Mary Ellen Ledbetter Seminars
As teachers of writing, all of us have a powerful tool at our disposal that too often goes unused or—at best—is implemented in a hit-and-miss way. It's nothing new and certainly not magic but at times can appear to be an elusive concept—that of formative assessment. Research has shown that the primary reason more educators are not taking advantage of this method of assessing in "stages" is that they are under the misconception that feedback is given to every writer every day and that some mysterious, intricate record-keeping—known only to the gods of grades—is involved. Lucky for all of us that formative assessment actually makes the final summative evaluation an easier process that can be done one-on-one in class as opposed to infringing on our lives at home.
My seminar takes teachers step-by-step through various approaches of focusing on attainable goals for a class period. Certainly peer feedback is a necessary step in the writing process as a whole, but even peer responses should be given a "purpose." It is enough for students to thoroughly analyze one or two aspects of classmates' papers, much less assigning them the task of proofreading / editing for all "errors." The most important part of formative assessment is that it allows teachers to give more frequent feedback not only to writers who read aloud but to the entire class as well, thus allowing all students the opportunity to revise.
This workshop takes teachers through every stage of formative assessment from oral feedback, to revision, to helping student conquer weaknesses in structure, content, voice/ word choice, etc., to the final summative conference. Teachers are also provided with plans—viable learning situations as opposed to busy work-- for the rest of the class who have not yet had their turn at being involved in the quick conferencing sessions. This part is magical and something every teacher will use time and time again.
Essential Strategies in Achieving Exemplary Writing (6-12)
Mary addresses the issues students face when attempting to achieve exemplary writing scores. One of the most prevalent problems is that students look at the "overall" picture—the end result—and either give up or put forth minimum effort, both of which confirm their fears that essay writing is an impossible goal. However, Mary presents specific strategies to "break down" the process into manageable parts that are assessed in their formative stages. Students begin to see results when they are given the opportunity to revise at "pausing points" to ensure that all the necessary components of superior essays are inherent in their papers.
Achieving Higher Writing Scores on States' Writing Tests (6-12)
Whether your school has implemented CCS, PARCC, Smarter Balance, or the district-wide goals of your own curriculum, Mary can help build a strong, vertically aligned English / LA program that will result not only in higher test scores but in an in-depth knowledge of the writing process as well as the practice of "active," close reading that will create lifelong learners. Mary's researched-based, classroom-tested strategies are designed to be differentiated to work with all grade and ability levels and generic enough to be used with any curriculum at any point.
Writing on Demand 3-6
On many occasions students must write without the intervention of their teachers. When faced with benchmarks, district- or state-mandated assessments, or even inclass essay exams, often students lack the confidence to tackle prompts on their own, resulting not only in the writer's frustration but in low test scores as well. However, when students are armed with easy-to-implement, motivating activities that allow them to practice every stage of the process, they become more confident, independent writers, ones who are prepared to reach their goals.
Writing on Demand 6-12
During benchmarks, district- or state-mandated assessments, or even in-class essay exams when teachers are not allowed to help students with any aspect of their writing, many students panic. Problems range from not understanding the prompt, writing in the wrong mode, not including sufficient elaboration and voice, to failing to revise and edit. Mary's student-friendly approach to addressing these skills on a regular basis "breaks down" the process into stages that provide students with immediate feedback and the confidence that comes from success.
Strengthening Students' Writing, Reading, Grammar, and Vocabulary Skills 6-12
As English teachers, we often feel that if one more aspect of the English language is added to our already overloaded curriculum, we just might have to change professions, preferably to one with no papers to take home. This seminar provides the answers to integrating skills, raising student ability levels, and affording teachers time at home to "recharge" in order to face each day with renewed energy.
Success for Struggling Writers and Readers 6-12
All educators realize that methods of differentiation need to be in place for all classes but perhaps most especially for struggling students. The adage that "success breeds success" couldn't apply more than to students not only with an even wider range of ability levels but of motivation as well. These writers and readers need the advantages of studying short, interesting models, ones they can understand and to which they can relate. The motivation will increase when they are allowed to write in simple, step-by-step segments that can be responded to by a partner, small group, or whole class in a risk-free environment. When they realize that they will have the opportunity to revise and edit "part-by-part," the I-can't-dothis attitudes will turn into the I'll-give-it-a-try.
Mary Ellen Ledbetter
Language Arts Consultant
for K-12 Students
Mary is well-known for her fast-paced and strategy-packed seminars that focus on helping students significantly improve their writing (including planning, student-interactive rubrics, revision, peer response, and editing) as well as their reading skills. Having had years of expierience as a teacher and presenting countless conferences across the country, Mary understands the concerns of teachers, curriculum directors, and administrators. The following sessions are designed as full-day workshops but can be modified to fit a district's needs.