Friday, February 21, 2014

Reflections of a Writing Teacher!

     I have spent the past two weeks agonizing over what I could say in this post that would make it worth your time. I am not sure I ever came up with anything awe inspiring, or earth shattering. It seems that there are already so many fantastic ideas being tweeted and pinned that I am not sure there IS much left to post or tell about! Oh, I know that in our rooms we tweak and alter old ideas putting our own little "kiss" of uniqueness on it and present it as new. This is one of the best parts of being a teacher- taking ideas and making them our own.
     I have been a nervous wreck with the end of the year looming and state testing starting soon. The great state of Utah has decided to test each grade 3-11 with TWO different writing assessments this year. These scores will be a key component in our school grade, along with our newly redesigned state CORE test, which is called SAGE.
     Why the stress you ask? I am the writing teacher for the 4th-6th graders in our building- ALL 64 of them! AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! To top THAT off, my 5th graders are required to take a third writing test this year as well during the transition to the new SAGE Writing tests.
    We (the 5th graders and I) have been working night and day to be ready for this test. The students will be given a prompt along with two articles about it (one pro, one con). They must then form an opinion, write a 5 paragraph essay, and quote text from the article to support it. Phew...
     Like most of you, I have many low readers and writers, many of whom are ELL and are still working on making a complete thought in a sentence.
     During all this practice, I had the students write to a prompt that I made up. The prompt was whether the students would rather have a 3 day- 10 hours of school day, or a regular 8am-3pm school day (with our current 1/2 day Fridays still in place). Here was the resulting 4 Square (more on that some other time, if you aren't familiar with 4 Square writing check it out- it is amazing!) from one of my students.

     I typed this student's work up with no name so we could analyze it with out fear or being made fun of. The students were really good about not asking whose it was, and the owner never once let on it was his/hers. PERFECT!
     We discussed it and then students worked in pairs to write out the paragraphs. I was feeling really good about where we were heading with all this.
     Next, I brought in the Scholastic Story Works Debates. They WORK PERFECTLY! They present an issue and then share the pros and cons. The students make notes about both sides, and then choose one. I have been extending that to have the students create a 4 square and write a 5 paragraph essay.
     Is it working? I  honestly don't know. I have been pushing them so hard that I am not sure what will happen on Tuesday.
     The last two days we have just stopped the stressing and have been having a blast doing OTHER types of writing. The students have been more excited about writing and it has been a great break. Monday we will head back for one last practice session, and then on to the big test.
     I have come to realize that I can only love them and guide them- the rest really is up to them. I have been in denial for many years thinking if I just care more or do the activity in 10 different ways they will want to learn. The reality is that I only can do my best to meet them where they are and then they have to pick up torch and run with it.
     Thanks for listening to my thoughts, worries, and hopes! I LOVE teaching and HATE it at the same time. But, I have great hopes for this class on this test. They are excited for it, they have worked hard for it, and they are going to ROCK IT!
    Here is to a very happy Friday and a Relaxing weekend-

~Mr. Hughes


  1. Ahhhh- this time of year is always so stressful!! I love how you're prepping your learners. Good luck- I'm sure they'll do great!!

    XO, Kelly Anne

    1. Thank you!
      I appreciate your support and kind words. YOU ROCK! :)

  2. I'm with you. My students LOVE 4 square writing. They take their writing test on Wednesday. At this point all I can do is hope and pray that they do their best. Of course I'll be squeezing in a few mini reminder lessons between now and then.

    1. :) Thanks for your comments. I wish you all the luck in the world with your kiddos! Here's to some great mini-lessons!

  3. Do you have an example of a writing piece from this prompt?


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