Activity #4: Module 4 – Learning to Write - SWIFTPENS Training Materials
Explore the Learning to Write Module. Select one tool from this module and implement the strategy in your classroom. Describe how you used the strategy. Reflect on how the lesson went with your students.

4/8/2011 00:54:33

The strategy I used in class was the STAR strategy. Students were given the assignment to make a time line of their most vivid memories (good or bad). They were then given 10 minutes to make a list of 5 of their memories that they remember the most details about. Next, they were asked to choose one from the list and write for 15 minutes about that memory. During the next class we discussed and modeled how to change the over used verbs with "vivid verbs". We also discussed/modeled how to add more details to their writing so that the reader can clearly see the picture in their head what the student is trying to convey in their writing. Students read over each others papers looking for repetitions and respectfully editing their classmates paper. Students then self edited their papers making sure the events were in a sequential order. Students were then given the assignment to write their second draft of their memory. Overall, I think the lesson went well. Student were able to add great details to their writing because they were writing about something that was meaningful to them. More work is needed with the language impaired students to assist them with using more figurative language and better descriptors. Also worth noting, was that the make up of the class on a particular day had a significant impact on the students ability to peer edit and revise.

marah brandimarte
5/8/2011 05:17:19

This Module took a little time, but I was glad to have the kids involved. The strategy I used was the Gretchen Bernabei's 11-minute Essay. There are 7 steps to this essay writing technique. It breaks the essay writing into small parts so the kids don't don't feel overwhelmed while writing a comprehensive essay. The starting point prompt I used was a picture of a couple in an argument that appeared to be very heated. I found this picture on the Internet, and proped it up on the TV the whole time the kids were writing so they could reflect and stay focused on the main topic. As the kids were writing I gave them different questions to write on for the designated time periods in Gretchen Bernabei's 11-Minute Essay script. Some of the prompts included: Explain what you think lead up to the point where the couple is at in this picture?
How do feel about their body language in the picture?
What might happen next?
What do you want to happen next?
What would you do if you were one of the people in this situation? Brainstorn on a time in your life something made you feel angry or hurt.
In the end the students had to re-write there essay and do some self-evaluation.
I enjoyed taking the kids through this "11-minute writing process" in such an organized fashion. Before the kids knew it they had a long essay they put together in a short period of time. They seemed to be proud of how much they had accomplished in one class period.
In reality this process took longer than 11-minutes but the concept is great!

J Hackett
5/11/2011 10:07:14

The strategy that I utilized was the 11 minute Essay by Gretchen Bernabei. My students liked the title and thought it'd be great if they could actually write a quality essay in 11 minutes. I utilized two pictures one from The Chronicles of a Struggling reader and one from Why Are You Calling Me LD? They were give a choice of which one they wrote about. I put them up on the board with the use of the Elmo so students could see the pictures as we did this activity. My students have difficulty with writing so this did break it down into manageable segments. The next prompts were how does this affect my life? How does this impact your education and what can you do to lessen the impact at school? How does this impact all areas of your life? What famous person struggled with this and how did they overcome or compensate to achieve success? What can you do to be successful? I had them brainstorm and write how they could become self advocates for themselves. I reminded them to use a book, movie or show to support some of the writing for the prompts. They students have very strong feelings about how this impacts their life. We did self editing and then peer editing to make their paragraphs stronger.
We have incorporated this into a daily mini lesson now. We have a quote and write about it daily using the prompts followed by discussion focusing upon an introduction what it means to them, how it is supported by a movie or book, etc and an conclusion. The students are beginning to really read to understand the quote as to relates to their life and be able to share orally with the class. They are getting less resistant to writing and with encouragement are becoming more proficient at writing.

5/15/2011 02:53:48

This section took a little more time to go through. I took quite a few notes on this section, although it gave me some great ideas to try out on my SQ students this week.

I was looking for something to do this week during 4th hour and I have just found it. On Tuesday we will do an eleven minute essay. I know all of the 7th graders have been studying the Ancient Greeks and Romans. I will put a list of topics on the board that we have discussed. Then I will have the students write about one of them. I will follow the format 3min. about the topic, 3min. contrasting it to a movie, and 3 min. compring it to true life.

On Wednesday people that are not working on their own work, which is most of my class, will write about things that bother them. This is a great topic that requires no research and little to no student interaction. I am curious to see what they will write about. I think they will like this activity.

On Thursday we will use a Jr. Scholastic and go over text structure. This may be the most difficult for them. I hope that they are up to the challenge.

After taking them for a test run this week, perhaps I can try these strategies in my Social Studies classes.

Sara Moroni
5/18/2011 12:20:56

The strategy I used was the 11 minute Essay by Gretchen Bernabei. I was really excited to try this out in my 6th grade Language Arts class. However, since I teach SE, I made sure I had the steps printed out for each student with an example topic sentence that they could use for each prompt. I decided to correlate this assignment to a novel that we have been reading in class, The Cay. For the first step, I had all the students look at the cover of the book and decide if they veiwed the picture as a demonstration of loyalty, bravery, or honor. I had them think-pair-share and then gave them time to respond to the third step prompt: "In the novel The Cay, Timothy proves how loyal he was by…" When students were finished writing this paragraph I moved on to a connection that students could make with a movie that paralleled the book. This proved to be a little difficult for my students, so we stopped and discussed different movies and their similarites and differences to the book. My students then seemed confident enough to respond to step 4's prompt: "A movie parallel would be _______________ because…" We then moved on to a time they felt they showed the same character trait that they felt Timothy displayed: "In my life, this type of loyalty was illustrated the day I …" Students were able to substitute the proper adjective in the topic sentence. This propmt seemed a little easier for my students to write about without any extra discussion. In the sixth step, students were able to imagine how the story might have been different if Timothy was not a good-hearted person: "I wonder how Phillip’s life might have been different if Timothy was not so loyal to him?" Again, students were able to substitute the adjective. Students were able to respond quickly to this prompt as well. For the seventh step, students read over their essay and made corrections as necessary. Overall, I think this is a great tool to use with relunctant writers. I feel it gives them direction and purpose while allowing them to respond in a manner that aligns with the Common Core Writing Standards.

Ron Howery
5/27/2011 02:19:50

While reviewing the strategies in this module, the “STAR” chart struck me as most applicable to teaching Mathematics. I would like to incorporate/spiral this chart through our language arts curriculum and the math program.

When solving equations we are often asked to SUBSTITUTE one variable for another. Additionally, it is often necessary to TAKE THINGS OUT of an equation by subtraction or division. Sometimes it is necessary to ADD integers to both sides of our equation and REARRANGE the elements of the equation to find a solution.

5/29/2011 08:14:20

I have been using the Text Structure Worksheet in my Read 180 classes all semester long. It helps when you give the time to brainstorm some ideas before actually filling out the sheet. As the teacher, you can guide them with ideas to get them started and then they can finish the rest. In order to build proper writing skills, worksheets like this one give the students a template to follow which can lead to improved writing skills.

5/31/2011 03:44:35

I tried the paragraph fill ins in my U.S. History class. We have already spent a lot of time discussing sequential texts, cause and effect and compare and contrast so I thought this would be a great extension for them. As a class we gathered our notes on the Civil War and filled out the cause and effect paragraph together and discussed what kind of information it is easiest to understand in this format and what it is lacking. They were then asked to work in teams to complete the sequential and cause and effect paragraphs. From there they were able to see how a different structure of paragraph meant they should look for different types of information, or told them where in the paragraph to look for specific information. For example, they decided sequential was better for talking about the battles in the war and compare/contrast was better for talking about Northern vs. Southern economy.

Jennifer De-Smet
5/31/2011 04:27:18

While exploring the Learning to Write Module, I was happy to see the large amount of ready-to-use tools. I was also happy to see many of the tools I already use, for example Reading Minute, in the classroom.
I chose the "Prewriting" tool from the Module since many students struggle with getting started. I knew I'd picked the right tool when I read the "Clueless Student" introduction. That is exactly WHY I chose this particular tool! In the past, I encouraged the "Clueless Student" to start in the middle - don't worry about the introduction.
I presented the lesson with the statement, "Today we are going to write about apples." Through classroom discussion, the students concluded that there was just so much about apples, where should we even start? Luckily, their conclusion led them right where I needed them to be. I introduced the graphic organizer I call "Mind Map" or "Web." We worked together forming bubbles, bubbles with extensions, and more bubbles. By the time we were finished with the map on the overhead projector, students could easily see that we were going to write about apples as dessert, apples as side dishes, and apples as snacks. Students originally had chosen bubbles such as kinds of apples and uses of apples before settling on the bubbles that focused on apples as parts of a meal/snack. They were encouraged that they had "...lots of information right in front of me...all I have to do is put them in sentences." Students proceeded to write furiously for the rest of the hour about apples for dessert, side dishes, and snacks. The next day, while I scanned their rough drafts, I was disheartened by the lack of organization. There were sentences about apples with carmel dip as a snack mingling with baked apples with pork chops. Argh! I assumed that the students would take all of the "secondary bubbles"/sentences and cluster them together around their "primary"/original bubbles and like magic, the sentences would fall where they belonged. Back to the Writing to Learn through Swiftpens toolbox....

Martha T
5/31/2011 07:18:49

I used the Strategic Writing Instruction for Readers in conjunction with "The Outsiders" which we are currently reading. I presented it exactly the way that it was listed in the lessons. The topic "10 things that bother you" fit in well as we discussed Ponyboy and his conflicts with his brother, the gang, and society. I found the set up of the lessons to be extremely easy to implement and to use in encouraging the kids to discuss the characters, conflict and how it related to their own lives.

It gave them insight into the novel itself and how they could relate parts of it to their own life's experiences.

The STAR activity is one I have used before in my 4/5 split from materials shared with me by other teachers. I love the substituting of ideas, words and sentence structure. Using Thought shots, and vivid verbs also worked nicely into the activity. I used peer grouping to read their 2nd draft and we also went over proper peer interaction and decorum....Copied all of the handouts for future reference and use.

Sheri Warminski
6/1/2011 05:48:53

I think the Learning To Write Module has the most useful activities for us to use.

I chose the Cross Text Writing Graphic Organizer to use with my 7th grade Social Studies class. We had a debate question in the Junior Scholastic and I wanted the students to write a position paper on the topic. The question was "Are young Athletes Putting Themselves at Risk?". I had the students read and discuss the "Yes" side and then the "No" side. There were great ideas presented for each side. I handed out the Graphic Organizer for students to record their specific answers and we worked through each section. The top part is where the students had to take and write a clear position statement. Then there was a section for the students to fill in support with details from the Junior Scholastic article. The next part was to read another article that I found on this same topic. They had to find support with details from the second article and put that in the other side of the Venn Diagram. Then I had them write some details from their own lives or their opinions about the subject on the back of the paper. The students originally thought that they would only have enough information to write a one paragraph position paper, but they were surprised to discover that because of the extra support and their own opinions, their position grew to at least four paragraphs. It was also more interesting to read. Students shared their discoveries and we were all pleasantly surprised. It was a great activity that I would use again - the organizer helps them get the information into all the RIGHT spots so that they have more to WRITE.

Amber Baaso
6/1/2011 11:41:28

After exploring the many useful tools from the Learning to Write module, I found that I use many of these in my classroom. I may not always call them by the same name, but I use a variety of these; brainstorming/listing, SDQR, the RAFT and a few more.
For the SWIFT PENS training I utilized the One Sentence Summary with the Reading Minute (as I learned in Reading Apprenticeship). I chose this one because it introduces students to a variety of reading selections and the world of reading richness at our fingertips. Hearing good reading is extremely useful in developing good writing.
The focus was for students to write a One Sentence Summary after I read (for a minute or less) each day. I chose from a book called, "Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison?" I read interesting selections like, "Why do men have nipples?" and the students were to write a one sentence summary in response to the reading. I gave students a weekly handout to write their summary and collected it on Friday. I was strict on one sentence only, this helps to develop the students summary skills. After practice and sharing examples, students are able to demonstrate comprehension of the main idea from the reading minute. I think the key is to choose interesting selections from a variety of sources and the students are willing and able to write a One Sentence Summary.
In addition, I feel the One Sentence Summary is a good exit strategy after a class lecture or activity. Students are required to summarize the daily lesson in one sentence.

Jennifer Wickersham
6/2/2011 00:39:00

I have used RAFT writing several times to extend students’ thinking about science concepts. For thios example, I used RAFT after we learned about earthquakes in our eighth grade class.

RAFT means:
ROLE (You are pretending to be…)
AUDIENCE (Who you are directing this to…)
FORMAT (The way you will communicate…)TOPIC(You are talking about...)

In this lesson, students could choose:

President to an Earthquake Survivor writing a Letter of Support about Seismic waves affect us all

Boss to a Newly Hired Employee writing
an important email abotu “Preparation is Key”

Story Teller to a Middle School Student writing a Comic Strip (at least 8 frames) about Earthquake myths

Poet to a Geologist writing a Poem about California and its earthquake experiences

Students enjoy having a choice in how they present their writing, and to which audience they will write. It is fun to see what students come up with!

6/2/2011 00:40:12

I REALLY wish there was spell check....sorry about my errors above...don't mark me down!!!

Kevin Wickersham
6/2/2011 00:41:24

Venn Diagram

It is frequently used as a prewriting activity to enable students to organize thoughts or textual quotations prior to writing a compare/contrast essay. This activity enables students to organize similarities and differences visually.

I implemented this technique when comparing and contrasting buddhism and hinduism. I thought it went well because it provided students with a quick visual in order for them to compare the two religions. I consider this to be a good prewriting tool if I were to assign a research paper that would be more indepth on the analysis of the two religions. It would give them a concrete platform of knowledge to begin their research.

Diane McLaughlin
6/2/2011 02:17:43

I, like Amber found I use many of the strats with some variation. I tried the one sentence summary also.
I read selections from the "Seven Habits of an Effective Learner" book to my reading class for 7 class periods and had the students write one sentence summaries. We listed the sharings of summaries on the board (and I shared them with other classes). In additon we used these to make a poster illustrating their understanding of the 7 habits and how they could incorprate them into their daily lives to become more successful/efficient students. They were very interested and involved.

6/2/2011 03:44:37

I used the strategy called sentence summary of reading minutes. With my S3 class I read aloud an article called Mummy Mysteries. Students highlighted one main idea in each paragraph. After talking about these main ideas and their supporting detail I asked students to do the following…. “Pretend Mr. Morris just walked in our classroom and said, ‘In one sentence tell me what your article is all about. Make me understand the purpose of that selection.’ now look at your highlighted sections and combine the messages into one powerful, detailed sentence.” I feel students did quite well with this!

6/22/2011 04:45:12

I will most likely use text structure paragraphs. These are worksheets that help students organize what they have learned. For instance, a sentence might state "There are three types of____. They are ____, _____, and _____." Students organize the information that they have learned on these customized worksheets. In my class, they would be useful for organizing information about artists and art styles.


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