Tag Archives: Learning from Classmates

Introducing the Heinemann Link Round-Up for the Week!


Welcome to a new series on the Heinemann blog! Every week we find five interesting links for you to take into your much deserved weekend. These links are interviews with educators, posts from our authors' and friends' blogs, and any interesting, newsworthy item from the past seven days. Check back each week for a new round of finds!


At the Two Writing Teachers blog, Betsy Hubbard reviewed Jen Serravallo's newest The Reading Strategies Book:

"The best way I can prepare you for this book is to get sticky notes and highlighters ready, because you will need them to mark up your favorite thoughts and ideas."

—Click through to read "THE READING STRATEGIES BOOK" review by Betsy Hubbard at Two Writing Teachers


Allison Marchetti—coauthor with Rebekah O'Dell of the forthcoming Writing With Mentors from Heinemann—offered a lesson of empathy and elegiac poetry in her blog:

"Sometimes one of the best ways to comfort students who are feeling low is to honor their feelings of stress, sadness, and melancholy rather than try to distract them or encourage them to stay positive. A study of the elegy — a poem that expresses sorrow or lamentation — can be a way to honor students’ emotions and help them reflect on their feelings in a healthy way while studying some absolutely brilliant poetry."

—Click through to read "A WRITING WORKSHOP CURE FOR THE APRIL DOLDRUMS" by Allison Marchetti at Moving Writers

Rich Czyz of the 4 O'Clock Faculty blog interviewed Lisa Eickholdt, author of Learning From Classmates:

"Not only does using student mentor text encourage the student writer, it also lifts the level of engagement with writing for everyone else in the classroom. I believe this is because when we share great students’ writing, we are sharing text that is more developmentally appropriate than some of the adult models we use. Because the work is developmentally appropriate, it seems attainable to more students. This attainability builds enthusiasm."

—Click through to read "5 QUESTIONS WITH… LISA EICKHOLDT" by Rich Czyz at 4 O’Clock Faculty

Having published her first book with Heinemann this year, Kari Yates continued her prolific and motivating blog at Simply Inspired Teaching:

"Our kids come to us from literally all over the map with vastly different backgrounds, strengths, and past learning opportunities. Our classroom communities are more diverse than ever. Success hinges on our ability to view all students as capable and ready regardless of learning and language differences."

—Click through to read "EVERY STUDENT IS READY FOR THE NEXT STEP—IT JUST MAY NOT BE THE SAME STEP" by Kari Yates at Simply Inspired Teaching

Chartchum Kristi Mraz, coauthor of Smarter Charts, wrote about the challenge of fostering student agency for The Educator Collaborative:

"In teaching kindergarten, I learned that doing something for a child is like providing a stool to stand on, the child is able to reach their goal providing the stool is there."

—Click through to read "EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW (ABOUT TEACHING) I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN (WHILE TEACHING)" by Kristi Mraz at The Educator Collaborative

And one last tweet:

Check back next week for more interesting links. Do you write a blog about your experiences in education? Leave a link in the comments below and we'll consider it for future round-ups. Have a great weekend!

Building the Bridge and Learning from Classmates


In her new book Learning from Classmates, Lisa Eickholdt lays out the idea of using students’ writing as mentor texts, helping students to self-identify as writers. As Stephanie Harvey writes in the foreword to the book, “When we value kids’ writing enough to use it to teach other kids, all kid grow into stronger writers.”

In today’s post adapted from Learning from Classmates, Lisa describes just what happens when you use student writing as mentor text.

Building the Bridge

By Lisa Eickholdt

I was recently in a first-grade classroom that was working on a personal narrative unit. One of my first lessons was on elaboration. I decided to use Jack’s writing as a mentor text, pointing out how he elaborated by describing what his character was thinking and feeling. Jack is a struggling writer so one of the purposes of using his piece as a model was to boost his confidence.

Highlighting Jack’s writing paid off later when I noticed that he was taking a risk with his latest piece. A few minutes into the independent work portion of the workshop, I paused to confer with Christina.

I talked to her for a few minutes about her story. As we talked, I decided Christina could benefit from learning Jack’s elaboration strategy. Therefore, I decided to use Jack’s piece as a mentor text in my conference. The teaching portion of my conference sounded something like this:

Me: You mentioned that you wanted to work on adding more to your piece. Can I help you with that today?

Christina: Sure.

Me: Great! In our lesson a few minutes ago, we looked at Jack’s piece and saw how he elaborated by telling what his characters were thinking and feeling. Let’s take another look at his piece and see how he did that. (I pull out a copy of his story and we reread it, paying close attention to how he used this elaboration strategy.) Now it’s your turn. Let’s read through your piece and see how you can use these elaboration techniques, just like Jack did.

Christina: I know where I can do this! Right here on this first page. (She quickly begins to write.)

Jack’s story helped Christina instantly understand this elaboration technique, something she wasn’t able to see as easily in the polished children’s literature we’d read and referred to in previous lessons. Later, in a conference with Joey, I noticed how he elaborated on his piece with purpose and intention. Keeping my group’s needs in mind, I made a quick note to use his writing as a mentor text in an upcoming lesson. In fact, with notes from all my writers, I was ready to plan the next day’s lesson, which would focus on elaborating with purpose and intention.

Using Jack’s writing as a mentor text boosted Jack’s self-esteem and helped him become more of a risk taker; but using his writing as a mentor text also helped other students become better writers. Conferring with a lens toward finding other mentor texts helped me develop the next few lessons in our writing workshop. It required a few small steps: I immersed the writers in mentor texts, including student writing as mentor texts; I selected Jack’s piece during conferences the previous week because I knew from my assessments that some of his classmates could benefit from his elaboration technique; and as I conferred, I set myself up for a highly targeted lesson with Joey’s piece. All of this occurred as part of my regular writing workshop, and required only a slight adjustment in how I look at students’ writing.

Using Jack's writing as a mentor text boosted Jack's self-esteem

The image below sets out the distinct steps you can take to incorporate student writing into your teaching. Each chapter in the book offers explicit instructions on how to use student writing as a mentor text. I’ll show you how to read your students’ work with the selection of mentor texts in mind. My notes on conferring and assessment will reveal how I matched writing I’d selected from among my students to other writers’ needs.


Using your students’ writing as a mentor text not only lifts the level of their writing, it lifts their spirits. Perhaps most important, it will affect you as a teacher. If you got into teaching to inspire students (and who didn’t?), using your students’ writing as mentor texts will help you do just that. Now, go forth and inspire!

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Lisa Eickholdt has spent her entire career searching for the very best ways to help all of her students. Learning from Classmates comes from more than twenty years’ experience in classrooms as a primary-grades teacher, a Title I teacher, a Reading Recovery teacher, an interventionist, and a literacy coach. She has seen that any child can find success with the help of good teaching. Today, Lisa is Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Georgia Gwinnett College, and she also works as a literacy consultant in classrooms nationwide.

Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaEickholdt.