ELA Success: Patience is key!

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Most of my blog content comes from questions I’ve answered at one time or another from teachers and administrators who use Shurley English.  I often hear the urgency in their voices, and they seem to be looking for a quick fix to the problems their students are experiencing. Sure, we all want quick results, but usually by the time you manage to find just the right curriculum or just the right supplement to your teaching, the students have moved on.  Then, you get a new batch of students with similar but unique struggles, and you’re back at it again, trying to find what works and what works fast.

Even though we, as a society, rely on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  Honestly, we all know there are NO quick fixes that produce the quality results we’re seeking, not in life or in curriculum.

In a previous blog, I broached the topic of having patience and of trusting the process. This is true of any quality curriculum, but especially so with Shurley English. You have to tap into your reservoir of patience—patience with yourself, patience with students, and patience with the curriculum.  Academic growth will manifest quickly in your students’ grammar and writing, but only after you have invested the upfront time needed to lock in the foundational patterns and strategies.

Note to Kindergarten – 3rd Grade Teachers:  Patience may be harder to come by for the lower level teacher of Shurley English because classroom management issues often chew up instructional time.  So, be patient out there, all you Kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers! Remember, you are the heroes who lay the grammar and writing foundations on which the later teachers can build upon.

Yes, Shurley English sometimes requires you to teach concepts that you may not have had to handle until a much later grade in your own schooling.  Just because you didn’t have the opportunity to learn in such a dynamic way personally, you need to know that you are exposing your young learners to concepts they will master in time, not necessarily with you.  You may not get to see the beautifully written masterpiece that the upper grade level teachers will see, but the foundational concepts you teach are vital.  

Note to 4th – 8th Grade Teachers: Middle elementary teachers, dig deeper into your reservoir of patience. Your kiddos are still trying to figure out this organized writing thing, and you are helping them to understand the connection between grammar and writing. Middle school teachers-have patience when trying to fill in the gaps, and smile when you’re the one that gets to submit their 5-Paragraph Essay to the writing contest! 

Society often relies on instant gratification, immediate feedback, and quick results, but the outcome of an exemplary education won’t happen that way.  It’s all about patience! Shurley English sets you and your students up for success, but you must be patient.  If you want quality-you’re in the right textbook!  If you want a confident, competent writer-be more patient. Remember…

Patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.

-David G. Allen

The Playbook of Literary Success: Composition

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The Playbook of Literacy Success highlights the necessary knowledge, skills, and practice required to win the game of literacy development.  Great players gain confidence when they own and use a broad vocabulary and a strong grammar foundation.  These two core concepts serve to prepare all players for one of the greatest plays of all: composition!  If you missed Part I and Part II of the Playbook of Literacy Success, you might want to go back to the starting line to catch up with some calisthenics we call Shurley English Jingles and then move into our version of the wishbone formation, which we call the Question and Answer Flow.  Today, our focus is on composition and the writing process.

We use the term “process” in writing instruction because it takes time—time and practice, first with basic skills and then moving to complex skills. In some past blog posts, we have shared how you can use a figurative “magnifying glass” on sentence writing with the Shurley English Sentence Blueprints. This strategy can be the start of something BIG for writers. Once mastered, you are helping youngsters literally build skills into their own writing process. Great sentence writing leads to great paragraph writing. Great paragraph writing leads to great compositions.

Reflective teachers can take this opportunity to model reflective thinking for their students because, as we have said before, teaching kids to write is the same thing as teaching them to think. As students apply their skills gained from Sentence Blueprints, we run the “practice drills” for each of the next several gameplays. Young writers practice their organizational skills, using a two- and three-point writing model. As they gain confidence, the content becomes a key player in their writing development. Learners, who now understand how to sequence their writing, have a wide-open door for writing responsively or creatively. Below are some important goals to keep in mind as you coach your budding writers.

Checklist for Shurley English Composition:

  • Use the teacher manual to guide your writing practice;

  • Engage students in brainstorming activities to generate writing topics;

  • Double-check students' ability to follow the writing process;

  • Give students opportunities to write in all genres according to the manual;

  • Use the writing evaluation guides as writing rubrics;

  • Conduct frequent writing conferences and provide feedback;

  • Set up "finished" and "in-process" writing folders for your students;

  • Maintain a writing portfolio for each student, containing examples of each kind of writing;

  • Incorporate Discovery and Across the Curriculum activities;

  • Encourage correct English use in both spoken and written forms;

  • Guide students in their research of content to write about.

The writing process will become more automatic for students as they gain experience and confidence.  One of the most important things you can do as a teacher is to provide clear, concise instruction and multiple writing opportunities so that students can repeat the steps of the writing process often enough to own them.  Always remember that the more frequently the brain utilizes a learning path, the deeper the knowledge is embedded in the long-term memory.  Write on!

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For more information about Shurley English Writing, click here.

Help Your Students Improve Their Revision Skills

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How many times have you asked your students to revise their work, only to have all of the papers returned to the hand-in basket within a few minutes with little to no changes at all?  The problem is that many students lack the necessary grammar skills required to revise. 

Simply writing a comment on a student’s paper to suggest a revision isn’t enough.  These comments are usually unclear and unhelpful to them—i.e. ‘too vague, too wordy, repetitive, etc.’ Students need more support and instruction than this; they need someone to show them how to make these types of revisions if they are to learn how to revise their content and achieve optimum results.

Students need a well-rounded grammar foundation to write with competence, and that foundation should include learning very specific revision skills.  It doesn’t have to be a painstaking task, but it is a process that must be taught.

First, students must understand that revising means to find ways to improve word choices and sentences in their rough draft.  They must also understand that revising requires them to read their rough draft critically several times to make sure they’ve said what they intended to say in the way they intended to say it.  They must read it aloud to themselves, and it helps to read it aloud to others to help find the “rough spots” that could use improvement.

A checklist to revise and improve the rough draft can be extremely beneficial.  The following example will help students focus their attention on five of the traits of effective writing, including:  (1.) ideas, (2.) organization, (3.) word choice, (4.) voice, and (5.) sentence fluency.  Try it out in your classroom today to help your students improve their revision skills!

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