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Q&A with Georgia Teacher Lakendra Swanson


In this interview, 3rd-grade teacher Lakendra Swanson shares how she sets and manages expectations with writing in the classroom.


ThinkCERCA team: Which engagement strategies do you use to teach writing?

Lakendra: The number one engagement strategy I use to teach writing is allotting time for students to have conversations about their work. I designate time for discussions to occur during the planning stage of our writing and while we are constructing our actual writing piece. I’ve noticed that the tears associated with writing stem from students not knowing where to begin or what to write about. Reflecting on my educational practices have taught me that it’s beneficial to allow time to converse and share ideas with one another during the writing process. This will lead to a gateway of ideas that will flow for students who are often attacked by the “writer's block.”


ThinkCERCA team: How do you collaborate with fellow teachers around literacy instruction?

Lakendra: I collaborate with teachers through a simple means of communication and sharing various work samples of our students. We compare proficient, distinguished, and beginning-level work. We share ideas and discuss different instructional practices that worked well for our boys and girls.


ThinkCERCA team: How do you set and manage expectations for students during a ThinkCERCA Writing Lesson?

Lakendra: Expectations during the Writing Lesson are managed through traffic light signals [which are projected onto the front screen with a simple PowerPoint slide]. After the teacher has gradually released students to independency, a green light will appear on the screen for students to begin writing. When the teacher needs the students to come to a good stopping point; a yellow light will appear for students to wrap up their sentence. When the red light appears, students have their hands off the keyboard and they are waiting to hear from the students who have the “author's chair” cards (Teacher passes out the author's chair cards during the green light session. This helps the student become willing to show their work, rather than randomly being put on spot).

When students receive these cards, they are to share a portion of their work. Next, they call on one classmate to give them specific feedback to help improve their writing.


ThinkCERCA team: What advice would you share with fellow ThinkCERCA teachers?

Lakendra: I’d advise teachers to remember we are in a new era of teaching and learning. We must gear and align instruction with the way our students learn best. Make the implementation of ThinkCERCA fun and enjoyable for our boys and girls!  Allow them to move around the room to share ideas. Create an environment that allows students to have friendly debates. Most importantly, allow time for students to talk and engage with their peers during the entire writing process.


ThinkCERCA team: What is your favorite ThinkCERCA Writing Lesson to teach?

Lakendra: Hands down, argumentative writing is my favorite to teach! While teaching argumentative writing, you are also able to teach characterization and show students an appropriate way to disagree with others.


ThinkCERCA team: Anything else you'd like to add?

Lakendra: I’m truly thankful for the implementation of ThinkCERCA in our schools and the rigor associated with it. ThinkCERA has truly transformed the way our boys and girls write and analyze text in their daily reading.


Mallory Busch
Mallory Busch

Mallory Busch is ThinkCERCA's Editor of Content Strategy. A graduate of Northwestern University, Mallory came to ThinkCERCA from stops in audience strategy at TIME magazine and news applications development at Chicago Tribune and The Texas Tribune. She holds degrees in Journalism and International Studies, and was a student fellow at Knight Lab in college.