A day late sorry but as I missed February and March EduBlogNZ challenge, thought I’d sneak in a quick post on @kaiakowilson’s Love-Hate Resources. Mine is not so much a resource as an assessment. At our school, Year 10s complete units of work on creative writing this term which culminates in an assessment where they describe a character. The hate part of this process for me is repeating the assessment task, the love part is adding to the unit of work to refine, improve and differentiate activities for each cohort. While this helps to enhance the learning process for the students it also keeps things interesting for me.
The first resource/activity I have used is the Describe that Face from the good folks at Read Write Think. I use magazine pictures, paste them to coloured paper then randomly assign. Students write descriptions in their writing journals then, the next day, I put all the faces on the board, take in their writing and read aloud as the students match the words to the face. Lots of laughs. If they find it hard to start, we use the preface that the person has just entered the classroom as a guest speaker. How would they enter the room? What would they do first? What would they talk about? Why? How would they sound? In a similar fashion, a former associate teacher put me on to Whose Shoes where you give each student a picture of a pair of shoes and they describe the person wearing them – it’s a bit harder then Describe that Face as it requires a bit more imagination but is also fun.
Another tried and trusted skill builder is this strong verbs activity which helps students improve the ways they describe character movement. This is great for classes who need to move around lots as you can ask individual students to act out ways of walking/talking before attempting written work.
Last year, I came across this fantastic powerpoint that really encapsulates teaching Show Don’t Tell. I modified it to include descriptions of people and then bolstered with starters from pinterest where students write down more colourful/vivid/interesting alternatives to dull words such as said, went, good, bad etc. As a starter I get them to write down 3-5 synonyms in their writing journals then put them into sentences. The writing board I’ve compiled also great synonyms, hooks, conclusions, structural tips and heaps of prompts – visual and written.
And this year, I have added The Literacy Shed to the mix, see previous post. This has really enabled me to differentiate core skills for my class which has several students who find writing a real struggle.
Finally, modelling. I’m a great believer in showing students what we need/want them to do. Often with seniors, I’ll write my own trigger narrative (or whatever the task is) and go through the process with them. With juniors, I’ve described a grandparents and shared. I used a photo as a starter and encourage them to do the same with the assessment to assist with brainstorming.
So in answer to the questions that prompted the challenge: Hate the assessment, love the myriad of modified resources that help us to get there. I have complete freedom over the how we get there and base sequences of lessons on the students in front of me. The process is always reflective. This year more than considering what worked well last year, I’ve had to focus more on how to differentiate tasks to develop required skills. In terms of how would I replace the “resource” (assessment), I would like to see the Year 10s choose between setting or character and the Year 9s focus on narrative. At the moment, Year 9s assessment is a setting description, Year 10 character. We discuss options at department meetings and have changed the way we assess speaking for our junior students recently so changing the writing assessment is not impossible. I suppose at the end of the day, it’s about feeding back to HoDs – and being prepared to make changes rather than repeat the same tasks every year.