Proficiency is Possible: Helping Students to Write for Understanding

Course Number:  EDU 5620 C08
Instructor: Joey Hawkins
Location: White River Valley Supervisory Union
Dates and Times: The course will run from September 2017 through early February 2018 on Thursdays. The classes will be held after school from 3:30 to 7 pm, for a total of 10 classes. We will meet twice monthly, with the exception of December and February, which will have just one class session. September 14, 28, October 12, 26, November 9, 30, December 14, January 11, 25, February 8.
Credits: 3 credits
Tuition: $950 with credit. Tuition will cover the cost of books and materials needed for the course.

Note: Please register directly with Mary Ellen Simmons at White River Valley Supervisory Union. If you wish to take the course for credit, please notify Mary Ellen, who will then give you the link to Castleton's online registration form. Thank you.

Course Description

What can it look like for students to write proficiently about topic and text? What can a thoughtful, standards-based writing progression within a schoolwide curriculum look like?
This course is designed to give K – 12 teachers a good understanding of proficient, standards-based, topic-and-text based writing at all grade levels, and what that can look like within an intentional, schoolwide system that is thoughtfully moving all students towards proficiency. The course is built on the premises of Writing for Understanding – that if students are going to write proficiently about substantive content, then instruction needs to focus on both building knowledge and understanding, and on clear structure and craft, all within the framework of the writing standards.
At the heart of the course is actual classroom teaching. We will explore what Writing for Understanding premises can look like within instructional sequences that have been used successfully with students to produce proficient topic-and-text based writing. Teachers will implement a Writing for Understanding sequence for informative/ explanatory writing with their students, monitoring it closely along the way. Teachers who are new to Writing for Understanding will use a sequence that has been pre-designed; teachers who are more familiar with WU may elect to implement a sequence of their own design, if they choose.
In a collaborative setting, across grade levels, teachers will then look closely at the student writing that emerges from this work. In what ways is the writing proficient? In what ways is it not yet proficient? What are my next steps? Importantly, the course will help teachers consider next instructional steps that these students, at this grade level, need on the road to proficiency for all.

Course Overview

September 14 What is WU? What is proficient? Exercise with read / write (“Auk”, then “In Our Students’ Shoes (chapter one, book); read intro (Message to Teachers); explore 3 writing types with In Common pieces

September 28 read Chapter 6 on transfer (homework); painted essay; examples of student work – deconstruct the piece itself, what the big idea is, the reading standard, the writing standard; deconstruct the planning

October 12 take teachers through an interactive sequence, Lou Gehrig – use workbook to accompany the sequence, so teachers see all elements of the planning (test drive, close reading, model, etc)

October 26 grades 3-5 teachers could use Lou Gehrig; make available other grade levels as needed by participants (Wangari, “water” instructionally, Great Depression); if people want to plan their own, they can (with permission instructor)

November 9 workshop – individual conferences with instructor about plan

November 30 teachers share teaching experience so far – what are you seeing? What do you wonder? Work with Chapter 5, WU (writing)

December 14 teachers share teaching experience again – what student problems are you encountering? A look at some instructional resources (EL, Great Minds, science research, Perspectives)

January 11 practice assessing student writing, making and using benchmark

January 25 teachers assess student writing from their sequence of instruction, think about instructional next steps

February 8 teachers share their final reflections on their WU work in their classrooms

Course Syllabus

Date Focus for Class Materials Homework
9/14 What does “proficiency” look like? How does Writing for Understanding help make proficiency possible?
Explore experience of trying to write proficiently, from student perspective. Explore three writing types, addressing proficiency (In Common).
• “Message to Teachers”
• Chapter One, close read and write
• standards progression, In Common
Read Chapter Six, transfer

What can text-and-topic based proficient writing from the classroom look like?
Reflect on transfer and its relationship to proficiency (from homework). Work with Painted Essay. Explore key pieces of proficient student writing from the classroom, deconstruct for standards-based planning.
• Chapter Six
• painted essay
• WU planner
• packet of student writing
• analysis sheet Read Chapters Two and Three
What does a Writing for Understanding instructional experience look like from start to finish?
Reflect on importance of focus, building knowledge in terms of proficiency (from homework). Interactive walk-through of WU instructional sequence, including all aspects of planning.
• Chapters Two and Three
• all materials for interactive walk-through, including blank WU planner Review interactive walk-through and planner. Read and annotate texts on close reading, test drive, and models.

10/26 What do other pre-planned WU instructional sequences look like? What might it take to plan your own?
Discuss questions that came up from homework reading. Explore several other pre-made WU sequences. Introduce planner for those who want to design their own WU sequence.
• several pre-made WU sequences, depending on grade level of participants Decide on sequence to implement. If designing one, fill out WU short form planner (draft)
11/9 What will individual teachers work with to implement WU planning?
Workshop session for individual conferences with instructor.
• I notice / I wonder observation tool Read Chapter Five. Begin implementing WU plan with students.

11/30 What are teachers noticing so far in their classroom instruction? What questions have emerged?
Shared reading protocol Chapter Five. Individually, share “I notice, I wonder” about WU experience so far in classroom.

• shared read protocol Continue implementing WU plan with students.
12/14 What are teachers noticing so far in their classroom instruction? What questions have emerged?
Looking ahead: what resources are out there for teachers to use?
Individually, share “I notice, I wonder” about WU experience so far in classroom. Explore other resources available for classroom curriculum, instruction.

• resources for teachers, free and purchased Continue implementing WU plan with students. Save all student work!

1/11 What does “looking at and learning from student work” look like?
Work with pre-made materials to use a benchmark and standards-based checklist to look at and learn from student work. • student work materials – instructions, benchmark, writing, checklist Complete implementing WU plan with students. Save all student work!

1/25 What do teachers see in their own student work? What are some possible next steps for these students?
Teachers use the benchmark / checklist process to analyze their own students’ work.
• checklists, analysis tool Prepare presentation for final class (those taking the course for credit)
2/8 What did teachers learn about instruction towards writing proficiency from their work?
Teachers taking the course for credit share reflections in either written or Powerpoint presentation

Required Texts

Writing for Understanding: Using Backward Design to Help All Students Write Effectively by the Vermont Writing Collaborative.
Common Core English Language Arts Standards

For additional course information

Joey Hawkins
(802) 765-4040

For additional registration information

Mary Ellen Simmons
(802) 763-8840

Register online now!