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When Students Write (DVD) (DVD video)
You can read books or attend workshops about how to teach writing, but there's no substitute for seeing master teachers put ideas into practice with real kids.
When Students Write takes us into the classrooms at Bailey's Elementary School in the outskirts of Washington, DC, where teachers wrestle with the questions of what it means to become an effective writer and what is a teacher's role in developing students' competence as writers. The four videos cover all the practical components necessary for establishing and implementing a successful writing workshop, including the importance of choice, creating a risk-taking environment, the difference between skills and craft, the writer's notebook, the writing conference, revision, the role of literature, and much more. When used in conjunction with the authors' books, Craft Lessons and Nonfiction Craft Lessons, these programs provide a practical resource on how best to teach writing.
Program 1: Building a Writing Community
Students need to assimilate a daunting number of skills as they become competent writers. And this doesn't happen overnight. Writing teachers need to create a community where students can live as writers, find their voices, and take the kinds of risks that allow them to develop competence as writers. In this segment the teachers and principal at Bailey's Elementary School show how they create that atmosphere. Their environment is rooted in the ongoing professional development that is an integral part of this school. Viewers will see how each student's identity as a writer permeates the entire school and cuts across the curriculum.
Program 2: Teaching Writing Skills in Context
Although writing encompasses a bundle of skills, it could be roughly divided into two main branches-composing (craft) and editing (mechanics). In this program, we explore how skilled writing teachers teach mechanics such as contractions and spelling. At Bailey's the teachers demonstrate how important skills are taught in the context of an ongoing writing workshop. We see what management tools they use to assess students' needs in this area and how they situate skill teaching in a larger real-world context: What is your purpose for this piece of writing? Who is going to read this? How can we make this writing as "reader-friendly" as possible?
Program 3: Literature That Supports Writing
The writing in a classroom can only be as good as the literature that surrounds and sustains it. This videotape focuses on the reading-writing connection. Teachers at Bailey's continuously draw on a variety of literature--poems, picture books, chapter books--to nourish their students. Literature can be used to spark writing ideas, but at Bailey's the teachers go a step further: in many classrooms, a kind of "deep reading" takes place where teachers and students delve into a text to study an author's technique. Deep reading helps students get a feel for the structures and rhythms of written language and learn how texts are crafted from the inside out.
Program 4: Craft Lessons to Stretch Young Writers
What exactly is a craft lesson? How (and when) might you teach it? How can you assess the needs of your students so you know which craft lessons to teach? Nothing energizes a classroom more than when students see their own writing getting stronger. Teachers who help students add writing strategies to their toolbox provide them with powerful skills they will use for the rest of their lives. In this segment the teachers at Bailey's open up their classrooms and show the power of craft lessons to improve the quality of student writing. These demonstrations give even inexperienced teachers an entry into the world of writing workshop.
About the Author
JoAnn Portalupi likes to introduce herself as a mother, teacher, writer, and artist. Each of these roles informs the work she does in the field of teaching writing.
She began her career in education as a fourth-grade teacher in Epsom, New Hampshire. "I was bit by the writing bug my second year of teaching when I was lucky enough to attend the University of New Hampshire's first Institute on Teaching Writing where I met and worked with Tom Newkirk, Lucy Calkins, Donald Murray, and Donald Graves. In that summer I discovered a pedagogy that resonated with my own belief about teaching and learning: that a strong teacher-student relationship lies at the heart of both." Since then she has worked in education as a classroom teacher, a staff developer at Teachers College Writing Project, a university professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and most recently as an independent consultant. JoAnn is also the co-author with her husband, Ralph Fletcher, of numerous professional books and videos.
Her four sons have given JoAnn plenty of opportunity to refine her thinking about teaching writing. "Raising school age boys gave me a panoramic view of teaching. Engaging as a parent at home continually challenges me to think about the responsibility of teaching another parent's child. Discovering up close the four distinct personalities in my own children is a constant reminder of the diversity of each and every learner."
After years of traveling to work with teachers, JoAnn prefers putting her time into two new endeavors that continue to inform her thinking about education. She currently serves on the Oyster River Cooperative School Board. "My experience as a board member allows me to work with a fine group of administrators, teachers, and staff in the exciting and complex task of building and maintaining an excellent school district."
Her newest classroom is her own artist's studio. "After years of wanting to learn to paint, I finally took myself seriously. I built a studio, found a teacher, and have been painting for the last seven years. Standing in front of a blank canvas reminds me of all the excitement and frustration of being a novice and has ushered in new insights about what it means to be a learner. Maybe these ideas will make their way into a book someday, but for now I'm just trying to keep my brushes wet."