Making Connections

The Quest for Success for All 2010
February 4, 2010, 9:44 pm
Filed under: Improving Written Work

Hello Colleagues: 

Happy New Year and Happy New Semester.

I have just spent three weeks administering and reading student writing samples, rating them using the OR Writing Rubric for ELs and administering the Woodcock-Munoz test in both the early version and the revised version.  I have gained some insights as to holes in student knowledge, understanding and skills concerning the six components in the ODE Writing Rubric at “CIM” level as well as weaknesses in the Broad English of our ELs.  I am guessing that many of our “English only” students would have difficulty with this very challenging assessment.  It assesses one’s knowledge of technical terms for items used in daily life (all those “whatchamacallit” type words), one’s understanding of language relationships or analogies (“A fish swims and a bird _____.”  I had to pass the similar Miller Analogy Test to get into graduate school – yikes!),  and one’s ability to write with correct conventions including grammar, punctuation, usage and spelling.  We might all have trouble with the last item now that we depend so much on spell checker. 

Here are a couple recommendations based on my findings: 

1. Have a daily selection for editing using a sentence or paragraph taken from your students’ own writing.  List the common language errors on chart paper as a class and keep it posted so that you can easily add to it and continually refer to it.  See attach article from Poynter Online – Writing Tools by Peter Roy Clark for details on this suggestion.  

Here is “The  List” the author, Peter Roy Clark, came up with to get you started:
1. It’s not alot, but two words: a lot.
2. They’re going to keep the wet boots in their lockers, over there.
3. It’s a shame that the new puppy lost its way home.
4. The coach has been suspended. Two players are headed to the woodshed too.
5. Our finest hour will come when we are champions.
6. Her pride and selfishness know no bounds.
7. Not could of, but could have.
8. Not Baypoint Elementary, but Bay Point (for goodness sakes, spell the name of the school correctly!)
9. Not freind, but friend  (A fiend, by the way, is an enemy – the opposite of friend.)
10. Not aks, but ask.  In the past tense, use asked.

11. Not suppose to but supposed to; same with used to

12.  Et cetera is abbreviated etc.  Do’t switch the “c” and the “t”.  The period counts. 

Here is Peter Roy Clark’s summary:   Students of any age bear the responsibility for improving and correcting their own work. What turns the red light grammar to green is the process of using the knowledge on the list to revise, proofread, correct and edit one’s own written work. The mechanics of language are best learned when they are applied, day after day, in our reading and our writing. 

2. Do a daily dictation, reading a sentence from a previous day’s work or from a quote*. (see link below)  Students write it, skipping lines to allow for corrections.  (Read three times – once fluently, once two-three words at a time, and a final time for fluency.)  Then edit.  Students help the teacher reconstruct the sentence by reading back their work aloud.  The teacher will write on the board or overhead/doc cam so students can see the writing process as well as the final product.  Students  will write any corrections to be made under their initial writing.  The same dictation will be used over again for 1 or 2 days more and then tested.  (SK elementary students involved in the Literacy Squared Pilot out of UC Berkeley use the same “dictado” all week long and then are tested every Fridays.)  

3.  Check out the work of other teachers online to see what works in other ELL classrooms.  One teacher has set up an excellent BLOG in wordpress for her ELL classes.  You will find some great links for show casing student PowerPoint presentations, some embedded videos for sharing classroom rules and expectations with parents, and some links for rubrics for assessing reading assignments. 

Here are a couple other links you might like to explore from CharacterCounts. 

The first features quotes* from famous people to use as writing prompts: 

and the second features lesson plans that can be used to improve students reading skills and comprehension, while also encouraging positive behavior: 

Email me with questions or comments about any of the above.  I am here to support you in your teaching and learning quest for “success for all”.

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