Writing flourishes with Greenfield Middle School program
Through the University of Miami’s Ohio Writing Project (OWP), English teachers are learning better ways to guide students not just to be better writers, but to be confident writers. and capable.
Throughout the year, college English teachers met with OWP instructors who provide and demonstrate engaging writing strategies and lessons. It is something not only to help students learn writing in a new way, but also to help teachers in their teaching.
According to college principal Jason Potts, the emphasis on writing wasn’t really there before all of this, as everything related to English language arts was combined into one block of time, but this year , this block split so that there was time. devoted solely to writing.
“Good writers are good readers, but it doesn’t always work the other way around,” Potts said.
Because this block used to be for all things ELA, Potts said he knew teachers would need extra support if there was to be any real success in teaching handwriting in particular. This is where OWP came in. He said he took OWP training a few years ago and it was “the best outside training” he had ever attended. So he immediately knew who was going to be the support of the teachers.
“OWP is designed not just for kids to write, but to enjoy,” he said. “Students write more than teachers can read, and that’s okay. Teachers can then use selected pieces of writing to build students into stronger writers.
While Potts noted that teachers were hesitant at first, they have since “grabbed” the ideas offered by OWP and are seeing student writing flourish.
Teacher Anna Black said OWP encourages frequency of writing for long periods of time and encourages strategies to engage students in the world around them. For this reason, students use observational cognitive thinking a lot, such as writing about things they notice and things they wonder about. According to Black, it’s a strategy that encourages students to slow down, take a closer look, and communicate freely.
She said there are set time periods for what are called quick writes, as well as strategies that apply to an extended writing project. With speed writes, students engage in a brief timed writing opportunity in their notebooks. It can last anywhere from two to 10 minutes, Black said, and it integrates writing with critical thinking.
Amanda Collier, a seventh-grade ELA teacher, said these notebooks also serve as a place for students to generate ideas, for creative writing, and also for speed writing. Students also use their notebooks to “pull” future ideas, which is facilitated by the table of contents that each student creates for their notebook.
She said in the notebooks, there are no problems with grammar, spelling or organization. It’s about writing, and they approach grammar in other ways that OWP has managed to make exciting and engaging for students, she said. So instead of students going through a spreadsheet of grammatical errors to correct, they now spend days exploring grammar in a new way.
On the first day, Collier said students are given a model sentence from a published work and students share what they notice about the sentence and make a class list with all the things noticed. The next day, a similar sentence is introduced and the two sentences are compared to see if students can identify the grammatical topic they will be working with.
On days three and four, students imitate the phrases and apply the knowledge to other engaging activities. The fifth day is spent discussing the sentences to determine if they need to be changed or revised.
Collier said this was especially important when talking about sentence fragments. As the students learned to recognize the fragments, they also discussed examples where the authors had intentionally chosen to use them.
Collier recounted an exercise the students found particularly entertaining where they took dependent clauses and used them to construct passive-aggressive letters. An example of this, she said, was:
“Dear Gum Chewer,
As you may know, people really hate it when you put your gum under the table.
Ruined Football Shorts”
“The courses are about treating them like writers,” Collier said, and giving students the tools and choices to engage in the writing process.
Potts said the plan is to continue with OWP next school year and stay on the path of more focused writing instruction and empowering students to become better writers.
“Writing is the key to improvement in all other subjects,” Potts said. “We still have a hill to climb when it comes to writing, but it’s better than the mountain it was before we started using OWP.”
For updates and information regarding the Greenfield Exempted Village School District, visit the district’s website at greenfield.k12.oh.us, or check out the district’s social media pages.