Today on The Heinemann Podcast: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says poems can do everything and allow us to become who we are. Amy says there is magic in poetry and that magic translates into teaching. She says once we can get pas the idea that poems are in their own little word, they open up a world of possibilities in the classroom. Her hope is we can infuse everything with poetry. Amy doesn't just wish this though, she’s written for us a way to actually do it, in her latest book, Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres.
Written by Anna Cockerille
First, what are graphic novels? They are any type of novel written in a comic book style, that is, they are designed with a combination of pictures and words set in a story sequence. They come in a wide range of levels and genres, and are captivating more readers than ever. There are humorous, realistic novels, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. There are mysteries, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. There are historical fiction reads, like Maus. And there are fascinating hybrids, like Bayou, a historical fiction/fantasy blend.
Often, graphic novels are more sophisticated than they first appear. Case in point: The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are a guided reading level R, which puts them at around a middle-of-the-year fourth grade level. Graphic novels may not have as many words as a traditional novel, but they still have all of the complex structures (and sometimes more) characteristic of higher-level books, such as: shifts back and forth in time, many characters to follow and minor characters that matter, changes in setting, foreshadowing. At times, they require more inference work than traditional novels, because they have less narration and more of the story told through dialogue and of course, pictures.
Contexts for Learning Mathematics (CFLM) is a rigorous K–6 classroom resource that makes use of a workshop environment to bring the Standards for Mathematical Practice to life. Each unit uses a rich, authentic context to promote thinking and learning.
Educators often ask about opportunities to hear lead author Cathy Fosnot present on CFLM and the skills and pedagogy underlying each unit.
There are a number of upcoming Seminars by the Sea offering opportunities to hear directly from Cathy about these topics, including:
January 26 – Amelia Island, FL
February 24 – Laguna Beach, CA
July 10-11 – New London, CT
July 12-13 – New London, CT
For more information on these upcoming events, please visit the upcoming events section on the New Perspectives on Learning site.
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Cathy Fosnot is Professor Emerita of Education at the City College of New York and the founder of Mathematics in the City, a national center for professional development located at the college. She is also CEO and President of New Perspectives on Learning, an organization devoted to fostering school change around the world through professional learning and classroom resources. Follow Cathy on Twitter @ctfosnot.
One of my first moments of seeing the power of visuals in math learning came over a year ago, in June 2016. I was teaching fifth grade, and I gave my students an open-ended math task on a green sheet of grid paper with two different right triangles printed on it. I chose this task from several I’d gathered at a math conference that March.
This task held the promise of a different, and I hoped better, way to teach math. Until then I had been teaching each lesson pretty much as it was written in the curriculum guide, following along as best I could and finding myself unsatisfied and discouraged year after year.
Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision by Sneed B. Collard III & Vicki Spandel
I have a confession: I love to cut. Almost nothing pleases me more than to read through a manuscript and find a sentence, a paragraph, a page – entire chapters – that can be placed under the guillotine and dispatched into history once and for all. My general rule of thumb? If I can’t cut at least a quarter of my first draft then I’m not doing my job.
Fortunately, the majority of early drafts contain more fat than Iowa-raised bacon. Let’s talk about Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style cuts – you know, hacking off large sections of your manuscript to make it better. How do you know where to begin?
Written by Anna Cockerille
Information writing is one of those topics that can seem, on the outset, rather dull. For many teachers, the genre conjures up their own school projects from decades past, projects involving research reports on assigned topics, stacks of note-cards, one confusing, fact-packed tome after another without much related (or relatable) information.
What has surprised and delighted many educators who witness information writing in action in a writing workshop is that for kids, it is anything but dull. A key distinction: when kids get to choose topics of personal expertise about which to write, their writing simply comes alive. We cannot stress enough: if you’d like your students to write lively, voice-filled, high-volume information books, and to stay motivated and engaged throughout the unit, let them choose their topics. Even if you choose an umbrella topic, say, animals, and they each get to choose their favorite animal to write about, let them choose.
As a class, study favorite published information books and talk about what makes those books great. It often doesn’t take a lot of teacher help for students to notice that great information books have:
- Amazing facts the captivate the reader
- A beginning that draws readers in and makes them want to learn more
- Clever use of text features to teach certain kinds of information
- Information that is organized by topic
- Other kinds of writing tucked in, like stories, that help readers learn more
- Ways to teach the lingo of the topic, like bolded vocabulary words and a glossary
- A memorable ending that might leave the reader with some strong feelings about the topic, or that might encourage the reader to take action
Then, you can help students to see that most of these characteristics fit within one of two main categories, structure and elaboration. Students’ observations instantly become a checklist they can use to lift the level of their own writing:
Qualities of Great Information Writing
Rehearsal for writing is just so lovely in an information writing unit. Gather students into clusters of 3-4, and have each teach their little group all they know about their topic. They’ll amaze you and each other with how much they know. And then, have them pour all of the great information they just taught into their writing.
At this week’s @TCRWP Twitter Chat, staff developers Jen DeSutter, Anna Sheehan, and Valerie Geshwind will be on hand to discuss ways to get your 1-3 grade students to write well about information. Don’t miss what is sure to be a lively, inspiring chat. As always, bring your questions, observations, anecdotes, and photos.
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Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @JenDeSutter, @AnnaSheehan627, and @ValGeshwind to chat about getting students to write well about information (grades 1-3) tomorrow evening.
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Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Anna Cockerille, Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series.
Anna was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the Content Literacy Institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.