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Embracing Teacher-Directed Professional Learning

Terri Howell, Mary Spring

have been able to meet as grade teams to plan a year of writing that fits with our board and school goals and our new learning.

The TLLP grant comes with a few stipulations, including the collection of data. We did a pre and post teacher survey in October 2008 and May 2009, and found that there was a 30 percent increase in teachers who said they explicitly teach writing. As well, 49 percent more teachers use mentor texts to teach writing and 26 percent more use student conferencing. Based on that data, two areas of focus for this year are guided writing and working talk time into the writers’ workshop before independent work begins.

Changing students’ attitudes toward writing was a major goal, and our student surveys in October 2008 and May 2009 showed students in kindergarten to grade 3 grew in all areas, including seeing themselves as good writers (15 percent increase). More of them enjoy writing both at school (8 percent increase) and at home (15 percent increase), and more share their writing with others. However, we noted that there is still work to be done on changing attitudes, and this realization helped us prioritize our planning for the next year. It is worth noting that as students move from Primary to Junior grades their attitudes are changing:

40 percent more grade 4 to 8 students believe they are effective writers; 20 percent more say they enjoy writing at school.

The spinoffs from our group and the benefits of the TLLP grant have been many. We started small with representation from two schools. As word has spread, our group has grown to include teachers from five different area schools.

In our schools, there is discussion about teaching writing and an air of excitement about writing among students. We have a common “writing language” and use common tools, like special writers’ notebooks for our children. We have a common architecture for teaching writing using a workshop approach. Daily writing is important if students are to improve, and we expect them to use their learning each and every day. We know that sharing student writing and critiquing each other is an important part of growth as a writer. We know that teachers must write and model writing for their students.

We use a First Class Conference to communicate and we have started a wiki to share our learning with a broader audience ( thewritersworkshop.wetpaint.com). Best of all, the TLLP has afforded us the opportunity to take charge of our own professional learning and we feel we have wisely invested the funds provided.

It is 5 o’clock and as we prepare to leave the meeting Shannon turns to Angela

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ETFO General Secretary Victoria Réaume

ETFO has proven itself over and over again this year. Let’s start with our finances.