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Dedicated to Teachers

PLC Series: The Language We Can Gather from Reading More Widely

Welcome to the Heinemann PD Professional Learning Community Series. This month we look closely at the creating opportunities for ourselves and our students to consider the power of the reading-writing connection.

“Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out.”

—William Faulkner

By Katherine Bomer

The secret to teaching how to write is to read, but that doesn't mean standing in front of the How to Write section in Barnes & Noble and picking a book by an author you’ve never heard of. Instead read what you’re passionate about and then try to widen the scope of that passion, reading different genres, so that you can say you’re passionate about good writing with the confidence that you know what good writing is regardless of genre. Trust in your own responses as a reader—good writing excites you, moves you, gives you clarity, makes you laugh, and makes you realize how deliciously complicated life really is.

In this clip, you’ll see teachers point to a place where they feel the writing is “good.” The teachers used this clear and simple Reading Protocol. You’ll see them share their favorite excerpt with a peer and you’ll hear them come to some common language to define what makes it good. This task is not without challenge, and you’ll find it’s easy to fall back on literary terms that put what we’ve read into neat and tidy packages. In this activity, encourage teachers to avoid doing this and push their thinking further, and you’ll hear the teachers use language that describes how the texts affect them as readers.


Try This: Follow the exact same protocol with a YA novel, a poem, or an article that your students delight in. Though these YA texts may not appear in sanctioned school canons or lists of acceptable literature, there are important and fascinating reasons that young people are drawn to them. By taking time to find places where the writing is appealing and then sharing those with colleagues, you can help one another broaden your experience of contemporary texts, and can recognize that these are the models for much of what your students write at home and in class.

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On-Site: Take a look at customized seminars, consulting authors and speakers, including Katherine Bomer, available to you from Heinemann Professional Development by clicking here.

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Katherine Bomer (@KatherineBomer), author of The Journey Is Everything, Hidden Gems, and Starting with What Students Do Best, is one of the field's most gifted writers and teachers of writing. In more than two decades of teaching and consulting, she has used her writers' eye to focus on how craft isn't just an instructional goal but an instructional tool that allows writers to go grow well beyond the range of most publicly available assessments. An internationally known consultant and frequent keynote speaker, Katherine began her consulting career with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. In addition to Writing a Life, she is also the coauthor of For a Better World (with Randy Bomer).

A published poet and essayist, Katherine is also coauthor (with Lucy Calkins) of A Writer's Shelf. A classroom teacher for ten years, she now works with teachers in elementary and middle schools throughout the country. As a frequent speaker at conferences and institutes, she combines a teacher's practical advice, a writer's love of language, and a powerful plea for social justice.


Topics: Video, Education, Heinemann, Hidden Gems, Online PD, PLC Series, Writing, High School, Katherine Bomer, Language Arts, Literacy, Middle School, Professional Development

Date Published: 05/22/17

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