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Week 4 - Introducing Our Final Assignment

As I hinted at during our live session last week, it's time for us to begin thinking about our final project for this course.  

And the assignment itself is the easy part - your task is to design a writing assignment of consequence for the area in which you work and teach.  You must determine if you're building a big assignment, or a collection of habits, or a process for your writing classroom.  And you also get to determine what "of consequence" means.  

But the National Writing Project has a fine resource here to help us with this work - and to help others create assignments, too.  Here's their Writing Assignment Framework & Overview.  For our purposes, I'd like for you to start with page 9 of the PDF (linked here) to help you consider what needs considering as you contemplate the resource you'll be creating.  

What's the writing framework?  Well, I'd rather share with you what the NWP says it's not:

Because this tool has been created by teachers for teachers, it is important to say what it is not. It is not a checklist or an evaluation instrument. It is not mandatory, compulsory, or required. It is, however, a tool that respects teachers and their continuous efforts to give their students challenging writing assignments.

For the next week, just take a look at page 9 and think about what resource(s) you'd like to create.  We'll begin the creation and sharing formally next week - but you're welcome to start early if you'd like.  There's plenty more in that NWP writing assignment resource - a PD plan for introducing this framework in your school, if you're so inclined, and some examples .  .  .well, you can read it for yourself.  

I wonder if it'd be useful to require that you work to build assignments for areas other than langauge arts - or if that's a choice you should make.  But that seems inauthentic - so go with what makes the most sense for you.  

One question, though - how would you like for us to share these resources?  Collection of Google Docs?  Comments to a P2PU post?  Let me know in th

Task Discussion

  • Joe Dillon   Nov. 20, 2011, 11:18 p.m.

    Here is my rough planning for the module I'm writing for my work in the LDC cohort 2. I would love any feedback or critical questions since I still have a while before I'll teach it. 

  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 21, 2011, 5:23 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Dillon   Nov. 20, 2011, 11:18 p.m.

    Hi Joe

    The Google Doc appears to be set only for viewing.


    • I think the idea of learning how to synthesize information in order to make connections "beyond the text" is a critical skill;
    • I like the co-constructing a survey, after analyzing a survey;
    • I'm curious about the backchannel option for the class discussions;
    • I wonder if the construction of an infographic (visual data) by students might be helpful to consider, given your topic?

    I enjoyed your lesson plan. It pushes in a lot of directions.

    For me, it would be helpful to have a place that connects to strands of the Common Core directly, so that I could follow it back. Just a suggestion.


    PS -- thanks for the feedback on my plan.


  • firstgradeteacher   Nov. 20, 2011, 8:41 p.m.
    Well, I have finally decided what my writing assignment is going to be for the kids. I was debating between two. I decided to go with one that combined social studies, science and writing. Remember we are talking about first graders:). We will be writing about Thanksgiving in the context of our five senses. Hopefully they will write in complete sentences. We have been working very hard on complete sentences since school started. (Next week, we will start on short paragraphs as a group.). We will brainstorm together, write our sentences, edit and do our final copy on some cute holiday paper. I'm hoping to get all but the editing and final copies in one session. I hope they will enjoy it. I will also be writing with them. Our final copies will be made into small books. I'll let you know how it goes.
  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 21, 2011, 5:24 a.m.
    In Reply To:   firstgradeteacher   Nov. 20, 2011, 8:41 p.m.

    I like the idea of using the senses to get at informational text. Good luck. One session sounds pretty optimistic to me ... but I hope it goes well for you.


  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 12, 2011, 10:49 a.m.

    (I added this to the front wall and then realized, maybe it should go here)


    Hey everyone

    Given the collaborative nature of this group, I want to ask for your help with the Common Core-influenced lesson plan I am developing for my sixth graders. It's actually an adaptation of a project I have done in other years, but with a more focused shift towards informational text reading and writing (w/ a creative touch).

    Here is a link to the document:

    I would LOVE to get critical feedback as comments on the Google Doc. Point to what works, what doesn't and add suggestions, please. Don't worry about going easy on me. I can take it! I'm working through this as a process and appreciate the help ...

    Thanks in advance,



  • Susan   Nov. 15, 2011, 2:04 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   Nov. 12, 2011, 10:49 a.m.

    Kevin,  I don't know where to start. I am diving into all the resources you link to this lesson as well as on your blog. What a warm classroom you have created. What a safe place for students to explore and learn. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself.

  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 15, 2011, 9:18 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Susan   Nov. 15, 2011, 2:04 p.m.

    Thank you for the kind words. I appreciate it


  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 11, 2011, 9:32 a.m.

    I have not dropped out! (although I seem to have missed the last few webinars ... darn it). Bud, can you give us (me) a little guidance on where we are with developing and sharing a final project that incorporates some of what we are learning with Common Core? I have project that I just finished up, with CC in my eyesights, and now just need to figure out how to get it down in writing for our learning group here.



  • Bud Hunt   Nov. 11, 2011, 4:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   Nov. 11, 2011, 9:32 a.m.

    I wasn't worried, Kevin.  It's a big world with plenty of stuff in it.  


    As for guidance - well, I've not a specific plan for where you'd post - but I'm thinking that anything you can put on the Web and link back to this thread would be a fine way to proceed.  


    And I'm open to other ideas.

  • karen   Nov. 11, 2011, 6:31 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bud Hunt   Nov. 11, 2011, 4:59 p.m.

    If it's helpful, folks can also upload any files directly to the p2pu site if they want.

    Just to go the Link button and use the Upload tab to upload your file. Then click OK.

    This is a relatively new feature at P2PU.

    (I did these screens for another p2pu course I'm taking about the effectives use of multimedia for learning. Pretty interesting research about that.:)

  • Susan   Nov. 10, 2011, 3:22 p.m.

    Sorry I missed the webinar. I had a great excuse, which I'll tell you about next Tuesday. But I have been thinking about the assignment.

  • karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:51 p.m.

    I'm mostly just "lurking" here, and I'm not sure this even fits under this assignment, but I have a couple PD sessions coming up for which I am considering going a "writing together" activity. I have enjoyed the way we've done this at the web meetings and think it would be a good way to begin a f2f meeting as well.

    I often try to get teachers to share what is working and what is not in their classrooms, but have had mixed results. I understand that everyone doesn't enjoy standing up to do "show and tell." Maybe writing would give some people a different way to reflect and share.

    Any thoughts? Ideas about how I should or shouldn't approach this?

    I appreciate it and will report back. :)

  • Susan   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:55 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:51 p.m.

    Karen, I do love this idea. Writing before the meeting gives people a chance to get their head around the ideas..and many people prefer thinking about what they want to say before they say it:) You might have a few who protest--"Nothing to say!" But I think it's worth a shot. I'd love to hear what happens.

    OH, and I wouldn't require people to write publically, at least at first. That might be a leap initially...

  • karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:59 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Susan   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:55 p.m.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm hereby publicly committing to try it. (Another reason I write, especially online. I've seen a lot of things through because I said in a public forum that I'd do so. :) It's a little bit of a tough group but I guess I know them well enough by now that if it doesn't work, I'll just go on to "plan b." As teachers, we're good at those plans b, c, d, etc., aren't we?

  • Karen LaBonte   Nov. 1, 2011, 7:39 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:51 p.m.

    It might be interesting to tell them you're going to write together, then have them write down their initial response to that-- anonymously. Pass 'em up, then read them out loud. It'd be a very real way to start talking about writing from where they're at.

    If the PD session isn't focused on writing, they could still do an initial, very brief (i.e., 1-2 sentences) response to the idea of writing within that particular PD session. You'd sure learn a lot about the needs and desires of your group from that initial scribble. Then you could bridge into writing for the day's session.

    I'd opt out of sharing the writing itself-- very time consuming-- but would ask for a couple of shares about what the experience of writing was like.

  • Bud Hunt   Nov. 1, 2011, 9:15 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:51 p.m.

    Karen and Susan have offered excellent suggestions.  I'd simply say that it is essential that you write with them.  


    You might use an online forum to share the work - I like Google Docs because they allow the writing to show up as it happens, but some groups need a discussion forum - it's helpful to stage and then publish, if that makes sense.  

    Let us know how it goes.

  • KevinHodgson   Nov. 2, 2011, 8:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Bud Hunt   Nov. 1, 2011, 9:15 p.m.

    I agree with Bud -- write with them.

    Good luck!

  • Joe Dillon   Nov. 5, 2011, 11:01 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:59 p.m.



    Thanks for lurking. I'm really interested in this type of open course and how it might be different than a traditional (online or hybrid) course. Your post is a good example of how an open course allows someone lurking in the virtual halls outside the classroom to interject a question and receive feedback. 

    I see that you're concerned about two things: the teachers' possible reluctance to write and the difficulty of creating a culture of shared reflection. Since you've got the dual challenges, I might think about focusing on creating a positive culture for writing in professional development and really creating a safe environment first. I might preface things by saying that I know so many  positive instructional practices are happening and the goal in the writing is to capture and celebrate small successes and "short-term wins." By asking staff to focus on only successful decisions and results, I would listen for places where teachers recognized something that wasn't working and improved it and celebrate those. Every teacher has had the experience of teaching an unsuccessful lesson period 1 and quickly making it more successful for period 3. Writing together about these "small wins" might generate the safe culture for teachers to reflect and share. 
  • karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Dillon   Nov. 5, 2011, 11:01 a.m.

    Thanks for the thoughtful response, Joe. Your ideas remind me of some of the reading I've been doing on peer coaching lately. (For anyone interested in this, ASCD's most recent journal had some very good articles on this.)

    By the time I read this, I'd already done this workshop. I'll write a separate post about that, but here, I'll just say that it was delightful.

  • karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:16 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 1, 2011, 6:51 p.m.

    So my experience on Saturday with writing together as a part of a f2f professional development workshop was just great. Thanks to all of you for the ideas and encouragement, and thanks especially to Bud for introducing this idea to us.

    Saturday was also yet another experience to show me that you just never know how things are going to work! (I was not optimistic.)

    As background, this workshop was not about writing and had participants from a variety of grade levels and subjects. It was a group I know fairly well, having worked with them for over a year, but not one that is overly participative or cnsistently oconstructive. It also a small group (bad weather, voluntary participation on a Saturday).

    Upon getting the URL, the group quickly set out to write. In fact, I'd made the mistake of setting the document to be open to view by anyone, but not to edit, and they could hardly wait the 30 seconds it took me to fix that!

    Here are the results.

    I was really happy with how much folks wrote and how positive they were. Even better, I think that this experience helped set the stage for a very constructive rest of the day. I believe that folks were more reflective and thoughtful as a result of having done this early in the day.

    In talking about this exercise afterward, the teachers immediately jumped to ideas for using this with students. The ideas were many, varied, and creative.

    I think that I will incorporate this strategy into more of my group learning activities in the future.

  • Joe Dillon   Nov. 6, 2011, 10:33 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:16 p.m.



      It looks like the tone was really positive. Congratulations. 

  • Susan   Nov. 7, 2011, 5:31 a.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:16 p.m.

    Great to hear how successful this was, especially in setting the tone for the rest of the day.

  • Bud Hunt   Nov. 8, 2011, 3:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:16 p.m.

    Thanks for the followup.  Glad it went well.  

  • Paul Oh   Nov. 13, 2011, 1:46 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   Nov. 6, 2011, 5:16 p.m.

    Really enjoyed following (after the fact - my apologies for that) the path you took with your group. Thanks for being so transparent, Karen - both about what you were seeking help for and your own nervousness about trying a new writing process/protocol with a group. The followup, also, was really interesting to read about, including what the people in your group created.

    One thing I've been thinking a lot about, which I've been reminded of as we've engaged in the kinds of writing Bud has facilitated for us, is how to utilize google+ hangouts as a way to facilitate virtual writing groups. I spoke with my colleague Christina Cantrill about trying to incorporate something like that in our work with teachers at the National Writing Project. Any thoughts others might have on hangouts as a platform for writing groups/writing events - both pros and cons - please do share.

  • Joe Dillon   Nov. 14, 2011, 9:41 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   Nov. 13, 2011, 1:46 p.m.


      I've used the hangouts to meet with a group from the Denver Writing Project and we've probably had 4 hangouts to date. I have to tell you that the platform works really well and we had only one minor glitch in about 4 hours of meetings and everyone was back online in 2-3minutes. 

      In our first hangout, the teachers I met with were originally about using a web chat- commenting that it was wierd- but during the second meeting, as we were getting a little more saavy using "hangouts with extras," everyone remarked on how easy it was to co-construct agendas and plans on Google Docs while meeting. Since our group is spread out between three different school districts and some substantial distance, I think the big success is that we have been able to have weekend meetings, which aren't easy to fit into a schedule, and we haven't had any absences.

    I've only got pros to report here, but I think face to face meetings help the cohesiveness of the group, so I don't think we'd be in the same place as a team without having any physical meetings. 

  • Susan   Nov. 14, 2011, 9:46 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   Nov. 13, 2011, 1:46 p.m.

    Paul, I've used Google hangouts with my PLP teams. We have used the time for planning, using the chat next to the window to share links to documents. Some people do have trouble staying connected, which must be a bandwidth issue. Even in Skype, I tend not to use the video for the same reason. But I see great potential for Hangouts...and want to use it more to explore use with students as well.