Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Teaching for Independence: The Power of the Practice Page
Recently, I used a video example of a small group writing lesson during guided reading. The students were writing about their reading during the lesson. Each student had their own blank book to use when writing about reading. Students began by rereading their last piece of writing, turned the page and started to write about the book they had just read with their teacher. A lot happened in less than five minutes. As the students wrote independently, the teacher supported each in writing. It was a small group of children so the teacher was able to easily support each writer as they composed and wrote their short piece about their reading.
After watching the video, our group discussed ways we might make our students more independent in this guided writing situation. What are the strategies we might teach these writers that they could carry into their independent writing? We talked about wait time. We talked about small changes in language and prompting. We talked about ways we might help students to better self-monitor.
For me, using a practice page is one way to teach writers strategies they can carry into their independent writing. Using a practice page is something I learned when teaching Reading Recovery years ago. It gives students the opportunity to build high frequency word knowledge, develop knowledge of the way words work, and creates a space for writers to ____.
Here are three ways I like to use a practice page:
Practice High-Frequency Words: High-frequency words do not follow typical spelling patterns which can make them tricky for students. They are also words used often so I want students to know them well. They need to be able to write them quickly as it frees up their attention for composition and the writing of other words. When students write these words incorrectly in their writing, the practice page can be used to write the word correctly 3-5 times. I ask students to write the word, then we cover it to see if they can write it without seeing it.
Elkonin Boxes: When working with students in guided writing, they often come to words they haven't written before. When I notice them having difficulty writing a new word, I can draw Elkonin boxes on the page to help them segment the sounds in the word. In Elkonin boxes the child listens for the sounds that would be in each box. There is a progression of teaching that gets students ready to use Elkonin boxes and ways to adjust them as students try to spell words of increasing difficulty. I most like to use these when I see students trying to write a word that fits word features we have been learning. (Here's a simple explanation of Elkonin boxes from Pioneer Valley.)
Try It: Helping students to monitor their own writing helps them make faster gains. Students often know when they are having difficulty writing a word. I teach students to use the practice page when they are unsure how to write a word. When a word seems tricky, writers go to the practice page and give it a try. Students learn to try to the word three times when they are unsure of the spelling. This is fascinating. If I see the correct the word, I ask them to pick the one they think is right. Most times they know. If none of the attempts are correct, we work to figure out the word together. This page can tell me a lot about what learners know about words. A child who randomly attempts different spellings is of greater concern than one who seems to know which part of the word is causing challenge.
Small-Group Writing: Steps for Success
Building Word Learning Routines