Posts in Teacher as Writer
Build Classroom Community with Where I'm From Poems and I Am Poems

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.

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How Can You Drive Engagement in Your Writer's Workshop? Use Generative Writing.

I have been using generative writing in the writing workshop in my middle school classroom for years. However, I have been using it mainly only in ONE genre of writing: personal narrative writing. After attending a National Writing Project cohort training for C3WP (College, Career, and Community Writers Program), I realized that generative writing really is at the heart of all writer’s workshops because it uses the students’ interests and personal experiences to create the topics, provide the organization, and make the connections that are so necessary for engagement and comprehension. The answer to most things in education is coming back to the relationships and rapport we establish with our students, but these ideas are not new.

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Bullet Journal: Back to School Teacher Planner and Bullet Journal Setup (Year)

Get ready with me for the new school year! I love my bullet journal for keeping my general life focused and for daily morning pages; however, I am going to try to also use a bullet journal for my teacher planning this year. I end up always writing my teacher plans, dreams, and schemes all over the place. This could be in countless random notebooks, my personal bullet journal, and on my little clipboards. My goal is to put all of these things in one location-including my meeting notes-so the end of the year reflection will be easier and I will stay more organized. I also want to take much of my teacher planning out of my personal bullet journal and use that more for life goals, personal reflections, and other writing projects. I recently posted my August Plan With Me for my personal bullet journal, and if you don’t know where to start, here are some amazing Teacher Bullet Journals to follow on my Bullet Journal Round-Up Post. It is important to note that my spreads in this post are not all the way filled in yet. Once our calendar/contract are finalized, I can add in some dates and marking period cut-offs to my schedules. Also, like in my classroom, I like to leave some things blank because I find that there is something about filling things in as you go that is part of the bullet journal process. I think it encourages reflection at the end of one marking period to stop and reflect, and then go on to plan the next six weeks. I will post these as they are updated throughout the year.

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10 Criteria for Choosing Diverse Texts for Your Classroom

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. 

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Middle-Grade Narrative Writing: Using Mentor Texts to Describe Skin Color

…The same call for inclusivity in the beauty industry is also in the same call for the materials that we put in front of our students. This necessity drives the movements behind #WeNeedDiverseBooks and a call for diverse classroom libraries. We have to make materials available to our students. 

I bring up this description of skin tone though as a conversation starter for how skin color is often depicted in works of fiction. If we focus on diverse literature, it is important to look at how characters are being represented on the page. How are our students able to describe themselves? What descriptions do they see while reading? What is included in our weekly read aloud? These questions impact the makers of stories in the publishing industry, and they impact the strategies we are using to teach our children. These questions are necessary to bring up and think about in terms of engaging with my young writers that need to have access to mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors in our classroom.

This post outlines different strategies as they are observed in 16 different middle-grade and young adult works of fiction. I am using mentor texts here to show my young writers that the works of published authors are not only accessible but can be unlocked to show them how to write. This post will give a great starting point to the young writer that desires to describe their character AND also make connections to that character’s background, culture, or identity through the use of skin tone identification. 

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A Diary of My Day at #NERDCAMPMI 2019

#NerdCampMI in Parma, MI may be one of the best educational experiences a teacher can ask for in the summertime. Let me be clear: I was already tired from writing camp and wrapping up the school year. But, something about experiencing NerdCamp for the first time left my heart full and my mind open to possibilities in my classroom as a teacher and in my own life as a writer. It didn’t matter how tired I felt; I was ready to be a nerd.

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Reflection on the Past 10 Days: Teaching at the Third Coast Camp for Young Writers

Each summer I am called back to Western Michigan University’s campus. It seems I can’t leave. I got my Masters Degree in the spring of 2014, and I promptly started working with the Third Coast Writing Project’s Camp for Young Writers. Entering the director role in 2017, this camp has been a huge motivation and drive behind my personal development work each year not only as a teacher, but as a writer. It has also taught me a great deal about teacher leadership. My favorite part about writing camp is that each and every adult, volunteer, and student calls themselves “writer.” It is a community that is a given. What we as teachers often spend some time creating in the fall, just simply happens. It motivates me to create this atmosphere in my classroom year after year. We are all writers, after all.

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In Response to Pernille Ripp's Post: "What Did You Want to Be This Year?"

Pernille Ripp asked her readers in her post “What Did You Want to Be This Year?”: “Did you accomplish the goals you set out to reach or did you realize that your life needed something else?”  Pernille Ripp’s blog is one of my favorites because she makes me think and reflect on who I am as a teacher. I love any situation that puts me in student-mode because I am ever learning. Ever since I saw her speak in March at the Michigan Reading Association Conference, I often remind myself of her words: “It is time to be reading warriors” and “for too long we have been too nice.” As I doodled these phrases in my journal during the conference, I nodded my head, I scrunched my nose, I squinted my eyes, and I did some reflecting on my own work. Now, as I close out the 2018-2019 year, I want to focus on what I wanted for myself in my classroom, in my writing lab, and in my teaching life this past year.

And to answer her main question, I accomplished some goals and I realized my teaching life needed something else.

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End of Year Reflection: Using Middle-Grade Mentor Texts to Teach Writing Skills

Sometimes we try something in our classrooms and we immediately toss it in the recycle bin as a really good try, and sometimes we find something that changes how we do business. Using middle-grade and young adult books as mentor texts in my classroom has completely changed how I approach grammar instruction and promoting literature in my room. I love mentor texts. I wish you could hear my screaming about mentor texts. I talk about them now all the time. The power for students to see their own writing on the page in the same manner as a published author coupled with the use of book talks in my room as a way to recommend books to others through my voice and theirs has altered the mindset about reading in my room. Reading has always mattered. Now, it it just makes sense in terms of writing. While mentor texts themselves are not a new phenomenon, the incorporation of deliberate (and fun) grammar instruction is a new addition to my classroom.

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The Power of Three-Minute Quick Writes

Whether you call quick writes your warmup, a focused writing prompt, or simply timed writing, a quick write has a range of possibilities that are just plain cool and useful in the English classroom. I adhere to the definition that Linda Reif uses in her book The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students' Thinking and Writing: “A quick write is a first draft response to a short piece of writing…” (3). Linda Reif uses other authors’ writing to spark ideas, but in my opinion it can also be in the form of a question or another prompt to get students thinking. The three-minute quick write as a strategy is not new. It is a technique that published authors use, screenwriters, and classrooms young and old. This post is designed to help you revisit an old strategy and maybe weave in some new techniques to freshen it up a bit.

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The Meaning Behind My Blog Name: Writing Mindset

I recently realized with the two-year anniversary of my blog this past month, I have never really explained why I chose the name Writing Mindset for this small place in the world of the internet I call my own. Each piece of writing that we put out into the universe has two meanings: the meaning for the author and their intention and the meaning for the reader and their perception. This duality is a reason why I loved English class in high school and eventually became an English teacher. There is a beauty in trying to find a common understanding between people and their ideas. The words “writing” and “mindset” can immediately strike meaning to any person who reads them; however, both of these words hold a few different meanings for me. Together, they are the reason why I keep coming back week after week to continue my work on the blog.

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The Best of Writing Mindset in 2018

As we close out 2018, I am so thankful for this tiny blog space that I share with you all. In January 2017, I started Writing Mindset as a way to reflect on teaching; however, it has transformed how I do business. I am constantly on the lookout for writing inspiration for the blog, and how I can put new ideas into my classroom to share. I sent out a newsletter to subscribers today talking to them about 2018 accomplishments. So much has happened this school year already that it seems a bit poetic to talk about endings…when we are in the middle. However, the end of 2018 marks many accomplishments in terms of blogging, writing, and reading.

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How to Choose and Break Down a Mentor Text

I am constantly reading books. This wasn’t always the case, and largely, I think I have to attribute my reintroduction to reading all the time to my mentor text work. I am constantly on the mission to find books to recommend to students and use in the classroom with my students for our “write like an author” study. As teachers we are bombarded with an onslaught of a million decisions, pounds of papers to grade, and work that is largely impossible to master. It’s exhausting.

But, it is also exhilarating.

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All About Narrative Writing: Pacing, Strategies, and Mentor Texts!

I am pretty sure that October may be one of the toughest months to teach in considering that it consists of conferences, the end of the first marking period for my middle school, the flu starts circulating, and it is my birthday month. The last part is not a bad thing, I just find it easier to resent less “me time” with all of the to-do lists piling up. I have been sharing my mentor text work on the blog, but I also wanted to take a minute to share how I completed our personal narrative writing units this year so far, and also the changes I made from previous years. What you take away from this may be a sneak peek into how I teach personal narrative writing or how perhaps you can spice up a unit with some mentor text writing.

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Plan for Mentor Text Warm-Ups

After reading Linda Reif’s The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing this summer, I knew I wanted to incorporate more mentor text work into my classroom this year. This was my ONE thing that I wanted to add that would change up a major system as to how I taught students writing. I also read other texts over the summer that supporting this mindset. It was clear to me: I want my students to call themselves authors.

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Summer School Round Up: Week 2

Week two flew by without even slowing down to catch a drink of water. It was tough this week to balance wanting to do the things that summer allows like landscaping, working on an assortment of house projects, leisurely drinking coffee, and writing. I was having some jealousy over those that got to have the time off. My goal was to make it to the beach at least three times. Let's just say my fingers are crossed. 

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Summer School Round Up: Week 1

I can't believe the whirlwind of the first week of summer school is over. There always seems like there are two camps in education: Those that can see why people work summer school and those that think we are crazy. The former camp has been refreshing to return to after working writing camps at the university for the past few summers. And really, teaching is teaching. Isn't it? That depends on who you are talking to. I wonder sometimes if why we all often get into teaching is something we feel renewed with on a day-to-day basis. Do I have to remind myself, what is my why for teaching? Yes. And often. 

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How to Do an Essay Workshop for Struggling Writers

I would like to take a second to pause out of all of the hustle and bustle of testing and the end of the month of May to realize that it is really, the end of the month of May. I have spent 9 months with my students. Thinking back about accomplishments, it is easy to see how far they have come. Then, I do what all teachers do, and I focus on what they don't know. My missteps, my come-up-shorts, my "yes, you tried, but you didn't quite make it" mentality. This is the ugly stepsister of make-up or catch-up growth: Realizing you still have a long way to go.

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