In this episode, Melissa Webb, owner of Write On Webb, and a Sage Oak Community Provider, shares tips parents can use for preparing students for the writing performance task on the CAASPP assessment.
In addition, Melissa describes her writing course offerings that support students all year long!
Melissa's educational background includes serving as a classroom teacher, charter school teacher facilitator, and homeschool parent.
Contact Melissa Webb
Write On Webb
Thank you for listening to the Sage Studio podcast presented by Sage Oak Charter Schools and hosted by Tiffiny Webster, M.A.Ed. We invite you to follow the show and leave your review below. Sage Oak Charter Schools is an independent study nonclassroom based TK-12 personalized learning public charter school serving students in Southern California. Visit sageoak.education for more information.
Sage Oak Website
So as we get closer to taking the CAASPP test, you might start to notice that the nerves are going a little bit, especially when it comes to the writing portion of the CAASPP. So today I invited Melissa Webb from Write on Webb to come on the show and give us two of her tips for helping to calm the nerves and helping our students and our parents feel a little bit more prepared for the writing.portion of the cast test, her tips are really great and easy to implement, and it's a great podcast. Stay tuned. Well, hey there. Welcome to another episode of the Sage Studio. I'm Tiffiny Webster, and today I am joined by one of our community providers, Melissa Webb, from Write On Webb so thank you so much for being here, Melissa. Oh, thank you so much, Tiffiny, for having me. I am excited to talk to you all about writing today. We are so excited to hear it. I know that our families love getting to know our community providers, so I cannot wait for them to get to know you and your program a little bit more today and hear about how you are such a writing expert in all the great ways that you can help their kids. So start us off by telling, how did you even come to start Write on Webb? What is your background? Yeah, it is kinda a funny story because it is not anything that I had on my to-do list. Back when I was going to college down at San Diego State, my goal was to be a credential teacher to teach in the classroom. And so I did enjoy 13 years as a classroom teacher, taught all the elementary grades. So after I had kids and was being a classroom teacher, I realized I felt very stuck in my classroom when I wanted to be more of a mom, and so at the time I had heard about a charter school that was supporting families and used the credential teacher as kind of their accountability partner. So I joined a charter school as an EF educational facilitator. I did that for 15 years and I loved it. So much so that I ended up homeschooling two of our three boys, which, oh wow. Again, I wasn't in the plan, but I will tell you that ended up being a total of nine years that I loved so much. That family bond, it just, it's just a very special thing as we all know. Oh yeah. Absolutely. And I love that you have that experience that you're bringing to your role now as the teacher again in this model is that you've been there and you've done it. You've sat at the kitchen table with your own kids. Yes. And so you really understand what it's like for our parents that are doing the same. That's. Yeah. And when I would meet with the parents and I'd say, Hey, let's take a look at your writing. I would find that it was the one area that was a thorn in the side of so many of these amazing moms and dads. Dads are out there too, doing it. And these moms would say, with the science book, I can go to the answers in the back, in the math text. I can go see, I may not know how they got to the answer, but if I know the answer, I can kind of work it backwards, I can figure things out. You go to the back of a writing text, it says answers will vary. Yes. Nothing, crickets, not helpful. I've always loved teaching writing and so I would try to help them find curriculum that fit it did not exist. I was so frustrated. There were so many great programs out there that had this part and had that part, but it didn't have all the parts, especially, it didn't have the part for the mom who has a third grader, a fifth grader, and a seventh grader. So I created it long story short, in 2019 I went full-time with it and I've been doing it ever since. Love it. That is so awesome. So I want to back up to something that you said that I think is really important. You just touched on it for a minute, but you said that the way that you teach writing is that you have a writing piece, but it can work for students at different grade levels. Can you talk to that a little bit? How does that. Absolutely. So yes, in each of my programs there are three leveled options. So a level one teaches a child how to write one structured paragraph. Level two teaches introductory paragraph, body paragraph, conclusion. So it's the three paragraph essay format and then a level three teaches the four to six paragraph structure where you still have an introduction, but you have multiple body paragraphs and you have a conclusion. And the thing that I tell my families is all the time, Part of what I love about writing is part of Language Arts. It's an art more than it is a science, and it does not care how old you are. So a lot of times people will think oh, so I have a third grader. Should that child stay in level one all year? No. For one month, go ahead and start at the level one. But I have third graders that by the end of our first year together, they're already writing at that level three, which is high eighth grade standards ready for high school. Wow, third graders can do it.. And on the opposite, it's true. And so I'll have seventh and eighth graders start with a level one. They usually need that for one month. Just to make sure they understand basic structure and then boom, they're off to the races. That's so great and it just is so aligned with our approach to personalized learning here at Sage Oak is that we really want to be able to meet students where they are and also meet parents where they are in being able to provide that instruction to their students. Right. Or support them in the instruction they're receiving. So I love that you offer the ability for parents and students to start where they are, whether that's at the beginning, at a medium level, or if they're ready to go onto something more advanced. Okay. So as it's going to be testing season here. The CAASPP is coming upon us. Our students will start taking CAASPP testing in third grade, and there's a really substantial writing component to the CAASPP, the performance task piece. So tell us a little bit about how some of your writing tips that can help our students who might be taking the CAASPP for the first time, or even for some of those more experienced writers that are taking CAASPP in, our middle school level. What are some strategies that they can apply to that CAASPP writing test? So one of the things that I did as a charter school facilitator I was a lead proctor at these CAASPP exams way back in the day and I can remember kids coming in third and fourth grade pulling up the E L A P T, which is English Language Arts Performance Task. And so the third graders and the fourth graders would open up essay prompt, having never seen a prompt before. Not sure what it means. What is informational? What does that mean? What is opinion? What is narrative? They weren't used to the vocabulary. And if the kids had never seen them, It was really overwhelming and there would be tears. These kids would just shut down and that just doesn't need to happen. One of the things I love to tell other parents that I work with is, remember on test day you cannot help your child at all. But between now and test day, you can help your child every single day I love that. And why wouldn't you want to, right? Yes. So how can they do that? How can a parent help their child get ready for this test? Because no parent wants their child to feel overwhelmed on test day, right? They want them to go in feeling like, I've got this, I know exactly what to do. So how can our parents help their kids be ready? So number one, they need to understand, there will be one of three styles asked of them. They do not get to pick which writing style they'd like to write. They have to be prepared to write to any of the three. So number one, understand what the three are. So the first one is persuasive writing for our elementary kids. That will be called opinion performance task. For our middle school children, it will be called argumentative. You have to understand that goal of that one is to be one-sided and to give good evidence as to why you believe what you believe. The second possible genre would be the expository. For the older children, it's explanatory. There are some slight differences, but overall they're ma very much the same in that it's facts only. Okay. It's not one-sided, like the persuasive. It's probably the biggest mistake kids make is they put their opinions in expository pieces and it doesn't belong there. No opinions about it. Just, here are the facts on this side. Here's the facts on this side. That's it. Got it. Think of like scientific summary. Research paper. Like that? Okay. The third possible genre will be narrative. And that could, that can cover third through eighth grade. Sometimes they're asked to write a realistic story. Sometimes it's more of a fantasy, imaginative story. So tip number one is to know those three possible genres. Tip number two is to teach your children how to read a writing prompt. So what's really great about the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the SPAC test that these students take is they offer a free website that has practice parts where the families can go on together. You sit next to your child, like I said, on test day. They're lo doing this all by themselves, but every day before then say just take 10 minutes. Just say, Hey, let's go to this link. Let's look at what a prompt's going to potentially look like. It's going to be a dual screen on the left side, there're going to be all the articles they can, they need to read . Those articles are going to lead you to be very successful. We're on the right. You're actually going to type. And yes, even third graders need to type. Nobody can type it for them. They will be given paper and pen or pencil. They can jot down an outline, jot down their diet thoughts, but they are going to have to type their essay. Okay. And so it's good practice that they can go and see what that's going to look like. They can see there's a dictionary that has at Thesaurus that has a spell check. A lot of kids, if they've not looked at this first, they don't know that. And that right there can be just a huge stress reducer when they're reading and they're like, I don't know that word. And they know, oh, there's a dictionary. I can find out that word. So those would be my two biggest tips. Number one, get familiar with the possible genres. Number two, get familiar with how the test is laid out. Read the prompts together. I think that is such a great tip, because I think sometimes that's really where the anxiety can come from, it's not okay, maybe they feel prepared with, I know the difference between informational and persuasive and narrative. But then they get to the test platform and the platform itself is overwhelming. They're not quite sure what buttons to choose and what is all that text doing over there on that side and how do I really use the tools to my advantage when I'm in here? So I think your tip about going on to the site where you can actually, for you see the tools that they're going to be using, what does it look like? Just taking the time to go through that. I think that is again, going to just help students to walk into a more familiar environment, come test a and have already had a chance for, to play with the tools a little bit to figure out how they work and what it's going to feel like to have to type out an essay in all of those different things. I will tell you, my students, practice these three styles all year long. They'll be like, I'm so excited to take the performance task this year. I mean, how many kids get excited to take a test. I think that the ones that feel prepared, right? That's it. That's it. So we have been practicing these styles all year long and they're excited. They're like, I wonder which one I'm going to get. I hope I get this one. because I have, I've, I really loved how that essay came out, right? And so I would love to work with any of your families and not make this feel like. Crash course at the end in spring, like we're just trying to pull it all together to make it work. These are the core standards of writing. These are the styles that will always serve our children in elementary, middle school, high school, college, and life. We need to know as adults how to be persuasive, not by emotion, but with evidence and facts. There are times where we need to know how to do an expository style of writing and some of us are going to entertain with tales and stories. There's all of these styles are going to serve for a lifetime. I love what you said. Is that this should not be some sort of like surprise at the end of the year or some sort of like crash course that we're just trying to do For the sake of the assessment, you really highlighted how important these skills are for students of all ages and then beyond their years in school as they go into college and life beyond that, that these are going to be the same skills that carry them. So taking the time to really learn these skills in a methodical way will really serve them well, and it's so great to know that they have access to your courses to do so all year long. They don't just have to wait for a CAASPP crash course. So now that we know how they can work with their kids on those types of things for CAASPP how can students and parents work with you throughout the year on just writing assignments in general? What's the best way for them to get in touch with you? So, so I love to work with families in my group sessions. I'm listed as one of your community providers as Write on Webb. I would love for you to head over to my website and check that out. It is Write on Webb. My last name is Webb. It has two bs dot com and I have programs there that you guys can check out in more detail. In fact, I think you even have things going on over the summer if parents are looking to do a little summer workshop. Is that right? I do have one evergreen course that is available. It's especially great for anybody who maybe feels like we've never really mastered the understanding of one structured essay. So the course is, Wow Essay Essentials and it's self-paced. It's a self study. It's great for the summertime because if you're super busy you can just, every couple days during a week, you could spend a little time in there and practice. What's fun about that as well is once a student writes an essay, I know one of the things that's. So many families long for is some feedback. How did my child do? So all of my programs offer that extra piece where somebody who is qualified to read will tell you what level of writing this is. And so you can submit that into our private community area and get some feedback on your child's progress. So that's nice. So great to hear. Well, thank you so much Melissa, for coming on today and sharing with us about these tips for approaching this section of the CAASPP test that's coming up. I think parents are really going to be excited to hear about the different types of writing workshops and courses that you offer kids all year long. It's great that you are one of our Sage Oak vendors, so that means that you can work with your teachers to use your instructional funds to purchase some of these courses if your interested in that. We will link all of the contact information for the Write on Webb website and for you to get ahold of Melissa in our show notes for today's episode. So, make sure you grab that information. And as she mentioned, she also has a couple little cheat sheets and informational sheets for you on her website that you can use for some of the information that was discussed in today's show. So thanks so much, Melissa. Always great to talk to you. We appreciate. Thank you so much. This was really fun, Tiffiny. All right, see you on the next one.