Write from the Beginning – First Draft

April 14, 2007 at 3:29 am | Posted in education, elementary, graphic organizers, inner city, learning modality, schools, teachers, third grade, writing | 1 Comment

After we finish our Flow Map, we usually do what I call “Pull Out and Talk”. This is a strategy that I picked up from our Into English! program, which is our English Language Development program for our English Language Learners.

I model first using our class Flow Map. Then, I give all students a few minutes to pull out and talk. What they are doing is orally rehearsing their writing using the Flow Map as the guide. So many of my students are oral learners that this strategy really helps them produce excellent writing. Going from a pre-write to a first draft directly is extremely difficult for my inner city kids. This Pull Out and Talk strategy bridges that gap.

After the students Pull Out and Talk to themselves, they pull out and talk with a partner, with a small group, to the class, or with me, depending on their needs. During all this talking, the students get to hear other writings and will revise their writing as they hear good examples.

Remember that nothing is written down yet at this point, but the students are already revising their writing as they orally rehearse.

After being given amble time to pull out and talk, I finally model the first draft. I emphasize the fact that I’m not making up anything new, I’m just writing down exactly what I said during my pull out and talk. Somehow, this is a difficult concept for students to accept at first…that what comes out of their mouth is acceptable in writing.

When the students are finally given a chance to do their first draft, the first draft is done very quickly. After all, the students don’t have to spend any time thinking about what to write. All they have to do is just put it down in writing. First draft is the easiest part of our writing process now.

Here is A’s first draft.

A sample page 1
A sample page 2

It is a solid piece of writing. As a teacher, I already see several skills I need to continue working with A on, complete sentences for one, but I’m not worried about her ability to write a coherent, focused piece of writing that answers a prompt.

Here is J’s first draft.

J sample page 1
J sample page 2
J sample page 3
J sample page 4

Four paragraphs of focused writing that answers the prompt. Basic sentence structure, but not bad. Experimenting with the use of transition words, good. Needs work, but an excellent start. I can see that J is ready to take his writing to the next level, giving it voice and style.

All in all, excellent writing from my students given the excrutiating ramblings they produced at the beginning of the school year. Lots of instruction went into them being able to do this in three days independently in an assessment situation. Lots of hard work on their part!

I am very proud of them and am already planning my next series of instruction to meet their needs as learners.


Thinking Maps – Sophisticated, Targeted Graphic Organizers for your Students

April 10, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Posted in education, elementary, graphic organizers, learning modality, schools, teachers | 1 Comment

There are very few programs mandated by our district that I find extremely useful and actually increases my effectiveness as a teacher. The Thinking Maps program and the Write from the Beginning program does. If you are a teacher, let your district know so that you can get training in these programs.

The Thinking Map program is a set of 8 “thinking maps” or graphic organizers targeted at specific comprehension skills. A student, with proper teacher modeling, can easily learn these thinking maps and begin to apply them in all subject matter.

For example, after a few weeks of modeling the Tree Map, which is used to categorize, and the Circle Map, which is used to put knowledge in context, I placed my students into groups of four and simply asked them to find spelling patterns in their spelling words for the week. I gave them chart paper and markers. Immediately, three of my groups made Tree Maps and started sorting the spelling patterns. One group used the Circle Map, realized that the Circle Map wasn’t doing what they want it to do, revised and used the Tree Map instead.

Now, I use these Thinking Maps in all subject areas and for all sorts of activities. Thinking Maps enhances comprehension, and funny enough, teaches comprehension! My inner city kids can SEE the thinking that goes into a lesson now because of these highly sophisticated graphic organizers.

I’ll be sure to take pictures of some Thinking Maps and post them in the near future!

Math – Using Different Modalities and Technology

April 7, 2007 at 4:52 pm | Posted in education, elementary, graphic organizers, homework, learning modality, math, schools, teachers, technology in education, third grade | 4 Comments

This year, I came up with a pretty interesting way of teaching the classification of triangles.


This is an example of how I prefer to teach math in my classroom, not that I do it all the time. Though I should. Guilty!
1. First I give the students input on the classification of the triangles using a charted graphic organizer.

2. Then, I break the students into groups of threes according to sizes and have have them make triangles using their bodies and identify the triangles. This activity goes on for about 7-10 minutes. The kids have lots of fun!

3. While they are doing that, I’m taking pictures.

4. We conclude the lesson by reviewing the types of triangles we learned, what are their features, etc.

5. We have guided practice and independent practice in the math workbook.

6. I go home and make this worksheet using the pictures I took. (Well, a similar worksheet as I lost a few things during the transfer to my new computer). A digital camera, a printer, and a computer equipped with Publisher is just wonderful!

7. The next day, they get this for homework as reinforcement along with their regular homework worksheet from the book.

A lesson like this touches on many modalities. The visual learners have the graphic organizers, the kinesthetic learners use their bodies, the social learners are working with their friends, and so on. The lesson is fun and engaging, yet purposeful. The lesson also builds relationships and connections. Children who take home my teacher created worksheet with pictures of themselves and their classmates remember the lesson better than the children who only take home the impersonal commercial worksheet.

Apology: The worksheet you see above is a redux of the original. I lost the original during my move from old to new computer. I also lost the really great pictures that I used in the original, so these pictures don’t clearly show which triangle is isosceles, which triangle is equilateral, etc. But, it gives you an idea of what we did.

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