Monday, June 26, 2017

Tracking Engagement in the Early Days of Writer's Workshop


How’s your summer going?  If yours is anything like mine, it is flying by!  Can you believe it is July! Yikes!  August will be here before we know it...wait... did I just SAY that?

But August WILL come... so are you ready to launch your Writer's Workshop again?  

If you are like me, you have already been planning how to make things even better than last year. You may be scouring Pinterest or reading some of the new books about Writing Workshop.  As teachers, we are constantly searching for resources to help our students get exactly what they need.

But here’s the deal.  You don’t have to spend a dime on resources to ramp up engagement during Writer's Workshop.  You already have everything you need to help your students be successful writers.  

They have YOU as their teacher!  

At the beginning of the year, as we launch Writer's Workshop, we, as teachers of writers, must teach students how to be engaged in the writing process.  We do this by teaching mini lessons about engagement!

However, in order to know what to teach students when it comes to engagement, we first must know how our students are engaged (or not engaged) in writing.

Have you heard of a Writer's Workshop Engagement Tracking Form?  It’s simple, really, but powerful in our workshop classrooms.

As we launch Writer's Workshop, we can make note of how students are engaged during the writing time.  We use this data to drive our instruction in order to increase engagement!

This form is a great way to help you know which students need extra support with engaging the writing process.

I use this form the first few days of Writer's Workshop (and come back to it as needed throughout the year).  As students begin to build their stamina for writing, I track what they are doing.  

Instead of conferring with students the first few days of Writer's Workshop, I carry a clipboard with me and walk around the room monitoring students.  I tell them before they go to write that I have writing to do as well!  I’m writing what they are doing as writers so that I can be a better writing teacher for them.  

You’ll notice every five minutes, I am marking something for each student in my classroom.  I scan the room and notice any behaviors of my writers.

Depending on the grade level, we may not use all of the time boxes because we are building our stamina.  For example, in first grade on the first day of Writer's Workshop, my students typically only write for five minutes before they lose stamina and we come back together.  So the 10 min through 30 min time boxes are left blank.

As we build up our stamina to write for longer periods of time, I can use the other boxes.

The code at the bottom is helpful for me to be able to mark student behaviors quickly.

The check mark means a student is engaged in the writing process.  I see their pencil moving and their brains are working hard at putting their ideas onto their paper.

The B symbol is marked when a student appears to be brainstorming.  Whether it be a picture or graphic organizer, I want to make a note of a student who is brainstorming before I even teach them how because this is a HUGE step in the writing process. I can come back to this student and praise them for their work as a writer.  This is sometimes the hardest step in the writing process!

RR means the student asked me to use the restroom or go get a drink of water.  This is helpful to track!  Writing is HARD!  Sometimes writers avoid writing because it is hard.  As a writing teacher, I want to make note and track how many times a student is using the restroom or getting water in order to see any patterns within the writer's behavior.  Maybe the student is avoiding writing altogether?  Maybe the student has trouble getting started and needs a drink of water to clear their head? Maybe the student never leaves their desk because they are so engaged in their writing the break would leave them lost?

SP stands for switching papers.  I want to know how often students are getting a new piece of paper or going back to another paper they have already started writing.  This is valuable information as a writing teacher!

Z is for zoning out.  You know what I’m talking about, right?  Those students who just stare.  At their papers.  At the teacher.  Out the window.  They are in their own little world in their heads….sometimes engaged in thought about their writing, and sometimes not. Even the best writers zone out from time to time.  It can be a place where we get our best ideas for writing.  But as a writing teacher, I need to track who is zoning out and how often in order to help them become more engaged!

W means the student is starting at the window.  I usually mark this with a Z in front if they are zoned out.  This just helps me to know where they are looking.

T stands for students looking at the teacher.  If a student consistently looks at me the first ten minutes of writing time the first three days of workshop, I now know something about this writer!  They are looking at me for help! Their little eyes are saying (if their mouths aren’t already) “Please, lady, tell me what to do because I’m just not sure!”

Those are all of the markings I mark.  Will you add more to your form?  Remember, we want to keep this as simple as possible so that we can look over the data across the day, across the week.  

We look at the data, this tracking form, and notice patterns and behaviors in students.  

Then we teach them based on that data!  

Are several students zoning out after the first five minutes?  That’s a minilesson on stamina!

Are the majority of your students staring at you instead of getting started writing?  That’s a minilesson on making a plan for writing!

Do you have a revolving door with students going in and out of the classroom for a break? That’s a minilesson on sticking with your writing and pushing yourself to stay focused!

Click HERE to snag this freebie and may this year of Writer's Workshop be your BEST and most ENGAGED year yet!


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