March 5 – 3 Words to Clear the Cobwebs

Today I reread writing I did on March 25, 2014 after attending the March 2014th Saturday Reunion at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Kathy Collins suggested this Alternative 3-question Teacher Evaluation.

Short Answer Essays using my class list
1. Circle the 17th name. Write everything you know for sure about this child’s life outside of school. Include their loves, fears, quirks, etc. Write how this knowledge impacts your teaching of this child.
2. Underline the 8th name on the list. Share a classroom anecdote about this child and indicate what that anecdote can tell you about this child’s humanity.
3. Put a star next to the 11th child’s name. Describe the child’s relationships to his/her peers and with other adults in the school. Provide an example of a collaborative classroom interactions involving that child.

Kate Messner in her book 59 Reasons to Write on pg. 92 offers a writing strategy called Cleaning the Cobwebs. Simply write in 3 word phrases.

I had Parent-Teacher Conferences this past Thursday and Friday and my student reflections are fresh in my mind. So I decided to combine these two ideas. With Kathy Collins’ 3 questions in mind, I am writing 3-word phrases as I pictures each student in my class. The result is these 40 3-word phrases that summarize the collective work of the students in my 3rd grade class.

dutifully follows directions

likes getting it

can think it

as a picture

doesn’t like loud

doesn’t like unknown

cares about issues

beyond the classroom

forming good friendships

sees injustice happening

will speaks up

gets computer coding

three steps ahead

genuinely sorry for

making unwise choices

knows math facts

in a snap

will seek out

ask for help

showing more confidence

friends give comfort

does not know

that she/he knows

building his/her confidence

can imagine amazing

far-out fantastic ideas

nose in books

all. the. time!

excited to learn

new science topics

ancient civilizations too

works at writing

writes strong descriptions

long and strong

fast and furious

strong graphics creator

loves a challenge

solves hard problems

helpful in partnerships

shows others kindness

If I was an administer, I’d score me as a proficient teacher!

NOTE: It was very freeing for me to only expect to write 3-words per line.
This strategy is shared in the book as a way to help writers add voice to their writing. “The cool thing about this cobweb prewriting exercise is that students think it’s so ridiculous, they let go of trying to write, and their authentic voice emerges.” pg. 92
I look forward to trying this strategy out with my students.


16 thoughts on “March 5 – 3 Words to Clear the Cobwebs

  1. msosterman49 says:

    What a great way to see children ! I admire your search for understanding your students and this was such a unique way to view them. I thought to myself. This teacher needs to have some fun this Sunday morning as a reward for her hard work in teaching!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. paulabourque says:

    These are GREAT!! Combining a reflection on students with writing practice is something I am working on right now. I had forgotten about Kate’s lesson, thanks for reminding me. I also LOVE Kathy Collins idea- the randomness keeps it fun. Thanks for a wonderful post to keep me inspired this morning!


  3. djvichos says:

    What great exercises and an important reminder to do that hard work of reflection. I got the sense that you know your students, and I loved reading your three words. Your voice comes out, too! I like its creativity “can imagine amazing” and “far-out fantastic ideas”. I’d rate you exemplary 🙂


  4. wordjourneysite says:

    I wish I had known this strategy last year. I like the idea of randomly choosing the 8th or 3rd or 110th student and writing a short phrase about them. So often we focus on the kids that give us problems, or maybe the brilliant kid in the class, but the kids in the middle often get lost. This is a way to recognize the kids that fly under the radar screen.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. angelafaulhaber says:

    Love these! I just brought Kate’s book home with me and am excited to try some of the strategies out as I start to reach for ideas. Thanks for sharing this one as a model for how I might approach writing. And I love the Collins’ idea too! I can tell that you’re a deeply caring teacher.


  6. Lisa L2L4L says:

    What a smart idea to see if one is proficient based on how well you know your class! Sharing them with an admin is even better!

    I also love the three-word project! My son and I used to play a 3-words game when he was in middle school. It was a way to learn about his day without having to extract the info using forceps or a sledgehammer. The 3-words phrase sometimes lead to more questions (later…usually requiring the aforementioned sledgehammer), but we loved communicating in this way.


  7. Melody says:

    This is so awesome! It helps you to really think about your students, and maybe in a slightly different way than usual. I want to try this with my class list! It is so clear how highly you think of your students, and how well you must know them.


  8. quotesphotosandwonders says:

    This reminds me of a responsive classroom activity of describing your weekend, summer, day in three words. Encapsulating something into three words really gets you to weed out the stuff that doesn’t matter. You know so much about your students and they are so lucky to have you!


  9. mgminer says:

    I love how you are modeling so many strategies in your slices so far this year. Thanks for the inspiration! Thank you for sharing the quote: “The cool thing about this cobweb prewriting exercise is that students think it’s so ridiculous, they let go of trying to write, and their authentic voice emerges.” pg. 92 That’s good advice for us, too. Maybe if we just write, our voices emerge too.


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