Getting excited about writing at BVE

Getting excited about writing at BVE
Posted on 01/26/2017
Students across Lynden elementary schools know how to build, even when it comes to writing. As K-5 teachers in Lynden’s three elementary buildings continue to improve upon writing instruction, all the work by both teachers and students led to a time of celebration at Bernice Vossbeck Elementary.

Teachers have spent three years working through advanced writing training. That effort culminated this summer with the district providing most K-5 teachers a Units of Study writing institute training that built on the literacy program already in place and drilled into specific details related to writing instruction. And all that effort has paid off in the form of wonderful student work.

“Before, when students would write a narrative they would have maybe told a story just about themselves,” says Becky Midboe, BVE principal. “Now we see fictional narratives about an individual that looks at different characters. (The effort) is really helping the kids expand with more details and examples.”

To recognize the added intrigue found in student writing, a December all-staff meeting at BVE celebrated the work of the students while continuing to help teachers understand how their effort plays into the larger role of improving writing.

A teacher from each grade level selected an at-standard piece of writing—not below or above standard—and read it aloud for all staff. This practice, Midboe says, allowed teachers to better see with real-life examples how the sequence between grade levels works and witness the building blocks of what each grade level covers.

“It was about really capitalizing on those moments where we can collaborate together as a staff,” Midobe says. “We are trying to embed these opportunities to see the vertical through K-5 as what has happened and where we are going. It was pretty exciting.”

As teachers heavily instituted the new instructional approach to start the school year, everyone put a focus on the narrative style of writing. But that isn’t the only type of writing taught in the grades, as the other styles vary by grade level.

The effort really begins early, as Lynden partnered with area preschools, the public library and private schools to teach how writing improves if students can begin with an oral approach. “They start with that and take it to the next level of complexity,” Midboe says.

So as students have worked hard on verbally telling stories at a younger age, they’ve improved their ability to write them too. “I see the light come on in kids who didn’t think they were very good,” Midboe says. “They are now learning the skills to take a small moment and build on that to elaborate, include dialogue and keep building. Teachers are reinforcing these things they’ve learned and helping students take writing to the next level.”