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Writing

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“Because she laughs so much, and when she laughs, it’s like music,” she explained when I asked her why she’d built a series of music notes to represent her grandmother. Fifth graders were developing characters for their personal narratives in that day’s writing workshop. “What kind of music?” I wondered aloud. “Gospel,” she said, without hesitation. “Her laughter is big and loud and rockin’. It makes everyone stop and listen. Yeah, it’s definitely gospel.” I…

“But how is that writing?” he asked, and I got it. I get it. This doesn’t look like writing, does it? And his question is one we should all be asking, make writing friends. In recent weeks, I’ve explored why we might want to use loose parts in our writing workshops and classrooms. I’ve also shared a bit about how. I haven’t blogged about transitioning makers to print, though. This post is for those of…

I’m often asked what young writers can do to seek and connect with authentic audiences. Sure, writing for themselves, their friends, their family members, and their teachers might be rewarding, and it is absolutely authentic when the purpose is to move the reader rather than simply earning a grade, but how might young writers produce dynamic content for a wide readership? I find that when I think of influence in terms of degrees, it helps.…

This week, I had the opportunity to make and write personal narratives with writers and teachers from Fieldstone Middle School in North Rockland, New York. And I thought I’d share that process with you, so that you may iterate on it and share your own ideas and work back with the rest of us. We’ve been talking about narrative writing all month in my Facebook group, Building Better Writers, and I know that at least…

An important note, ahead of today’s post: There are different kinds of writing workshop teachers, in my experience: Those who are wanting a clearer path, those who are walking one (often in very good company), and those whose rich and varied experiences have called them to wander a bit, even as they carve a careful course for their students. And in an ideal world, with their students.  Those are the workshop teachers whose wisdom inspires…

If you’ve been hanging out in the Building Better Writers Facebook group this month, then you know that I’ve been sharing daily posts intended to help teachers of all grade and experience levels design a beautiful narrative writing experience for their students.  Each day, I’ve shared unit plans, mini-lesson ideas, mentor text ideas, and professional resources worth contemplating.  I’ve also started conversations about equity.  Join us if you haven’t, and let me know how I…

Alignment matters. Defining the standards we expect students to meet, making them accessible to the kids we serve, and assessing and supporting progress toward them–this matters. Much. I’m not merely referring to state standards, either. I’m referring to the standards that our best practitioners–the experts in our field–have defined for us, based on decades of research. I’m referring to our personal standards and the ones that our school communities hold dear. I’m referring to the…

I’d just wrapped a mini-lesson on using evidence to support a claim. The writers that filled up the room were shifting away from our meeting spot and toward the back of the room, where an assortment of loose parts awaited them: blocks and marbles, LEGO and clay, buttons and string, paint chips and paper clips. Pebbles. Acorns. A deck of cards. Markers. There were other things as well–a wide assortment of materials for students who…

What does revision look like beyond your writing workshop? Have you thought you about this? I don’t think that I ever did when I still had a classroom of my very own, but I’ve been wondering about it often, lately. Who expects writers to revise other than their writing teachers? And what does that experience entail? How do other teachers expect writers to approach revision, and how do their practices influence the way writers treat…

I’ve spent this entire week traveling all over Alberta, Canada. I’ve worked with primary and intermediate level teachers, and I’ve worked with middle and high school teachers. I’ve worked with English and Science and Social Studies teachers. I’ve worked with French teachers. I’ve worked with Math teachers. And I’ve also worked with ELL teachers. They support the Hutterites who live in their communities. Those children were born and raised in Canada. German is their first…