Thursday, August 20, 2015

Need a Writing Tutor at Home? Check This Out


Usually when I hear about formulaic writing programs the  hair on the back of my neck bristles and I get a little uppity about the whole thing. So when I looked at the Write Bright website this summer I wasn't sure about it.

I also have a 3rd grader that I was struggling with academic writing. How could I get him to read a passage or two and then use what he read when writing a response?

Developing my own writing lessons every week, designing the scaffolding, and the process was a heavy load in addition to planning and designing everything else...oh yeah, and being a mom and wife....oh and school administrator!

I gave Write Bright a go this year and so far so good! What I have discovered is:

a. The "Source Writing"  lessons are invaluable. It teaches students how to  read a passage and include the passage in their response. This is a skill that needs to be practiced and taught. It does not come naturally for everyone!

b. It breaks down and demystifies the writing process for students. It even talks about reading the prompt and identifying what the prompt is asking the student to write.

c. It plans, finds the resources, and scaffolds for me. Why is this valuable? When I was watching Robert write I began to notice several trends in his writing that I can focus on later. For example, he often repeats things. Since I wasn't busy trying to come up with the lessons, I could actually observe his writing and think about revision lessons for later.

d. It uses a predicable pattern and uses academic language. While watching the videos together we are both learning that language and developing a way to talk about writing. Again, since I am not reinventing the wheel, I can focus with him on refining ideas and word choice.

e. After writing the first two essays, Robert did not necessarily need the step by step instructions. So he could write and then fast forward.

f. Working on word choice, author's voice, audience, purpose, ect is still something I will need to fit in. However, now I will have time to observe and figure out the best way to do that!

My next moves? After he is done with 3-4 responses, we will go back and revise his favorite one. At this time I will do mini lessons with him to improve his voice and craft.

Eventually, I will create my own prompts for our assignments in literature, history, and science that he can address using the skills he learns from Writing Bright.

Quick Entry Into the Writing Program: I encourage you check out the website's resources, but if you are looking to get started ASAP.....

a. Log into Writebrightstation.com. See your adviser for the password!
b. Click on "Explanatory" on the top menu bar. Then, look for your student's grade on the left hand side. Preview the videos under the student's grade level. Gauge what grade level would be appropriate for your student! Your adviser can also help with this.

c.  Choose "tools" from the menu bar at the top of the screen.

d. Select your student's grade level. IF it gives you a choice choose "SOURCE" writing. You will only need to print this once!
Kinder: print the entire kinder packet
First Grade: Print only page 2
Second Grade: Print page 3 and 4
Third Grade: Print pages 3-5
Fourth-sixth grade: Print pages 3-7

d. Click on "Explanatory" in the top menu  bar. Look for the appropriate grade level on the left hand side and select the "Source" writing option. (this is not available for kinder!)

e. Select the first lesson available. Print the necessary source documents and the prompt. I DO NOT print out all of the source materials at once. That way if we want to skip a topic or move to a different grade level I did not waste paper.

f. Then click on the "video" link on the left hand side under your student's grade to find the accompanying video.

g. Sit with your student during the first few times to make sure that they are on the right track!

Please let me know how it goes! Your feedback will determine if we keep this in following years!




Saturday, August 8, 2015

You Rock...Welcome Back.

Today is Saturday. My husband has taken the kiddo away for the day so that I can get organized for the weeks ahead. On Monday we officially start our third year of homeschooling.

In some ways my student is more excited than me. He knows the joy of working at his own pace, taking interest led workshops at PACT, meeting up with buddies for Lego Club, and (on some days!) throwing up our hands and opting for a day of play instead of work.

While I look forward to the days that include fun hands on projects, relaxed mornings at home, and family time uninterrupted by homework, I groan when I think about the planning, grading, and my plans getting screwed up when a project takes longer or shorter than expected.

I know there will be those days when finishing assignments is like pulling teeth or I would rather be diving into a project at work then thinking about how I am going to get him to write with more expression.

So if you are in the same place I am, don't worry. There is a reason.Teaching is hard. And on top of that, we have chosen to do something out of the box, unusual.

We have chosen to do what most people would not attempt. To provide a differentiated education for our children. We are not relying on someone else to chart their education.  Many of us have chosen what is best for our children over extra money and extra time.

It is that time of year when I have to remind myself to take a deep breath. Act with confidence. Don't look back.

We are in this together. My kid, my husband, Ms. Judy, and our PACT community.