Narrative Writing Standard Annotating

Sunday, November 23, 2014

     What are those fantastic teachers looking at so intently, you ask?  Writing samples from the Calkins Units of Study.  They are exploring narrative writing samples in a collaborative effort to find the "bar" when it comes to narrative writing.

     Our school district purchased the Units of Study in writing last year, and this year the Writing Core Leaders are asking that we gather samples of student work that meets or exceeds the standards for every grade, with the purpose of sharing those across the schools as student work examples.  The question is, what does it look like to meet or exceed on the Common Core standard?  It might be easy enough for us to look around our own classroom and pick out the best writing samples, but are those really meeting the CCSS standard?

     In an attempt to find out, we spent a building meeting where we took the on-demand narrative samples from Lucy Calkin's units and blew them up onto a poster.  That way, we had samples that she  feels meets the standard for each grade level, but the story is always a story about a girl named Sarah and her dog.  It was easy to see the progression of writing development from K to 5th grade.

     Before they got started, I had a team member from each grade level get up and hold up Standard 3 from their grade level writing standards.  We could see from where we were sitting just how complex the standard gets as it moves along the grade levels.  We told them to read the standard as a team, and then use the standard and find evidence of it in their grade level writing sample.  Mark it up, code it, etc.

     When they were finished, we had them hang up their writing sample and their standard on the wall.  We then did a gallery walk where they were able to look at the samples across the grades, and notice any patterns and make observations.  

     What did we notice?  Well, our conversation made us aware of a few issues.  Our students still need to work on their volume of writing.  While we have a few students at each grade level who can produce samples like those, many cannot.  We, as a staff, will have to continue to brainstorm ways to increase their stamina and volume.  We also need to focus on purpose and audience when writing within the genre, and less on the small details included on all those checklists and rubrics.  If our students write a great lead, but have no idea why they are writing a narrative in the first place, then they will never create samples like this on their own.  

     Here are the samples, marked up by the Hiawatha teachers.  
*Some grade levels did not finish in time, so they are a work in progress.

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