Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Responding to a Comment, Grade 2 Response to Literature

Have you ever gotten a comment on a blog post that you simply can't let go, and just have to answer? It happened to me this weekend on this post, Response to Literature, Grade 2.

Several months ago, I shared a second graders published Response to Literature on the Kevin Henkes' text, Wemberly Worried. A reader left the following comment...

Anonymous said... Who helped this child write this? The child is either very bright or had help from some adult. How do I know? I have never heard a second grader use the term "diversity", yet alone spell it correctly. I think rewriting a book or even a short story after reading it will only discourage children from wanting to read. The joy of reading comes not from rewriting the story, it comes from wanting to read that book again or the next book. Let's teach young children the fundamentals of language then when they are old enough they can write a response not their parents.February 21, 2009 7:41 AM

I chose to take this comment as a compliment. Do you know why? Clearly, this reader thinks the Response to Literature is a good one. One that couldn't possibly be produced by a second grader without help from an adult. But, one that was. This second grader participated in a Kevin Henkes author study in first grade during which he studied the text Wemberly Worried. A text that he grew to love through multiple readings. In fact, he appreciated the author so much that when he had to select a text to do a Response to Literature on in second grade, he selected this children's book. This child will produce two published Response to Literature pieces this year, along with writing in the genres of narrative, report, and functional.

This particular child has been fortunate, because he has gotten to participate in a Readers' and Writers' Workshop daily since Kindergarten. He has learned to love books and reads and writes as part of his classroom instruction daily. He also has had the fortune of daily focused 4 part mini-lessons that allow him to connect his learning, learn something new, practice it during active involvement with teacher guidance, and then has the learning linked to a reading or writing task where he can practice the skill or strategy during his work period. He has on average a 30 to 40 minute work period where he writes every day. He's also had the opportunity to develop a handsome working vocabulary through daily read aloud because his teacher uses Beck and McKeown's Text Talk to teach explicit vocabulary. Not unlike many of his peers, this student's vocabulary learning has transferred authentically into his writing. And, his classroom is a print rich environment with spelling and vocabulary word walls that he can use as a tool throughout his writing. Furthermore, this student participates in a daily closing session where his classmates share their work. He has been taught to benchmark his own writing against that of his classmates and is encouraged to apply their strategies and best practices to his own work. He has been taught to use a rubric to make sure his writing meets each of the standards.

In addition, his teachers use the resource Using Rubrics to Improve Student Writing which sets forth samples of rubrics and student work so teachers can compare their students' work against benchmark pieces. They also meet weekly in Teacher Meetings to analyze student work, share instructional practices, and study professional literature together. They also display student work throughout their hallways as a showcase for colleagues, other students, and parents.

This reader who made the comment clearly doesn't know that we not only foster the love of reading but also that we allow students to live the life of a writer. This student sample was completed in the classroom, not at home, without the assistance of an adult, during the study of Response to Literature, and with authentically embedded vocabulary that a second grader can and does use.

If you think your students can not achieve the same standard, you should be asking, "How do I get my second graders to this same level of performance?" Afterall, your students will be competing with this student for a job in the global marketplace one day.


Jenny said...

Wouldn't it have been nice if that commenter had left their name/contact info so you could have a colleagial conversation about our teaching and our students with them? They seem to be making assumptions they should not make. I, as a 3rd grade literacy teacher at CCE, completely agree with you. My first year at Chets, I was FLOORED at what our little Creekers are producing on a daily basis. It exceeds the work by my former students, which was not bad, by the way, by miles. To me, this is evidence that what we're doing at Chets everyday is working. I'm proud of our kids and the work they produce and would invite this commenter to visit my classroom anyday of the week. I hope they continue reading this blog and, perhaps even, identify themselves so we can discuss our practices and standards further with them.

Melanie Holtsman said...

I never had someone refer to quality work with that type of accusation outright, but I have definitely had a doubtful feeling at times from visitors as they visited my classroom and discussed my students' work. It's too bad this person couldn't actually be standing in the classroom asking the child to explain their work themselves. The students in that particular classroom can tell you what their vocabulary words mean and even refer to the authentic literature where they learned the word! It's kind of hard to argue when the child can tell you all about their learning, their process in writing and the final piece they wrote!

I challenge any nay-sayers to get a writing rubric book and walk the walk of high expectations. Just see what you get!

Mrs.Mallon & Mrs. Dillard said...

We have several first grade responses to literature you are welcome to post. With rituals and routines in place, focused mini lessons, and a Reader's Workshop that compliments Writer's Workshop, especially during an author study, there is no excuse not to have high expectations for students and see them reach that level. Moreover, having students share in creating the writing rubic that is used, helps them to understand and "own" their writing - giving them a true sense of pride. This doesn't happen overnight. From the first days of Kindergarten, students are in Writer's Workshop. Even though most are drawing pictures with beginning sounds, the foundation is being laid and by this time in first grade, you can see the results of all of those lessons unfold. The second grader did an excellent job on the response and one that clearly shows the lessons that were taught and a clear understanding of what was expected. MM

dayle timmons said...

I can really identify with the comment because I rememebr my own first years at CCE when we were reading the standards and thinking that children couldn't really be expected to do that kind of work. Then I spent a summer with Lucy Calkins and her colleagues at Teachers College in NYC and I saw video after video after video of young kindergartners talking deeply about authors and their work and then stacks of samples of student work. These were students in some of NYC's toughest neighborhoods and I realized that the problem was my own low expectations. All of changed that summer. High expectations made all of the difference. There's a reason we have 400-500 visitors every year. I wish the commenter could come and see first hand. That's what makes you a believer!

Michelle Ellis said...

Debby and I taught this student in K and 1st grade. This type of writing does not surprise me. He was always very bright and loved to read and write even at 5. However, you probably could have choosen multiple other student papers that look very similar from that grade level. We have high expectations and because of the many mini-lessons in both Writer's and Reader's Workshop all students are capable of this type of work. I would love for that teacher to take a look at our blog post from last week. It shows how we begin to teach retelling in Kindergarten ( cekidlights.blogspot.com ), our bulletin board also shows the next step where the students begin to learn how to retell their favorite stories. Just an idea for your next post.