Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Writing and Sleeping and Planning

Oh My! 
What a day and a half!
My brain is still in overload mode.  I have so much that I’m supposed to be doing and I don’t know where to start again. 
Instead of freaking out, I’m going to tell you about the excellent Professional Development Workshop that I attended yesterday. 

Seven Steps to Writing Success

I met Jen McVeity. We received a manual in the morning with instruction and information about teaching Persuasive Writing the "7 Steps Way".  Our National Testing program focuses on students writing a persuasive text, so everyone was very interested in this.  Some teachers (especially in primary school) struggle to teach this text type with students.  Personally, I really enjoy it.  Jen (our presenter and the author of 7 steps) then provided us with a booklet of notes (that she displayed on ppt as well) and activities for us to try.  Exciting! 

Then we hit the real stuff.  I just realised that my last paragraph broke all the rules I learned yesterday.  Oh well. 

We actually started at step two: sizzling starts (hook them with a bang).  This seems like, kind of a no-brainer. right? But how many of us are sick of reading the same "beginning" from our students and wonder why they don't try something else.  It seems that we (teachers) give kids a formula and give lots of ticks when the kids get the "structure" right.  This sounds like the right thing to do (and it is), but we don't go the next step.  Rules are made to be broken.  Teach them the structure and formula.  Then tell them that real writers break the rules, and show them how to do it.  Help them make it more interesting.  We model how to enter the classroom and we model correct structures and we need to model how to make us interested in their writing.  I think I will share more about this later.  

Then we go back to step one which is fairly logical... PLANNING.  Again this is about modelling.  We tell the kdis to plan, but we don't show them how.  We don't practice the skill.  We practice transitions from desks to carpet and back again.  We need to practice the transition between getting a writing task and doing the writing task.  What is this transition... it is the planning.  We need to show them how to plan, and give them strategies for planning.  Then we need to do it over and over and over again.  We need to do it until planning is second nature.  

I'm not going to tell you the other steps at this point... mainly because they are not my steps to tell. If you want more info about the steps, scroll back up and click the link.  

But, I will remind you about a fundamental of teaching practice.  DO IT AGAIN! Break the task (every task we want our students to perform) into BABY STEPS and then.... get them to do it OVER and OVER AGAIN! Each time they do it, we need to give them feedback.  Tell them what they did right, tell them what they did wrong AND how to fix it and encourage them to try it again.  

Some of you are saying... der M... but some of you are going .... AAAHHHh I knew that, but I forgot that.  This fundamental of teaching can be applied to everything we do.  Chunk, Teach, then Practice routines and behaviour systems.  Chunk, Teach, Practice; algorithms, spelling, writing, reading, drawing, ruling a margin, setting out the book, working alone, working in groups, throwing a ball, catching a ball, sharing with friends... etc etc etc 

If you are having difficulty teaching something.... go back to the most basic of basics.  Chunk the task/skill into every little step involved.  Can your students do this step? Have they done it before? Teach each step.  Practice each step on its own and then together with the other steps.  

In her workshop, Jen talks specifically about teaching writing.  My sharing is just  my interpretation of it.  I'm sharing what was going through my head as I listened and wrote notes and tried activities.  Also, we often teach the small steps but then we jump straight to do the big task. We skip the part about helping the kids put all the pieces back together.  It is the putting it together, that is so important.  

If you are not a teacher... or you are not interested in Teaching... sorry.  I promise I will write about something else one day.  But today, it is about this.  

:) M

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