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

Monday, April 4, 2016

Convention Season: In Which I Reflect on the Experience

Vendor Hall BEFORE it opened
One of the highlights of my year is attending the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. For the past five years, I've made the five-hour journey down I-75. Even the car ride is fun, since I travel along with good friends.

A few days spent with some of my favorite people is one of the main reasons for loving the convention. A getaway is such a blessing. We laughed together more than I've laughed in months and months.

Of course, there's the convention itself - a huge vendor hall filled with curriculum and learning materials and some of the most motivating homeschool speakers. BLISS!

This year I attended ten seminars. Over the next few weeks, I'll share what I learned. My goal was to attend seminars that will help me in the writing and literature classes I teach to homeschoolers, as well as motivate me to finish the last four years and 2 months I have left before my youngest graduates. (Not that I am counting or anything!)
  1. Getting Words on Paper: Strategies for Reluctant Writers - Kathy Kuhl & Janice Campbell
  2. Nurturing the Writer in Your Child/Nurturing the Writer in Yourself - The Writing Family
  3. Beauty and Delight in the Ordinary Chaotic Homeschool - Sarah Mackenzie
  4. Witches, Wizards, and Wands, Oh My! A Parent's Guide to Fantasy, Fiction, and Faith - Adam Andrews
  5. Why Writing is Not a Subject and Why Every Subject Needs Writing To Be Properly Taught - Andrew Kern
  6. How We (Mis)Read the Bible: Being Biblical As We Try To Be Biblical - John Stonestreet
  7. How to Mark a Student Paper Like a Pro (Only Better) - Brian Wasko
  8. The Socratic Method for Dummies - Become a Great Teacher - Adam Andrews
  9. Teaching Reading in the Screen Age - Andrew Kern
  10. G.K. Chesterton and the Metaphysics of Amazement  - Martin Cothran

Wow, strong inspirational teaching in every seminar but one. (You'll have to stay tuned to find out which one was the stinker!)

I rarely attend the keynote speakers and this year was no exception. None of them was compelling enough to skip our evening hijinks. On Thursday night, my friends and I gathered at a restaurant on the nearby city square and laughed and ate (tasteless) burgers. Friday night we ventured on the trolley across the river into Kentucky to have much better burgers and see a movie at the mall.

One of the things I've learned to expect is that I "hit the wall" so to speak after hearing so much valuable information. It's just mentally exhausting. So, I've learned to plan for that ahead of time. Four seminars in a day is usually all I can manage, along with a stint in the vendor hall. Now that I've learned to expect that, it's much easier to get through the weekend.

For those newbies, one thing that has made my experience easier is to bring a rolling cart. If you're heading to a convention, that's my tip!