Overcoming Obstacles to Writing Workshop

Overcoming Obstacles to Writing Workshop - Management Tips

My previous posts on Writing Workshop have generated a greater than normal amount of feedback from you, my faithful readers. Several of you contacted me with questions and requests for more information. A few themes emerged (How do I find the time? What about management?) so I decided to consult my friend (and expert writing teacher) Carol Cook.

First, know that I write this post under the impression that you already believe in Writing Workshop as a best practice. If you need more convincing, read the following:

What Do Kids Need To Learn About Writing?

What Is Writing Workshop? An Overview

Writing Workshop is a “Kid-Changer”

Architecture of a Mini-Lesson

Now then. Let’s assume you are “all in” in terms of want-to but you need some help with the how-to. I asked Carol to talk about the common obstacles teachers face when implementing WW and share her suggestions for overcoming them. Her answers are paraphrased below. [Read more…]

Increase Comprehension with Pantomime

Arts Integration Strategy for Reading Comprehension

Drama-based experiences such as pantomime are a powerful strategy for increasing reading comprehension. In my previous post, I shared a recent study stating that students who get to “act out” text demonstrate dramatic increases in comprehension.

One way to harness the power of “acting out” a story is through pantomime. As you likely know, pantomime is a silent form of drama where the actor uses movement and facial expression to communicate information. No lines or sound effects are allowed. The quiet nature of pantomime is an appealing starting point for classroom teachers who are sometimes worried about maintaining classroom management during drama-based lessons.

Here are three tips for introducing pantomime to your students. [Read more…]

Ask or Tell? Effective Questioning Strategies

Effective Questioning Strategies

Effective questioning strategies are an important part of good teaching. We use questions to activate a student’s prior knowledge, draw him/her into the current lesson, and determine knowledge and understanding.

However, sometimes we fall into the question trap and waste time asking when we should be telling.

For example, notice the difference between the two lessons below:

Boys and girls, what did we learn yesterday in Writing Workshop? (Pause)

Yes, Anna? (Anna responds)

Well, we did talk about strong leads but that wasn’t our new lesson. Paul? (Paul answers)

That’s another good thing to remember but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Remember the book I read about the little boy and the vegetables? (Pause)

Yes, Richard? (Richard answers.)

Right! Small moments! We learned how an author often will focus on a small moment in a story.

Why do authors do that? (Pause)

Ethan? (Ethan responds.)

Well, that’s one reason but there is another one I’m thinking of.

And so on….

This is called the “guess which answer is in my head” game. The teacher has a certain idea in mind and she is trying to get the children to say the right one. This approach takes up time and can often be distracting from the real purpose of the lesson.

Notice this contrast…

“Boys and girls, yesterday we learned about small moments. We read the book, Night of the Veggie Monster, and we noticed how the author stretched out the small moment of the boy tasting his peas. When we stretch out small moments it makes our writing interesting and brings our story to life. The author, George McClements, used lots of different strategies to stretch out that moment and paint a picture in the mind of his reader. Turn and talk with a neighbor about that book and try to remember all the ways George McClements stretched out that small moment.”

See the difference? This teacher got right to the point! She told the children the key information and saved the question for important content. She also used an active response strategy so that all of the children were engaged in the thinking and remembering instead of calling on one child at a time.

This type of teaching is powerful because it:

1) Maximizes teaching time.

2) Provides direct instruction in a clear and concise manner.

3) Engages children in answering worthwhile questions that require deep thinking rather than playing “guess the answer in the teacher’s head.” Questions are often open-ended or challenging.

4) Requires all of the children to think and answer, resulting in much higher levels of student engagement. (And high student engagement has a high correlation to positive achievement outcomes.)

I will confess that I have often been guilty of playing the “guess what I’m thinking” game with my students. It was literacy expert, Carol Cook, who brought attention to this issue for me. She once said, “Why are you asking them what you want them to know? Just tell them!”

She is exactly right!

My challenge to you: listen to yourself this week. Notice the kinds of questions you ask. Are they “guess what’s in my head” questions or are they meaningful questions worthy of student thought?

Are you calling on one child at a time or are you actively engaging all of your students in the thinking/answering process?

Decide whether you should ask them or just tell them!

Thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them!

Would you Like to Follow Wonder Teacher?

Receive an email when there is a new post:: Follow on Facebook:: Follow on Twitter:: Follow on Pinterest:: Read in a FeedBurner

photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it via photopin cc

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...