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Tiger Talk – Writing to Learn
Comprehensive writing program at NP-Mansfield improves learning
Welcome to this month’s edition of “Tiger Talk” with North Penn/Mansfield High School’s Principal, Bill David. Today’s topic focuses on their writing initiative, the Collins Writing Program, which provides a unique approach to writing and learning and is used across the curriculum to engage students.
According to English teacher Mr. Jason Fletcher, “Collins Writing is a comprehensive writing program. It is not just about learning how to write, it is using writing to learn. When we write, it helps us learn, it helps our brains function; we make connections we wouldn’t if we didn’t write.”
Mr. Fletcher went on to explain that the program uses five different types of writing depending on the teacher’s goals, time available, and where the students are in the learning process. The first two types, Type One and Type Two, are not graded for quality of writing. They are graded for either a certain number of lines in a certain time-period, or they are graded for correct content. Grammar, punctuation, even complete sentences are not the emphasis. “As you progress through the types,” Mr. Fletcher continues, “The third type . . . is where we bring in things like the focus correction areas . . . and there we are going to really focus on quality; and there will be certain things that we will be looking for, and it may be something very specific, like comma use. It’s a great program because there is the low stress of the Type One and Type Two, and then we work on their quality in Type Three, Four, and Five.”
Biology teacher, Mrs. Jessica Webster, also uses the Collins Writing Program’s concept of Five Types of Writing. “Type One allows me to have kids write down key facts and key concepts.” As she moves through the classroom she looks at each student’s paper and is able to determine what they have and have not absorbed about the concept she has asked them to write about. She also uses the Type One writing as a tool to help build motivation by circling one of the things that she finds that is really great about certain students’ papers. Once the Type One section is over and everyone stops writing, the class comes together to discuss what they know and what they need to spend more time learning. Mrs. Webster finds that students who have circled items on their papers are going to be raising their hands first. “And sometimes,” she continues, “The ones that were in the past not raising their hands are being involved with new-found confidence.” Using writing helps Mrs. Webster to determine what the kids know and where they may have gaps in their understanding and she uses that information to tailor her daily or weekly lessons.
Mr. Fletcher and Mrs. Webster agree that the cross-curricular use of writing reinforces the idea that writing does matter—and not just in English class. From science to social studies, communication is essential, and writing is a valuable tool for students not only to express what they know, but to support the learning process as a whole.
Look for the Tiger Talk broadcast again next month on Mansfield Home Page. And remember, you can always find past episodes of Tiger Talk on our left navigation bar under Special Features.
Videography: John Vogt, Ed Weaver
Video Editing: Kline Kaufer
Writing: Heather Weiner
Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by Mansfield University, Matthews Motor Company