As the school year comes to an end, I’ve been gathering resources to share with my colleagues that they can read and explore over the summer. Our district is very small, with only one school and two or three sections of each grade level. Blogs and Twitter are crucial for us so we can stay abreast of how other districts are aligning their curriculum to the CCSS and which instructional strategies will best meet these new standards.
Writing is an area where we know we have a lot of work to do. For the past 25 years, Connecticut has tested its students with the Connecticut Mastery Test. Before NCLB, this test was administered to grades 4, 6, and 8. Specific genres of writing were assessed at each level. Fourth graders wrote to a narrative prompt, sixth graders were given an expository prompt, and eighth graders responded to a persuasive prompt. Predictably, our curriculum matched this assessment sequence. Of course students did other kinds of writing, but instruction was not focused on these genres as intensely as it was on the assessed genre. We have made some changes recently, but we still have a lot of work to do. There are several resources we will be using to guide us through this work and improve our instruction.
Over the past few years, we have worked hard to provide time for our students to build their reading stamina, but haven’t devoted the same time to building their writing stamina. Finding more time for writing will mean changes to long-held routines. One way this could be done would be to start the day with what Corbett Harrison calls “Sacred Writing Time.” Harrison’s students begin each day writing for ten to fifteen minutes in their writer’s notebook. This time “builds confidence, fluency, and promote[s] original thinking for upcoming writers workshops.”
We’re also looking forward to the Twitter chat Donalyn Miller and Christopher Lehman are hosting in July to discuss Children Want to Write: Donald Graves and the Revolution in Children’s Writing (Heinemann, 2013). Donald Graves was a pioneer in writing instruction and forever changed the way writing is taught in our schools.
There are many, many more resources available in print and online that we will be using as we work to align our curriculum to the CCSS and improve our instruction. I’ll be sharing more about these in the weeks to come.