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Teachers Gain Knowledge to Help Students Improve Writing

Teachers at Alden Place and Elm Drive Elementary schools are focusing on how they give writing instruction to their students to make for a better experience.

The district brought in Southern Westchester BOCES’ Supervisor of Literacy and Learning Tracy Tyler to help. Tyler has monitored conferences or one-on-one sessions teachers conducted with their students, from second to fifth grades, in regards to writing and later offered feedback and tips for future development.

“The feedback has made this a successful experience here,” Tyler said. 

In previous meetings with teachers, Tyler spoke with them about the various aspects of a conference and what kind of feeling they should have.

 Classroom instruction in action

Alden Fifth Grade Teacher Lori Olmstead conducts a writing conference with student Enrique while Southern Westchester BOCES’ Tracy Tyler takes notes.

“We’re going to see how teachers are taking some of that content that we talked about and see how they’re doing that in action,” Tyler said. “It’s been a cycle of learning.”

The main goal of these conferences is to get to know students really well and to use the information gathered from them to plan for high quality instruction that meets individual students’ needs. Students who are having difficulties with certain aspects of writing will be broken up into groups focused on those respective difficulties.

Some of the most common difficulties Tyler noticed students having with writing are generating ideas, making their work sound less monotonous and keeping it organized, as well as choosing the right words.

“They might pick the same word over and over again or they don’t pick the right word to describe what they really want to say,” Tyler explained. “We see the writing difficulties in six areas.”

Those areas are: generating ideas, organizing their writing, making their sentences varied and flow well, word choice, making their writing sound less monotonous and convention (whether kids capitalize words or include periods in their writing).

Tyler will be back several times throughout the year to follow up with teachers. She appreciates how teachers have opened their rooms to her and the district’s support of these conferences.  

“We’ll be really digging into this part of the writing process,” she said. “Millbrook has really dedicated the time to supporting their teachers in this work.”