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

No comments:

Post a Comment