Thursday, August 19, 2010

Writing and Boys- The Challenge

Each year, we are asked to submit a professional growth plan that sets forth a growth objective and goal for us as individual teachers as well as identifying a way to support PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) at our school. We can select from six different areas for our goal (Instructional Planning, Instructional Delivery, Assessment of Student Learning, Management of the Learning Environment, Professional Growth, Professional Responsibility). After selecting the area, we need to state our goal, decide on the instructional strategies that will help us achieve the goal, determine how will we know if the goal has been achieved, and what assistance do we need to achieve our goal. In regards to PLCs, we need to indicate how we will directly support PLCs and what assistance do we need in that support.

After listening to our former administrator now turned classroom teacher and CSAP expert go over our CSAP scores for our 09-10 9th graders, I decided to focus my instruction this next year on boys and writing. No easy task. Our boys are significantly behind our girls and most especially in the areas of extended writing. With most boys, it seems as though as much as they dislike reading, they HATE writing. If I am going to help boys improve their writing skills, I must first change their perceptions of writing.

One way I am focusing on doing this is through writing in various forms. I have found incredible success in past years with using PLNs with my 9th graders. PLNs (Personal Learning Networks) are a way to get kids to read articles, view videos and respond to items of interest rather than the required textbook. Next week my 9th graders are setting up their PLNs for the first time. I ask the kids to read from the blogs, newspapers, and magazines we subscribe to through our Google Reader rather than doing the typical outside reading novel. After they are finished reading/ viewing their choice, they answer the question “What Matters?” In a paragraph format, they must state clearly the author, title and point of what matters from what they read. Then, they write a summary of what they read, connect their response to themselves, to their education, and to the world around them. Finally, they end the paragraph with a concluding sentence summing up their argument or point. Last year, my all boys’ class really loved these PLNs- they didn’t care for the number of them I asked them to write, but they did enjoy reading and responding to what they were digesting. They loved hearing from one another on Fridays what the presenters had read. One area I want to do a better job on is to give more detailed feedback to their PLNs to help them improve their writing rather than just assigning a grade. With more students this year, this will be a challenge. I also want to find a way to help my boys become better peer editors. I think this will aide in improving their own writing as well as the writing of their peers. On a side note, this will help me with the grading/ assessing/ feedback overload I tend to feel.

Another way I am going to focus on writing is through using blogs to share topic sentences. When each student is asked to post his/her topic sentence for the world to see, students seem to take that responsibility into account. Also, I am going to have the boys use Google Earth to share their interactions with Chris McCandless from Into the Wild and Odysseus from The Odyssey. Using the graphic of Google Earth to give a picture to their words helps the boys put down their thoughts.

I am also counting on the support of my administrators to help me look over my incoming 9th graders Assess track data to see in what areas of writing my boys most struggle. This past year we implemented a writing lab to assist our struggling writers and many of my freshmen sought out its assistance and feedback. I am hoping and encouraging the kids this year to do the same.

Combining some of the writing strategies that I have found successful in the past, along with the technologies that we use in class everyday, meeting with my students at least twice outside of class to discuss their CSAP and MAP test scores, reviewing Assess track data, writing lab, constant writing feedback and practice should make a change for the better for me as a teacher, and more importantly for my boys with their writing.

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