Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Breaks

Writing Breaks

As schools across the nation begin to roll out the Common Core Standards, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing in the content areas.  The new standards for “literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical areas” have more than a few teachers nervous. 

I am currently reading Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide by Daniels, Zemelman, & Steineke.  The authors shared the following alarming statistic:  Kids recall 10 to 30 percent of what they read, hear, and see.  If you think about the common classroom practices for delivering content information, they typically include in-class reading, large-group discussion, teacher lecture, video, or picture viewing.  While these activities focus on “covering” the content, they only help kids remember 10 to 30 percent.  That’s simply not enough!

Here’s a way you can increase the retention rate up to 70 to 90 percent!  It’s a practice called Writing Breaks.  The teacher simply pauses at regular intervals (about every 10 to 20 minutes) to have kids write.  General prompts can be used.

  • What piece of info stands out and seems really important? Why?
  • What does this remind you of?
  • What questions do you still have?

More specific prompts can be used.

  • Which person’s actions surprised you the most?
  • What would you do if you faced this problem?
  • What would you do if you faced this problem?
  • What might have happened if Theodore Roosevelt had not overtaken construction of the Panama Canal from France?
  • How would you describe the relationship between…?

You can use this practice with pictures, charts, diagrams, etc. to develop visual literacy too!
Daniels also recommended following up the writing with pair sharing, and then choosing a few pairs to share out to the whole group.
What a great and simple way to make sure kids are doing the thinking they need to be doing while engaging with text!  What kinds of writing are you doing with kids in the content areas?  Let’s collaborate, shall we?

Sherry Kinzel
Literacy Collaborative Trainer

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Welcome to the OSU Literacy Collaborative Blog!

Welcome to the OSU Literacy Collaborative Blog!

The Literacy Collaborative trainers at The Ohio State University are excited to begin interacting with you through this blog! The purpose of this blog is to share current research and practices in literacy education with administrators, literacy coaches and educators who are a part of our Literacy Collaborative network and those who are interested in learning more about educating children grades PreK-8. 

The Literacy Collaborative network was established in 1991 and continues to provide high-quality, research-based, professional development to hundreds of literacy coaches, intervention teachers, classroom teachers, and administrators. Our trainers have spent many years engaging in study, training and coaching from Drs. Gay Su Pinnell, Irene Fountas, and many other notable names in the field of literacy education.  Before, during and after intensive training, OSU trainers implemented this theoretical perspective in classrooms for many years. Our focus is to further research and connect this research to practice to enhance the literacy achievement of all students.

We plan to provide a variety of thought-provoking insights related to the teaching and coaching of literacy education on a bi-monthly basis. Look for our next blog during the last week of February! Our trainers will share current thinking on relevant topics and we encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences, as well.  Please forward this blog link to colleagues so we can build a large following and reach as many educators as possible.

For more information about Literacy Collaborative, visit our website at