mistakes, they must show it to me.  If I am satisfied that they have made corrections to the best of their ability, then I give them a "final draft" paper.  Sometimes this is thematic stationary, sometimes it is paper stapled to make a book, or it may just be lined writing paper.  On this paper, they copy their corrected work.

Finally, when they are completely finished, they turn in their whole folder to me.  I remove the 3 pages from each writing folder (prewriting, rough draft, final draft) and staple them together so that parents can see the progression in their writing.  Students can choose anything they want to write about while waiting for everyone else in the class to complete their project.  I call this "Free Choice Writing".

So that I can monitor each student's progress on the project, I created a Status of the Class chart.  It has a section for each stage of the writing process.  Students get a clothespin labeled with their name or identifying number.  As they complete each stage in the writing process, they move their clothespin to the next stage.  Download a copy of my Status of the Class Writing Tracking Chart.
As for the writing portfolio, I collect all writing of a particular genre in the portfolio until we finish that unit.  Then, students select which is their favorite to keep in the portfolio.  The rest are sent home for parents to review. The portfolios are a requirement of my school district.  They get passed along to the teacher next year. 
I hope this is helpful to someone!