Working Together to Help Struggling Writers

I’m working on a presentation, “Getting Started with Writing Workshop,” for a group of 3rd – 6th grade teachers I’ll be working with later this month. I’ve made a list of non-negotiables I’m going sharing with them.  They range from writing is taught daily to kids need time to write to students need to go through all parts of the writing process. However, the following non-negotiable gave me pause after I typed it into a PowerPoint slide:

I paused because I remember how hard this was to achieve when I was a classroom teacher. Students with IEPs or students who needed extra help often left my classroom after the minilesson. They’d leave the room and come back with a lot more writing than when they left.  That’s great, right? However, the next day, when the service provider didn’t pick them up, I would often find the same child stuck. They wouldn’t know what to do or would be looking to me (or a peer) to give them help. Through conferring with the student and through private chats with a few service providers, I came to realize that a couple of providers were often doing the writing for my students (i.e., coaching them heavily about what to put on the page or even telling them what to write). While the service providers who did this had the best intentions, it wasn’t helping the student(s) they worked with independent writers.

When I realized what was happening, I asked some of the service providers to provide push-in for support. By pushing-in during writing workshop, they’d sit through the minilesson and then could work with the student in the classroom, often alongside his/her writing partner. This also allowed me to confer with my students while they were in the room. Further, when service providers were in the classroom, they were able to make notes in my conferring notebook about teaching point they delivered when they conferred with each student.  This allowed for me to have better follow-up with my own students.

This slide also got me thinking about goal-setting and strategic conferring, which Carl Anderson talks about. (Click here or here to read past posts on this topic.) If teachers work together with service providers to set two – three writing goals for a student, then I think it becomes easier for service providers to confer with students even when they leave the classroom. By setting writing goals with the service provider, it allows the teachers involved in the child’s writing life to be on the same page when it comes to what they’re working on with him/her. It also supports the notion that one is “teaching the writer, not the writing” every day.

How do you effectively partner with service providers to help your students grow as writers? Please share what’s been working for you.