Mindy's Musings

SWPRSC's response to current writing expectations in K-12

Welcome to Kokopelli Connects!

Kokopelli Connects... is SWPRSC's response to the most current writing expectations in K-12 classrooms. Our goal is to provide monthly recommendations to successfully implement ON DEMAND WRITING instruction in classrooms across Kansas. Recommendations will range from powerful instructional ideas created right here at Southwest Plains Regional Service Center to those offered by literacy experts featured nationally.

My final recommendation from my last entry involved a reflection from you, the reader. Did you grab a paper and pencil, your tablet, computer, etc...and begin making lists of

  1. The graphic organizers you use;
  2. The problem-solving model you promote in your classroom;
  3. The text/stimuli you will be expecting students to pay "close" attention to;
  4. The on demand opportunities you will provide for your students.

Have you made plans to meet with your colleagues to talk about their lists, their recommendations, concerns, questions... Remember, the MDPT was designed to support multi-disciplinary efforts; carry this load together. Excavation opportunities should not be for your students alone. Take this opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and experience of your colleagues. As you and your colleagues model collaboration, cooperation, and effective communication, your students will begin to respond accordingly. after all, YOU ARE THE MOST POWERFUL RESOURCE IN YOUR CLASSROOM.

Once you have your collaborative notes and thinking/writing tasks, you'll want to prioritize these tasks and determine what to assess and how to do that. This can be a daunting task. Your thoughts maybe sound something like this...

"How do I, as the teacher, decide what to pay attention to when my students are writing? It's so easy to bury myself in writing criteria and forget what my students are striving to do!"

More than two decades ago, my colleagues and I were asking ourselves these same questions. Our problem was not a lack of desire to support "multi-disciplinary" efforts; instead, we desperately needed help managing the efforts successfully and evidentially. Because this tool has changed very little since then I am choosing to highlight Collins Five Types of Writing http://www.collinsed.com/5types.html here.

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The Five Types helped us find our way. Teachers and students alike benefitted from using the criteria making up each of the Five Types of Writing, each of the Focus Correction Area designations, and each of the peer and teacher interactions required by this model. I am not suggesting that every building sever ties with current writing resources and practices; instead, I suggest that you compare the Collins components mentioned earlier in this paragraph to the management provisions provided by your practices. Can you manage your students' writing successfully and evidentially? When you can answer "YES!" to this question, you can focus on grueling exhilaration that real writing provides.
My third recommendation comes from the 8th Grade AC2E Writing Notebook: "Slip Out of It! Get Formal!" (Text Types and Purposes W.8.1d). Every one of us has voiced concern over the fact that our informal, conversational language register has slipped into our academic language, making it easier to misunderstand each other. Can we assume that our students understand the differences between forma and informal language, when we need to use them, and why? Since we use the casual register most often, we should expect to "slip" into it when formal language is more appropriate. In these cases, it is important for us to teach, model, and reflect upon "appropriateness" as it applies to language usage simply because this "appropriateness" is not "natural" to students. It sounds funny to them, perhaps even awkward at times. The more exposure and practice with formal styles students have, the more natural and recognizable formal style becomes to them. But I'm putting the cart before the horse...
Give students the opportunity to analyze their own writing and speaking. Using the checklist I am providing here, ask students to list the casual, informal expressions, words, and/or phrases in their own and each other's work. From this list you can begin a RAFT discussion. These authentic lists will allow students to discuss and discover the Role of the writers, the Audience, the appropriate Formats, and the potential Topics that may be developed. From here, you and your students can begin to develop your own working description of informal, casual language. Compare it to what the language researchers say; then continue to make adjustments. Build on this knowledge to establish a need for a more formal register. What can we expect of formal register? The discussion builds... In your classroom, foster conversations that reflect not only on the language used, but on its RAFT capacities. Experience language with your students and watch them grow.

Checklist: Slang, Contractions, use of 2nd Person Point of View (you), colloquialisms or vernacular, emoticons, text shortcuts, code switching, (include any additional expressions you see fit.)

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