Wednesday, March 8, 2017

CRWP Success Story: Kim Rensch

Today we start a March series of Success Narratives written by participants in the College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP). The first story comes from Kim Rensch, who we featured on the blog back in September 2015.
CRWP Success Story by Kim Rensch
Leave it to the National Writing Project to create yet another tremendous learning opportunity for teachers and students. The College-Ready Writers Program (CRWP) has provided us participants with a vast array of text sets, ideas, lesson plans, and support to teach argumentative writing with intentionality.
My co-participant Ann and I have been working together with our Gifted Services team to bring these learning experiences to our district’s gifted student population. Even though the CRWP was geared toward students at the secondary level, there is much that applies to gifted upper elementary students. And because these students often end up in college, it stands to reason that we should prepare them for the academic learning they’ll do there.
It was a slow start to bring our entire team on board with this endeavor. There is such precious little time for our Gifted Services team to work with students, and, frankly, argumentative writing has not been made a priority over the years, so all this was new to many of the teachers. We reached a turning point in our October team meeting, where we analyzed some student writing generated during the “Jumpstart Argumentative Writing” mini-unit. The conversation was spirited as we came to a common understanding of argumentative writing expectations as they relate to our state standards, spelled out by a writing rubric. We discovered that students need a lot more practice with argumentative writing, especially with organizing their thoughts. Teachers left that meeting and carved time in an already-full schedule for students to dig more deeply into argumentative writing. One teacher integrated writing with speaking & listening; her students’ writing was much-improved after holding debates on their topics. Other teachers discovered that topic selection plays a large role in engaging their students in the argumentative writing exercises. We have begun the process of collecting a folder of text sets so teachers have lots of topic options for engaging students.

Our biggest success so far is a collage of many things: common writing tasks that we can analyze together; an emphasis on critical thinking (one of our 21st Century “4 C’s”) through examination of argumentative texts; overcoming our initial reservations to come together in a common task; and sharing suggestions and resources in order to grow as a team. I am looking forward to gaining momentum and seeing what kind of writing is generated by our students at our next checkpoint.

Stay tuned for more from this series!