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March 26, 2009

Learning to Write

I am on spring break this week and have had the wonderful opportunity to relax a bit and take some time to reflect on my classroom.  I've been reviewing student achievement data, evaluating their progress toward  goals, and making plans for the remainder of the school year.  As part of this process, I have also spent some time looking over my students' portfolios.  Each child's portfolio is divided into four domains (social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and language) and contains artifacts (work samples, pictures, and notes) that demonstrate their development in that domain.  I use the materials in each child's portfolios as a way to assess their progress and determine individualized goals.  I also share the portfolios with families during parent-teacher conferences, and send them home with students at the end of the year.
 
I absolutely love looking back through my students' portfolios! Not only is it an authentic way to gauge their progress, but it also reminds me of just how much they have learned in school.  I'll walk you through some pieces of Julia's writing as an example.
 
August, 2008. Julia drew this self-portrait on the first day of school.  She added some details such as feet and hair, but neglected to add arms and a nose.  Julia spent several minutes laboring over her first name; several of the letters were crowded, but they were all legible (her name has since been removed for privacy purposes). 
 
November, 2008. Julia was very interested in the presidential election this year!  We talked about what elections were, learned a bit about each candidate, and then held a mock election in our classroom.   Julia wrote this piece the day after the election.  She included many more details than in her August portrait, and also demonstrated an understanding of perspective – she explained to me that she drew Barack Obama significantly larger than John McCain because he had won.  Julia writes letter strings for each word in her sentence, but does not yet associate specific letters with the sounds that she hears in words. 
 
December, 2008. Julia wrote this piece completely independently.  She demonstrated an increasing attention to detail by using a different color crayon to make the snow, and she drew simple figures to represent herself and her mother.  Julia devoted the majority of her paper to writing, which displays an increased understanding that she can use writing to convey her ideas.  She still uses letter strings and does not associate letter shapes with the sounds in words. 
 
January, 2009. In January, Julia began using inventive spelling to write unfamiliar words.  I helped her “stretch out” the words to hear all of the sounds, and she wrote what she heard.  She knew how to read the word “is” and was able to recall that knowledge for her writing.  Julia's ability to correctly identify all the sounds – including the vowel – in “big” was a tremendous accomplishment. 
 
March, 2009. Prior to writing this piece, Julia found a picture of Barack Obama with his arms folded across his desk and announced that it looked like he was “hugging himself.”  From there, she decided to draw a picture of the entire Obama family hugging themselves.  She was careful to draw their arms wrapped around their bodies, and drew a line for the desk under each of them.   Julia was extremely interested in writing about her story; she spent over 20 minutes writing Barack Obama’s name and sounding out the rest of the words in her sentence.  I sat with her the whole time, but did not give her any assistance with stretching out the words or identifying letter sounds (as a side note, when she was stretching out “hugging,” she pronounced it “hucking”, hence the “HC” that she wrote).  Julia started to lose patience by the last few words in the sentence, but overall did a wonderful job and was extremely proud of her work. 


Julia has worked hard on her writing this year and has made tremendous progress.  For the last two months of school, Julia will focus on writing a beginning, middle, and ending sound for each word, as well as continuing to learn and use sight words in her writing.  We will continue to add work to her portfolio to document and celebrate her progress!

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