Sunday Seller Spotlight: No Nonsense Teaching

Welcome to my Seller Spotlight Sunday.
Every Sunday on my blog there is a guest post from another fabulous TpT Seller. They will be sharing one free resource from their store, one paid resource from their store and something that they have been up to that week or similar! 

So, don't forget to check back every Sunday or sign up for my email list to get notifications of new sellers!

Up this week is Tammy Dixon from No Nonsense Teaching!

Hello there! I am Tammy from No-Nonsense Teaching and I am super pleased to have been invited by Nikki to write a guest post for her blog. Thank you so much Nikki!

No-Nonsense Teaching

One of the things I have enjoyed most about my teaching career, has been the opportunity to engage in professional conversation about teaching and learning. A recurring topic of discussion was language homework. As teachers, we were always looking for more effective ways to assist parents in helping their child to improve their writing skills at home. In the primary grades, writing homework commonly consisted of spelling, printing and sentence writing when, what we really wanted, were writing tasks that reflected the challenge, choice and open-endedness of our writer’s workshop and writing process lessons.  

After much discussion, I was ready to re-think writing homework and to help parents, my learners and myself create seamless learning between home and school. Creating this type of writing homework for the entire year became an enormous undertaking but, in the end, well worth the effort. If you are looking to create more effective writing homework, here are four main ideas that you can incorporate into your own writing homework program.

4 Ways to Create Effective Writing Homework:

1.     Homework resources should be easily personalized to suit the needs of individual learners.

Every teacher I know works hard, long hours to create a safe, challenging and inviting learning environment for their class. In fact, there never seems to be enough time to meet the individual needs of all 22 or so children. As a result, personalizing homework always seems to get pushed to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list. As educators, we strive to support a strong home-school connection however, it can become difficult to devote the time. Writing newsletters, creating lessons, running extra-curricular activities and attending staff meetings all seem to take priority. In the end, the only way to personalize language homework is to know each of your learners and find resources that help you to meet their individual needs. To help save time, use a writing homework program specifically designed with this in mind.

You can find a fully editable writing homework resource here.

1.     Provide specific writing tips for parents to help them to improve their child’s writing skills at home.

Most parents want to help their child succeed in school. Meet the teacher nights, newsletters and blogs are all typical ways that we try to keep the lines of communication open with parents. Educators honor parents and we do our best to encourage their involvement in their child’s education. But trying to provide parents with a generalized guide and personalized tips - with enough detail to explain exactly when (and how) to help and, when to step back and allow their child to work independently - can be difficult to do on an ongoing basis.

One way to keep parents regularly involved in helping their child to become effective writers is to gather all of the writing strategies you know and, organize them based on each stage of the writing process and for each writing genre. Next, narrow all of those strategies into several ‘must know’ or foundational tips that would support a child’s writing throughout their primary years. These strategies now become your parent tips. Every time you assign a writing homework task, include the foundational parent writing tips that correspond to the assigned writing task.

1.     Incorporate a writing foundation built on oral communication, vocabulary development and a connection with the real world. Primary teachers know that if their writers can’t say the words or connect with their writing, it is unlikely that they will produce good writing pieces.

The connection between oral language, vocabulary development and writing is extremely strong. Hart & Risely (1995) studied the vocabulary development of young children. They discovered that 3 year olds from low socio-economic families spoke 600 fewer words than those from higher socio-economic families. Biemiller & Slonim (2001) reported that by the 2nd grade, the vocabulary gap grew to a difference of 4000 words.

When it comes to writing, children are even more reluctant to attempt to write the vocabulary they can say for fear of misspelling the word. As a result, when assigning writing homework for young children, it’s important to include a strong oral component. Primary children should be asked to tell oral stories and listen carefully for specific vocabulary used by adults. Children then need to be encouraged to use the words they know in their writing, without the expectation of correct spelling.

You can help children to distinguish between words that they need to learn how to spell and, higher vocabulary that they should attempt to spell by:
·      Creating an authentic Word Wall in your classroom. Include grade appropriate spelling words that children are currently misspelling when they write. Use your Word Wall as ‘no-excuse’ words.

 ·      Celebrating the challenging and specific vocabulary words children are attempting to use in their writing (but are above their spelling ability) by writing them on celebration charts and in their personal word books.

You can find a free Word Wall Template here.

1.     Create challenging, open-ended tasks that reflect lessons taught in the classroom.

Homework is generally intended to be practice – an extension of classroom work. If your classroom lessons incorporate open-ended tasks typically found in writer’s workshop and/or the challenge of taking a piece of writing through the writing process, then finding homework to reflect this way of teaching is not always easy. Assigning ‘free’ writing tasks allows for open-endedness however, without reminders and specific supports, children do not always challenge themselves the way they would in the classroom. Send home writing tasks that ask children to connect with the world around them, allow for choice and provide personalized writing supports such as success criteria, ‘I can...’ criteria, vocabulary building, grammar, features of different writing types, personal reflections and goal setting.

Click here to save valuable time creating effective writing homework for your class.

Jumping into next week (at home with my 16 month old), we will be busy turning our coffee table into a DIY stepping board! Look for my blog post about what he does with it, along with other great pieces of equipment he uses to help develop his gross motor skills.

You can follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and my blog for critical, creative and reflective teaching and learning resources and ideas.

No-Nonsense Teaching

Tammy has been and elementary educator for 15 years with a broad range of experience. She has taught in the UK, Canada, at the university level (providing ongoing education for teachers), acted as instructional coach, demonstration teacher and consultant at both the school board and provincial levels. In addition, she holds a Masters degree in education. After moving to a new city, she decided to take some time off to be a stay-at-home mom and share her teaching and parenting knowledge by writing a blog and creating teacher-friendly classroom resources.

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