Why is writing important?

In class a few weeks ago we had a class chat on writing and how and why it is important for students in grades k-12th grade a beyond. This got me to thinking more about writing. I feel that along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a predictor of academic achievement and essential for success. Students need and use writing for many purposes for example to communicate and share knowledge, to support comprehension and learning, to explore feelings and beliefs. In my classroom we use reading response journals in which the students responds to any given prompt and give their thoughts, comments, opinions and their feelings. Writing skill is also becoming a more necessary skill for success in a number of occupations. Many of my kids think that writing is just part of school but I have had many conversations about how writing is used in the real world. Unfortunately, there are far too many students in the United States today who do not write well enough to meet grade-level demands. The writing assessment scores for grades 8 and 12 of the 2011 NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) showed that the number of students who do not reach proficient for their grade level remains at very high levels: 73% of eighth graders and 73% of twelve graders. The Common Core literacy standards place a significant emphasis on teaching students in all subjects
how to write and how to use writing to learn. We incorporate writing everyday and I explain to the students why it is important. Many of my students ask why do they have to write. The first is teaching students how to write (learning to write); the second is teaching students how to use writing to learn content (writing to learn). Although the goals for each are different, instruction for both needs to happen simultaneously. It is often assumed
that the job of teaching students how to write belongs to English language arts teachers. To a certain extent that is true, ELA teachers are partly responsible to teaching their students to write however, the truth is, in my opinion is that they cannot do it alone and content teachers also need to support learning to write. So that they can effectively teach their students. I think for student to truly learn the skills they need in regards to writing teachers need to show examples of subject-specific writing,teach students how to write about subject-specific text, and provide feedback to
students about content based writing assignments. So why is writing important? Learning to write includes learning two sets of skills: composing skills using the writing process (prewriting,planning, drafting, revising), and also skills that include (punctuation, capitalization, spelling). A

foundational composing skill is the ability to apply
knowledge of text structure to write sentences(i.e.,knowledge of grammar), paragraphs, and longer passages of text. Knowledge of text structure also includes recognizing the differences among narrative, informational, and argument types of writing. Composing requires a great deal of thinking at the pre-writing, planning and drafting stages. I show my students step by step what it is that is expected of them. I made the mistake before of use assuming that they knew what they were supposed to do. So now since I have so many different types of learners in my classroom, I have the writing process written down, I tell my students verbally and I also show them examples so that everyone can see what it is supposed to look like. I’m sure I have a lot more work to do in order to prepare my students for high school but we will get there.

Kids that can read but dont…


Every parent that I have met thus far, wants the best for their child. Parents want their children to succeed. It has been my experience that even though parents want to encourage their kids to read, some just choose not too and some parents are not sure how to help get them back into the habit. I had this happen to me recently. I have a student who is a excellent reader, chooses not to read. As a matter of fact they will do almost anything to get out of anything that has to do with reading. The child’s mother came to see me and asked what could she do to help motivate her child to read. She was telling me that her child used to love to read and read a lot but once they entered middle school they since has lost interest. I feel like this is a ongoing issue at the school that I teach. We met for our PLT(professional learning team) per grade level and we were discussing this very thing. I thought that I was the only one that was facing this issue. But after talking to my colleagues they too have seeing that some of their students who are refusing to read. I was asking them if it was during read aloud that their students were not wanting to read? They told me that it was read aloud, independently and in groups. We were trying to figure out among us how to get our kids reading and enjoying it. We discussed first what do you think the reason is for kids who will not read. We all wrote down our top three reasons then we discussed them. Here were some of the reason that we came up with. 1 )I don’t have the time.  We realize that kids are way more busy than we used to be at their age. Many of my students are athletes or participate in some type of after school club or activity. School, friends, sports, homework, television, and chores all compete for their time. So we felt that some children will need our help and their parents help in rearranging their schedules to make time for reading. 2) It’s not important. Often children don’t appreciate how reading can be purposeful or relevant to their lives. Our PLT decided to find reading materials on subjects that do matter to  kids, something that is happening out in the real world today that interests them. 3) It’s no fun.  For some children, especially those who have difficulty reading, books cause anxiety. Even for children with strong reading skills, pressure from school and home that emphasize reading for performance can make reading seem like a chore. We talking about that if we are finding material that interests them then, hopefully we can ease some of the pressure off reading so that they can enjoy it. We decided that when we have our students read independently, then we as teachers will stop what we are doing and read also. I think that if our students see us reading then maybe they will be more encouraged to read. So no I will not grade papers, check and respond to emails or plan for the next day. I will read when I assign my students to read by themselves. We will have to obtain permission from our principal and the teacher but we thought that maybe we could rotate our kids to be reading buddies to our kids that have severe disabilities and have them read to them since some of them are non verbal. Or we thought that since there is a elementary school within walking distance but we could plan to read to the younger kids maybe one or two days within a month or so to encourage our kids to read. We are planning on meeting with our principal this week to discuss these ideas to see if they are feasible or not. I hope that we can incorporate some of these ideas into our lesson plans really soon.


Middle school literacy and students with disabilities


I was talking to a co worker of mine and we were talking about how kids are in middle school and still can not read and write. This just totally blows my mind! I was trying to figure out where the break down starts and how can I as a teacher help close the achievement gap? How can kids go through elementary school and middle school and are sill are several grades levels below in reading? Is it just merely their disability or some other underlying cause? I ‘m sure there is not just one answer that tells me exactly where the break down is, but i’m sure there are several factors that come into play. My question is how can I do more to help kids become closer to grade level in the 7 months of school that we have left in this school year?

I was reading article and it talked about this very subject, it said that significant numbers of adolescents in the US do not read and or write at levels needed to meet the demands of the 21st century. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicate little improvement of literacy skills for the nations 13-17 year olds (Perue, Grigg, & Donahue, 2005; Persky, Daane, & Jin, 2003; Grigg, Donahue & Dion, 2007).  The article stated that in respect to reading, the most most recent NAEP data indicated that 36% of 4th graders and 27% of 8th grader students in the U.S. scored at the Below Basic level of proficiency, which NAEP defines as partial mastery of knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work given at grade level. The students that fall in this category have difficulty with literal understanding of what is read, ability to identify specific aspects of the text that reflect overall meaning, making inferences, and drawing conclusions based on the text.  As I was reading this I was saying to myself OH MY!!! This is totally true in my opinion. As a special educator, I often see students who are several grade levels below in reading and struggle significantly with drawing conclusions and making inferences which is part of the 8th grade curriculum according to Common Core Standards. I write several IEP’s (Individualized Education Plans) that include goals that deal with making inferences and drawing conclusions because it is such a struggle for some students and they need time to develop this skill.  Underdeveloped literacy skills have great consequences for students and families. These effects are academic , social, emotional, and economic nature. Students with LD (leaning disabled) experience significant deficits in reading and math. According to the (National Longitudinal Transition StudyII, 2003), 21% of students who are identified as LD are estimated to be five or more grade levels below in reading and drop out of high school at higher rates than their non disabled counterparts. Students with LD are often times inadequately prepared for the academic challenges that lie ahead. So after reading this, how can I help more? What can I do differently to reach the kids that I teach who are greatly below grade level in reading?

When planning I need to make sure that I target areas that are critical to reading such as vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, spelling, and grammar, which I do on a daily basis, but I could maybe incorporate more.  Try to combine strategy-based instruction/remediation with skill based instruction. In my opinion strategies are only effective if the students have the appropriate skills o carry out a given strategy. In middle school kids are expected to read volumes of materials from varied level texts and topics and are expected to answer comprehension questions about the text, make predictions, draw conclusions, and make inferences. This can be a daunting task for someone who is identified with a learning disability. Teaching these students effective strategies and practicing this with them as a whole group hopefully will help close the achievement gap and get these students with learning disabilities closer to grade level.


Adolescent Literacy and Older Students with Learning Disabilities (2008).

Literacy in this day and age..


Students today blog, download music and videos using YouTube or other sites, but I wonder how good are today’s students at interpreting the words and images they encounter in our increasingly tech-driven world? Can they communicate in multimedia formats what they are learning in the classroom? Literacy is ever changing and we as educators have to keep up. We live in a time when the very nature of information is changing: in what it looks like, what we use to view it, where and how we find it, what we can do with it, and how we communicate it. If this information is changing, then our sense of what it means to be literate must also change. Out with the old and in with the new sort of speak.

Since many of our schools in which we work have adapted to our new curriculum in Common Core, I feel like we have logically focused on technology and integrating technology to create opportunities for students to gain important technical skills. If we can establish an expanded sense of what it means to be literate in this new digital world, then we may achieve more progress, in terms of better preparing children for the 21st century, by integrating contemporary literacy, instead of integrating technology. But then again, I think that technology and literacy go hand in hand. So as a teacher, want to be able to integrate them both into what it is that I’m teaching.

Some of us were taught to read information that was available in classrooms, libraries, and in our homes. But how things have changed since I was in school, he Internet and many different software applications constitute the library for today’s students. And the information from these sources grows exponentially from week to week. How can we keep up with it all? I think that a way to manage it could be that the students and their teachers learn how to use an evolving array of search tools and strategies to get valuable information from a global electronic library. Many students have a wealth of information on what’s new out there, so if you involve them in the process it could be a really fun learning opportunity for you and your students.

One of my personal goals for this school year is to be more involved with our school media specialists. I had a great conversation with her about literacy and with the way things are moving what should our students be able to do with literacy in its many form? She gave me a slew of things that our students should be able to do in this digital age. A few things that she told me was that our kids should be able to find information within the vast global digital library that is relevant to what they are researching, they should understand and be able to explain what they find regardless of its format meaning text, images, audio, video, etc. and they should also be able to evaluate the information and determine its meaning. I told her that this was interesting so I asked her what about your students with special needs. She told me that every student should be able to access the information and that students with special needs may need a little modification but they will also be able to meet the same goals. I totally agreed with her.

Literature Circles


I wanted to do research and put to the test the effectiveness of literature circles. Now, I’m aware that literature circles are nothing new to teachers, but this was my first time trying it so naturally I was a bit nervous to see how it was going to go. I was concerned that the students may get off topic and start to horseplay or if they would discuss the book at all. We have just started our first novel this week so we read aloud and discussed chapter one. My students really started to get into the story. I explicitly explained what literature circles were and how I expected them to participate. Many of my students are very visual, so I decided to show a YouTube video on what a literature circle would look like and examples of how their discussion may go. I passed out and explained the different “jobs” that would be required for the literature circle. I put them into groups and I let them decided which job they would take. The purpose for me to incorporate literature circles into my lesson this week, was to see if my students were really comprehending the text and if literature circles would motivate my students to enjoy reading. I found that I as a teacher always give/feed my students the material but I wanted to let them take more control over what they were learning. Several of my students have told me personally that they do not enjoy reading. This concerned me greatly because everything we do in school involves reading in some way, shape, or form. I immediately started to think of how I could make reading fun. I wondered if I take a step back and let the students discuss the novel would they enjoy it more and be more motivated to read?

I’ve read several articles on literature circles and from what I have read, there have been many studies that have shown when kids are more involved in rich authentic conversation, they are more engaged in what they are reading. Being that the students are in small groups some who may not naturally be the ones to participate in class discussion may be more willing to do so in a small group setting. In smaller groups the students are able to voice their responses more freely. I read that literature circles also promote students’ motivation to read and studies have shown that this type of learning has improved students’ reading levels and performance on tests. That is exactly what I am going for! My main goal is to get my kids excited and motivated about reading. I took a survey earlier this week and asked them what type of novel they would be interested in reading. We as a class decided which book to read. The students seemed to really enjoy deciding what we as a class were going to read.

Once everything was in place I let the kids get started. I was very, very pleased with the conversations that were being had. One of my students who never raises his hand or participates in class discussions was actually talking about the book. I had each child think about and write a few questions to get the conversation started. He asked his question and the group talked about it. At the end of class I had everyone come back together and we discussed what went well and what didn’t go as well. The students told me that, that liked being in small groups talking about the story. One child told me that she hopes that we can do this again. I am very excited about how this turned out. We have not yet tested on chapter one so I am interested to see how well they will do. Looking forward to the next literature circle.

Digital Literacy Tools


I read a article that spoke about 10th grade students hosting a hand on learning session for teachers on familiarizing themselves with various digital tools, and applications all to enhance learning in the classroom. When I read this, I thought how cool is this? Then I chuckled because in this day and age it’s my opinion that children and young people have a wealth of knowledge on applications and other types technology some of which I have never heard of. When I was in school many moons ago, education was about the teacher standing in front of the class telling you what you were going to learn and then at the end of the week you were tested on what she told you. Nowadays, its more about doing, understanding and making growth.

“The sophomores demonstrated an awareness of multiple technologies, competence in using data analysis, and other digital-literacy skills that a growing number of educators and technology advocates say should be taught and assessed more regularly by K-12 schools. No longer just about how to use digital tools to gauge abilities in core academic areas, assessments, in their opinion, need to also measure a mastery of more abstract skills—ones closely aligned to the technology skills students will need to succeed in the workplace.” I have to totally agree with that statement. Since I have been a teacher, I have been in countless workshops about students meeting mastery and how will this particular teaching apply to real world situations. Before Common Core Standards I don’t think much emphasis was put on teaching content that students could use in real life situations, but now that is not the case. Before entering grad school, I had not given much thought to digital literacy nor did I fully understand it. But now I have a better understanding of what digital literacy is and what I can do as a teacher to incorporate it into my lessons. It think it’s about collaborating, staying safe and communicating effectively. It’s about cultural and social awareness and understanding, and it’s about being creative. It goes well with the common core standards which are students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. 1) Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media 2) Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats just to name a few. I have even set up my classroom differently in order to encourage collaboration.

A good number of students that I teach have a twitter, facebook or instagram account, what better way to take something that these kids spend a lot of time on and already know how to use and use it in the classroom to teach reading! I spoke with a co-worker of mine the other day, and she had set up a twitter account for her classroom. She told me that they had been reading a story aloud in class she would post questions about he story and had the students post their answers or comments, they were also allowed to comment on others students responses as long as it related to what they were discussing.She told me that the students were really into it and they enjoyed it immensely. I now feel a little more comfortable with this form of teaching and I’m looking forward to trying it out.




Digital Literacy

I have been teaching middle school language arts for two years. And in that small amount of time, I have seen first hand how much things have changed since I’ve started teaching. The field of education is always forever changing. It is my job to roll with the punches sort of. I have recently started a master’s program which I am studying literacy and special education. There seems to be a constant upgrade to technology for use in the classroom. I have become aware that I have not been utilizing these technologies like I should. I think that before you can incorporate digital  literacy in your classroom, you first have to understand why it is important and how you will use it in your classroom. I feel like with anything else, the more you use technology the better I hope to become and more proficient. Beetham and Sharpe’s framwork (2010) described digital literacy as a development process from access and functional skills to higher level of capabilities. This will change depending on the context so it reflects how people can be motivated to develop new skills.
Beetham and Sharpepyramid model of digital literacy development model (2010)
Beetham and Sharpe ‘pyramid model’ of digital literacy development model (2010).

I think digital literacy is very important and provides the students that I teach with new opportunities to enhance their learning as well as gives me as the teacher new opportunities to learn something new that I can use in my classroom.  As I was writing this blog post I was thinking about in what ways would incorporating new digital technologies in my classroom be beneficial to me and the students that I teach? Would this be worth my time? Is this just one more thing that I have to add to my already busy day?  I read a article and it explained how digital literacy is very beneficial to students and teachers. Digital literacy provides quality education in flexible and innovative ways, it meets the needs of diverse students, and in the long run it improves employability. I have been reading various articles lately about digital literacy and I wanted to see if I could use this technology in my classroom to help motivate some of my students to read. I figured baby steps would be the best route to go. So last week, I decided to give it a try. I was able to find  two non-fiction stories that goes along with what we are teaching now and I let the students use the I-Pads.  I also gave them a choice as to which story they wanted to read. That seemed to work very very well.We read both stories once as a class then they were to read the story that they choose with either a small group or partners. I was a bit anxious to see how this was going to go. Towards the end of the class period, I was surprised as to how well it went. My kids really enjoyed being able to chose their story and then do a activity to match each story read. I have some ideas as to how I can make it better. But for my first try I think overall it went ok. I know there is more to digital literacy than just reading a story on the I-Pad, but I am looking forward to finding out more ways to incorporate this technology in to my class.

Sources:Developing Digital Literacies: Published: 6 March 2014 | Last updated: 30 April 2014