Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I think I'm Gonna Like It Here...

On Saturday afternoon, when my 6 year old daughter wished aloud that we could go see Annie, I impulsively said yes. Normally, I would beg off or find some excuse to not take them out to the movies, and spend a whole bunch of money on tickets and popcorn and candy. But that day, I said yes. So, I found a theater that was offering Annie and saw that we had time to make the matinee. I had babysat two nights before so I had a little extra spending money for this treat. The promise of a movie, popcorn, candy and a date with Mommy was enough for my girls to break a speed record in getting dressed to go.

And go we did. Alice, my 6 year old, was held rapt by the film the entire time while my 4 year old, Stella, started to get restless in the last half hour (thanks to the overlong previews!). As the movie came to it's resolution, Alice turned to me and said "Mommy, I can't stop crying," and truth be told, I was a little weepy too! I'm a sucker for a happy ending, and I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Stella, not one to be left out, reported, "There were tears coming out my eyes, Mama."

The movie might not be the most well-written movie but it was engaging and had plenty of climaxes to keep the girls interested, and invested in the movie's outcome. I thought about how this is true in getting my kids interested in books. Right now, Alice is not reading what I would consider Caldecott Medal-worthy books but they get her reading, and connecting with characters. It's been thrilling to watch her emerging literacy, and learning to verbalize her response to a text. be it a movie or a book, in increasingly sophisticated ways!

Alice's favorite song from the movie:

{More Slices Here! https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/an-invitation-sols/}

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Best Gift.

For Christmas, my husband and I decided to gift each other with a class we each wanted to take. My husband wants to take a blacksmithing class, and eventually learn to make knives. I fully support this creative endeavor and am happy to support him in a hobby that takes him away from his computer, which he sits in front of all day at work, and a lot of times, when he gets home, too.
As for me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to take a writing class or a class in mending and hemming. One is a structured creative outlet that I need, and the other is a skill that I would like to learn. In the end, I decided on writing. This past Sunday, I found myself at a writing workshop in Bethel, at Byrd's Books. The workshop was led by Judith Marks-White, a local author.
It's been a long time since I took a writing class, and I wasn't sure how I'd do. I knew that she would ask participants to share their writing, if they wished but I thought I'd be too nervous. We gathered at tables set up in the middle of the bookstore and were asked to choose from a list of prompts, and write for 20 minutes, maybe more. It felt like a long time!
And write I did. I had an idea right away after looking at the prompts, and wrote a story that had been working away in my mind for a few weeks now. Having the time and the space to write was a blessing, as I didn't think I would ever be able to get the story down on paper.
But I did. I wrote, and read what I wrote, to myself, and wrote some more, did a little self-editing, and wrote some more, until I felt that I had something to work with. I listened to fellow workshoppers read aloud before gathering my nerve. I read my piece aloud in a shaky voice, testing the tone of the piece.
The feedback was positive and affirming, and I felt like it was genuine. It was not really a setting for hard criticism but I didn't feel that people were "just being nice," one of my constant fears when I present something I've created. I felt encouraged, and motivated to keep working on my story until I have something that can be shared with the world at large.
Best Christmas ever, I think.

{Read more slices here: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/share-your-story-2/}

A TWW Tracker

Part of my job requires me to set goals and track progress for each of my students. Some of my students are working on their writing stamina, which is measured by Total Words Written (TWW) on a CBM piece. I was having a hard time finding a chart that students could use to track their own progress towards a goal, so I decided to make one for myself. The tracker is a Word document so you should be able to edit the document to fit your own needs. (The goals listed on the sheet are based on my district's numbers.) Just click on the image below, and you'll be able to download the Word file from my Drive.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

So Little Time. So Much Intervention.

Photo Credit: PearsonSchool.com

One of the challenges of being a part-time writing interventionist is that I'm only available to students twenty hours a week, and not even all of those hours because of their class schedules. Since I started this job, I've fallen into the habit of comparing my current position with my former one as a full-time classroom teacher. One of the luxuries of being a full-time teacher is being able to experiment and try out new ideas, knowing that there's always another period, another day, to reflect, take stock and decide what direction to go in. When I see a student for 20 minutes a week, I don't have the luxury of time and getting it right feels more critical, more urgent. As a teacher, I'm used to developing my own materials and drawing on my own experiences to create meaningful lessons and opportunities for learning. As a writing interventionist, I'm learning to rely more on materials that have already been published. Instead of using my creativity to construct materials, I focus on delivery and engagement.  Even there, I feel pressure to get it right the first time. Maybe that seems unfair, to put that kind of pressure on myself, but with only 20 minutes a week for each student or each group of students I see, it feels imperative to stick my landing, so to speak. And I'll admit, I am less amenable to the idea these days that I should take my work home. Quite frankly, for the money I make, I am going to leave my work at work. When I was a full-time classroom teacher, my job occupied so much space in my brain, and I spent hours upon hours outside of work thinking about my students, developing materials and planning delivery.

My secondary task as an interventionist is monitor the progress of my students, and when it comes to writing, that can be a bit of a challenge.  First, I have to figure out what skills my students need to improve, then I have to figure out how to quantify or measure those skills, in order to show an improvement of those skills over time. For some skills, like spelling, that's pretty easy. Using a Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) approach, I can simply count up correctly spelled words (CSW). Other things, like organization, are more open to interpretation and require a qualitative analysis, such as looking for logically ordered ideas. In that case, there might be more than one answer, so I have to decide whether the student grasps the concept of organization in an essay and point to specific lines in the student's writing that demonstrate this, and of course, this will be different for every student.

In my school, we are following an Response-To-Intervention (RTI) model, which is new to me so that has been another challenge in this position. Not only am I learning about this model but I also have to figure out how it applies to writing. There is a wealth of information online about using RTI with reading and math intervention, but less of it for writing, I'm finding.

But as I've said, I'm really excited about these new challenges, and I'm happy to have been able to find a position doing what I always wanted to do when I was a classroom teacher--work closely with students and give them the attention they need and deserve.