TCRWP Twitter Chat: Helping Students Use Tools to Set and Achieve New Goals in Writing K–8

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See below for a full transcript of the chat.

by Anna Gratz Cockerille

This week, after several weeks of spotlighting reading, #TCRWP will turn to writing for the weekly Twitter chat. Tomorrow, Meghan Hargrave hosts a chat on how to help students use tools to set and achieve new goals in writing. What an important topic! The moment The Units of Study in Opinion/Argument, Information, and Narrative Writing came out in 2013, there was much buzz in particular about the Writing Pathways book, a resource that outlines the assessment system that undergirds the series. Writing Pathways is the go-to resource to find tools to support students in setting goals and making progress as writers. Some of the tools it contains that teachers return to again and again are the demonstration texts, the student writing samples, and the highly-discussed writing checklists.

Here are a just a few of the many references to checklists from the Units of Study in Writing Facebook group:

“Throwback Thursday to our second grade narrative unit. Writing buddies using their checklist. It is amazing to see students coach each other towards their writing goals!”

“Finishing up Bend 1 of Opinion Unit in 1st grade! Loved doing the writing partner fishbowl. Here are some serious writers using a checklist to continue revising and making their opinion pieces stronger! I think some of them are ready for the 2nd grade checklist.”

“Today in third grade we used part of the checklist to prove where we used craft and elaboration for our cause tables. ‘I used so much elaboration!’”

“Today, my former kindergarten students (current first graders) helped my K students use a checklist to review their how-to books.”

“First graders revising and editing their small moment stories using checklists. They are so excited to publish!”

What’s special about these quotes is that they highlight many different ways checklists can be used. Checklists need not be reserved for on-demand writing time; they can (and should) be used throughout a unit to reinforce qualities of great writing and give students a lens through which to study their work. The above quotes remind us that checklists can be used:

  • During the revision part of the writing process to make pieces stronger
  • To hone in on a particular element of good writing, like elaboration, to figure out how to do it better 
  • During partner work to inform and focus students’ conversations
  • To polish up pieces to get them ready for publication

Of course, checklists are just one tool among many that teachers can use to help students set concrete goals to supercharge their writing. Tools are crucial in helping students with a goal-setting process because they help make each part of the goal setting process concrete.

Consider ways tools support students during these three steps of goal-setting:

  1. Get smart on qualities of good writing. Before students can set goals, they need to learn what good writing is. A well-chosen mentor text or a piece of teacher writing developed for this purpose goes a long way.
  2. Study their own work. Once students understand what good work looks like, they study their own work with an eye toward which qualities they see in their own writing and which qualities are lacking.
  3. Set goals based on where they are and where they'd like to go. Students can use tools like checklists along with their observations of their own work to name what they plan to work on as writers in ways they understand and can reach towards. If they develop their own goals based on research of good writing and their own work, they are much more likely to reach those goals.

To sum up, infusing tools into your writing workshop is one sure fire way to bring your students’ work to a whole new level. To find out more, don’t miss the chat with Meghan Hargrave and the TCRWP community tomorrow night.

Each Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @MMHargrave to chat about using tools to set goals in writing tomorrow evening.

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Anna Cockerille is a staff developer, literacy coach, and writer based in New York City. She has taught in K–8 classrooms all over the world in places such as Sydney, Australia; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and Auckland, New Zealand. Anna has been a staff developer for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University (TCRWP) and an adjunct instructor for the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. She writes at Two Writing Teachers.

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