What’s Happening in Writing?

2016 has been an exciting year in writing instruction at the UNIS Middle School. The 6th-8th grade English teachers (Pooja, Sam, Gina, Judy, Amanda, Linda and myself) have formed a Professional Learning Conference to coordinate curriculum and strategies for reading and writing. I can already see the benefit to students and their ability to transfer skills when teachers are on the same page.  Here is what we are working on:

Self-Regulated Strategy Development
Self-Regulated Strategy Development is practiced by several teachers at my school, and they were happy to share their pedagogy. SRSD teaches the writing process, and includes:
-Explicit teaching of the writing process, including memorization of nmonics to help students internalize its components.
-A self-talk component of the process that uncovers blocks that student writers have and uses growth mindset to help students move beyond.
-Goal setting that progresses with each writing task.
-Student-centereed checklists that give students more clarity and ownership of writing and editing.

The current eighth graders all learned SRSD in 7th grade, and many know if from 6th grade. Starting out with many of these writers in eighth grade, the level of transfer is incredible. Throughout my teaching career, I have felt like I am starting from the beginning with every grade. It felt Sisyphaen. Now, I pres-assess and look for what students already know about the writing process, then use a common language (that is increasingly schoolwide) to access their skills. It feels like a more efficient process, and students really know their planning and organizing.

SRSD fills in the gaps of Writing Workshop perfectly. Writing Workshop (from the Reading and Writing Project at Teacher’s College) inspired me to rediscover the writing process and instill it in my students. Specific parts of “workshop,” as it is affectionately known, that inspire me are:
-Students must write (and read) every day.
-Units focused around an authentic writing task
-Students begin the writing task on day one (rather than work on one-off practices or drills and then tack writing task to the end) and add to it every day.
-Teacher and students have a “grand conversation” about writing framed in the active language of “writers narrow their focus”  or “writers use specific evidence.”

Workshop has many great components, but I was concerned that some skills and strategies were being glossed over, and students weren’t really mastering them. Along came SRSD, which is compatible with the components of workshop mentioned above.



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