Writing Prompt Pre-Planning
Even with the wealth of online resources used my classroom students are still exposed to traditional methods of instruction and organization, especially as it pertains to writing. To this end, graphic organizers are used as a way for students to do everything from capture notes to outlining a writing prompt. Students, especially those that are struggling readers often need a visual to help them organize and connect their thoughts.
In 2011, my school was awarded a grant that brought the School of One mastery-based blended learning model to MS88. School of One allows students to learn at their own pace in a totally redesigned, open classroom that can fit well over 100 students in different centers of the room. Students are assessed at the beginning of the year and given a “learning trajectory” for the entire year. Every day, each student is assigned new individualized lessons in different parts of the classroom in one of seven different learning modalities: virtual instruction/reinforcement, independent practice, small group/peer-to-peer collaboration, live investigation, and task projects. At the end of each class, we use an “exit slip” to evaluate and regroup students based on their progress. They are required to demonstrate mastery in each skill or concept before they can move onto new skills and concepts.
Number of Students: ~300 students
Number of Adults: six teachers; one Operations Technology Associate; SPED teacher(s) and/or paraprofessionals (as needed)
Length of Class Period/Learning Time: 92 minutes (divided into two 36 minute sessions)
Digital Content/Ed Tech Tools Used on a Regular Basis: proprietary web-based software; IXL, LearnZillion, VirtualNerd, Khan Academy, MangaHigh, Math XL, TenMarks, I Can Learn, Khan Academy, Engrade, Educreations, Padlet, Remind, Weebly, Google Apps for Education
Hardware Used on a Regular Basis: student laptops (1:1), iPads for teachers, SMARTboards
Key Features: competency-based; student agency;individualized learning paths; project-based; innovative use of time; innovative use of talent; co-teaching
My colleagues and I have students write a Synopsis of their learning after every Independent Learning Zone period as well as after Live Investigations. The Synopsis acts as a reflective tool for both large and small concepts. I often tell my students to write what they actually learned or improved upon, not what they THINK I want them to write. I train my students to make a space for the Synopsis in their notebook headings. Occasionally, I will have my students read their Synopses out loud, but most often I walk around and do a quick check, as they are mostly a personal reflection for my students.
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.