Making the Most of Opportunities:

Close-Up Views of a SAGE Program

A Report of the Collaborative Action Research Project of the SAGE Program

at Webster Stanley Elementary School, Oshkosh, WI, 1999-2000

Michelle Klett

First-grade teacher

Research Question

The main question I am looking to answer with my research is "how can I use a variety of strategies and models to promote children's growth in writing?" I plan to study my teaching of writing in first grade by incorporating a variety of strategies and models into my teaching of writing. I am hoping that through implementing these strategies and models it will increase the quality of my students' writing and increase their interest in writing.

One of the main reasons I chose this focus to study is that I feel that writing is such an important component in helping children become readers. Besides my own feelings about writing, another reason I want to study writing in my classroom is the strong emphasis that has been placed on writing throughout the curriculum. Reading and writing are the basis for all of the subject areas. I want the children to be excited and good at writing early, so that when they proceed into the upper grades that love for writing is instilled in them. We need a way for our students to become great writers to be successful in everything they do. The last reason I chose this topic to study is how important I think writing is as a life skill. I feel with a strong framework in the primary grades, the children will take along the skills they need, as well as the love for writing.

Michelle Klett shows students where they could place their beginning, middle, and ending sentences on their writing paper.

Classroom Make-Up

This is a class of 25 students at this time. The class consists of 17 boys and eight girls. There are two African American children, three Hmong children, and the rest are European American children. Seven of the students have qualified for reduced breakfast and lunch. Five students qualify for free breakfast and lunch. The rest of the class pays full price for breakfast and lunch. Seven of our students qualified at the beginning of the year for reading services through Title One. Throughout the year two other students qualified for the same program and were added at that time. Three of those students also qualified for the Reading Recovery Program this year. One of those students has graduated from that program. The other two are part of the second round of students in the program and have yet to graduate. We also have three students who are receiving speech and language services. Three of our students qualified for ESL services at the beginning of the year.

Research Methods

In my research I used several different points of view as well as different kinds of data. I began collecting data in August 1999 and continued collecting data through May 2000. To show several different points of view I included the students, through interviews and surveys. I used my point of view through my field notes and my transcription of video and audiotapes. I used parents' point of view through what they said about their children's writing when interviewed by Dr. McCall. The last point of view I have included in my research is Dr. Ava McCall's. Dr. McCall conducted interviews, videotaped and transcribed tapes, and did many classroom observations, in which she shared her notes of those visits

My research methods included video and audiotapes. I also surveyed the students about writing. I collected several different work samples from several students. I also used my lesson plans as a record of interventions, as well as my field note journal. Classroom observations and authentic assessment were used to determine growth and success of the students in writing.

Main Findings

The most important finding of this project was that it was truly one that was ever evolving. It also was one that has no certain recipe. There is no one way to teach writing and every day something might need to change. Every year things will change depending on the needs of the children in my class. I did find however that some things remained the same and stable in my writing block even though things around that were changing. That one thing that remained the same was the schedule of the writing. My writing block will always include a mini-lesson, writing time, and share time. That will never charge. In the big picture I am happy with how my children did in writing.

One thing I know I did accomplish was that my children love to write. I knew this from the groans when writing workshop ended. I saw this when the children fought over working at the writing center. I heard from the interviews that were conducted, I saw it when children brought books to school to share that they had made at home. Daily the children showed me how they loved to write.

The progress they made was also outstanding. I looked through the many samples that I had collected throughout the year and was amazed. One of the most wonderful days I remember from the year is the day we did our last writing sample using the picture prompt. As I walked around I saw children writing using an introduction. I saw some children with titles to their stories. I witnessed students using capital letters and endings. They were using descriptive words in their writing. It was very overwhelming to me and to the other teachers in the room at the time. I made sure the students knew how pleased I was about what I had seen and how proud I was to be their teacher.

The last main thing I have learned through this research project is that there is no one main recipe for success in teaching writing. The more I searched for information the more I found. Each idea was better than the first. In April I was lucky enough to attend a workshop by Teacher Created Materials called 'Writing in the Primary Grades'. It was fabulous! I learned more in one day than I could have researched in months. Even with all the research I did, I will still be searching for better and best practices in the teaching of writing. I am excited for next year to try out the many things I have done this year that worked. I will search for new ways to do things that did not work. I will look at the plethora of ideas I was given at the workshop and try them out. It is a never-ending circle of learning for me and for the children. But oh what a journey.

Michelle Klett sits with a group table of engrossed writers. They are nearing the completion of their stories. Two writers have written almost a full page story.

SAGE Program