* Finding Josie Two Shoes

Josie Two Shoes.jpg

Who is Josie Two Shoes?  I first crossed paths with her a couple of weeks ago as she hosts the Ten Things of Thankful (TToT) blog.  TToT introduced me to a sweet group of bloggers who share their stories and encourage me to focus on the positives in my life.  I wondered about this Two Shoes who inspired other kind folks to respond so thoughtfully to my own meager TToT contributions.

My search for Josie Two Shoes was on!  Her blogger profile explains that a new chapter of her life started in 2007, when she declared that she was now standing on her own two feet.  That led me to her blog, where I discovered that she is also a writress.  A really good writress.  Wow.  Josie completed the A-Z blogging challenge by writing, and I quote: “a serial story in six-sentence segments involving twenty-six women living in the small Midwest town of Cottonwood Creek, their lives connected by the Women’s Circle of the town’s protestant church, Hope Christian Fellowship, to which they all belong.”  Talk about clever and intriguing!

By following Josie’s footprints, I discovered her Facebook page.  I was struck by Josie’s focus on being kind to yourself and others, not letting those stumbles and bumps define who you are.  I could have clicked “LIKE” on each post!

Josie’s shoes then led me to her Twitter account and from there, back to her blog, where I savored some of her writings on faith and the miraculous.

If you are looking for a place of encouragement and inspiration AND a safe spot to share your writing with others, follow Josie’s Two Shoes.  You’ll end up with a smile on your face and a polished pair of two shoes!

* I was uncertain….

This post is a writing challenge from The Daily Post. The directions (by Cheri Lucas Rowlands) were simple: choose an image from their gallery (or one of my own) as a setting and pick one of the opening lines.

Here we go:countryside

I was uncertain, but kept going.  It was possible that Kevin had run in this direction.  I had last seen him as he bolted away from our class excursion to a pig farm.  Kevin was doubled over and holding his nose, but still managed to evade my outstretched arm.  In fact, he was over a fence and out of sight before I could scream for help.  My assistant shook her head.  “Not going over that fence.  No way.”  That left either me or the bus driver.  I could see cigarette smoke drifting up from the far side of our bus, so I figured that left me.

“Don’t let anyone else escape!” I called back.

I could hear my assistant laughing as I fell over the fence into the soggy ground.  I felt desperate, knowing that losing a student was no small matter.  But honestly, it was a relief to be away from the overpowering stench of that farm.  Nothing could have prepared me for such a sickening odor.  I thought we were going to play with cute pigs like Babe, but all we had seen were enormous, filthy creatures waddling around in a dreadful mixture of manure and mud.

Still no sign of Kevin.  Perhaps he had hidden in that clump of trees ahead.  I paused to breathe fresh air.  It was no small matter to lose a student, but my lungs were recovering from the vile onslaught of that farm.  I felt invigorated and renewed.  Perhaps I would never find Kevin.  Did I even care anymore?  I was uncertain, but kept going.

* Rubrics #1

If you are not routinely using rubrics across subject areas, you are missing an invaluable teaching tool.  If you have never created your own rubric, you are missing even more!  Rubrics are an effective tool for understanding what you want students to learn as well as how you will know if they have learned it.  Rubrics can serve as a graphic overview for students during the learning process and support increased student analysis of their own learning.  I will provide an outline of rubrics in this post, then detail their use in social skills development in another post.

Let’s assume you have used commercially prepared rubrics so you understand that a rubric is a matrix of features (categories), measured by a sequential rating scale of performance.  I enjoy using Rubistar for rubric creation (check here for their definition of rubrics) but rubrics can easily be made offline as well.  If you are a novice, Rubistar will guide you through the creation process through both “tours” and prompts.

A rubric for assessing students’ written assignments is a good place to start if you have not ever created your own.  The age and developmental level of your students will guide the wording of the features or categories you are assessing as well as the measure of their success.   For younger students, you could even pair simple pictures with the wording.   Here’s a sample I just created to illustrate some key points:

beginning writing rubric 2

This rubric focuses on four features or categories of the student’s writing: number of sentences, clarity of sentences, and two areas of writing conventions.  A sample picture has been added for non-readers.  The rating scale is indicated by stars at the top.  For the category “I wrote 3 sentences,” you could indicate that “I wrote 1 sentence” is equivalent to one star,” “I wrote 2 sentences” equals two stars, and so on.  Stars are a simple performance indicator for younger kids.  Older students could use a numbered performance evaluation, with more performance indicators (such as 1 through 4) or words (Beginning/Proficient. etc.)  as well as more (and increasingly complex) categories.

You can see the link to what you want students to learn right there in the rubric.  If your goal is three understandable sentences using basic writing conventions, this is your rubric.  If your goal is three sentences with transition words, your rubric would look quite different.

You will need to teach students how to use a rubric effectively.  If the rubric is used solely for assessment, demonstrate its use with various writing samples.  If you are using the rubric to guide student instruction, you could model its function as a measure of ongoing progress.  Students could check or highlight boxes to track their progress and as they edit their work.  During a writer’s conference with the teacher, even young students can share their personal evaluation of their writing to date.

Once students become proficient in using rubrics, they can become involved in the creation of rubrics individually or as a class.  You could elicit more personalized and student-driven writing analysis by adding an empty category box at the bottom of a rubric;  each writer could indicate what other category they want to include and evaluate (such as illustrations or questions).

Stay tuned for the invaluable use of rubrics to support the development of social skills.

* Third POINT

Ah, a flow chart seemed like an excellent idea at the time.  And I think it would be effective if sorting out a student’s writing difficulties were as simple as following a recipe.  Here’s a sample of how my remediation for this particular student might look (taking into account my own approach to problem-solving, which is both linear and whimsical):flow chart

So scrap the flow chart idea on this blog.

Here’s what really happened. I decided to tackle four major issues at once and add components of other weaknesses as they best fit [refer to Write Away post]. First, we worked on graphomotor/visual perceptual problems. My eager student loved the mechanical pencils (and I gave her time to explore the intricacies of lead with me). Since the poor kid’s hand was no longer aching from writing, her classroom teacher was all for it. (Note: She had zero keyboarding skills and there was no way to add that to her life at present, although I recommended it as a summer opportunity).  I spent a little time each session teaching my willing writer to form the most problematic letters correctly. This was a student who processed information quickly and tuned out at a similar rate, so she hadn’t seen exactly how her kindergarten teacher formed each letter. The end result was that all her letters were formed from the bottom up, a feat I openly admired. I let her teach me how to make a few of those and I introduced her to a couple of new friends: the margin and the line.  After dictation of words that required use of the problematic letters, she had better habits (and I saw some glaring weaknesses in basic phonics).

The second issue we addressed was spelling.  After taking an inventory of required words for her grade level, I added those words, 5-8 at a time at first, to my account on Spelling City, where she could play cool games using her words. Once she started making some progress in this area, I let her practice through online games and left this issue until we could address phonics skills.

The third difficulty we addressed was her use of simple, repetitive sentences with minimal detail.   This was a kid who could talk your ears off with complex ideas and details, so I knew we were good to go.  I taught her “old fashioned” grammar, with each part of speech color-coded (based on Jane Fell Greene’s Language! program).  She was able to “write” using colored foam squares, with the goal of making her sentences more colorful and complex.  It’s a great strategy for writing because no pencil (or keyboard) is required! She learned the parts of speech quickly; I kept visual cues available to her as a reference and we played multiple bingo games and filled in cloze sentences related to her interests, adding new parts of speech every session.  The next step was to edit other students’ work for these features, using rubrics from Writing A-Z, and from there, to write her own sentences and edit those.  Eventually she dictated a 200+ word “how to” paper (using dictation because our focus was complexity, not spelling or handwriting).  You may have noticed that I added the use of rubrics and checklists into this phase of instruction.  This had been another area of weakness for her, so regular practice in editing other kids’ work was less threatening.  Who knows?  She may become an editor herself with that keen eye of hers.

The fourth area of remediation was complex (hence the flow chart burn out): phonological awareness, phonetic analysis, and syllable rules.  Her phonological skills were super, so we started up the ladders of phonics and syllabication.  She did not know short or long vowel sounds, which are near the bottom rungs for phonics instruction.  I linked syllable types to her phonics instruction, so she now identifies all six syllable types and only needs vowel diphthongs to top off her phonics skills.  I suspect your eyes are glazing over, as I know my husband’s would be, so this is a good stopping place.  I’ll save the details of this fourth area for later.  You’re welcome.