Sunday, July 19, 2015

Short Writing


Writing doesn't have to be long to be of quality. In fact, short writing pieces should be incorporated in every lesson, for every subject. Harvey Silver calls this "provisional writing". There are two types of provisional writing.

The first is writing to learn something. This includes any type of note-taking or annotating. With this writing, students are writing what they are learning in order to retain it. This is important, but NOT NEARLY as powerful as the second type, writing to prove learning.

When students write to prove learning, they are being asked to write what was taught in their own words, usually without assistance of notes or partners. We often see this type of writing as an exit ticket. This type of writing is so powerful because students are forced to synthesize what they learned, and just as importantly, you will know immediately upon reading this short response if your students really "got it." 

Questions or prompts for these types of questions must be direct and purposefully planned. Don't ask, "How do you feel about what you learned?, What's your favorite part of the lesson?"  or "How will this be helpful in your life?" The prompts we are aiming for are, "Tell me what photosynthesis is and where it takes place." We want to know what they know! 

Sometimes, teachers ask for a short summary after a lesson. This will also work, just make sure that you are specific. "Give me a short summary of the chapter," is not nearly as powerful as, "Summarize pages 121-122. Include specific details of how the colonists prepared to fight the British." 

If you are a primary teacher, don't stop reading! This is for you too! If you are teaching the vowel pattern "oa", then have the students end the lesson with a short list of words that have the "oa" pattern. 

Writing what students learned leads to mastery, so make sure your students are ending every lesson, in every subject with a short writing piece. Even if it's only a sentence long, a short list or in a journal. 

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