Hi, I’m Stephanie!
It is so nice to meet you! Writing Mindset is a blog for literacy teachers who also write. I am a middle school teacher from Kalamazoo, MI dedicated to talking about the teaching of writing and reading, finding inspiration for my own writing, and balancing those two worlds with self-care.
Writing Mindset started because I wanted a place to connect with other teachers, and I needed an outlet for reflection on my craft and where I was going as a teacher. You will see my classroom work, hear about my strategies, and feel the emotions of what happens in my classroom. I am a teacher that focuses on writing, but Writing Mindset is also a place where my love of reading shines through on the screen and pages.
I recommend starting at the teaching blog to browse some of the latest posts or click on the about me page so you can learn more about the teacher behind the blog! Subscribe to the blog to stay in touch!
WRITING LAB 615
First Draft Reading
On a blog, I always ask this question: “Where do I start?” The answer is, you start where you can get the best information that relates to your classroom! Below are links to my most visited posts to date. They truly represent the different areas of blogging that you will often see here on Writing Mindset:
Use of mentor texts in writing and grammar instruction
Diverse reads and cultural responsiveness/relevancy in teaching
Bullet journaling and keeping a journal
Grading practices, strategies, and hints for the English Language Arts Teacher
We call this “first draft reading” because inevitably, we always come back for more drafts of reading when it matters. Click below to start exploring!
Can you hear me clapping? Can you hear me screaming in happiness? If you can't, imagine one excited English teacher from Kalamazoo, MI that is proud and excited her district is approving thousands of dollars in research to help infuse the curriculums and classrooms in it with diverse literature in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade. Currently, I am working on a team of teachers to read, research, and review hundreds of diverse texts.
I am not sure what I did before warm-ups. I think what I did before warm-ups when I was first starting out was make a warm-up activity that was catered to each and every lesson. As a new teacher, this was exhausting. After doing some research a couple of summers ago, I moved to canned warm-ups, and I have loved every minute of them. What I mean by canned warm-ups is that each day has a theme and each week uses a specific form. In other terms, there is a plan.
I stumbled upon bullet journaling one day on Pinterest when I was looking for a new planner. As a middle school teacher, I, like many others, am addicted to office supplies. I know what pens I like, I know what size sticky notes I prefer, and I know that the idea of a fresh new notebook makes me almost giddy. I even started making my own notebooks with my dad as a hobby because I love notebooks so much.
I love and hate the self-help book section. It is packed full of gems like Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, and many others that make the wheels in my teacher-entrepreneur brain go crazy. However, I also have visions of myself as the teacher that is seen staring at the self-help book section in a bookstore with a crazed look in her eye, teacher bag thrown over their shoulder, dark bags under each eye, that just seems in need of...help. How many of us can relate to this image as we struggle with the teaching profession as a whole and the day-ins and day-outs of being a teacher? Enter in why I picked up this cute little blue book by Penquin press. I was tired, and it seemingly seemed to address a question I ask myself all the time:
Is teaching my purpose in life?
This started on a Saturday, the Saturday before the Monday when I had to hand back rough drafts to my students. I wanted no part of them. I wanted nothing to do with them. Glancing at my comfy blanket and cup of coffee, I was a human replica of the emoji "ugh." Not wanting to embrace my stack of papers, I started texting a fellow English teacher about her method of using rubric codes. She uses numbers to correspond with different points on a rubric that come up over and over. We have had this discussion before, yet, I was resistant because I had always wanted to follow "traditional" feedback routes. Things I love: ink over typeface, writing in the margins, and seeing a child's face go, "You spent alllll that time on my paper?" Yes, yes I did. I have had many conversations about the writing process lately because it seems as ELA teachers, we all tackle this beast differently. I am not willing to budge on giving feedback on rough drafts, even though some instructional models no longer call for this step in the process. Rubric codes never seemed to fit...until it did.
The mentor texts for these two weeks, Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, are similar in the sense that they are amazing examples of kids working through problems. Both books are easy to sell during the book talk because kids love books where students are handling conflict. I love teaching irregular verbs over the course of two weeks because the first week we learn what irregular verbs are and then do some practicing with examples. In the second week, we combine standard past tense verbs with an -ed ending, AND we also use irregular verbs in our sentences. We are still building on our work with action verbs/verbs of being and helping verbs from previous weeks.
Below is my acceptance speech from receiving the Michigan Council of Teachers of English Middle School Teacher of the Year Award at the fall annual conference in Lansing, MI. I so appreciate the support during the speech, and also the kind words that I received throughout the day at the conference. I would also like to thank Dr. Karen Vocke from Western Michigan University for my wonderful award introduction.
I always end the first six weeks of school with narrative poetry. 1.) It is a mindset thing. I want to show the kids who don’t think they can write poetry that they indeed can write poetry. 2.) It is an excellent way to get to know students better. We may think we know each other after six weeks, but in reality, we have spent a lot of that time on testing and expectations. it is powerful to know our students and let our students know who we are as people. Cue Where I’m From Poems and I Am Poems. I use this form of poetry from George Ella Lyon each year to help build community and access important identity work. This post includes all of the assignment materials and my step-by-step process including mentor texts and a read-aloud.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander might be one of my all-time favorite mentor texts. It could be because kids love the novel-in-verse format of this book, or the basketball theme, or the fact that they want to know what happens each quarter. This is an easy book to book talk because it just grabs kids. I love using this book to show helping and linking verbs in the present tense. This continues from the work the previous week where students identified action verbs and verbs of being. This lesson speaks to the easy conversational tone that we all have with each other on a daily basis. Kwame Alexander sounds like me. He sounds like you. This directly links to the ability to make grammar accessible because it is something we already know, we just have to know what to call the writer move when we make it.
I love October. I fall for all things pumpkin and leaves and warm coffee. The inspirational books from this month were very deliberate, and yet they all sort of fell into place naturally. I am going to be reading Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes with my classes this month in preparation for her author's visit to Kalamazoo in November. We will be writing ghost personal narratives while studying this mentor text, and also learning skills in scene writing, dialogue, snapshots, and imagery. Some other things I am excited about this month:
My husband and my birthday are on the same day this month.
Michigan Council for Teachers of English is this month! I am presenting on mentor texts and receiving an award!
I am presenting in my district about mentor texts this month.
Jason Reynolds Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks comes out on the 8th!
The FIRST marking period of the year comes to a close this month.
The FIRST round of parent/teacher conferences is this month.
I speak at Western Michigan University to a group of pre-service teachers this month.