strategies

Working Toward Conscious Competence: The Power of Inquiry for Teachers and Learners

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Author: Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

Summary: In this short article, Jeffrey Wilhelm makes the case for inquiry, which he defines as “learning how to solve problems and design solutions by using the stances and strategies of expert practitioners,” as the key set of practices for attaining “conscious competence,” learning that can be understood, passed along, and applied in a range of situations.
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(Re)Visioning Site Work: Extending the Reach and Relevance of NWP Sites

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Author: J. Elaine White, Jane Frick, and Tom Pankiewicz

Summary: This monograph captures how two National Writing Project sites, at different points in their institutional lives, used visioning retreats as a strategy to take stock of their work and look forward in order to align programs with capacity, to develop leadership, and to continue to engage teachers in the professional community of the site. By engaging teacher leaders in collective inquiry at visioning retreats, both sites continued to build leadership capacity and support new learning. Of interest to site and program leadership teams, this resource describes in detail both sites’ planning process and subsequent results and includes an extensive appendix with support materials that are adaptable to planning visioning and similar types of retreats.
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Teaching Grammar in Context: One Approach

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Author: Harriett Williams

Summary: A secondary teacher describes an approach she calls “pedagogical grammar”—a grammar that enables the teacher to turn linguistic features of the language into tools to improve the competence of student writers. By helping students to incorporate specific grammatical structures into early drafts of their own writing through sentence combining and other strategies, this teacher demonstrates how sentence development is key to producing “richer and more focused prose.” This resource may be useful for professional development focused on student revision and response groups.
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Nurturing Middle School Readers through Reviews and Book Trailers

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Author: Jeremy Hyler

Summary: Are you and your students looking for an escape from traditional book reports? Is it time to go digital? Check out this brief description of a strategy for engaging students as book reviewers and producers of 30-second book trailers using Animoto. A side-by-side graphic compares instructions for each, and there are additional links to research support with suggestions to visit YouTube for examples. This resource, an excerpt from Assessing Digital Writing: Protocols for Looking Closely, may also be a useful tool in professional development sessions or professional learning communities focused on multimodal learning. It could inspire teachers to engage as reviewers/video producers to explore their own personal and professional reading as prelude to engaging their students in similar activities to capture what is most exciting in their own reading.
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My New Teaching Partner? Using the Grammar Checker in Writing Instruction

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Author: Dorothy Fuller and Reva Potter

Summary: What happens when middle school students are invited to explore grammar check tools in an intentional way as part of a teacher inquiry project that connects to instruction? The authors describe their process and the benefits: students became more informed users of the tools and more confident writers, and they made explicit and intentional connections to grammar concepts. This article could be included as a resource in a professional development program or study group focused on finding authentic ways to incorporate grammar into writing workshop approaches.
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Grammar—Comma—a New Beginning

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Author: Mary Ehrenworth

Summary: Teaching grammar through inquiry and seduction? In this piece, Mary Ehrenworth shares strategies for moving away from direct instruction (which seldom works) to making it possible for students to “have an apprenticeship relation with great authors, even at the sentence structure level.” By honoring diverse dialects and helping students make intentional choices through inquiry (How DO authors choose verb tense?), teaching grammar becomes an integral part of the composing process. Examples of student work illuminate the effectiveness of this approach and make this article useful for workshop leaders and teachers seeking fresh approaches for teaching grammar within the context of student writing.
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Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments

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Author: Michelle Crotteau

Summary: As teachers we often struggle to find ways to honor our students’ home dialects while still preparing them to take high-stakes writing tests requiring the use of Standard English. In this piece, the author describes her three-pronged approach within a Writing Strategies class for students who had failed the state test. Students developed linguistic and mechanical fluency by speaking and writing about their interests (e.g., hunting), drawing upon their Appalachian English dialect, and by learning how to recognize audience-appropriate situations for employing both Standard English and their own dialect. Lots of student writing samples, coupled with the author’s own rationales and experience, make this a useful piece for workshops, study groups, or professional development focused on culturally relevant practices within a high-stakes testing environment.
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Tech Tools for Teachers, by Teachers: Video Game Design in the Classroom

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Author: Greg Kehring

Summary: What can the writing process teach students and teachers about video game design, and how can game design expand our understanding of writing genres? Read about this middle school teacher who used Gamestar Mechanic to engage his students in digital writing and connected learning. From creation to peer revision and, finally, publication on a gaming website where others played the games and offered feedback, he and his students discovered the power that technology can have in understanding composing and creative processes and providing new avenues for writing. For teachers who are reluctant to engage in digital work (or who are ready to take some new steps), this article can provide encouragement, guidance, and testimony about how students learn and respond to such experiences.
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Collaborating to Write Dialogue

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Author: Janis Cramer

Summary: By engaging children in a collaborative workshop environment to help them learn to develop characters, consider word choice, and interweave dialogue and description, the author simultaneously helped her students to strengthen social and independent writing skills. Opportunities to perform their dialogues in front of the class were also a component of this authentic experience in writing narratives. This article provides vivid details and examples of student writing and could be a useful resource for professional development related to hands-on approaches to writing as process.
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Puny Poetry Meets Its Match

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Author: Gerri Ruckle & Jim Horrell

Summary: What can we do when confronted with the challenge of helping young poets develop an awareness of the expressive power of poetry as opposed to rhyming lines that that often convey little meaning? By sharing a series of scaffolded strategies illustrated with multiple examples of student writing, the authors tell the story of how they changed their teaching and supported students in exploring poetry and creating sophisticated works of self-expression. This resource offers excellent ideas for professional development related to teaching poetry within a reading/writing workshop approach.
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