Paper Problem Series Post 1: Identify the Problem

Help. I’m Surrounded By Paper.


I love a good problem. Problems that seem to have impossible solutions seem to be the best puzzles to try to solve in the field of education. Something like getting Math teachers to love writing or eliminating tracking in student schedules or figuring out how to motivate the one student that seems like no strategy, plan, solution, or special team can figure out a plan to help. The problem that I am trying to tackle involves English teachers and how to take in, process, utilize, and implement grading practices/feedback during writing instruction and in the day-to-day ELA classroom. 

Last week I posted about this fear of paper and how it could eventually lead to my teaching demise (RIP career). However, I also want to find solutions. In order to find solutions to the paper problem, I must first identify the aspects of the problem. The main problem with the problem is the T-Word. 


Time to grade. Time to reflect. Time to reassess. Time to conference. Time to teach skill and strategy. Time, time, time, time...Just as I have come to be okay with the fact that I now need eye cream to cover up my under eye bags, I need to figure out this time thing in the English classroom. I think I have been doing it wrong for going into 8 years. Not all wrong mind you, but something is fundamentally incorrect if the Red Crate of Doom consistently comes home and I cannot balance teaching and self-care/family time. Something is not accurate if I am spending more than 7 hours on a Sunday working on school work. What if everything I have thought about the setup of my room or instructional practices are wrong? I am open to that. 

Let's break down how my class curriculum is setup so we can talk through this a little bit more. 

I really enjoy the Moving Writers blog post about how they setup a unit plan. They provide some information about the basic unit plan overview. My material may change, the books may change, the genre may change, but the fundamental setup is similar to the above description in the graphic. I do like reading first before writing; however, writing is not always a response to a text or something you do afterwards.


This could be an area to examine closer. I like this idea for shorter pieces of writing, but I think I am talking about extended pieces of writing being the bigger issue for ELA teachers. Let me show you some more routines first:

I was vague during the week for a big reason. I do/We do/You do activities can be vast and interchangeable. I like the setup because it engages in gradual release of responsibility for the student. This could be a gallery walk to help students move around, a think-pair-share to get students talking, or a written response to a question. I am doing a variety of skills. The solid routines that do not often change are:

1. Homework-Distribution and Collection

2. Welcome/Purpose

3. Friday Free Write

Looking closer at instructional routines, I have played around with MINDSET MONDAY, THINK ABOUT IT TUESDAY, WORDY WEDNESDAY, REVISION THURSDAY, AND FRIDAY FREE WRITE...but something about it feels forced. I like the idea of covering bases and covering a ton of information, but there has to be an answer to also digging deep into a curriculum and being able to pause for discussion and think critically. I do not want to be swept up in the windstorm that is routine in order to hit my alliteration goal for that day (except Thursday...revision doesn't start with a T...)

I want students to also have a creative outlet at all times. Let me pause to show you the curriculum outlines and then we can talk.

Now, you may see why I try to incorporate as much creativity into the curriculum as possible. I have to admit: I don't hate my curriculum. I think it covers a variety of genres of reading and writing, assesses critical skills and strategies that students must know, and I think it moves at a pace that is challenging. 

So, what gives?

Here are the reflection questions I am going to ask myself to hopefully lend to some potential solutions regarding this paper problem and issue:

1. How can I revise my writing workshop to have students write, reflect, review, and process their papers in class at school?

2. How can I setup writing routines so that students are getting high levels of feedback at school?

3. How can I revise how I am holding students accountable for their individual writing process participation?

4. How can I revise how I am grading student writing in general?

Writing Mindset Reflection: How would you answer the above questions? What works in your classroom for these writing workshop routines? How do you juggle grading and giving great, quality feedback?