My Journey Toward a Writing Center – Part Three

WC blog post 3

After four months of observation, preparation, and prayer, the day arrived to open our school’s writing center. And despite our modest beginnings, we had six different visitors on our first day alone!

We opened at the beginning of January, and in the four months we’ve been open we have had over 150 different appointments. For a school with only 325 secondary students, that is astounding!

Here are some pics of our coaches in action.

 

So much of our success is due to our amazing faculty members. Several teachers have offered extra credit for visiting the writing center, which is a wonderful promotion, as long as we know ahead of time! We learned quickly that when students are given this incentive oftentimes we have more visitors than writing coaches. But if I know to expect many students ahead of schedule, I am able to schedule extra coaches on for that day, and everyone is taken care of. So far this semester we have had 3 different “all-staff” days, where almost every coach was utilized due to our flood of traffic.

Some ways I’ve kept the writing center a well-oiled machine are through organized binders containing writing resources.

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I have a file box containing writing handouts given out in our school’s ELA classrooms, including quote integration, italicization vs. quotation marks, MLA formatting, and more. When a writing coach is stumped or I see them struggling to remember a concept, I can easily grab a handout from this box and bring it over to them. Receptionists often do this on their shifts as well.

 

All of our writing center resources are contained in these two locations: a shelf at the entrance of my room and a wooden organizer on a table near the entrance. The shelf holds the writing resource box (see above), binders containing assignment details and rubrics, sample essays, dictionaries, thesauruses, and other resources. Oftentimes the receptionist on shift will distribute these resources once visitors are checked in, and they know to re-file them when students leave.

The other container holds highlighters, post-it notes, a list of all writing coaches and skills (for receptionist use), scratch paper, and most importantly, the tutoring session form.

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This document is the most important in Writing Center success, in my opinion. It tells me what brought a student into the writing center, and gives feedback on each individual experience. The coach notes at the bottom are also very valuable. For example, one visitor gave positive feedback, but the writing coach noted that the student sat back and seemed to expect the writing coach to make all of the changes for her, which directly contradicts our policy. She even became angry when asked to do the work herself. This feedback was very useful to share with the assigning teacher, who was able to speak to the student directly about taking more initiative over her own assignment, rather than asking others to do the work for her.

Overall, the experience was grueling but incredibly rewarding. Our attendance is strong and so much of the work is done to implement an even stronger writing center program next year.

One benefit of going through this process is the ability to share what I’ve learned. I am so grateful to anyone who has taken the time to read this, especially if you read all three posts! To any teachers or administrators interested in forming their own writing center I have bundled all of my resources for training and running our writing center into a Writing Center Starter Kit, available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Click here to read Part One or Part Two of this post series. Special shout-out to Nicole Case for some of the photography in this post ūüôā

Research Source Sheet – Helping students record research quickly and ethically

Research Source Sheet

As a high school English teacher, I spend a lot of time grading essays. A lot. An eternity, really… But the hardest papers to grade, and to teach, are definitely research papers. And in 10th grade, proper research is not considered simply task, but more of a life skill.

Over the years I’ve seen the need for ethical research instruction grow more and more demanding. Every year I hear the horror stories from first-year college students about someone who didn’t cite properly and failed the assignment, or worse, the class, simply because of sloppy research. And then we hear the stories of students caught plagiarizing and face even worse consequences. I would pass these stories on to my students, but still struggled with finding ways to guarantee¬†students were researching properly and ethically.

I looked around online and couldn’t find anything to my liking, so, being a¬†creative teacher myself, I decided to design my own.

I wanted to create a resource that had the following components:

  • Simplicity – Students should see it as a relatively quick task that doesn’t take long to complete
  • Functionality – It should serve to assist them in conducting ethical research in an obvious way
  • Habit-Forming – I wanted students to become so used to completing this as an act of research that they returned to them in later years

The result was: The Reseach Source Sheet

Research Source Sheet 2

These little babies have been living in my classroom for the past few years, and the effect on my students’ research habits cannot be understated.

The front gives students a basic checklist to record any relevant information about their source. Then, using resources in my room about how to arrange this information, they create their citation as it will appear in their works cited page.

On the back, students only need to write three things. First, they should bulletpoint or list the main points they will use from this source. Secondly, they should record any direct quotes they wish to use from the source. Finally, they simply need to indicate where the source will be used, such as in the second body paragraph or their conclusion section.

Research Source Sheet 3

Every year I introduce this assessment during our first research project. Students must conduct research in class and have a certain number of sources required in their assignment. I usually give them a few days to research, outline, and draft in class. After those days, these source sheets are due and I assess them for formative points, based on the accuracy of their citations and how much useful information they record on the backside.

I love these source sheets, obviously. But it’s not just that it helps students with citations. Let’s face it, there are a lot of websites that do that (I’m looking at you, Easybib). The main reason I love it is that it teaches students to record¬†information as they find it. Too often students skim websites for quotes, or simply copy and paste information without reading the whole article. Even worse, many students put the research into their own words and skip citing it entirely! By taking these simple notes during the research process, students learn to record detailed information during the research process, and it helps them learn the ethics behind proper research as well.

As the school year goes on, we return to these source sheets with every research assignment. It has become common practice in my classroom, and I’ve even passed them out to other teachers who assess research projects as well. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve even had students return the following year later and request some source sheets voluntarily.

These research source sheets are available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store as a free download. Please download one for use in your own classroom, and feel free to customize them as necessary, as they are in an editable Word format. And please follow my store on TPT, and this blog, for more product updates and creative resources to use in your ELA classroom!