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Motivating Students to Write: The Sky is the Limit Carolyn L. Cook Ph. D. Selene Rayho , Ellen Rocha, Elizabeth Smith Mount St. Mary’s University SoMIRAC Hunt Valley, MD April 1, 2011. Overview of the Workshop. Motivation Creating a Learning Community

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Somirac hunt valley md april 1 2011

Motivating Students to Write: The Sky is the LimitCarolyn L. Cook Ph. D.Selene Rayho, Ellen Rocha, Elizabeth SmithMount St. Mary’s


Hunt Valley, MD

April 1, 2011

Overview of the workshop
Overview of the Workshop


Creating a Learning Community

Theoretical Foundation

Activities and Practice



  • How to motivate students?

    • Choice and control

    • Novelty

    • Social interaction

    • Feedback and response

    • Attainable success

    • Interest

    • Real world experiences/relevancy

    • Positive learning atmosphere

      (Williams, Hendrick, & Tuschinski, 2008)

A learning community
A Learning Community

A classroom environment where knowledge is constructed collaboratively among novice and expert learners (Wells & Wells-Chang, 1992)

Interactive dialogue among students and with the teacher

Valuing and caring for others

Theoretical foundation
Theoretical Foundation


Social interaction (Vygotsky, 1978)

Scaffolding by teacher (Bruner, 1990)

Collaborative activity (Wells & Wells-Chang, 1992)

Use of Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978)

Important aspects for teaching writing
Important Aspects for Teaching Writing



Using social dialogue
Using Social Dialogue

  • Definition

    • Peer and teacher talk

  • Goal

    • To aid creativity, spark ideas, support editing process

  • Strategy

    • Memory Chain Activity

    • Using pictures to assist brainstorming

    • Conferring with a partner

Memory chain dorfman cappelli 2007
Memory Chain (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2007)


Driving to the beach with the windows


Collecting sea shells with my sisters

Walking 10 blocks to get ice cream every


Hiding our lunch from the sea gulls


  • Create your own Memory Chain

    • Start with: The Park

  • Share your best story idea with a partner

  • Conferring points

    • Listen to your partner

    • Ask questions or make comments

    • Clarify and elaborate ideas

  • Write on your paper 1-2 suggestions that could use to improve your story

Teaching skills and strategies
TeachingSkills and Strategies

  • Definition (Routman, 2005)

    • Writing to learn the skills and strategies (whole to part instruction)

    • Use of mini-lessons and mentor texts

    • Feedback from conferencing (noticing & naming)

  • Goal is to utilize specific skills and strategies

  • Teaching Strategy

    • Hand Map

Hand map dorfman cappelli 2007
Hand Map (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2007)

Lightning share various emotions

Trace your hand

Remember all your park experiences

Write an emotion on each finger

Off each finger write a phrase or word referring to a time when you felt that way

Now you have many story ideas from which to write

Engaging in critical perspectives
Engaging inCritical Perspectives

  • Definition

    • A stance or attitude to encourage social responsibility

    • Deconstructing the normal and reconstructing it through “other” eyes

  • Goal is to address issues of fairness, power, and social justice

    • Seeing multiple viewpoints

  • Result

    • Change in self and action to help others

Before reading
Before Reading

  • Overview of the 4 voices

    • Mother

    • Dad

    • Charles

    • Smudge

  • Preview the text

    • What do you notice about the pictures?

    • What questions do you have?

    • What predictions can you make?

During reading
During Reading

  • Think about your questions and predictions

  • Adjust your thinking as you read

  • Focus questions

    • What do you learn about each character?

    • What ideas are challenged?

  • Read with your group

  • Use both pictures and text to make meaning

After reading discussion
After Reading Discussion

  • Complete the Graphic Organizer

  • Use it to spur discussion on the story

    • How do you feel about the characters? Why?

    • How would you interact with the characters if you were at the park?

    • Why do the dogs seem to have more fun than the people?


  • Promoting critical perspective through writing with a goal to take action to change unfairness or injustices

  • Possible prompts

    • Relate Voices in the Park to when you visit a park

    • Relate Voices in the Park to recess time

  • Relating writing to social issues that students face via children’s literature (Heffernan, 2004)

What would victoria say about her day in the park
What would Victoria say about her day in the park?

What would Victoria hear?

What would Victoria see?

What would Victoria smell?

What would Victoria


What would Victoria touch?

More writing prompts
More Writing Prompts

  • Pick a voice from the story and write a journal entry reflecting your day at the park.

  • Compare and contrast the families

  • How would the story be different if the two families had both been from the same social class?

  • How would the book be different if the voices were in another order?

Somirac hunt valley md april 1 2011

A Day in the Park

A modified lesson

Somirac hunt valley md april 1 2011

In the park I hear _________.

In the park I see _________.

In the park I feel _________.

Motivating your students to write
Motivating Your Students to Write

  • Create a learning community

    • Positive learning atmosphere

    • Choice and control

  • Allow social dialogue

    • Interaction with peers & teacher

  • Teach skills and strategies

    • Feedback and response

    • Attainable success

  • Encourage critical perspectives

    • Real world experiences/relevancy

    • Interest


“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone…and whatever happens is the results of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that create something” (Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, 2007)

Bridging to your classroom
Bridging to Your Classroom

  • How can you implement these ideas into your classroom?

  • Write

    • What will you try next week?

    • What will you implement later when you are more comfortable with it?


Browne, A. (1998). Voices in the park. New York, NY: DK Publishing, Inc.

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Dorfman, L. & Cappelli, R. (2007). Mentor texts: Teaching writing through children’s literature, K-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Heffernan, L. (2004). Critical literacy and writer’s workshop: Bringing purpose and passion to student writing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Routman, R. (2005). Writing essentials: Raising expectations and results while simplifying teaching. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wells, G. & Chang-Wells, G. (1992). Constructing knowledge together: Classrooms as centers of inquiry and literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Somirac hunt valley md april 1 20111

Motivating Students to Write: The Sky is the LimitCarolyn L. Cook Ph. D.Selene Rayho, Ellen Rocha, Elizabeth SmithMount St. Mary’s


Hunt Valley, MD

April 1, 2011