Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Some musings...

Thinking a bit about the reading/writing connection…..I was asked in a workshop yesterday how I would start using Step Up with students. My answer was active reading strategies. I think we need to start with what someone else has written in order to model what we are expecting from our students. It’s also a nice way to “fit it all in” – writing and reading, that is.

It seems our state is also thinking about the reading/writing connection. In announcing the Grades 3-8 ELA Assessment scores, the Commissioner’s powerpoint indicated that we need to have students read 25 books a year and write 1000 words a month to start to see some gains. Every time I share that slide, folks gasp!!

OK – so maybe 25 books a year seems untenable – do magazine articles count? Newspapers? Textbooks? Do blogs and MySpace count? If we broke it into chunks of text – would that make a difference? Bottom line is still the same – our kids need to read, more! Does this surprise anyone?

As for the 1000 words a month – that seems doable. In fact – it seems that bar is set a little low. When you think about all the content areas kids are covering, if they wrote in each of those we’d easily have 1000 words in a week. My niece Amelia who is in first grade, only has math and ELA homework. (That’s right – homework in first grade! Every night!) But she’s not writing – not as much as in kindergarten. She is filling in words on a blank and practicing her letter formation. She’s not getting her 1000 words that way!!

Now – I am not saying that I want her writing the Great American Novel in first grade, or even an essay. But exercising writing muscles should be encouraged – whenever possible. If we ask students to practice writing the perfect three sentence paragraph from Step Up or share an “I wonder…” after reading text and put it on an index card – we are already 25 words towards our quota!! Relatively painless, easy to assess, and more importantly writing!

These are my musings – here’s my challenge. Let’s collect some soft data on how much we are having our students read and write for just one week.

1. What are they reading? How many “paragraphs” of text?
2. Are we having them write about their reading?
3. What are we having students write? Approximately how many words for each writing assignment?
4. What’s your daily total? What’s your weekly total?

I bet you’ll be surprised!!

By the way – you just read (and I just wrote) 433 words.


Shirley said...

Good news! At our elementary school we used to document 25 books that children read each year, and gave it up as we found that children read many more than 25 books in a school year. We've never counted words that children wrote, but writing in response to reading, journaling, note-taking, etc. are daily acitivities. I wonder if we really started to document the # of words that children write in a month if we'd find "good news" too.

Melodee said...

I think our district initiatives in reading and writing (Step up to Writing, Six plus One Traits and student responding in various ways using the reading strategies) have helped to increase the amount our students write. Can we write more? Of course, there is always room for improvement. Hopefully, if we were to count the number of words each student wrote in a month it would exceed the recommended amount.