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I Can…

As promised, I’m going to be blogging about a variety of sessions I attended at NCTE this past weekend. Some sessions dealt with the teaching of writing, while others dealt with 21st Century Literacy, Reading Workshop, and parent engagement.

Yesterday morning I woke up early to attend “Assessment in the Reading Workshop,” which was hosted by Karen Szymusiak, Cris Tovani, Patrick Allen, and Franki Sibberson. It was well worth waking up at the crack of dawn to hear all four of these lively presenters speak about stepping-up authentic assessment within the context of Reading Workshop. I took pages of notes, which complement the wonderful packet of resources they handed out. Without question, their presentation will enhance the way in which I use formative assessment tools in my Reading Workshop.

Are you wondering: “How does this connect to writing?” It does. Here are some thoughts about what I learned yesterday from the presenters and from a book two of the three of them published, Beyond Leveled Books: Supporting Early and Transitional Readers in Grades K-5.

  • Every now and then, invite students to choose their own strategy lesson groups (170-172). While the book and Franki suggested this for Reading Workshop, I think this transfers over to Writing Workshop since kids might see themselves struggling with a particular skill in writing and may need targeted support from you, the teacher, and also from his/her peers to help them practice that skill. Hence, creating a list of groups, based off of your state or city standards, can help you create groups that kids can sign up for based off of their needs.
  • How often do you write, “Writers…” when you create a strategy chart that lists all of the teaching points in a unit of study? I know I’ve done it numerous times. Franki got me thinking about this yesterday when she revealed charts that started with the phrase “I can…” I now think there’s a sense of agency we can create in our young writers by using a statement in the first-person as opposed to the third person.
  • Here’s what I mean… I’ll use my the upcoming Persuasive Letter Writing Unit of Study I’m starting with my students next week to illustrate my point.

    An old chart of mine would have read:

  • Writers continue to brainstorm ideas for their persuasive letters (and can start recording reasons they’ll present to a person to think their way.)
  • Writers develop clear persuasive arguments for the letters they’re writing.
  • Writers use other people’s comments to sharpen the focus of their writing. They do this by working with a partner to improve the flow and clarity of their persuasive letter.
  • Writers use a business letter format to begin drafting their persuasive letters.
  • Writers proofread their writing to ensure pronouns they use agree with their antecedents by matching the pronouns for gender, number, or person.
  • …and so on.
    Instead, I can use the model (171) in Beyond Leveled Books and change these statements into something like this:

  • I can continue to brainstorm ideas for my persuasive letter (and can start recording reasons I’ll present to a person to think my way.)
  • I can develop clear persuasive arguments for the letter I’m writing.
  • I can use other people’s comments to sharpen the focus of my writing. I can do this by working with my partner to improve the flow and clarity of my persuasive letter.
  • I can use a business letter format to begin drafting my persuasive letter.
  • I can proofread my writing to ensure the pronouns I use agree with the antecedents by matching the pronouns for gender, number, or person.
  • When you say, “I can,” it makes you own it. Doesn’t that feel more powerful to you? (It does to me.)

    I’ll leave you with a quote from Bev Bos that I picked up at Szymusiak, Tovani, Allen, and Sibberson’s Session yesterday. I think it goes along with the “I can…” theme and also connects with the lessons we want our students to internalize about themselves as literate people who CAN read and CAN write authentically:

    “What your children take home in their head and in their heart is far more important than what they take home in their hand.”

    UPDATED ON MONDAY EVENING, 11/24/08: A photo of today’s and tomorrow’s teaching points, with room for student work, in Reading Workshop.

    Strategy Chart with Post-Its from the Active Engagement
    Strategy Chart with Post-Its from the Active Engagement

    Stacey Shubitz View All

    Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

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