Saturday, February 14, 2009

What do you take away from a meeting?

I attended a Language Arts Committee Meeting this week with many other primary teachers across my district. I love going to these meetings because I love the people and the learning I take away after we meet. The last piece of the meeting was reading and discussion on formative assessment (this isn't the article we read but will explain it) . We will begin the journey of exploring what is most important when looking at student writing.

I left considering first and foremost : Students. Do students have a part in the assessment? Do students have anchor pieces or mentor texts that demonstrate what quality pieces look like? Do students have time to reflect on their strengths or struggles as writers? Do students have goals for themselves as writers?

With these questions swirling (and report cards/conferences approaching) I sat down with two writers to reflect and assess. I asked them to choose 3 pieces in their writing folder they are proud of and to talk to me about why. We discovered strengths and then decided to set a goal for what next to practice. After randomly sitting with two writers, I have loads of information to take and process. I am using this information to guide my writing summaries on report cards, to help me communicate to parents during conferences (student-led would be the best but knowing my family night will take care of this in the spring) and to guide my planning for writing workshop. Below I have quickly shared how each conference played out:

Conference with M: Finding writing
M easily found three strong pieces of writing. ( we have practiced this bi-monthly this year)
1. A poem about her fish where she braved using more exciting first -grade language (gobbles up his food, waves his fin) and used poetry as a means of storytelling.
2. A book called I like where she is writing a pattern book about all the things she likes about her little sister. The book was a work in progress and did not have an ending.
3. A book called My Crayon about M's new crayon where she experiments with voice by directly expressing her feelings to the writer. Lots of repetition with (again) not much of an ending.

I then asked her to read me each piece. She did this easily and as she did, she noticed and fixed (right away) errors that she had with meaning, punctuation and spelling without any prompting. (Hooray... by rereading, and fixing right away, she was practicing one of the many editing/revision strategies we work on all year.) I smiled at her after she read her poem and asked her what she did well as a writer? She shrugged her shoulders. I rephrased the question, what makes it a piece of writing that you are proud of ? She said because it is good. "Ok," I said. "What makes it good?" She answered, " You like it."

Then it occurred to me that M has been progressing along this year without totally understanding "why" her writing was progressing. She has been associating my nods and smiles with (for lack of a better term) "good writing." She is still in the process of being able to explain and acknowledge when she has used a strategy introduced or developed in mini lesson.

M's Strength's
M and I talked through her strengths, I pointed out to her how her practice of rereading and fixing (a goal she had at the beginning of the year) has helped her as a writer. She now knows this is a strength. I also pointed out the voice, language and storytelling strengths in her three pieces. I shared how she easily generates ideas and finishes her pieces.
M's Goal
Lastly, we talked through her goal for the next few weeks will be to practice talking and noticing her strengths. I matched her up with a writer who has an easy time explaining her thinking and decision making as a writer. I am hoping their conversations will help layer support for M developing her own understandings of herself as a writer.


Mary Lee said...

I have the same kind of problems trying to get fourth graders to identify what they do well as readers. Maybe it's even harder with reading because what you DO is not on paper in front of you, but in your head.

joy said...

An interesting post. The first time you do anything with learners it is difficult, particularly metagcognition. Quite often children don't have the language to discuss their work and haven't 'tuned in' to what we are trying to improve during lessons. Talking to children is one of the best ways to find out how effective you are as a teacher.

Anonymous said...

Great Post-I think it will be really helpful for other teachers to get to read your thinking!