Category Archives: Literature

Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

Helping Students Bring Beliefs into Writing

The following is adapted from Poems are Teachers: How Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater


Many texts grow from idea-and-belief-soil. Writers write about what they believe is important, what they believe is wrong, what they long to preserve. Editorial writers, reviewers, and cartoonists lay their beliefs bare on newsprint, greeting sleepy morning readers with coffee and opinion: Where is the hottest new restaurant in town? For whom should I vote? What’s up with concussions in youth sports?

National Public Radio featured a show titled This I Believe for many years, and at the website thisibelieve.org, you will find hundreds of belief essays by people of all ages and walks of life, essays about everything from attending funerals to being kind to the pizza dude.

In her book Writing to Change the World (2007), Mary Pipher asserts, “Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. Writers can unite people or divide them”

When we write, we nudge change, and it is our responsibility to think about what kind of writing change agents we wish to be. Which beliefs do we hold dear enough to share?

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How to Plan for Book Clubs in Middle School

historical fiction book club option

The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

What is a book club?

Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.

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Framing Science Learning With Coherent Science Stories

The Stories of Science
Science stories can be compelling vehicles for connecting people to information. When we create overarching story lines for instruction (within a unit, throughout a year of study, or over several years), students are more likely to remember what we teach. Information is more likely to stick because (as cognitive science shows) stories are the basic organizing principle for memory. Compelling stories also engage more of the brain (Berns et al. 2013). Also, students can begin to see the big ideas of science and how they connect across disciplines. Finally, the story lines give students a coherent framework to hang their learning on.

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Starting The Year With Student Thinking

Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation

Written by Kara Pranikoff, author of Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation

Educators are granted the incredible gift of revision, a chance to reflect on and refine instruction year after year. Try again. Do over. Make better. At its core, education is a creative process, facilitated by a teacher and constructed by the student community. It’s a meeting of the minds.

In the fall we aim for instruction that will introduce the fundamental concepts we’ll nurture across the year. I’m dedicated to creating a classroom where student ideas and voices are the foundation of our daily discussions.

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Rozlyn Linder on Lee Heffernan’s new Back and Forth

 

The following is Rozlyn Linder's foreword from Lee Heffernan's new book, Back and Forth: Using an Editor's Mindset to Improve Student Writing


 

Guilty as charged. I can recall numerous times when I asked a student, “Are you ready to publish your writing?” I swiftly sent them off to rewrite, type, or illustrate their work. That writing was then retired to a class bulletin board, or even worse— my desk. Done. That was the end of that piece. It now belonged to me. Lee Heffernan has shown me the error of my ways.

Lee’s book speaks to the idea of student empowerment, accountability, meaningful writing, revision, and publishing. Her work essentially shows us how to move students from fake writing (writing that is just for the teacher) to writing that has purpose and passion. Lee manages to marry process and product in a way that will inevitably set a new standard for writing instruction for teachers everywhere. Her work breaks ground with tenets that shift our writing instructional norms and inspires students.

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The 6 Comprehension Strategies Every Reader Must Learn

Toolkits-Photo

Kids’ thinking matters. When students begin to understand that their thinking matters, reading changes. Throughout the school day, kids are actively questioning, discussing, arguing, debating, responding, and generating new knowledge. We can’t read kids’ minds, but one way to open a window into their understanding is to help them bring their thinking to the surface by talking and writing about it.

The Primary and Intermediate Comprehension Toolkits emphasize responsive teaching with lessons that explicitly teach the language of thinking. With this metacognitive scaffolding, teachers are able to gradually release to kids the responsibility for comprehending the wide variety of nonfiction texts they encounter. Toolkit lessons strengthen the specific kinds of thinking proficient readers use: six comprehension strategies that research has shown are part of an effective reader’s mental toolkit. The Comprehension Toolkit guides you through the explicit instruction of these six comprehension strategies:

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