This post is part of a series of blogs by READ 180 classroom teachers about their experiences both with the program and with students.
I recently discovered a dusty box filled with random keepsakes from when I was a teenager. Buried in this box were letters from my grandmother, letters from pen-pals, my diaries (eek!), and essays I had written in high school. Finding these handwritten treasures swept me back in time. I quickly read every single piece of writing, each of which sparked a different emotion within me.
Reading these pieces of writing also got me thinking about the importance of communicating with others in written form. I love how READ 180 teaches my students to write (and you can read a Q&A with one of my students about her experience with the program below). The purpose of writing may be to activate prior knowledge or demonstrate comprehension. Students may write to entertain, persuade, or argue a topic. Daily writing opportunities develop proficient readers and writers.
Writing in READ 180
READ 180 provides opportunities for daily writing. Because of these activities, I’ve watched students transform from average writers to proficient writers. The guidance and structure READ 180 provides teaches students to write with a purpose. Reflecting on the various forms of writing found in my keepsake box energized me to go back through our rBook to find different types of writing in READ 180:
- React and Write: Respond to text
- Do Now: Activate prior knowledge
- Wrap Up: Show what you know
- rBook Writing: Write to respond to a prompt
- Writing Zone: Respond to an interactive writing prompt
- Journal: Write reciprocally
- QuickWrites: Demonstrate comprehension of an independent reading book
Writing in the rBook
Each workshop has a writing section with a prompt related to the topic, and students work through the sequence of writing activities. In my classroom, the writing section usually takes two weeks. In the end, students have an exceptional piece of writing. We begin the writing section by analyzing the student model. Students then brainstorm ideas related to the writing prompt. Next, they begin working through the outline, taking time to focus on their main idea and details. After that, students write a rough draft. We spend time editing their essays by checking for spelling, punctuation, and the use of interesting words. I model for students how to read the rubric and check their writing for the listed components. Finally, students type or write a final copy.
I’ve found that the most helpful part of the writing section is the draft outline. The outline guides students through the different parts of their essay. The sentence starters help students write proficient sentences. I often pull out previous READ 180 rBooks to help students discover more sentence starters. When students have completed a draft, they read it both to themselves and to me, and I read it aloud to the student. This practice allows for editing of the draft. In the end, students write their final paper in cursive or type it out.
Keeping Our Writing Organized
In my classroom, students have a writing notebook. This notebook is kept in a large resealable plastic bag. Also in the bag is their rBook, a book log in a folder, and their independent reading book.
The writing notebook is divided into sections by simply gluing headings to individual pages. The sections are:
- Do Now
- Wrap Up
- React and Write
Having the notebook organized in this manner allows students to easily find the section for the writing task. When a writing prompt from the ITS is displayed on the board, students know what section to write in. Likewise, when we are working in the rBook, students will use their notebook for the React and Write writing prompts. Notebooks are turned into a basket for grading. I take the time to read each student’s writing and personally respond. Students look forward to my responses.
My READ 180 Student Perspective
This week, I had a conversation with a student about writing in READ 180. She was my student during sixth and seventh grade. She is now a freshman and excelling at everything she puts her mind to!
Mrs. Eskildsen: Think about your writing in fifth grade. Compare that writing to now.
Student: READ 180 helped me understand what to write so my writing made sense to others.
I know more about how words should go together. The way I describe things is better—like in the body, I describe events with more detail using descriptive words. My spelling got better too. I understand better the spelling of words and patterns in words.
Mrs. Eskildsen: What specifically in the writing section of the READ 180 rBook helped you become a better writer?
Student: The outline for the draft helped me know how my paper should be laid out. I know more about the different parts to include in a paper, like the introduction, body, and conclusion.
I liked the student example because I was able to see what my writing should be like.
Mrs. Eskildsen: Tell me about the writing on the software. How did the software help you to be a better writer?
Student: The Writing Zone was my favorite part of the software. The Writing Zone felt like a reward. It’s kind of like you have to earn it. The other zones are repeated, but this one is not. I was proud and excited when it showed up on my screen. The software explained the writing to me while I was working. I knew what I had to do to write a good paper.
Mrs. Eskildsen: Did you like the journal writing? What specifically did you like about it?
Student: Yes, I liked the journal writing. I liked how I felt when I wrote. It was like I was talking to someone. I always knew you’d write back. The journal has made it easier to talk about myself or ask for help.
Mrs. Eskildsen: I really like the journal writing too! I get to learn about my students. It’s a safe place for them to write about successes and challenges.
Providing daily writing opportunities to students creates proficient writers. Proficient writers will be able to effectively communicate in various ways. Maybe one day, they will look back at their essays from middle school and see their own writing journey.
Food for Thought: How do you incorporate daily writing in your classroom? What do your students love about writing in READ 180? How do you organize READ 180 writing materials?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Education Research Director, Core Literacy & Early Learning