Start Spreadin’ the News…

Posted on

Okay, so I’m not leaving today, but soon enough! Next week, I’ll be at Columbia University for the Summer Writing Institute hosted by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I’m so excited – this will be my sixth TC institute, and I have no doubt I will leave just as inspired as I have every time before.

Every single minute of the day will be packed with opportunities to refine my craft, and the evenings will be spent exploring the big city that has been calling my name since my very first visit.

I can’t put my finger on one specific reason my small-town heart longs to live in New York City….the brilliant minds, the bright lights, the Broadway shows – could be any of those. I do know, however, that next week will be an opportunity to grow in so many ways, and I can’t wait!

20120620-202004.jpg


Scripted Minilessons

Posted on

If you asked me to name the most common request I get from visitors to julieballew.com, I could do so without a bit of hesitation. Minilessons. At least once a day, I get an email asking for more specific lessons to go with the charts I’ve posted.

I am fortunate to work in a school district with a robust, thoughtful curriculum, but unfortunately, I don’t have permission to share the curriculum documents with the world wide web. I can however, share lessons that I’ve taught based on that curriculum. Last year, we focused on scripting minilessons. We didn’t ask teachers to script every single lesson, but many of them found that the lessons they scripted went MUCH better. To model this good habit, I began scripting any lesson I taught, whether it was for reading workshop, writing workshop, or a strategy group.

Soon, I will add a new page to my site, where I’ll post some of those scripted minilessons. I’ll be sure to include the grade level in which I taught each lesson, but they are all adaptable for any grade level. I hope this is helpful for you. Let me know what you think, and I will add to it.

Happy summer! ūüôā

Update (6/6/12): Minilessons are up! Click here to see them.


Thoughts on Assessment (and Weekend Update)

Posted on

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about assessment lately, particularly about authentic assessment. ¬†My school district uses the workshop approach to reading and writing, so students are working at their own level. ¬†Daily conferring happens in both reading and writing, so informal assessment comes naturally. ¬†Working individually with students allows teachers to meet individual needs right on the spot and keep track of how they are responding to instruction. The trick is turning all of this into a number to put in the grade book. ¬†At my campus, we are trying something new in writing. ¬†I am working with teachers to create simple rubrics for each curriculum unit. ¬†When I say simple, I mean 8-year-old simple. ¬†We are limiting ourselves to the five most important things we hope they will be able to produce in the writing unit, and we are making the language as kid-friendly as possible, because the whole point is to share the rubrics with the kids.

These rubrics are ideally introduced on Day 2 of the writing unit. (Day 1 is devoted to immersing in the kind of writing kids are about to do.) ¬†On day 2, we want to push kids to reflect on everything they noticed as they were immersing in the genre. ¬†Then they’ll be introduced to the rubric. (I’m including a picture of a 2nd grade rubric (from Mrs. Scott’s class) here, and I am adding more to the anchor charts page.)

The point of this rubric is not just to show kids one time, of course. ¬†The rubrics are being referred to multiple times every single day. ¬†Because we developed the rubric based on our curriculum, every mini-lesson should be connected to one of the rubric goals. ¬†This will help kids add to their vision of where they are going in this unit. (Like Katie Wood Ray says, if we don’t give kids a vision, we can’t expect them to do any¬†revision.)

These rubrics are also referred to in individual conferences.  A conference should include a compliment and a teaching point.  If the teacher is stuck, they can certainly compliment the student on one goal from the rubric they are really working on, and they can choose a teaching point based on a different goal.

 Finally, teachers are referring to these rubrics during the share portion of writing workshop.  I was in a second grade class last week during the share, and one student read her ending. (The mini-lesson that day was about endings.) After she read that part of her piece, the teacher thanked her and publicly praised her realistic solution (one of the rubric goals).  This not only made that student feel like a writing rock star Рit made every other kid in the class double-check that the solution in their story was realistic, too.
This is a work in progress for us. ¬†I’ll update as our work evolves.
Happy Saturday!
Julie
P.S. – I added a few other anchor chart pictures as well. ¬†I may add another post about those later. ¬†I also reorganized the anchor chart page for clarity’s sake.