You get better at any skill through practice, but how do you practice writing? This was my question as I read Geoffery Colvin’s article about the “secrets of greatness.”
Practice, said Colvin, was significantly more important than natural talent. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve read this before in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
But something struck me: there was practice and then there was “deliberate practice.” Colvin says: “Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don’t get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day-that’s deliberate practice.”
Colvin talked about an experiment done amongst 20-year-old violinists. “The best group,” he says, “averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000.”
I was stung by it. “How much have I practiced writing in this way?” I thought. “Deliberate, measured practice, getting feedback from others?”
How do you get your students to practice their writing? Do you set specific goals and measure progress or do you simply set your students on a writing task? Think about your mini lessons (teaching one point that good writers do), your conferring,
How much time do you spend talking versus letting the students practice writing strategies? The student practice time of the lesson should be significantly LONGER than the teacher talking time.
Our school values writing from the top of our administration to the small children in PreK4. And it is demonstrated in many different ways every day.
Andy Torris wrote an email last week, with a purpose that seemed simply to be to share his experiences, so that the reader could make connections and discover meaning. Did you read Andy’s Writing? What struck me as I read Andy’s story, was that I had goose bumps from the picture I visualized, and the the thought of what could have been. He did what good writers do-left me thinking and growing ideas. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum. You can see in Blake’s writing how he is writing to learn, to share his learning and to make connections. Blake’s writing takes my breath away.
Our SAS Writing Core Beliefs state We believe that Writing is Essential…and I DO write. I write emails, and I write lists. I write notes, and I write anchor charts…but do I live a writerly life? When was the last time YOU wrote something that demonstrated that you are a writer?
One of our SAS Core beliefs is that Writers need teachers who demonstrate the excitement of writing. Modeling with enthusiasm is a powerful inspiration for students, encouraging them to develop a joy of writing. YES! This means, if you are asking the students to write, you should have samples of your own writing where you have practiced writing a poem, or a memoir, or an essay.
Joe Bunting writes in the Blog, The Write Practice about why we write. He gives four main reasons,
We Write to be fully alive
We write to make a name for ourselves
We write to change the world
We write to discover meaning
When was the last time you wrote, not lists, or emails, but real writing? Writing from the heart? Writing with meaning? Writing because you wanted to, not out of necessity? When was the last time you wrote a personal narrative, or a persuasive letter, or an informational article? Have you written a memoir lately, or poetry? Maybe it is time to start?
For more reading try:
What it takes to be great(article) Research now shows that the lack of natural talent is irrelevant to great success (in writing). The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work!
The Write Practice(Blog) You have to write millions of words no one is ever going to see before you can write the ones that will change someone’s life.
Thank you to Andy and Blake for sharing your writing
“Reminding, Telling, and Correcting is NOT teaching! SHOWING HOW is teaching.”This quote from Matt Glover has resonated with me over the last few weeks as I focus on mini lessons and conferring in the classroom.
I am wondering what I do to actually TEACH students rather that just tell.
Think back to when you were learning something new; driving, knitting, yoga, sport…if you had a teacher or coach sit at the front of the class and just tell you what to do, you probably would have felt frustrated and given up. Instead our teachers SHOWED us what to do.
One effective way that I know is during the teaching part of the mini lesson, beginning with these simple sentences, “Look at how this author does it…” ”Now, watch me, while I…” Showing the students HOW an author uses a strategy and HOW we as teachers use the strategy in our OWN reading and writing is teaching!
Teaching students to use strategies that an author has used from a mentor text, and then SHOWING how YOU do it as a reader or writer is a powerful way of TEACHING student a strategy.
How do you plan for this part of your mini lessons? Do you show your students HOW it is done?
A handful of teachers went to HKIS for a conference about Literacy. We were fortunate to hear Lifetime Literacy Learner-Stephanie Harvey, Writing Nurturer-Matt Glover, and Award Winning Poets-Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook.
We presented to our teachers one Big Idea that we took away from the conference (it was difficult to choose only one!) but here they are…
“Who has a passion for literacy?” A sea of hands rose into the air. This was the way our day started at the weekend EARCOS Workshop in Bangkok. Elaine Voge and I travelled to the Thai Chinese International School to present a weekend workshop titled Best Practices in Elementary Schools: Balanced Literacy. As we worked with teachers from around Asia, some starting out as beginning teachers, others experienced in their practice, we confirmed some big ideas.
Here’s what I know to be true…
Learners love action: Sitting and listening to information was important, but as soon as we modelled our ideas, teachers sat up, and watched and listened.
Learners need to move: We know that learners can only take so much on board at once. Elaine and I had to make a plan that would include getting our learners to move often in order to refresh their brains and make room for learning.
Learners need time to process information:We needed to stop often to let the teachers absorb information. They sometimes wrote themselves post-it notes, sometimes jotted down ideas, and had many chances to turn and talk with a neighbor or group, to voice their ideas and grow their thinking.
Just because I teach it, it doesn’t mean they’ve learned it: The teachers won’t remember everything we talked about at the workshop, They will take away key pieces that they are ready to learn within their zone of proximal development. This means that we need to teach (I do, you do) skills and strategies often.
Learners need time to Practice:We have Active Engagement in our mini lessons for a reason. Teachers learned about conferring, and then had a chance to practice using student writing. They confirmed their ideas and came up with new wonderings
Learners need time to reflect and set goals: At the end of our session, teachers wrote to themselves with their key take-away, and set goals for their next steps.
These are some of what I know to be true about best practices in learning. How are you fitting these things in your daily practice? Action, movement, time, processing information, practice, teach and re-teach and re-teach, reflect and set goals.
Today we saw conferring in action. We went into the grade one and two classes to observe. The Teacher Assistants came back with great things to say!
What we noticed…
We value Reading! During Reader’s workshop, ALL of the students are reading independently and know their roles as readers.
Conferring is sacred! Students know not to interrupt a teacher when they are having that special conferring time.
Taking notes is important. Every teacher was gathering data, tracking her assessment, and recording her teaching, either electronically or with pen and paper.
What we saw…
Compliments-Teachers gave specific feedback through the use of a compliment.
Teaching Points-Teachers thought about what the individual student needed at that time, not necessarily what the mini lesson teaching point was that day, or what the child thought they should be working on. Teachers taught ONE thing that was right for the learner.
Thank you to the talented (and brave) grade one and two teachers that we saw conferring today.
What did you learn from watching the conferring? What questions do you continue to have? What new ideas are you thinking about?
What is the difference between Learning to Read and Reading to Learn? That was the question that guided the Teacher Assistants today.
Last week we talked about the HOW. How we learn to read. Our conclusion was that reading is a highly complex process and this process is unique for each student.
So this week we talked about Reading to Learn
Here’s what we came up with:
Reading is about making meaning of text. Reading IS thinking.
We read to learn by making connections with what we know to new knowledge.
We dig for information while inferring meaning from the text.
We retell, summarize, and analyze text.
We do all of this to make meaning of what we are reading.
And guess what? We begin this in PK! (and even earlier) Mrs. Bordan does this by asking her students to make connections to the text. She talks about the pictures, and title, and words of a book. She models retelling and asking questions about the stories. Most important Mrs. bordan develops a LOVE of reading in her class by setting aside reading time every day.
Finally, we talked about the conferring model.
Compliment-Build on Strengths (”I noticed…”)
Teach ONE thing (”Watch me while I…” “Let me show you what I mean.”)
Practice (Now it’s your turn.”)
Link (”Today when you are reading…”)
We watched a video of Mrs. Voge conferring. (This recording is one of the most entertaining you will ever see!)
Why is all this information important to us as teachers? How can we apply this to our students? (Whether it is in reading, PE, the Library, Language Learning class) What questions do I still have?
Thanks Mrs. Voge for letting me use your work. You can see more of Mrs. Voge on her BLOG especially in the Performance Evaluation tab.
Six excited fifth graders walked into the LLH ready to share their knowledge about Writer’s Workshop.
William, Clare, Alexis, Claire, Jade, and Jie Ling talked about strategies that they use when writing personal narratives. Everything from Strong Leads to Strong Endings and plenty in between!
Take a look at our slide show of the Writer’s Workshop model and the samples of personal narratives. Parents were impressed with the way our students spoke, their knowledge of skills and strategies, and of course their slices of writing.
Finally I asked the parents to consider a few points.
We value the PROCESS of writing as much or more than the final product.
We value literacy at our school. All students spend time every day reading and writing.
It is important to celebrate writing. Look beyond the spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Our Teachers are our most valuable resource-YES! That’s YOU!
How do we teach Interpreting Text and Inferencein the lower grades?
Christal is working on these higher level thinking skills with her first grade class. After reading class texts they talk about the theme of the story and put a picture of the book under the theme heading that they think best suits the book. Some themes are: Be Happy With What You Have, Working Together, or Don’t Be Afraid To Try New Things. (Check them out in her class)
We know that even small amounts of talking around a text can greatly improve comprehension.
One way of doing this is partner talk, small group discussions, or whole class conversations.
After reading aloud a text students at any grade level can try to read between the lines – figure out what the author is not coming out and just saying. With discussion students can decide what the text is REALLY about by thinking, what is the author trying to get me to think?
How do you teach Interpreting and Inferring Texts with your students?
Afar Magazine, March edition
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
The Color of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe
Jamie's Cookbook by Jamie Oliver
Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven Layne
Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys
The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems
Matched by Ally Condie
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Pressured Child by Michael Thompson
Journey by Patricia MacLachlan
The Twits by Roald Dhal
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky by Benjamin Ajak, Benson Deng, Alephonsian Deng and Judy Bernstein
Rules by Cynthia Lord
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Schooled by Gordon Korman
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsberg
The Friends by Kazumi Yumoto
How's it Going by Carl Anderson
Blubber by Judy Blume
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine
Room by Emma Donoghue
The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park
The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka
Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada