Saturday, April 30, 2016

Convention Season: In Which I Attend The First Writing Seminar

Getting Words on Paper: Strategies for Reluctant Writers -  Kathy Kuhl and Janice Campbell

We rolled into town mid-afternoon and got settled into our hotel room. I had to hustle to get to the first seminar by 3:30, Getting Words on Paper: Strategies for Reluctant Writers with Kathy Kuhl and Janice Campbell.

My goal for this convention was to find as many writing seminars as possible to help me in my job as a writing teacher to homeschooled students. Since I have a number of reluctant writers in my classes, the title of this seminar caught my eye.

Kathy and Janice alternated speaking, but I didn't note who said what. 

They began by asking why the task of writing is often so hard. Some of the reasons mentioned were:
  • the physicality of the task
  • uncertainty of the writer
  • perfectionism
  • memory issues
To overcome this reluctance, goals should be specific. 
  • We want to teach students to communicate skillfully and clearly on paper. 
  • We want them to be confident in various writing formats (essays, reports, etc.). 
  • We want students to be able to self-edit.
Methods we can use to accomplish our goals could be the classic five-step writing process or the model-based writing process. In either case, not every piece of writing needs to go through every step of the writing process.

Five-step Writing Process
1 - Read and Research 
Keep reading aloud to students. Dyslexics usually have a smaller vocabulary than typical students, so combat that by pouring words into students. Learning Ally (formerly Recorded Books for the Blind) can be a resource.

2 - Thinking on Paper aka Brainstorming 
This process is like turning on a faucet. Sometimes the hot water takes a while to come through. Mind-mapping/webbing are good techniques. Try using a white board or large paper, so as not to limit ideas. Index cards work well for some thinkers. Dictation software can be helpful. They also mentioned a website called Coggle It, which I have not checked out. 

3 - Organize Ideas
Number your ideas in order of quality, best ideas first.
Think of vivid examples for supporting points.
Teach outline format.
Use graphic organizers, such as the fishbone map. 

4 - Writing the First Draft.
Teach patterns, such as the keyhole essay format. 
Reluctant writers may simplify their first draft due to lack of spelling ability, dread of penmanship, etc... Anticipate this and counteract these problems. 
Try having the student dictate or record the first draft.
Use systematic instruction to provide a foundation.
Try techniques such as free writing or copywork.

5 - Revise (Learn to Self-Edit)
Use a rubric (scoring sheet).
Janice Campbell has a book called Evaluate Writing the Easy Way.

Model-based Writing Process
1 - Absorb
Read deeply, both silently and aloud.
Copy writing. (Have them begin by copying a line you have written as a model.)
Give pens and paper. They suggest a Jetstream pen. 
Experiment to counteract sensory issues.

2 - Consider (the piece of writing)
What kind of writing is this?
Who is it written for?
What does it mean?
What if....?
Be sure to engage students in the piece of writing before moving on to #3.

3 - Transform
Change THIS to THAT.
Change poetry to prose. Change Ancient to Modern. Change Essay to Letter to the Editor. Etc....

4 - Create
Write something in the same form as the original.
Adapt for reluctant writers. 
Audio, play, interview, graphic novels.

Special Tools and Strategies
William VanCleave - Writing Matters
Diana Hanbury King's book A Guide to Helping Your Child at Home: Developing Foundational Skills in Reading & Writing
tablet apps
Explicitly teach sentence skills.
Focus on process more than product.
Card games
Short, sweet daily lessons

Use the "Triage" concept. Don't try to fix everything in a student's writing all at once. 
Rank substance in writing before style and mechanics.
Encourage! Always find something to praise!
Encourage! Always find something to praise!

Janice Campbell's Pinterest has a graphic organizer board.

Although there was no "new" concept to me in this seminar, I loved hearing the contrast between the two writing processes. I also liked hearing the titles of books and resources that can be helpful.

RECOMMENDED - Especially for parents of reluctant writers in upper elementary through high school

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