Garage Band Writing Instruction

Notes from the Classroom Professional Learning

shutterstock_109511876Sometimes, the teaching pieces all come together beautifully, like different musicians in a carefully rehearsed symphony. You plan something that dovetails perfectly with something else, which builds to something better, and on and on, to the amazing crescendo of learning.

At least that’s what happens in my dreams.

Instead of a symphony, I have more of a garage-band vibe going in my room this year. We try something that isn’t quite right, which leads to something a little bit better, and on and on, to a quirky song that’s kinda cool but also not radio-ready.

These days, my quirky song is the work I’ve been doing with explicit grammar instruction and cross-curricular writing, and this past week I finally felt like we were getting somewhere.

The Looming Exam

Going into the week, I had two competing goals. First, I wanted students to hone their revision skills and provide some good feedback for our partner Physics class, which I wrote about last month. Second, I needed to get them moving on their review for the AP Language exam, which is about two and a half weeks away (insert emojis of horror here).

Like it or not–sorry, Physics kids–my students are most concerned with their AP exam. As I was planning this week, I was regretting telling Brian, the Physics teacher, we’d still bring our classes together. I was starting to worry that, though this exercise was really interesting to me and helpful for Brian and his kids, the joint work was not incredibly relevant for my kids at this critical point in their AP Language course.

Then I attended the Oakland Schools webinar with Connie Weaver, which focused on her book Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing. 

All the pieces fell together.

Learning with Revision

Dr. Weaver helped me see how easily my two competing goals for the week weren’t competing at all. 

GrammartoEnrichandEnhanceWritingIn her webinar, Dr. Weaver focused on revision with argumentative writing, and she used a sample essay from the new SAT as her model. She walked us through adding things–participial phrases, appositives, absolutes–or reworking existing sentences to include more complex structures. I had been asking my students to mimic the writing they were seeing in mentor texts, to write with those things in mind, but I hadn’t asked them to explicitly go back and revise or add to their writing using those tools.  

The next week, I shamelessly stole Dr. Weaver’s activity from the webinar and adapted it to work with my students. We did a quick refresh of grammatical structures, and then practiced revising small chunks of a sample student essay. I discovered quickly that our work with mentor texts had been successful; my students can identify good writing.

The second part of the activity, though, was much more telling. I had my students revise text on a shared Google Doc, which allowed us to all see the different options. This led to some great discussions about active vs. passive voice, the use of participial phrases to add detail, and the use of appositives to surprise readers.

Suddenly, these grammatical terms were starting to mean something to my students and their writing. Asking students to identify grammatical structures is one thing; forcing them to take an existing sentence and apply said structure is totally different.  

They weren’t always successful–some were wildly unsuccessful–but now they were applying these grammatical terms to real student writing. Before, by only identifying techniques and asking students to mimic them, I think I was inadvertently implying that good writing happens naturally the first time. Sometimes it does, but this gave students some specific tools to use when it doesn’t.

Applying the Lessons

Wednesday and Thursday, we unleashed our newly honed revision skills on the Physics essays. I modeled giving feedback on one essay: general comments regarding organization and evidence, and three specific suggestions for making the writing more sophisticated. I asked students to find sentences they could revise, and to then give advice about how to replicate those revisions later in the essay. Instead of just seeing all the things that were “wrong” with the essays, they started seeing the possibilities.

On Friday we will take the final step: their own essays. On Tuesday night after school, they all sat for a full-length practice AP exam–three essays in two hours. Timed writing doesn’t allow for careful, thoughtful revision, but on Friday we will look for the possibilities in those essays and practice careful revision.  

At the end of this week, we’re definitely still going to be a quirky garage band. But we’re going to be a few steps closer to our big break, I think.

Hattie profileHattie Maguire is an English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School. She is spending her fifteenth year in the classroom teaching AP English Language and Composition and English 10. She is a National Board Certified Teacher who earned her BS in English and MA in Curriculum and Teaching from Michigan State University.

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Welcome to the ELA newsletter, “What’s the Word”!  We will publish several times a year to share information about ELA, Special Education, and content-area literacy topics and events.  If you have any questions or topics you would like addressed, please get in touch!

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Authentic M-STEP Preparation

Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project Professional Learning

M-Step-Logo_473059_7Recently, I facilitated a webinar about preparing students for the ELA M-STEP. (You can access a recording, slides, and a handout online.) Preparing our students for the M-STEP, I believe, doesn’t have to be a tedious task, one that we scramble to find the time to do. Rather, it can be embedded into our daily practice, helping make it more authentic and more relevant for our students.

Before we can prepare our students, though, we need to prepare ourselves and have a clear understanding of the types of tasks students will be engaged in, and the skills they need to complete those tasks. To help in this work, sample-items sets for grades 3-8 are available on MDE’s website. This is a great resources for familiarizing both teachers and students with the task types and browser.

A careful analysis of the 7th grade sample-items set shows that students will be engaged in the following types of tasks:

    • Annotating
    • Choosing multiple options in multiple choice questions
    • Constructed response
    • Multipart questions (Part B contingent on Part A)
    • Writing samples, using information in the prompt
    • Editing a writing sample
    • Reading across texts
    • Choosing reliable sources and evidence

Many of the tasks above are different from the format of the MEAP test, so it’s very important that we take the time to carefully think about what students need to know and be able to do.

Sample 7th grade item

For example, in the 7th grade item to the left, students must be able to first distinguish between the content of the question and the directions. (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Notice that the item begins with directions to the students. Then there is some content that the students need to understand and use. Then, below that, there is the task. It is all in the same font and formatting, so students must learn to read carefully, to ensure they are not missing important information.

Practice Assessments

In addition to the sample-items sets, MDE has created a set of documents called the ELA Crosswalks. These documents were created to help teachers create classroom assessments that would be similar to those that students might see on the M-STEP, use the same kind of language as the M-STEP, and ensure that teachers are teaching and assessing particular standards.

ELA Crosswalks

The image to the right, also clickable, shows a claim, targets, and standards for reading. These have been created for reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language.

Although there are now only performance tasks at 5th and 8th grade, it is worth preparing all students for different types of writing tasks of various lengths. Teachers College Writing and Reading Project has put together performance tasks for grades 3-8 that include readings, videos, writing prompts, and rubrics.  

While the first and best way to prepare for the M-STEP is through good instruction, we can help students do their best by ensuring that we understand what they will be asked to do, and help them develop ways to navigate various tasks.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

M-STEP Prep Webinars: Test Literacy & ELA Curricular Connections

Grade Level(s): 3-5 & 6-8M-Step-Logo_474451_7

Description: Get your students ready! These hour-long, interactive webinars presented by teacher leaders will provide ready to use strategies for addressing test literacy, item directions and format, and MSTEP navigation with students. In addition, presenters will address how to integrate the content of M-STEP preparation organically into MAISA unit instruction.

SCECHs: no

Who Should Attend?: Elementary teachers and middle school ELA teachers interested in contrete ideas for addressing test directions, item formats, and test navigations as well as strategies for integrating M-STEP test prep into the MAISA units.

Dates & Times: 

Elementary Session – January 28, 2015  7-8pm

Middle School Session – January 26, 2015  7-8pm

Location: virtual, participants receive room link once registered

Event Contact : delia.decourcy@oakland.k12.mi.us

Presenter(s):
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools (elementary) & Jianna Taylor West Bloomfield Schools, (middle school)

beth cropped

Beth Rogers is a fifth grade teacher for Clarkston Community Schools, where she has been teaching full time since 2006.  She is  blessed to teach Language Arts and Social Studies for her class and her teaching partner’s class, while her partner  teaches all of their math and science. This enables them  to focus on their passions and do the best they can for kids. Beth was chosen as Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014 in her district. She earned a B.S. in Education at Kent State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology at Michigan State University.

 

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

 

Webinar – Integrating Bring Your Own Device in Secondary Literacy Learning

Facilitator: Liz Kolb, Professor, University of Michigan School of Education
Thursday, May 7, 2015  7-8pm EST (optional follow up discussion from 8-9pm)
recording   slides

Come learn some easy ways to integrate students’ cell phones, iPods and iPads into literacy learning.  Focus will be on tools for collaboration and writing.  There are numerous free and freemium resources that teachers can use to connect learning to student’s own devices.  We’ll explore several tools and the reasons to use or not use them based on curricular context.

Liz Kolb is a clinical assistant professor at The University of Michigan. She authored Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education (published by ISTE in 2008), Cell Phones in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for the K-12 Educator (published by ISTE in 2011), and the upcoming Unleash the Learning Power of Your Child’s Cell Phone (published by ISTE in 2013). In addition, Liz has published numerous articles and book chapters on new technologies and education in prominent publications such as Education Leadership, Scholastic.com, and Learning and Leading with Technology. Liz has done consulting work and has been a featured and keynote speaker at conferences all over the United States and Canada. She is passionate about engaging students in education and educational opportunity through their own technologies. Liz is a former social studies and computer technology teacher. In addition she spent 4 years as a technology coordinator and integration specialist in Ohio.

Twitter ID: @lkolb

 

Literacy Webinar Archive

Questions? Contact andrea.zellner@oakland.k12.mi.us

Word Study, Vocabulary & Grammar: the Toughest Nuts to Crack Webinar Series 2016-17  

Thursday, October 27, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Tim Shanahan, University of Illinois at Chicago
Complex Texts, Complex Sentences: Grammar and Comprehension in the Time of Common Core
recording and slides


Thursday, November 17, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Words in the World: Transferring Word Study to Everyday Reading and Writing
recording, slides, and resources


Thursday, December 8, 2016  7-8pm EST
Dr. Jonathan Bush, Western Michigan University
Grammar in Theory; Grammar in Practice: Language Use in Culture, Society, and Our Classrooms
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, January 17, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Laura Tortorelli, Michigan State University
Cracking the Code of Early Literacy: What Is Phonemic Awareness and Why Does it Matter?
recording, slides, and resources


Tuesday, February 7, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University & Jeremy Hyler, Fulton Schools, MI
From Texting to Teaching: Teaching Grammar Beyond the Screen
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, March 28, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Margaret McKeown, University of Pittsburgh
Cracking the Vocabulary Nut Requires Rich, Interactive Instruction
recording, slides and resources


Thursday, April 20, 2017  7-8pm EST
Dr. Dianna Townsend, University of Nevada – Reno
Who Is Using the Vocabulary?: Engaging Students in Active Practice with New and Important Words
recording, slides and resources


Tuesday, May 9, 2017  7-8pm EST
Sarah Brown Wessling, 2010 Teacher of the Year
Organically Integrating Vocabulary into the Secondary Classroom
recording, slides and resources

 


Revision: the Heart of Writing Webinar Series 2015-16

Dr. Jennifer Fletchershutterstock_86277058
Revising Rhetorically: Re-seeing Writing through the Lens of Audience, Purpose, and Context
recommended reading: Teaching Arguments: Rhetorical Comprehension, Critique, & Response
recording, resources, and slides


Georgia Heard
The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recommended reading: The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques that Work
recording and resources


Marc Aronson
Revising Nonfiction: Dowsing for Depth
recommended reading: Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science
recording, slides and resources


Dr. Troy Hicks
Revising Digital Writing
recommended reading: Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts Across Media & Genres
recording, slides, and resources


Dr. Nell Duke
Not Like Pulling Teeth: Revision in a Project-Based Context
recommended reading: Inside Information: Developing Powerful Readers and Writers of Informational Text Through Project-Based Instruction
more information (recording and slides available in mi PLACE)


Penny Kittle
Revision: the Heart of Writing
recommended reading: Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing
recording and resources


Dr. Constance Weaver
Revising Sentences by Adding “Juicy Details”
recommended reading: Grammar to Enrich and Enhance Writing
recording & resources


M-Step-Logo_473059_7M-STEP Prep Webinars 2016

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (elementary)
Beth Rogers, Clarkston Community Schools
recording    slides    resources

M-STEP Prep Webinar: Test Literacy and ELA Curricular Connections (middle school) 
Jianna Taylor, West Bloomfield Schools
recording    slides    resources


Reading & Writing in Digital Spaces Series 2014-15476127923 (1)

Small Bites: Research in the K-5 Classroom
Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan School of Information
recording, resources & slides


Small Bites: Research in the 6-12 Classroom
Delia DeCourcy, Secondary Literacy Consultant, Oakland Schools ISD, Michigan
recording, resources & slides


Digital Technologies and Expectations for Writing in College
Professor Jeff Grabill, Michigan State University
recording & slides


Mixing Sources, Amplifying Voices: Crafting Writing in an Information Age
Professor Troy Hicks, Central Michigan University
recording, slides & resources 


How Student Blogs Support Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources 


Reinventing Classroom Reading: What Digital Media Offer Us
Professor Sara Kajder, University of Georgia
recording, slides and resources


How Social Media Supports Literacy Learning & the Common Core
Stephanie Dulmage, Technology/Curriculum Integration Specialist, West Bloomfield, Michigan
recording, slides & resources


Integrating Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in Secondary Literacy Learning
Professor Liz Kolb, University of Michigan School of Education
recording & slides


Webinar – Small Bites: Research in the K-5 Classroom

Facilitator: Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan School of Information
Thursday, October 16, 2014  7-8pm EST (optional follow up discussion from 8-9pm)
recording     resources     webinar slides

The Common Core asks that students engage in small, focused research experiences across the year.  For many teachers, this is a curricular design shift.  In this interactive session, we will consider this important shift in a variety of ways: explore a continuum for varying levels of student independence in the research process; investigate the multiple and key skills we need to develop in our student researchers; and learn about tech tools that can help facilitate and support effective instruction for research and research writing.

Kristin Fontichiaro is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, where she coordinates the school library media program and teaches courses in library and information science. Kristin is interested in teaching and learning and the emerging roles of librarians. She speaks internationally on inquiry, information and digital literacy, and makerspaces. She coordinates the Michigan Makers service and action research project on maker learning. Kristin is the author of numerous books on technology, education, and inquiry learning including Podcasting 101 and Know What to Ask: Forming Great Research Questions and Navigating the Information Tsunami: Engaging Research Projects that Meet the Common Core State Standards, K-5.

Twitter ID: @activelearning