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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Wyoming Teacher Policy Institute
Wayne Tuttle, Manor Heights Elementary, Casper, WY



A BLUEPRINT FOR EFFECTIVE WRITERS

Problem  In today’s world people are expected to be effective writers in a variety of professional fields. With a standards-based education, writing competency is the expectation. However, many students are being asked to be better writers but are given neither the tools, nor the time, to develop their writing style. 
Research Questions How will the use of Writer’s Workshop and the Six +1 Traits of Writing help improve student achievement?  What happens to students’ attitudes toward writing when they are engaged in the Workshop and have the Six +1 Traits?
Methods 
  • Student surveys to analyze writing skills and attitudes.
  • Portfolio assessment of student work throughout the year.
  • Comparison of student 4th grade writing WYCAS scores with overall 5th grade writing performance.
  • Analysis of students’ perceptions of good writing from August 2001 and May 2002.
  • Based on teacher analysis of fifth grade student portfolios, 50% of the students showed growth in their level of Findings writing proficiency and 69% of the students were proficient.
  • 66% of students surveyed felt the Six +1 Traits helped them become a better writer.
  • 66% of students believed Writer’s Workshop helped them to develop the trait of voice.
  •  62% of students still believe they need to improve their conventions.· 90% of students enjoy writing now.
  • 100% of students had a positive response toward Writer’s Workshop.
  • 100% of students want to continue Writer’s Workshop in sixth grade.
Policy Recommendations
  1. Teacher should begin Writer’s Workshop to improve student-writing achievement.
    Rationale: To create competent writers, teachers need to provide a writing environment in classrooms. As Donald Graves states, “Children need to write a minimum of 4 days a week to see any appreciable change in the quality of their writing (Graves, 71).” As fifth grader Frank says, “It is an educational thing to do for writing.” The positive aspects are best stated by the fact that 100% of the students in class had a positive response and would like to continue it in sixth grade.
  2. The Six +1 Traits should be taught to and actively used by students to evaluate their writing.
    Rationale: Two thirds of the students in my class felt the Traits helped them improve their writing. As one student put it, “They (Six Traits) have helped me know what I should have in my writing to be a better writer.” The Traits are tools that provide a framework for the students to know what is needed to improve their writing.
  3. Students should be allowed to choose the topics they are writing about.
    Rationale
    : This choice allows students the opportunity to improve their voice in writing. 66% of students believed voice was their best trait. As Peter Elbow writes, “Writing with no voice is dead, mechanical, faceless. It lacks any sound (56).” The students sum up the choice the best: “(It is) Awesome because your story can run wild,” Steve stated. And Jennifer said, “I really enjoy writing. It helps me express my feelings and opinions.”
  4. School districts or the State Department of Education need to provide quality professional development opportunities (cohort groups) for teachers who are interested in developing Writer’s Workshop.
    Rationale: In order for any educational change to be significant and long lasting, teachers need support. As the national Teacher Policy Institute suggests, “Professional development needs to be designed to create cohorts of teachers functioning in ongoing support groups or networks. These networks should provide members with professional growth opportunities.”

 

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