Tag Archives: Linda Hoyt

Standing on Shoulders


By Jennifer Serravallo

The Writing Strategies Book started shipping this week. I’ve been overwhelmed and humbled by the positive responses and enthusiasm from so many. Before you all get this book in your hands, though, I need to get something off my chest:

This book would not exist were it not for a community of friends, mentors, colleagues and teachers—giants—whom I’ve been lucky to know. I want you all to know them, too.

My most immediate teacher and mentor around the teaching of writing is Lucy Calkins. I first read her books in college, leaned on them heavily throughout my years in the classroom, and eventually was lucky enough to spend years with her at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Her contributions are deep-reaching—not only in writing curriculum and workshop methods of instruction but also as a mentor to so many who have gone on to inspire others. If you asked Lucy, though, she’d probably tell you she stands on the shoulders of her mentors, chief among them Don Graves. I came to Graves’ books, such as Writing: Teachers and Children at Work, many years after being introduced to Lucy’s books, but through Lucy, I was learning from this work years before going directly to the source.

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Writing Masters: Power Writes—Every Subject, Every Day!


With classroom-tested tips from our Curricular Resources authors on how to improve your teaching at any grade level, each Writing Masters installment will share author insights and practical suggestions on teaching writing in the classroom that you can use the very next day. This week in the Writing Master series, Linda Hoyt introduces us to Power Writes, an effective classroom writing exercise.

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Introducing The Writing Masters Blog Series


"The real questions for writing teachers are, 'How do we help our students develop a repertoire of approaches to writing? How do we help all writers identify problems, solve them, and take charge of their writing and thinking?'"
—Nancie Atwell

Writing is a complex, nuanced, and sometimes mystical journey. Ideas take shape in ways we wouldn’t expect—and sometimes they struggle to take shape at all. As teachers, we strive to guide our students through this process—to encourage, support, and challenge them. Now imagine having master teachers mentor you along the way. Imagine being invited to pull up a chair and sit shoulder-to-shoulder as they detail their learning goals for a unit, outline a powerful way to present a challenging concept, or expertly confer with a student?

Join us this fall for our Writing Masters blog series with classroom-tested tips from our Curricular Resources authors on how to improve your teaching of writing at any grade level. Each installment in this series will share author insights and practical suggestions on teaching writing in the classroom that you can use the very next day.

Check the Heinemann blog each Wednesday to see the next installment in this series—and sign up below to be notified by email when each new blog is posted.

To explore more resources by these master teachers and others, visit our Curricular Resources page.

Explorations in Nonfiction Writing in the Classroom


We have received several emails from educators who use Explorations in Nonfiction Writing by Linda Hoyt and Anthony Stead in their classroom and wanted to share student work. One teacher, Irene Farmer, has been teaching first grade at Francis Wyman Elementary School in Burlington, MA for 18 years, and this is her second year using Explorations in Nonfiction Writing.

In this link to her classroom website and her students’ “Virtual Author’s Tea,” Irene shares the process of using an Extended Writing Unit from Explorations in which her first grade students write and narrate their very own informational books on the rainforest.

Throughout the unit the students learned about note taking, writing, editing, and publishing as well as 1:1 technology connections of uploading images and creating video clips of themselves reading their books aloud.

Below Irene briefly shares the process, but be sure to visit the link to see the many vibrant class photos and the students’ own video presentations.

Room 111’s Rainforest Research:

Step One: The R.A.N. Chart

  • Students chose from the following animals: jaguars, poison dart frogs, toucans and sloths.
  • After choosing which rainforest animal students wanted to research, they began with a R.A.N. chart (Reading and Analyzing Nonfiction). Prior to doing any research, they wrote information/facts which they thought to be true about their animal on Post-it notes. Students then placed them on the "What I Think I know" page of our R.A.N. chart.

Step Two: Research

  • Students began to research facts on our animal in a few different ways.
  • They researched facts and jotted them down in their Research Notebook.
  • They focused their research on "What the Animal Looks Like"; "Where It Lives"; "What It Eats" and "Other Amazing Facts."
  • They researched through teacher-approved websites on their iPads.
  • They researched through "Sketch to Stretch": In "Sketch to Stretch" the teacher reads some information from a book and/or a magazine and students quickly sketch some pictures with labels to help them remember the facts about their animal.
  • Students then add this information into the proper page of their Research Notebook.

Step Three: First Draft

  • Students begin to write the first draft of their informative piece, using the information from their Research Notebook.

Step Four: Edit and Publish

  • After much writing and editing teacher support, students are ready to input all of their words into their electronic book created on the Bookcreator app on their iPads.
  • Students use www.photosforclass.com to find appropriate, kid-friendly photos to go with their writing. Each photo also cites from where the photograph came.

Step Five: We Celebrate!

  • After much research, drafting, typing and layout work, the books are ready to be recorded.
  • Students read aloud to record what they have written on each page and then share with fellow classmates.
  • Each student gets the chance to listen to all classmates' books as they rotate around the room.
  • After each listen, students jot down a short compliment on a piece of paper for classmates to take home.

Step Six: Back to Our R.A.N. Chart

  • Lastly, students go back to their R.A.N. chart.
  • They move their Post-it notes with information from the "What I think I know" page to the "Yes! I was right" page or the "I don't think this anymore" page.
  • They discovered that we already knew a lot and learned even more!

Click here to visit the “Virtual Author’s Tea” on Irene Farmer’s classroom page.

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!

Reading For Life by Laura Robb

Welcome back to firsthand Friday! In today's post, author Laura Robb considers the power of story as it relates to the shortcomings of the CCSS.

by Laura Robb

When students read with depth, they infer, use text structure to explore main ideas and themes, and are sensitive to the writers’ word choice as a guide to point of view and tone. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) invite learners to read and analyze complex texts by applying anchor text standards similar to those listed above. I have no issue with these standards, and most of them have been discussed pre-Common Core by me, Ellin Keene, Linda Hoyt, Nancie Atwell, and Jim Burke well before states adopted them.

However, I do take issue with the CCSS’s emphasis on informational texts for reading and writing to argue and explain. The Common Core has tipped the scales of balanced literacy by de-emphasizing fiction, which the Standards renamed “literature.” This separation carries negative connotations for fiction—that somehow fiction is less worthy than nonfiction and, therefore, does not have as strong a role in preparing students for college and career. And yet, great writers like Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Camus, Flaubert, Hemingway, Baldwin, Morrison, Wright, and Steinbeck all wrote fiction because stories are the stuff of life and define our culture.

The Power of Story

“Reading can be a road to freedom or a key to a secret garden, which, if tended, will transform all of life.” Katherine Paterson shared these words at a National Council of Teachers of English meeting more than 15 years ago. The Common Core tells us that reading and writing are for college and career. But, that is just one aspect of reading and writing. These reciprocal processes can facilitate changes in readers because the stories read or written transcend college and career. Stories are powerful. They transform how one thinks and feels.

In the Sunday, December 21, 2014, New York Times “News in Review,” the article by Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic, both cognitive psychologists at the University of Toronto, describes research that corroborates Paterson’s quote. Two studies show that powerful stories and compelling nonfiction can transform readers’ feelings and personality traits. Using personality tests on subjects before and after they read a piece of fine literature, the researchers showed that the reading changed the subjects. Literature pushed readers to reflect deeply about themselves and their personalities in new ways.

In Cahoots with Characters  

When reading or writing fiction, we live a character’s life, we inhabit their identities, we dream about them at night and think about them during the day, and the process holds the power to transform us. In The Call of Stories, Robert Coles uses the phrase “in cahoots with the character” to illustrate the deep connections that readers can forge with characters and persons.        

Readers are in cahoots when they imaginatively enter into a character’s or a person’s life through reading and writing. This being in “cahoots” enables us to empathize with others and learn things about ourselves that we hadn’t been able to recognize before the reading and  writing.

This being in "cahoots" enables us to empathize with others

Thinking about and discussing books starts at school with teachers reading aloud, with students choosing books that motivate and engage them, and with students participating in literature circles to share and grow their book-inspired ideas. But it doesn’t stop at the edge of the schoolyard. It continues outside of school in the social milieu of blogs and Twitter and face-to-face discussions in outside-of-school book clubs.

Reading with depth, inferring, using text structure to explore main ideas and themes, and being sensitive to the writers’ word choice as a guide to point of view and tone are all skills that students need to navigate the world of information. But let’s not forget what it takes to make a reader for life.

Next week, read Laura’s blog about writing, “Writing for Life.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Laura Robb is the author of several classic books on literacy, including The Smart Writing Handbook and Teaching Middle School Writers. A survey conducted by Instructor magazine named Laura as one of the nation's top 20 educators. Visit her web site for teaching tips and to find out more about her in-service offerings. Follow Laura on Twitter @LRobbTeacher for more updates.