Category Archives: Heinemann

Sneed B. Collard on The Beauty of Pairing Down

Teaching Nonfiction Revision book coverAdapted 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? 

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Get Your Students to Write Well About Information and Topics They Care About in the World, 1-3

Information Writing Units of Study

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


  • 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 
  • A memorable ending that might leave the reader with some strong feelings about the topic, or that might encourage the reader to take action 


  • 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 

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. 

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.

Cockerille_Anna_GratzAnna 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.

Does Your Writing Assessment Help Writers or Pac-Mans?

Reimagining Writing Assessment Maja Wilson book cover

The following is adapted from Reimaging Writing Assessment: From Scales to Stories by Maja Wilson.

I was mostly disinterested in the Atari that my brother got for Christmas in the late 1970s; the excruciatingly slow back-and-forth of Pong bored me. But when Pac-Man was released in 1982, I was intrigued; fleeing a ghost made sense to me. Still, I was confused by Pac-Man’s motivation when it came all to those wafers. One after another, screen after screen, he just kept gobbling them up.

“Why is Pac-Man always so hungry?” I asked my brother while awaiting my turn at the joystick.

His explanation was offered with an exasperated eye roll, “He isn’t hungry. You get a point for each one.”

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Sneed B. Collard III on Teaching Nonfiction Revision

Teaching Nonfiction RevisionWhat happens when a bestselling children’s book author teams up with a nationally known writing teacher? Well, you get the new book Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons. On today’s Heinemann Podcast we’re talking with Sneed B. Collard III about Teaching Nonfiction Revision. Sneed Collard is an award winning children’s author who has been working on revision strategies for years. Now, along with Vicki Spandel, they’re helping educators make nonfiction writing more meaningful and more enjoyable for the reader. We started our conversation with Sneed about what his spark of inspiration was for writing a professional book for teachers?

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Multi-Day Institute: Teaching With Student Directed Inquiry

"What should a student's day look like? Reading fascinating materials. Doing quick writing pieces. Sharing ideas. Responding to others. Discussing the big concepts, patterns and processes of the discipline. Debating controversies. Wanting to know more. Becoming an inquirer in the field."

-Harvey "Smokey" Daniels and Nancy Steineke

This January, take your curious adult-self (colleagues, too!) to Santa Fe, New Mexico for this Intensive Professional Learning Institute for K–12 Educators. You will experience everything you want our students to do, firsthand, while also making the practical translations to back-home realities.

Led by five outstanding authors and consultants, Sara Ahmed, Smokey Daniels, Cornelius Minor, Nancy Steineke, and Kristin Ziemke, you will deepen your learning in these strands:

  • Reading and WritingLessons that develop deeper thinking, build knowledge, and invite kids to engage with the world.
  • Teaching with Inquiry—Four types of student inquiries and 10 ways to find time for them.
  • Social-Academic Lessons—Explicit lessons in creating a supportive climate of classroom harmony, productive discussion, and responsible small-group work all year long.
  • Just-Right Technology—The right tools for the job—selecting and using technologies that truly enhance thinking and interaction in the classroom.
  • Including Everyone—Supporting English language learners, students with special needs, kids who are shy or introverted, and those who struggle.
  • Instructional Leadership—Guidance on how to promote change and implement best practice teaching for principals, coaches, and curriculum specialists.

Group Discounts are available!

⇒Click here to learn more and register!

Adobe PDFDownload a printable registration form

Adobe PDFDownload a PDF of our brochure

Heinemann Fellow Katie Charner-Laird on Questions of Leadership

What does it really mean to be an instructional leader?

Ever since I was in graduate school, studying to become a principal, this was the lingo of the great leader—be an instructional leader. At first I thought this meant I had to be the best teacher in the building, and when I walked into classrooms, I might show a teacher a few moves. But every time I went into a classroom that was “someone else’s classroom” (who, by the way, I was also in charge of evaluating), getting up and interrupting the teacher’s lesson with my own brilliant ideas never seemed like the right move. Over the next eight years, I often wondered whether I was being an instructional leader. If this is the gold standard of being a principal, of course that is what I was aiming for, but how was I to know if I had gotten there?

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