02-27-24 Athena Elementary

Yolanda Westerberg Literacy Instruction

Third graders recently got down to the serious business of working on their writing skills. They

were led by Yolanda Westerberg, literacy consultant and longtime educator provided through

the Oregon Trail Regional Educator Network (REN).

On this day, Westerberg was teaching about opinion writing. “OK, so remember, in this type of

writing you have to pick one side, you can’t like both choices,” Westerberg instructed the young

learners. After giving some examples on the board, she let the students loose on their own

sentences. Then students shared their work as she asked them questions like: does your

sentence have a capital letter? is there space between each word? is every word spelled

correctly and does your sentence have a period at the end? “Woo-hoo!” was the resounding

chorus as students checked their writing.

Third-grade teacher Emily Hansell was moving around the room, offering guidance and

suggestions. She said having this structured, interactive curriculum has definitely helped her

students understand more about the types of writing and improved their writing. “Yolanda

really keeps them engaged, and I have been impressed by how focused and involved they are in

the process,” Hansell said.

The writing instruction and materials that Westerberg is sharing is new to teachers in

kindergarten through third grades at Athena Elementary, and she models lessons with each

new writing unit. She also provides Professional Development sessions with the teachers at the

end of the school day.

Principal Kerri Coffman said teachers are excited about writing using this program, as it can be

difficult to teach writing effectively. Having all classes in grades kindergarten through sixth

grade use the same terminology, the same style of working, and consistency of expectations is

beneficial. “All of our teachers are on board and putting in extra effort to become better writing

teachers, which is our goal. Rarely in a school building do you see 100% of your teachers

embracing a curriculum like they are. We are seeing even our youngest writers taking their

work to publishing, it is very exciting,” Coffman said.