Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Guided Writing Groups

A couple of weeks ago I talked about my Guided Math Groups... today's post is a similar idea (just for a different subject).

I think we can likely all agree that much like in math our students all have a wide range in writing abilities.  Wouldn't it be nice to hone in on each student's trouble area and not have half the class being bored because they already know how to use periods in their writing?

Before we begin though I must confess... I have never actually tried writing groups.  Math groups: yes, Reading groups: of course, I've even done spelling groups... but I never got around to trying this in my classroom (yet).

How I would set it up:

I would start by giving my students a simple writing task at the beginning of the year.  I would want to make sure they would have to write multiple paragraphs (because I would expect a lot not to know where to start a new paragraph).  I think I would get them to write me a story.  Whether I give them a story idea or not wouldn't really matter to me.  

Then, based on their writing samples I would start grouping them (I would be looking at everything in their writing other than their spelling).  Based on what I remember about my students last year I think I would begin to set up my groups like this:

Group 1 (my group that struggles the most) - Where to use capital letters
Group 2 - Punctuation
Group 3 - Paragraphs (and when we know to start a new one)
Group 4 (my top group of writers) - Describing words

How much time I devote to each topic would depend on how quickly the students in that group started showing me they were understanding.  AND, I would know they had got it when they were using the new topic in their every day writing.

Much like my Guided Math Groups I would give my ELA a 2 period block.  This would mean I would get to see each group for about 15 minutes... my centers would be as follows (using Group 1 as an example and the rest would follow):

Center 1 - work with teacher.  I would go over the lesson for them that day
Center 2 - independent work.  I would give the students a worksheet or writing assignment to work on during this time.  Eventually, I would want them to spend time writing a story... but the first couple of days would likely be worksheets on the topic.
Center 3 - Spelling activity (I had a list of different spelling activities for them to do some were individual and some were with a partner... I would expect that there would be a lot of overlap with spelling and writing groups but your spelling partner doesn't necessarily have to have the same words as you).
Center 4 - Spelling/writing/word game (I've seen giant boggle games on bulletin boards, Scrabble, Madlibs, etc).  A couple times a week I think I would also make this a silent reading/read with a partner center too.

An example of a Boggle bulletin board
You can find some free Boggle templates here and the templates for students to write on here

My group 4 would start at independent work and have their time with me at the end.

What I like about this set up?
This last year I devoted one period a day to spelling.  2 days a cycle it was for me to go over the words with them and then to give them their spelling test.  The other 4 days were for them to be practicing their words.  Incorporating it into their writing groups frees up an extra period for those 4 days.

I wouldn't worry about needing those writing samples right away because the first week of school is all about getting to know each other and learning the new expectations for the year.  After that, I would start telling them about T.U.S.C and using the writing group time to help them with all their T.U.S.C jobs.

If we are doing Guided Math that day and not whole group instruction in math class they will get a chance to play 2 games in math class and another in Writing... that doesn't seem so bad.

My students last year really enjoyed our Guided Math Groups and because the Writing Groups are the same idea (just a different subject) I would think that they would also really enjoy these periods.

I can't wait to try them out in a classroom of my own one day soon!

Have you tried Guided Writing Groups in your classroom?
How did you set them up?

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