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Writing Program Overview and Assessment Guide

Dear Colleagues:

Anxiety and apprehension are filling the air. What’s causing the ruckus? Educators are in the process of unpacking, analyzing, and digesting the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In the domain of writing, all students (K-6) are required to write narratives, informational/explanatory text, and opinions/arguments.

To help ease this process, I have written a downloadable Writing Program Overview & Assessment Guide featuring my three-writing organizers, assessment descriptors, and student writing samples for grades K-6. Teachers and administrators can utilize this guide for assessment, articulation, and planning of all the CCSS writing genres within and across grade-levels.

Three Writing Organizers: The elements of good writing, not mastering a new organizer, must be the focus during writing instruction. Hence, regardless of the genre, students (K-6) draw, then utilize one of my three organizers in a different series of lessons called the Stages of Writing. Too often, students try to learn a new graphic organizer for every genre introduced. An excessive number of organizers does not scaffold or support learners; instead, they only become overwhelming obstacles in the writing process.

Stages of Writing Lessons: These direct-instruction lessons integrate organization and ideas, word choice, sentence fluency, voice and mechanics. On page ten (of my writing guide), a table displays the three CCSS genres of writing matched to grade-levels (K-6). Each of these grade-levels are assigned specific stages of writing lessons that are aligned to their standards.

Assessment Descriptors and Student Writing Samples: Use the Writing Stages’ table (p. 10) to identify your grade-level genres and matching writing stages’ lessons. Turn to the pages indicated on the table for descriptors of skills that will be taught in these lessons, plus completed student organizers, and benchmark writing samples. Utilize the descriptors and benchmark papers to evaluate your students’ writing and then determine your next teaching points for instruction.

If you would like a copy of my new guide, just click-on the following link for a free downloadable PDF:K-6 Program Overview and Assessment Guide
You will be taken to our “Freebies” page, make the selection and a download will begin. This download may take several minutes, depending on your internet speed.

SUGGESTION: In order to view or print the manual correctly, follow these steps:

COMPUTER: To view on your computer properly, use Adobe Reader, please go to “view” and click-on “page display”, select “two page view” then again click-on “view” and click-on “page display”“show cover page in two page view”.

PRINT: Print the booklet back-to-back.

Happy writing!

Nancy Fetzer

Reading and Writing Seminars

The tide is changing in education. Class sizes are increasing. Demands for student achievement are constantly growing. As educators, we need to work together to meet these new challenges, or we will fail. How can individual teachers or an entire staff embrace the change? Imagine standards-based reading and writing lessons packed with rigor and best teaching practices fully integrating into the science, social studies, and language arts curriculum. Most importantly, visualize instruction that bridges from one grade level to the next so students are provided with a connected continuum of learning.
Great news! This 2011Summer and Fall, I am personally presenting fifteen one-day reading and writing seminars in the Southern California area at the Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel. These teacher trainings are separated by grade-level cadres: K-1, 2-3, and 4-6. Each of these self-contained daily institutes include engaging lessons filled with high-levels of student interactions, systematic direct instruction and metacogonitve techniques so all your students will soar to the top and meet the standards. Check out your grade-level descriptions:

K-1 Writing Seminars:

Learn the unique Plan, Talk, and Write system for explicit instructional strategies so all your students develop academic oral language while simultaneously mastering emergent and early level writing skills. Utilize the unique multi-sensory alphabet system that enables students to hear and feel letter sounds so they immediately begin to write. This writing inservice utilizes three components of instruction: 1) teacher write, 2) interactive writing, and 3) writing lessons.
The first component, the teacher write, is a daily five-minute lesson in which the teacher models the writing process and written language strategies of a fluent writer. Each week, the teacher publishes a book generated from the lessons.
The second component of writing instruction is interactive writing. Fifteen-minutes a day, the entire class engages in brainstorming and planning, academic language practice, or written language instruction to write narratives, expository text, descriptions, summaries, or letters. During this activity, different students come up to the classroom whiteboard to write some of the story or information created from the brainstorm.
The other pupils interact during the entire lesson utilizing their own whiteboards, or tactile kinesthetic motions. These writing projects are recorded into big books and placed in the classroom library for the children to read all year long.
The third component of writing instruction are the lessons. There are two types of writing lessons: guided writing and whole class lessons.
Guided writing is a small group of emergent and early level writers utilizing kinesthetic techniques blended with language development and written language instruction. This targeted instruction enables students to build their alphabet knowledge, develop segmentation skills, and master high frequency words. Additionally, pupils learn concepts of print like spacing, left-to-right directionality, and finally basic sentence mechanics.
Whole class lessons are for students that can independently write one or more sentences. During these lessons, the model of instruction emphasizes academic oral language development and systematic writing instruction to plan, revise, and edit writing. This instructional model has a specific design: The teacher begins with step-by-step, explicit instruction that creates a routine of learning. Students then practice the strategy with immediate and corrective feedback from the teacher. After many lessons, the teacher then slowly releases students to the partner level, and finally independent writing.

K-1 Learning to Read and Reading Comprehension

Learning to Read :
Learn my two unique Learning to Read frameworks : 1) Reading Folders and Pattern Books for emergent readers, and 2) Leveled books in guided reading groups for early to beginning fluency readers.
Emergent reading groups utilize the Reading Folder and Pattern Books. The Reading Folder is a language experience, student-generated story that is controlled in vocabulary. Pattern Books are comprised of repetitive text and easily recognized patterns that help new readers notice the conventions of print and make meaning of the text.
Early to beginning fluency readers use leveled books in small-group reading lessons to learn how to decode unfamiliar text. These reading groups also focus on fluency and comprehension. There are four components in a reading lesson. The first component is a language book walk to preview the story, develop academic language, and also to introduce reading strategies. The second part of the lesson is the word work that focuses on decoding skills and increases sight word knowledge. After the word work is the most important part of the lesson, reading the book with fluency, expression, and meaning. The final component of the lesson is the read-write connection to guide children to write summaries or responses.

Reading Comprehension:
The reading comprehension portion of this seminar focuses on instructional strategies that guide students to comprehend narrative and expository text in social studies, sciences, and language arts. Learn to utilize my 5-7 day lesson plan to frontload vocabulary and text structure, fluency and comprehension strategies, as well as higher level thinking skills.
The before reading or pre-reading activities include Word Masters to Movie Scripts and Lecture Notes. Word Masters is a fast-paced activity that introduces robust vocabulary, while Movie Scripts bridges the vocabulary words to academic oral language utilizing a movie script twist. Another pre-reading activity is Lecture Notes. Unique interactive Lecture Notes utilize narrative and expository text structure elements and sophisticated oral language practice to frontload students with background knowledge to access the language arts, science or social studies core curriculum.
In the during reading part of the lesson plan is my List and Draw, Question, then React process that guides students to comprehend the story or information. During this process, students learn monitoring and clarifying, predicting and inferring, questioning as well as sequencing or identifying the most important details.
In the after reading part of the lesson plan, systematic and explicit instruction is utilized for teachers to guide their students to summarize the text, as well as target skills requiring higher-level thinking.


2-3 Writing Seminars:

This writing seminar includes letter writing, imaginative and personal narratives, descriptive writing, and expository writing. These kid-friendly lessons, activities, and materials will engage all students to write organized and interesting sentences and paragraphs. Your students will come alive with the engaging, systematic lessons filled with oral language strategies and rehearsals to elicit sophisticated writing.
The Writing Inservices utilize two components of instruction: 1) teacher write and 2) writing lessons.
The first component is the teacher write. This is a daily five-minute lesson for students to observe the teacher “thinking aloud” and writing different genres utilizing the writing process. During this daily, five-minute period, students listen as the teacher models strategies of a “good writer”. This is a dynamic, fast-paced daily activity crucial for students to observe good, fluent writing, and then connect the skills and strategies learned to their own work as well as provide students with a more academic and sophisticated background of written language.
The second component of writing instruction are the whole class lessons. During these lessons, students develop academic language through systematic writing instruction to plan, revise, and edit their writing. This instructional model has a specific design: The teacher begins with step-by-step, explicit instruction that creates a routine of learning. Students then practice the strategy with immediate and corrective feedback from the teacher. After many lessons, the teacher then slowly releases students to the partner level, and finally independent writing.
Finally, learn how to fit everything into your schedule utilizing the Unit of Study and Writing Across the Curriculum planning tools.

2-3 Reading Seminar:

The Reading Comprehension Inservices focus on instructional strategies that guide students to understand, analyze, and evaluate narrative and expository text in social studies, sciences, and language arts. Learn the 5-7 day standards-based reading lesson plan that dove-tails with and enhances any curriculum. My lesson plan includes three easy-to-use components: Before reading the text or pre-reading techniques, during reading comprehension strategies, followed by after reading high-level thinking activities.
The before reading or pre-reading activities in the lesson plan include Word Masters to Story Blasters and Lecture Notes. Word Masters is a fast-paced activity that introduces robust vocabulary, while Story Blasters bridges the vocabulary words to academic oral language and narrative writing. Another pre-reading activity is Lecture Notes. Unique interactive Lecture notes utilize narrative and expository text structure
elements and sophisticated oral language practice to frontload students with background knowledge to access the language arts, science or social studies core curriculum.
In the during reading part of the lesson plan is my List and Draw, Question, then React process that guides students to comprehend the story or information. During this process, students learn monitoring and clarifying, predicting and inferring, questioning as well as sequencing or identifying the most important details.
In the after reading part of the lesson plan includes systematic and explicit instruction for teachers to guide their students to summarize the text, followed by a deep analysis and evaluation of the material. Most of these activities include graphic organizers and student engagement techniques for higher-level thinking that result in
academic language development and writing across the curriculum.

4-6 Writing Seminars:

Use Plan, Talk, and Write procedures that systematically bridge students from highly supportive writing instruction to total independent writing regardless of language differences, special needs, and varying ability levels.Utilize systematic writing lessons to plan and organize ideas for engaging narratives, interesting information, dynamic descriptions, succinct summaries, insightful responses to literature, and convincing persuasives.
Learn the two components of writing instruction: 1) teacher write and 2) writing lessons.
The first component is the teacher write. This is a daily five-minute lesson for students to observe the teacher “thinking aloud” while she plans, talks, and then writes different genres. One essay may take an entire week of teacher writes. During this daily, five-minute period, students listen as she models strategies of a “good writer”. This is a dynamic, fast-paced daily activity crucial for students to observe good, fluent writing, and then connect the skills and strategies learned to their own work as well as provide students with a more academic and sophisticated background of written language.
The second component of writing instruction are the whole class lessons. During these lessons, students develop academic language through systematic writing instruction to plan, revise, and edit their writing. This instructional model has a specific design: The teacher begins with step-by-step, explicit instruction that creates a routine of learning. Students then practice the strategy with immediate and corrective feedback from the teacher. After many lessons, the teacher then slowly releases students to the partner level, and finally independent writing.
Finally, learn how to fit everything into your schedule utilizing the Unit of Study and Writing Across the Curriculum planning tools.

4-6 Reading Seminars:
These standards-based tools dove-tail smoothly into any reading program utilizing the unique before, during, and after reading instructional activities and strategies.
The before reading or pre-reading activities in the lesson plan include Word Masters to Story Blasters and Lecture Notes. Word Masters is a fast-paced activity that introduces robust vocabulary, while Story Blasters bridges the vocabulary words to academic oral language and narrative writing. Another pre-reading activity is Lecture Notes. Unique interactive Lecture notes utilize narrative and expository text structure elements and sophisticated oral language practice to frontload students with background knowledge to access the language arts, science or social studies core curriculum.
During reading activities will focus on expository and narrative text. Learn my interactive and engaging lessons that enable students to read science and social studies textbooks while simultaneously taking notes. Additionally, utilize the list and draw, question, then react reading routine for narrative text that will increase students depth and complexity of text.
After reading activities comprise of a menu of standards-based thinking and writing activities to ensure students and raise achievement levels. Focus questions tied to cognitive operations, in-depth understandings of text for response and evaluation, and a constant integration of written language are a few of the many activities covered.

Writer’s Workshop: Okay for Some, But Too Soon for Most

Vygotsky wrote that learning is a social interaction. Do you remember writing as a child? Don’t talk to others! You were on your own struggling to figure-out what to do. Later, your paper was covered with red telling you what you did wrong. No wonder too many of us hated to write. Let’s not frustrate our students who think writing is a mysterious skill, only acquired by a few. But what is the most effective method to teach students to write?

Here’s a must read! In 2007 Steve Graham and Dolores Perin published a report to the Carnegie Corporation of New York entitled “Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle & High Schools”. This study was a meta-analysis of research from 1964 to 2005 to identify the most effective strategies that increase the quality of student writing (Grades 4-12). The strategies identified were ranked by strength and consistency. Strength was the percentage of writing improvement, and consistency was the effectiveness of the strategy from teacher to teacher.

This is exciting news! We now have research that specifically identifies the most effective instructional strategies for writing. When Marzano, Pickering, and Pollack published “Classroom Instruction That Works” the educational community applauded because the best teaching practices were actually identified (in concrete terms) to directly apply to instruction. To replicate a strategy is much more practical, than trying to replicate types of teachers or abstract theories. In their study, Graham and Perin ranked writing strategies from having a great effect to a small/mild effect.

The number one strategy was explicit instruction of the Writing Strategies. That is specific steps to plan, revise, and edit writing. I was thrilled when I read this finding. Direct instruction requires a high-level of teacher-to-student interaction for active learning. It has to be engaging or the students will not respond. This instructional model has a specific design: The teacher begins with step-by-step, explicit instruction that creates a routine of learning. Students then need many repetitions of the strategy with immediate and corrective feedback from the teacher. Now, here’s the part so many critics leave out of the explicit teaching model, the slow release of responsibility to independence. Direct instruction actually will guide students to independence at a faster rate, than the often used Process Writing. Process Writing, many may call Writer’s Workshop, was identified at number nine in the Writing Next rankings, with a very low effect size. As a matter of fact, in some of their findings Writer’s Workshop had a negative effect at improving the quality of student writing.

When students reach independence, they then are ready for the Writer’s Workshop model. Unfortunately, this model is implemented too early in classrooms. Students are provided with mini-lessons, then asked to write their own piece. It sounds idyllic, but most educators will tell you that their kids are confused, long lines form for individual conferences, and many times the teachers provide individualized lessons to each student. Most instructors, who are directed to teach in this format, feel frustrated because it doesn’t systematically and explicitly teach the fundamentals of writing. Some may argue that they have students writing at high levels in the Writer’s Workshop mode. My response? Those students already possess the necessary skills for independent writing. Once we teach students those writing skills and standards through direct explicit instruction, a gradual release to a Writer’s Workshop format is then appropriate. The goal here is for ALL students to learn to write well!


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