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How one mom helped improve student writing

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By GreatSchools Staff

Major Challenges

Aside from the sheer amount of work involved in getting the Writers Workshop up and running, the biggest challenge has been finding good instructors for the program. Although the school is able to pay a good hourly rate and provide paid prep time, finding the right people for the job has taken a lot of time, and there has been turnover each year. Karen said that qualified instructors are very important to the success of the program, so she and others at Alvarado have worked hard to write grants and get funding to pay an attractive salary. Still, it has been difficult to find an experienced instructor who is available every weekday afternoon, and the people who are available tend to be somewhat temporary.

How the School Has Benefited

About 48 students have now been through the Writers Workshop program. Their teachers have seen improvement in their reading and writing skills, both in class and on the assessments given through Writers Workshop. Karen notes that it isn't possible to give these students everything they need to catch up in two hours a week, but she is pleased that the program is showing positive results.

Tips for Other Parents

Karen's best advice for other parents is to think carefully about who will play which roles in a project from the very beginning. Assigning specific jobs to other people will help you avoid getting in over your head. She also encouraged parents to think about what they can do to help with literacy at their schools. "You don't have to be really skilled to make a difference," she said. As an example, she said that Alvarado is now working on a Read to Kids program where parents will spend time after school reading with kids who may not be read to at home.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

02/21/2008:
"Your information keeps me a step ahead. Last week I refreshed my HIGH SCHOOL geometry from your article, just a step ahead of my fourth grader. Today you have fun homework for my kinder student while we quiet the house for geometry study. Thanks!"
02/14/2008:
"That is great you all were able to improve the writing and reading skills of the students early on. There so much focus on these skills for the CRCT standarizied test for 3rd graders. I am encouraging my children to read, it is hard sometimes. Do you have more tips, for a concerned parent?"
01/10/2007:
"This is great effort in terms of starting from one person. It really is motivational for a lot of other parents and teachers. However I wonder, do parents need to have some kind of teaching skills in order to make difference. Or what are the things to remember and practice while practicing such a programme at school or at home. "
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