Carolyn was challenged by the fact that learners at her school had very basic writing skills, especially students in the upper primary year levels. Students were doing the bare minimum required and weren’t choosing to engage in writing. They weren’t transferring their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills across to their writing, and therefore weren’t giving an accurate representative of their knowledge and understanding in assessment tasks.
Carolyn decided to tackle the challenge head on through a three pronged approach; (i) the teaching of vocabulary (focussing on Tier 2 and Tier 3 words), (ii) explicit instruction of sentence and paragraph structure, and (iii) daily quick writes using visual prompts so that every student can experience being an Awesome Author.
(i) Weekly Vocabulary (3 lessons per week, 15-30 mins)
Students are given 10 words per week, relating to the texts and subjects being covered that week. The meaning of the words is taught explicitly first (so that when they are read in the text, students have prior knowledge and comprehension is improved) and written, visual and action prompts are used. A variety of activities are used in these lessons, including asking students to match the word and the meaning, and games like ‘I am thinking of a word that means..’.
(ii) Daily Explicit Instruction (every day for 15-20 mins)
In these lessons, a range of concepts are covered from vocabulary, to sentence construction to building paragraphs. Some of the lesson topics are outlined below;
- What are Tier One, Two and Three Words?
- Replacing Tier 1 words with Tier 2 words
- Noun Groups – Adjectives
- Verb Groups – Adverbs
- Expanding Sentences/Interesting Sentences.
- Punctuation/Capital Letters
- Kinds of Sentences
- Simple Sentences – Independent Clauses
- Types of Conjunctions
- Compound Sentences – Independent Clauses and Conjunctions
- Complex Sentences – Dependent Clauses and Subordinating Conjunctions
- Connectives in sentences
- Constructing a Topic sentence –topic and main idea of paragraph
- Constructing an Elaborate/Expanding Sentence – more information/detail
- Constructing an Evidence/Example Sentence – text reference/quote/specialist
- Constructing a Rebuttal Sentence
- Constructing a Linking Sentence
- Putting them all together to construct a paragraph
About 200 students have been positively impacted by Carolyn’s change initiative. She trialled the ideas with her own Grade 5 and 6 students first, and once she’d nailed that, the program was rolled out across the school! Writing has become the ‘whole school focus’ for Term 3 and 4.
In Carolyn’s class, she has seen a 90% improvement in writing grades. All students have moved at least one level (if not two!).
“Lilly was sitting on ‘C’ for writing. She would quickly race through the writing task, using basic sentence structure and Tier 1 words. Once we started the writing program in class she jumped on board, enjoying the challenge of replacing Tier 1 words with Tier 2 and Tier 3 words when appropriate. Her sentences structures became more varied instead of simple sentences or one long sentence per paragraph. Her paragraph structure improved with clear topic sentences and supporting sentences. Lilly started to complete several drafts of each writing task and embraced the self and peer editing. Her final drafts were well written and she began to not only believe she could write well but enjoyed the whole process. Her grades moved from a ‘C’ to ‘A’ within a term.”
Like the idea?
Carolyn would love your support for Awesome Authors, or for you to start a similar program in your school, and she’d love to hear about any ideas you have or lend a hand where she can. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get in touch with Carolyn and we can connect you. Feel free to cheer her on in the comments below as well.
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