- School: Chappell Elementary
- Text: The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers by Jennifer Serravallo
- Group Members: Molly Byelick, Catherine Garber, Lauren Gillis, Sarah Hagen, Laurentine McKee, Study Group Leader; Gladys Podgorny, Rachel Rohland
- Goal: To improve our writing practice across grade levels and abilities and make writing more of a priority in daily teaching.
The Goal and Its Evolution Over Time
Our general focus of the group was to improve our writing practice across grade levels and abilities. Overall, we wanted to make writing more of a priority in our daily teaching.
To do this we planned to implement new writing strategies suggested from our text, The Writing Strategies Book, with students over the course of the year to improve the students’ ability to plan, draft, revise, edit, and finalized writing projects.
Rating and effectiveness of the professional text:
- Easy to read
- Divided by grades
- Pictures for every suggestion
- The suggestions work
- The students love the ideas
Implementation in the classroom and reflection:
Each meeting, our group would discuss a different chapter of the book. The Writing Strategies books is organized into sections that are easy to read and understand. This made it much easier to implement the chosen strategies into our own classroom.
All of the participants would implement 2-3 strategies with their own students, whether it be in whole group, small group, or individual conferences. We would then report back on our findings, share student work, and discuss if it is a strategy that we would suggest to our fellow teachers. Even further, we would brainstorm how the specific strategies could be used at all grade levels and changed based on the level of the students.
How the larger school community and other RLTA study groups will benefit from your work:
We always want our wonderful ideas and the new strategies we have learned to be used by our co-workers and our fellow educators at large. As you will see from our PowerPoint presentation we have shared the ideas and strategies that we discussed and used throughout this very unique school year. However we discussed and have learned from past experiences that often it is hard to transfer this knowledge without a face to face encounter. It is easy to have these encounters during a traditional year within the confines of our school with our co-workers. Consequently with the larger RLTA community it is not as easy, so we are happy to share our work emails with the strategies posted with our presentation if anyone has any further questions.
Why was participating in RLTA helpful to me as a teacher?
“It began with the workshops in the summer, prior to the school year, when I began to form professional relationships with the teachers I would be working with at Chappell. I could tell from those initial days of interaction that these were a group of dedicated educators who wanted to improve their skills, were willing to share their experiences and ideas, as well as were willing to listen to what other educators had to say. As the year progressed with a few starts and stops, these initial professional relationships bloomed into a study group that was able to share the successes and failures in teaching writing in the classroom. Everyone was given time to discuss their students needs, their new writing strategy attempts in the classroom, and the progress their students were or were not achieving.” -Catherine
“Participating in Rochelle Lee was helpful for me as a teacher because I work with so many different grade levels. Sometimes, it is overwhelming to keep track of which grade levels are doing what, specifically in English/Language Arts. As a resource teacher, having this extra time to collaborate with other teachers both at grade levels that I work with as well as younger and older grade levels allowed me to understand what I should be focusing on with my students in the resource setting. This way, I can try to delve deeper into specific strategies that students might be struggling with in their general education setting.” -Rachel
“Participating in RLTA was helpful to me as a teacher for many reasons. To begin with, I was feeling at a disadvantage using Lucy Calkins, as part of Writing Workshop, in helping my students be more productive writers. I also thought that I was the only one having these doubts. After participating in RLTA the contrary was true. I was amazed to learn that many of the strategies suggested in The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers could easily be integrated within Writing Workshop using Lucy Calkins. It was easy to see that my students really enjoyed practicing the strategies and they became more productive writers – without even knowing it! Having used Lucy Calkins in my classroom for the last couple of years made it easy to “pick and choose” the strategies that
were more relevant in my classroom. Nevertheless, if one has never used Lucy Calkins in the classroom, the strategies have been well organized by grade level and writing genre. Undoubtedly, having the opportunity to meet, discuss, and share what worked and what didn’t was necessary. These open discussions created a space where I could openly share my doubts and a place where I knew fellow teachers were ready to support me.” -Gladys
“RLTA provided an opportunity to collaborate with other educators to learn and discuss best teaching practices. It is not often that teachers are able to work with teachers outside of their own school. I found the summer program to be engaging and meaningful by participating in professional development sessions with other dedicated educators.
RLTA also allowed Chappell teachers to work together to explore ideas to incorporate into our writing curriculum. We all worked together to discuss a common issue. This type of collaboration helped create stronger relationships with my colleagues.” Molly
“Being a teacher takes much more than being able to deliver a good lesson. Being a teacher requires an individual to plan, problem solve, prepare, present, and then reflect. This can be overwhelming to anyone, especially to a teacher at a new position and grade level.
Having the support of a structured text, collaboration opportunities with colleagues, and guidance from other RTLA staff, building successful writing and reading periods into the third grade curriculum has been a breeze.
Learning that independent reading, guided reading, and read alouds all hold the same amount of importance has given me a new perspective on how to provide reading instruction. Learning that there is not one straight order to how you teach the writing process has given students endless strategies to make them more successful writers.” -Lauren
“Being a part of the Rochelle Lee Teacher program over the last few years has highly improved my understandings as a teacher of literacy. I appreciate being able to participate in the summer courses, learning about different aspects of literacy through other professional educators. Overall, my goal is to improve the three main goals that WITS encourages in classrooms. I have worked on improving my classroom library, read alouds, and independent reading into daily activities. Encouraging the students to fall in love with reading in fun and create ways is key!
Participating in the book study and the book club has given me an opportunity to have organic and effective discussions with my fellow teachers, not only about teaching strategies but also about our own love of literacy. Last year, we focused on different vocabulary strategies to help our students, specifically, English language learners. While this year our focus was to improve our current writing curriculum by integrating new strategies across content areas.” -Laurentine
What did I like about RLTA?
“Well I must say that I have enjoyed choosing and receiving new books twice this year. I teach first grade and read 5 to 3 books a day to my students. Read alouds are naturally differentiated learning because no-one is struggling to read. Instead everyone is working to improve their listening skills and is acquiring new vocabulary as well as learning from each other.
I also liked being a part of the Writing Study Group because I wanted to strengthen my teaching skills in writing as well as learn new ways to engage my students in writing. This study group actually fulfilled its goal. We as a group learned a variety of new strategies to engage our students. Lastly, what I liked about RLTA, was the new friendships that I formed.” -Catherine
“I enjoyed having the opportunity to collaborate and share with both colleagues at my own school, as well as over the summer with teachers from other schools around Chicago. Hearing different perspectives was very interesting. I remember when we did the book study, hearing other teachers’ stories and own life experiences was very powerful to me.
I enjoyed being able to order books in January, and think that I picked a bunch that are going to be very helpful when trying to teach my students about what is going on in the world today. I made sure to diversify my selection instead of just picking books that I thought were cute or popular with the grade levels that I am working with. Instead, I used information that I’ve learned in Rochelle Lee to better choose” -Rachel
“There are so many reasons why I appreciate being part of the RLTA group! I am always honored to participate and learn different strategies that I know will be beneficial to my students directly, or to myself to be a more
productive teacher. Take the case of Summer Institute, for example. The PDs that are offered are high-quality and always relevant in my classroom.
Equally important is the library that is made available to me and my students, if necessary. Having this additional resource is important to ensure students are reading books that are relevant and that they find engaging. In addition, participating in the PDs always encourages me to do better by my students: whether learning new strategies or how to be more organized and a productive teacher (Mirrors or Windows, Culturally Relevant Books, Google Classroom, Google Calendar, etc.).” -Gladys
“RLTA provided so many new resources and ideas to use as I move forward in my teaching career. It challenged us to think about our current practice to create stronger classroom environments. I also appreciated the open communication with all of the RLTA facilitators. They would always reach out to answer questions and concerns throughout the school year. I believe RLTA is a perfect example of how to engage educators in collaborative learning.” -Molly
“What I enjoyed most about Rochelle Lee was the feedback and collaborative practices I was able to engage in with study group members from my school, from outside of my school, and Rochelle Lee leaders.
An absolute highlight from Rochelle Lee was the summer workshop. This gave an opportunity for educators all around Chicago to come to one place to discuss resources, experiences, and instructional material to enhance our teaching pedagogy and strategies. We were the educators and the students at these workshops.” -Lauren
“WITS, along with RLTA, has provided many helpful resources. Each person that I have come in contact with through this program has been so helpful, insightful, and supportive. Lastly, RLTA has given me the opportunity to provide a wide variety of books in different genres, languages, and content areas. Without these funds my students would be missing out on so many rich texts that have been used in read alouds, literature circles, other content lessons, guided reading, and independent reading time. Having access to these texts will allow my students to explore the world and continue to learn and grow!” -Laurentine