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Full Day Institute on Using Student Writing Samples Aligned with the Common Core

by Dianna Leddy and Joanna Hawkins
January 17, 2014

The International Reading Association (IRA) is pleased to continue the tradition of offering full-day Institutes before our Annual Conference. This year in New Orleans, Institute Day is May 9 before the IRA Conference begins on May 10. Reading Today Online asked all of the Institute Chairpersons to answer a set of questions designed to give our readers and all prospective attendees a better understanding of the insights and benefits they will gain from attending these day-long programs. A PDF fact sheet covering this Institute is available for presentation to your principal or superintendent along with your registration and travel request.

Institute 08
In Common: An Introduction to Using an Annotated Collection of K–12 Student Writing Samples Aligned with the Common Core
(Session 1620)

Co-Chairs: Diana Leddy and Joanna Hawkins from the Vermont Writing Collaborative

Diana Leddy
Diana Leddy  

Joanna Hawkins
Joanna Hawkins

What are the professional urgencies and issues that your Institute is designed to address?

Teachers have long believed that learning to write well in response to reading, and to clearly express an understanding of complex information and ideas in writing, is fundamentally important work for students. However, what this “effective work” can actually look like in the classroom, especially for struggling students, has often eluded us. In the era of Common Core writing standards, developing a shared understanding of some of the ways that strong and effective, content-based writing can look is essential for teachers at all grade levels.

Jointly created by the Vermont Writing Collaborative and Student Achievement Partners, “In Common: Effective Writing for All Students” is a collection of student writing samples, grades K–12, drawn from over 1,600 submissions from 11 Common Core adopting states. The collection includes on-demand writing to unified text based prompts, as well as samples of classroom work in each of the three Common Core writing types. Pieces from across the country were selected and annotated by teams of experienced classroom teachers and literacy leaders in collaboration with lead authors of the Common Core ELA Standards.

In Common is not a set of rubrics and benchmarks, nor is it a prescription for the only way effective, content-based writing can look. Rather, In Common is a collection that was designed to help teachers and students develop a deep and nuanced understanding of the Common Core writing standards and the instructional shifts they require. By using some new protocols, we will look at that student work, not through the lens of scoring, but through the lens of learning about the writing standards and how those standards can relate to content understanding – for students.

What types of literacy professionals is your Institute designed for?

Professional Development Providers, Teacher Educators, Undergraduate or Graduate Students, Classroom Teachers, Administrators, and Curriculum Coordinators.

How will your Institute benefit those professionals, and what will their takeaways be?

In Common, we believe, can be an important first step in the all-important work that schools need to do in generating strong, content-based, Common Core Standards-based student work, across all content areas. The Common Ground protocols provide a useful structure for collaboratively looking at that work to improve instruction.

Participants will leave with a set of protocols and access to a collection of student work samples designed to provide a foundation for analysis and discussions that lead to a deep and nuanced understanding of the Common Core writing standards. Teachers have overwhelmingly found working with In Common useful and even illuminating in terms of understanding both the Common Core writing standards themselves and in generating ideas for instruction.

Are any post-conference follow up activities planned for attendees of your Institute?

Participants will be invited to join an ongoing online discussion about using student samples to improve writing instruction.

What is the sequence of topics and speakers?

The presentation will begin with a short introduction to In Common: Effective Writing for All Students, a Common Core implementation resource for writing instruction. The introduction will include an explanation of how the student writing samples were generated, collected, reviewed and annotated, as well as directions for accessing this free, online resource. Break-out sessions will allow participants to focus on either the elementary or middle/high school pieces. Participants will then explore In Common in small groups, using activities easily transferable to a variety of professional development, classroom, or instructional support settings.

What modes of presentation will be used and what types of audience interaction are planned?

Most of the session will be spent actively analyzing and discussing student work samples with colleagues in small groups. In addition to helping participants to better understand the Common Core Writing samples, all activities will serve as active and engaging models of how to use In Common with adults, older students and younger students. Activities include:

  • arranging student pieces which were written to a unified prompt in ascending order and analyzing the differences in order to examine grade level progressions in the standards
  • matching Common Core based annotations to specific parts of student pieces
  •  identifying evidence of close reading and the mastery of content and concepts in the written pieces
  • color-coding pieces to analyze the relationship between the ideas expressed in an informative or argumentative piece

What handouts will be provided and in what form (e.g., hard copy or digital transmission)?

Sample packets of student work (in hard copy) will be used during the institute. In addition, participants will be shown how to access the full collection of student work (K–12) and protocols for professional development digitally.

Does your Institute lend itself to team attendance by teachers and administrators from the same school or district? If so, what how will the various attendee perspectives be addressed?

The Institute will provide teams of teachers and administrators from the same district the opportunity to develop a shared understanding of the Common Core Writing Standards as well as a model and materials for leading school or district wide professional development activities.

Registration Information: This preconference Institute will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 9, 2014, before the International Reading Association 59th Annual Conference begins on Saturday, May 10, 2014 (and runs through Monday, May 12, 2014). Register online at www.iraconference.org for this or another Institute and/or to register for the annual conference. Call 888-294-9167 or 415-979-2278 to find out how to register by phone, fax, or mail. To learn more about conference events in New Orleans, visit the annual conference website and the online itinerary planner (iPlanner).


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