FEATURES FOR TEACHERS
Features For New Teachers
Volume 3, Issue 14
An important thing to keep in mind is that students are practicing the writing process. We cannot expect them to be experts, and we certainly can't expect to grade each writing assignment as if it's a finished piece of writing.
One easy way to assess and grade works in process is to use FCAs, focal correction areas. Now, I'm sure your local or state rubrics will demand particular aspects of the writing, from organizing to fluency to voice to conventions and of course to many other areas. These are all important assessment tools for pre- and post-testing, because they give an overall picture of students' knowledge and skill. But you wont want to use this rubric every time you grade a set of papers. You're going to want to focus in on individual skills for most of your students' writings.
Lets face it, we want our students to write well and write a lot. But the stacks of paperwork can be awfully intimidating. It is often this mound of essays that keeps teachers from assigning writing assignments on a regular basis. Its ok to be honest, grading the stacks of papers, especially if you have several classes worth, interferes with your personal life and keeps you up late forcing you to get them all done so students can receive feedback on their skill. And looking at this from a logical stand, I want the kids to be working their butts off, not me; I want them exhausted after my class is over, I don't want to be exhausted in the mornings because I was up late grading essays!
A comparison can be made to sports. When basketball season begins, players aren't expected to perform at game level. They first practice for many sessions over many weeks before they are assessed in a game situation. The coach first drills the players in fundamentals, the basic skills that are required for the sport. Next comes the advanced techniques, moves that combine several skills, and the implementation of plays. Finally players practice the whole of these skills in controlled scrimmages where the coach can evaluate them through guided practice.
The same is true for writing. Why would we want to grade a beginner or practitioner as we would a master of the craft? True, we will eventually grade a final writing piece, just as basketball player must eventually play a game against real opponents. But we want our writing students to practice a lot of the fundamentals, skills, and the more advanced techniques before we use the state's rubric, which assesses everything. And it is the daily practice on these little skills and fundamentals where the greatest improvements can occur.
So how do we assess the improvement in these daily lessons? First of all we must acknowledge the fact that we cannot grade everything every time, and students can't possibly focus on improving each area of writing on each activity. Thus, we need to breakdown the overall rubrics into manageable pieces. These are the FCAs. We choose just a few FCAs to concentrate on for each activity or assignment. We partner these FCAs with short mini lessons and activities to teach and reinforce the skill. And these FCAs will change as students master those skills.
The most basic FCAs to start with are for form and format. Teach the kids how you want their writings to look. This includes the student name and topic at the top of the page (along with whatever else you require). Then we move into the format of the sentences, paragraph, or essay. For our kids, we require brainstorming & organizing, complete sentences, topic sentences, supports, and clinchers in each paragraph. Students work on these aspects until they are automatic parts of the writing. Provide interesting yet easy topics and give plenty of activities to practice these skills. And resist the temptation to grade everything. The students' writing may not be good yet; don't worry about it. Fix and correct one thing at a time so the kids (and you too) aren't overwhelmed. Give the kids a lot of practice and they'll improve. Trust in the system; the FCAs will come through for you. Make your students good at form and format, and when they are doing these skills well, then move to the next area.
Save yourself a lot of work by having students identify particular sections of their work for you before they hand it in. Then your job of grading is much easier. If the FCAs include topic sentences or clinchers, have students underline those sentences. If you require three supports, have students number them in the margin. If you want students to use particular vocabulary or terms, have them circle these for you (these last two are especially good for teachers in areas other than English). Let the kids do the work for you! I even have the students score their papers and add up the points they earned on their FCAs. This acts as a checklist, ensuring they actually covered all of the assignment's requirements. And since they wrote the paper, the students know where each item is in the paper (or if its not there!), saving you time you'd otherwise spend identifying each item and then adding them up. Now granted, you'll have to spot check the papers, and there are always a few students whose work you have to look over more carefully. We all have those students! But for the most part, this will save you hours of checking time and allow you to provide many more writing activities on a daily basis. Get those kids writing more, and save yourself the work!
I like to grade an essay in formal final copy once each marking period. By that time the students have amassed a large number of second drafts and rewrites. I'll give them the opportunity to make corrections and then type the essay out so its easy to read. Also have students do the underlining, circling, numbering, and other markings for you. This gives your students the chance to select from a number of their rough drafts and choose their best one to fix up and hand in.
And just like the team that continues to practice between games through the season, you'll have your students continue to practice fundamentals and individual skills between formal writing assessments. Use the formal assessments you give a few times each year to see gaps in the students' learned skills.
Looking for more ideas on writing? See our website by clicking the following link:
I visit many Web forums and communities where I have the opportunity to chat with people in search of teaching jobs. One question that arises time and time again is: Where are the best places to look for teaching jobs in the United States?
While many candidates have family, home, or community ties that prevent them from relocating to a new city, there seems to be an increasing number of college graduates who are excited about the opportunities to relocate to new areas, begin their teaching career, and experience a new lifestyle.
Those who have the freedom to move are looking for places with 1) Teacher Shortages, 2) High Quality-of-Life, and 3) Low Cost-of-Living.
To find these places, look for economic growth trends and population booms. Also, look for places that do not have an excess of teacher colleges as these areas will have a less competitive job market.
Here is a list of "hot spots" -- popular places for teaching candidates to search for jobs -- in the United States. This list is based solely on my interpretation of my conversations with people in search of teaching jobs and recent graduates.
1. Nevada/Las Vegas -- Clark County Schools are especially popular lately. Rumor has it they've even hired many teachers over the phone. As the City of Las Vegas grows, school districts nearby are having trouble recruiting enough teachers to meet the demand.
2. Florida -- This is a terrific time to be looking for a job in Florida. In the past, Florida has had notoriously high class sizes. New legislation has been passed that requires schools to decrease class sizes across the state. To do this, schools will need to hire lots of teachers in a short period of time. If you've ever considered applying to a Florida school, now is the time to do it!
3. North Carolina -- This has been a popular relocation spot for teaching candidates for nearly a decade now. Their economy is strong and their population is growing by leaps and bounds. Raleigh-Durham is one of the most popular areas in the state for teaching candidates. For less competition, try other cities in the state.
4. Georgia -- There has been lots of buzz about opportunities in Georgia lately. Atlanta and Savannah are sure to be best bets.
5. Arizona -- If you can stand the heat, Phoenix and Tempe are booming towns in need of qualified teachers.
Where is the market "cold"? Many northeastern "rust-belt" states with dying manufacturing industries are losing population. Public school teaching jobs in these areas, which still tend to pay well and offer excellent benefits, are very hard to come by. These places include Michigan, Upstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Best of luck in your decision to relocate and begin your teaching career!
Ever wonder if you choose certain students more (or
less) often in class than others? Or would you like to be able to
completely call on students at random?
Now, Discover Your Strengths introduced millions of Americans to the unique, personal strengths that they could use to succeed in life. Teach with Your Strengths expands upon the best-selling Now, Discover Your Strengths and shows how anyone who teaches — from classroom instructors to coaches to business executives — can get the most from their students. Focusing on the central insight that all great teachers make the most of their natural talents, Teach with Your Strengths shows teachers how to avoid the pitfalls that lead to mediocrity and work best with what they have. The book is written by two teachers with a combined 70 years of classroom and consulting experience, and it includes real-life examples of how great teachers use their strengths to solve problems, battle bureaucracy, and reach all of their students. For anyone who has ever wanted to be a better teacher, Teach with Your Strengths offers proven techniques to help readers get the results they want.
Have you read Teach With Your Strengths? Do you have comments you’d like to share with our readers about this book? Email your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please type in BOOK CLUB READER RESPONSE in the subject line. Responses will be posted on our website with the StarTeaching Book of the Month Club. All responses will be proofread, and may be edited for content and space before publication.
His name was Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer.
One day, while trying to make a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog. He dropped his tools and ran to the bog. There, mired to his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a slow and terrifying death.
The next day, a fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the father of the boy Farmer Fleming had saved.
"I want to repay you," said the nobleman. "You saved my son's life."
"No, I can't accept payment for what I did," the Scottish farmer replied, waving off the offer.
At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family hovel. "Is that your son?" the nobleman asked.
"Yes," the farmer replied proudly.
"I'll make you a deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy. If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we both will be proud of."
And that he did.
Farmer Fleming's son attended the very best schools and in time, he graduated from St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of Penicillin.
Years afterward, the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with pneumonia. What saved his life this time?
The name of the nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill.
His son's name? Sir Winston Churchill.
"What goes around comes around."
Work like you don't need the
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