Category Archives: Writing

Simple, Effective Method for Teaching Writing Across the Content Areas

Written by: Lindsay Veitch, Caledonia Community Schools Teacher and Author

I brought my two-year-old to his pediatrician, Dr. Lisa Brown, for a well-visit the day Dave Stuart Jr. launched my ebook, The Write Structure. I casually mentioned this exciting news to Dr. Brown, and she replied as only the doctor of children could.

With an incredibly warm look on her face, she asked a remarkably direct question, “That’s wonderful! Can you crystallize your text in one or two sentences?”  

Well, that’s not much to work with, doc, but here goes: “The Write Structure is a simple format that is totally transferable. The book is based on solving a common problem with writing in schools. Kids don’t know where to start, so they loathe writing. When teachers recycle The Write Structure (and the teaching methods that go with it), kids’ anxiety goes down and success goes up.” Continue reading Simple, Effective Method for Teaching Writing Across the Content Areas

Tackling Text Structures: A Nontraditional Approach

Few could argue the importance of understanding text structure. When it comes to reading, having a grasp of structure will help a reader’s brain focus in on the important aspects of a text, helping to connect points and enhancing comprehension. For writing, being able to effectively choose and apply the appropriate text structure for the purpose of an individual piece is key for expressing a big idea or opinion.

While text structure is important, teaching text structure can sometimes be…well…dry as toast. Simply serving up pre-planned graphic organizers and lists of transitional words for individual structures, while important, may not capture students’ attention, at least not to the degree intended to have young readers and writers truly internalize text structures in order to make the best use of them in their reading and writing work. We need to find a way to have students experience text structures where they will actually be able to remember them and distinguish one structure from another. Continue reading Tackling Text Structures: A Nontraditional Approach

Kids Who Read Beat the Summer Slide

In 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described summer learning loss as “devastating”. Educators often refer to summer loss as “summer slide”.

It is estimated that the amount of loss a child might experience could equal one month of instruction, and the effect has a greater impact on disadvantaged children (Cooper, 1996). Researchers conclude that two-thirds of 9th grade reading achievement gaps can be explained by the accumulated summer loss they have experienced since early elementary, with nearly one-third of the gap already present when children enter Kindergarten (Alexander, Entwistle & Olsen, 2007). Continue reading Kids Who Read Beat the Summer Slide

The Secret Ingredient for Developing Lifelong Writers

Recently I spent some time looking at new programs on the market to teach literacy. They all came from large, reputable companies and were designed to teach The Common Core State Standards.

While I saw a lot of good, current thinking in these programs, when I glanced at the writing sections within each, I sighed—deeply.  In a nutshell, the writing in these programs calls for a lot of teacher-directed writing, emphasizing product over process, and steeped in the idea that the most important aspect of student writing, by far, is the ability to write with evidence from sources.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of writing with evidence in our standards and love the challenge of helping young writers develop this skill. I embrace the three types of writing in The Common Core and Continue reading The Secret Ingredient for Developing Lifelong Writers

ELA Students Become Project Managers

Something amazing is happening at Kent Innovation High this semester.

Volunteer project managers from all over west Michigan are coming into the classroom to share insights into their craft. In cooperation with the Western Michigan Project Management Institute (WMPMI), Future Leaders in Project Management (FLiPM), and the Kent ISD Career Readiness Department, an English Language Arts class at Kent Innovation High School is learning how to think and write critically with a business mindset, all while earning a business certification. Continue reading ELA Students Become Project Managers

Deep Thinking about Character: A Starting Point for Writing Fiction

Fiction. Certainly this is one of the most popular genres to read for students and adults. Realistic fiction, fantasy, mystery, and legends, among others, are popular with readers of all ages. Yet, while this type of writing is fun to read, it can be very challenging to write, particularly for young writers.

In the past, many of us have used planning sheets for fiction writing that are, quite frankly, ineffective. These sheets Continue reading Deep Thinking about Character: A Starting Point for Writing Fiction

Make Your Thinking Visible

sketchnotes godfrey lee sarah wood

“Wow!  That is so cool!  I wish I could do that!  Too bad I am a terrible artist and I can barely draw a stick figure…”

This was just part of my thoughts this summer when I was introduced to the concept of sketchnotes.  Super cool, very interesting, BUT…I could never do anything of the sorts as I am not an artist and DEFINITELY can’t draw.  I was drawn to the concept and the potential it had for supporting student learning though, so I loaded up on books from the library and scoured the internet for ideas, tutorials, and any examples I could find.

What I discovered is that I definitely CAN sketchnote, despite my lack of experience with drawing.  The big idea that I came to realize is Continue reading Make Your Thinking Visible

3 Unique Reading Strategies You’ll Want to Try!

Learning to read can be difficult for anyone.  Michigan’s proficiency on the NAEP is just over 30 percent for third-grade readers.  Michigan Association of School Administrators (MASA) Region Three superintendents are tackling this problem through the Reading Now Network, which is beginning to develop resources for the classroom.

This morning I watched a TedX talk that had some unique approaches to improve reading in ALL students.  When I say ALL students, I mean even those with learning disabilities.Chris Bugaj

The TedX talk was by Chris Bugaj, MA CCC-SLP the founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools.

In Chris’ TedX talk, he shared three unique reading strategies. Continue reading 3 Unique Reading Strategies You’ll Want to Try!

Helping Students Become Active Thinkers, Part 2

Last week, Tim Hargis wrote about four areas of focus to help students become active thinkers and independent writers. He described purpose and craft in detail.  In part 2, he will go over the final two focus areas: genre and text structure and content.  To learn more about this subject, register for The Writing Diner 2: Creating Active Thinkers for Common Core Success (Elementary & Middle School) on August 6th at Kent ISD.

A Focus on Genre and Text Structures

Teaching the three different types of writing through genre and text structure units is another way to up the level of thinking for student writers. If students have to grapple with Continue reading Helping Students Become Active Thinkers, Part 2

Helping Students Become Active Thinkers, Part 1

The ultimate goal of all writing instruction has to be to help students become active thinkers while they are independently writing. This is the foundation of my writing beliefs. We need to teach writing in a way that will allow students, when they are sitting alone with a blank paper or computer screen in front of them, to have writing knowledge and skills inside of them that they can apply, on their own, in any situation.

If this is our goal for our writing instruction and we achieve it, then students will not only be successful in our classrooms, but they will be successful in grades, on standardized tests, writing in the content areas, and beyond.

The Common Core State Standards demand this of our student writers. The authors of The Standards outline seven characteristics of students who are “college and career ready.” At the top of the list is that students “demonstrate independence.” As teachers, we need to Continue reading Helping Students Become Active Thinkers, Part 1