Last week we began setting the stage for Writing Continuums in third grade. The students (and teachers!) have been working diligently in reading workshop. Students have worked through multiple texts, building their reading lives through Falling in Love with Close Reading, engaging in student-led discussions and supporting their critical thinking ideas with text evidence and unpacking that evidence through writing about reading. Now it is time to raise the level of WAR.
In order to set the stage for the writing continuum I worked within the same text as the students. Third graders are currently studying Revolutionary Thinkers. Through historical fiction and non-fiction texts they are digging deep into the lives and stories of different thinkers who have changed the world. For this introduction we were reading a text about the Wright Brothers. I read and interacted with the same text, noticing subtle and obvious differences in Wilbur and Orville. I then wrote four different versions of a WAR, one for each level of proficiency. The students were writing their own WAR at the same time.
We began with this aim: Readers analyze to identify attributes of work. We deconstructed this aim so that we had a clear vision of what we wanted to get done. The students were absolutely THRILLED with the idea of analyzing a teacher's work. They worked in partnerships and small groups interacting and marking up my work and attempting to come to a consensus about what level of proficiency it was (1-4). We wanted to make sure that students could support their ideas with reasons and evidence (just as they would during WAR).
The discussions that we heard were phenomenal and this experience also served as a highly effective formative assessment. Students were using language from this unit of study, grappling with the ideas and evidence I presented and consulting one another on the coherence, structure and meaning of each piece. The teachers and I wished we had recorded these conversations as they were FULL of information and understanding.
At the end of an hour students had come to a small group consensus on each piece and we were able to identify and discuss the attributes of the different levels writing. One of the biggest take aways was that although my level 2 writing was long and included a lot of evidence, the evidence was unnecessary and I did not unpack it, therefore my readers learned very little. Their nuanced descriptors and careful analysis of my work surpassed our expectations.
Next steps, creating the continuum and introducing it as a tool - I cannot wait to continue these discussions!