Saturday, April 9, 2011
Write On! - Week 30
That’s the sad message that we are all being fed daily on every news station that you flip to on nearly every television channel and just about every radio station as well. This is what I have to say about it. DON’T LISTEN TO THEM. Don’t sink to their level. If you know in your heart you are doing the very best for your students every single day, then let it go. I have decided to pray for those that are saying those ugly things about hard working teachers like you and me. I know that I am not a glorified babysitter. Certainly, we may all know a “bad teacher.” We also know some “bad” doctors, lawyers, store clerks, postal carriers, etc. What goes around comes around, so I am going to try to just keep my mouth shut and lead by example. Enough said.
1. Getting Kids Started Writing Stories
spelling song, then we start singing it acappella (with no CD, just off the tops of our heads.) If it is a decodable word, then we “stretch out the word” (segment it) and listen for all of the sounds, and then I write them. If the word has a “Sounds Fun” sound in it, (link), then I point that out to the kids and we decide what letters make that sound.
2. Sounds Fun Songs Music CD- Almost DONE!
Sounds Fun card, too (scroll down the page a little to find the cards) - or at least a quick acappella “snippet” of it. But we only just finished the final recording of those songs, and they are not yet available on my website. The kids are WILD about those songs and they are making a huge difference in their ability to recall the spellings of many of the more difficult sounds, such as /ch/, /sh/, and /th/! So I can’t wait to share them with you! A lot of the kids are even remembering and using these sound spelling patterns in their writing as a result of the songs, too: “ar,” “ay,” “er,” “ing,” “or,” “ee,” “aw,” “oo,” “oy,” “ow,” “ew,” It’s really amazing to see what a difference it makes! Before, they knew that the spelling pattern could be found on the card or poster, and that helped tremendously, because they knew where to find the spelling. But now, they have been freed up to write those sounds from MEMORY, so they are writing much faster than before! It’s one less step to get in the way of their creative processes, and my arranger Mike Cravens did such a great job making the songs fun to sing that they ask for them continually. What more could you ask for? Now, if I could just find the time to get all of the motions written out, then when the CD comes out we’ll be able to post it on my website by the beginning of May (hopefully!). The DVD will lag behind the CD by a couple of months because it is a time consuming process to get that completed. It will probably be available in the summer time- hopefully by August for the new school year! As for the printed cards, we expect them in this coming week! So hooray for that! They all have freshly drawn artwork, and they should be beautiful!
3. A Writing Rubric
SDE’s I Teach K Conference in Las Vegas coming up in July 2011. I had found it extremely difficult to find acceptable pictures of writing samples online that I could use to illustrate each level, so I wound up getting writing samples out of my classroom. I scanned them and cleaned them up as best I could, and if that didn’t produce a clean picture, I simply recreated the writing myself using Adobe Illustrator. This means that I re-drew the writing samples as if I were drawing pictures myself; I just copied what the children had written and tried to stay as close to their letter formation, etc., as I could.) I am including it here as a free download for you, just in case anyone is also struggling with grading their own writing samples. In any case, here is an explanation of the rubric:
Writing Rubric Explanation
Includes: Drawing, scribbling, symbols that represent letters, and random letters with no relationship between letters chosen and the sounds in a word. Random letters do not progress from left to right.
2. Letter Strings
Letters progress from left to right and from top to bottom as the child “reads” their paper back to an adult. Letter sounds have no relationship between letters chosen and the sounds in a word.
3. Environmental Print
Child copies words from the room around him. He usually does not know what words he has copied, and they do not form a sentence.
4. Sight Words in a Sentence
Child writes a sentence that he or she can read back. Spaces between the words are not necessary, nor is end punctuation. Any other words included that are not sight words were found as environmental print in the classroom. In this category, the child is only using sight words and word wall words and nothing else. There is no inventive spelling attempted at all.
5. Beginning Sounds
Sentence includes sight words and some beginning sounds of a word that the child can read back. This means that the child is beginning to spell on his or her own using inventive spelling, even if it is just the beginning sound of a word. Vowel sounds and ending sounds in the words written with inventive spelling are not necessary. Spaces between words and end punctuation are not necessary yet for the child to get a five as a score.
6. Early Developmental Spelling
Uses sight words and some beginning and ending sounds of a word in a sentence that the child can read back. There are spaces between most words. Punctuation is not necessary. Child also draws a matching picture to go with the sentence.
This means that when kids continue to spell on their own and start using both beginning and ending sounds, and maybe even a few other consonant sounds that fall in the middle of the word, (plus the sight words and word wall words as before,) then they get a score of a six. There are spaces between the great majority of the words, though they may have missed an occasional space here or there.
7. Developmental Spelling
There are spaces between all of the words. When using inventive spelling, some medial and ending sounds are written, including some vowels. Punctuation may be added but is not necessary, and there is also a matching picture. All of this means that when the children start adding in the vowel sounds of the words in addition to the other sounds, plus the sight words and word wall words, then they get a 7. There are spaces between all of the words, and punctuation may be starting to appear, but is not necessary. There should be more than one sentence written.
8. Transitional Spelling
Child writes two or more sentences, using some real spelling that includes words with silent letters. Capitals and punctuation and spaces are used correctly at least some of the time, and the child makes a matching picture. All of this means that when the children start adding in real spellings of words with silent letters in addition to the sight words and word wall words, then they receive an eight. Keep in mind that when we test them at the end of the year, we cover up the word wall, so that they cannot use it as a “crutch” for spelling; they have to do it on their own. (Many of my kids can easily accomplish this thanks to the Sing and Spell CD’s/DVD’s, thank goodness!) Most of the sentences have correct beginning and end punctuation, though there may be a couple of errors in this area. Considering that this is still true of children in the fourth and fifth grade, I think that this is reasonable. There should be at least two or more sentences here, and I really prefer more than two.
4. Stages of a Child’s Writing
I am including it as a free download for you today. It spreads out the developmental stages of prewriting further than the rubric does. Actually, I think that the first half of it could be used as an acceptable rubric for Pre-K writing, now that I come to think of it! It really divides up the different phases that a child goes through into some (hopefully) easy to visualize stages that you might be able to use to explain to parents where a child is at in his or her journey to become a writer. Personally, I was able to use a similar chart such as this one at a parent conference just last year. Here was the question: Why does my child perform so poorly on writing tests, when I know he can do better on writing at school and at home, given just a little bit of encouragement? My answer was this: “When you release the child to do the assignment completely and totally on his or her own, then you see exactly where the child “is at,” according to the developmental stages of the chart. We know that the child may be capable of more when given some gentle nudges and reminders in a homework or guided writing/instructional situation. But, when released to write for pleasure, or when writing completely alone in a testing situation, the child then “reverts” to where he or she is truly “at” developmentally. And I can only count what the child can do alone on the report card.” This was an “ah-ha moment” for the mother, and after that she seemed far less frustrated with the child’s “lack of progress” in writing. Her wonderful little boy had, after all, a late fall birthday, and had only turned five in October. No wonder he was still just copying environmental print for fun. Intellectually speaking, he “knew better,” but that was just “where he was at” developmentally speaking by February the following year. And really, there’s just nothing wrong with that at all, in my opinion! He just needed a little more time. Fortunately, his mother was wise enough to see that and give it to him. I hear he is doing GREAT this year in K at his new school!
5. A Great Book for Inspiring Kids to Write: Library Mouse
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk was a great one to read on this topic. So I looked at the book online and decided to order it, and she was right! The kids thoroughly enjoyed the story about a little mouse that lived in a library and decided to write his own little books to contribute to the library shelves. In the end, the librarian organizes a “Meet the Author” day so that the children can meet this mysterious writer. The mouse, not wanting to reveal his true identity, leaves the children writing materials and a mirror with a “Meet the Author” sign on it! It’s a really cute story, and very appropriate for encouraging young writers, so check it out!