Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Written by Rachel Wild, Instructional Coach
I recently had the opportunity to attend Ruth Culham’s creatively named session “Burning the Worksheets” at the Summit 15 literacy conference in Calgary. Culham is best known for her work with the 6+1 Traits of Writing and her session demonstrated a method for working on writing conventions, called Writing Wallets.
Writing Wallets take the place of traditional worksheet practice for writing conventions. They provide a place for students to work at their own level, practicing and integrating the rules and conventions of writing into their own pieces. It requires little to no management or grading by the teacher and nudges students’ writing skills forward in a non-threatening and independent way.
Writing Wallets begin with a plain letter size folder for each student. The wallets could be personalized and decorated by students or left as they are. Each wallet should contain 2-4 of the students’ own writing pieces. The writing examples may include: quick writes, responses to literature, journal entries, self-reflection, “problem pieces” or any other short examples of raw writing. It is important that they are short writing pieces so students don’t get overwhelmed and that you limit the number to speed up the process. Teachers model the chosen convention in a brief mini-lesson and then students practice on their own writing. As students practice the teacher circulates checking in with students to provide feedback and guidance. After they have practiced the convention, students can share with a writing partner how they edited or revised their own writing. Periodically (Culham suggest every four weeks or so), a piece could be revised and finalized or students simply clear out the contents of the folder and begin again with 2-4 fresh pieces. The goal is of this method is transference of these skills into student writing versus the isolated practice that emphasizes quantity over quality.
Ruth Culham’s website: