Posts tagged writing workshop
10 Strategies for Reading and Writing Conferences to Try This School Year

In my recent posts, I have declared my two main goals for this upcoming school year are building empathy and prioritizing reading. I want to focus on helping my students try to be better people who dislike reading less. Perhaps, I can also help them call themselves readers as they travel through the school year in my classroom. A way to access this love of reading is through conferencing in both realms of reading and writing. While I have used conferences in the past, this year I want to be extremely purposeful with conferences. I did mentor text warmups this past year, and I want to continue to keep my mentor text routine. I love using mentor texts to empower writers. However, I want to start class each day with independent reading. This will force me to put conferences at the beginning of class; it will become the most important thing we do each day. In order to make reading a priority, I have to show them that it matters. 

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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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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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Middle-Grade Narrative Writing: Using Mentor Texts to Describe Setting (Snapshots)

I always start and end the year with narrative writing in some form. While I often focus on things like voice and ideas with this genre of writing, it really is all in the details when it comes to helping the reader see what you are talking about on the page. This ability to “see” or visualize the imagery is called making a snapshot. Snapshots were first introduced to me by the way of Barry Lane’s The Reviser’s Toolbox. I first got a hold of this text working closing with an elementary school teacher writing friend who explained to me, “You know what we do isn’t really all that different.” I have been changed ever since.

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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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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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Mentor Text Warm-Ups: How I Started

I am not sure I have ever enjoyed teaching grammar this much. Would it be too much to say there is joy in grammar? The journey with mentor texts began back in the summertime when my main focus for summer reading was around the works of Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti, and Linda Reif. I was intrigued by the idea that this often used strategy happens at the elementary school level with picture books and at the high school level with higher-level writing craft and organization moves. But, where were my middle school student examples? My middle schoolers were coming to me without basic grammar skills and therefore lacked some key moves in their writing.

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Paper Problem Series Post 3: Make a Plan

After confessing the reason I would leave teaching, I wanted to tackle the whole paper problem head on. I often will get an idea in my head and have that "brain-on-fire" type of feeling when it comes to teaching. It is one of the reasons why I teach. However, taking on too huge of a problem without a step-by-step plan is going to lead to burnout.  I feel like the whole "paper problem" is too much to chew on before I am back practicing in real life in the classroom. I want to think about implementing some key changes that I took away from my readings over summer break to change not only my methods, but perhaps the way I do business. From my post where I identified the main problems that exist in my systems and mindset, I have concluded to focus on these three main areas for going back to school:

1.) Using mentors for the teaching of writing. 

2.) Restructuring the writing workshop. Students will write more in class, participate in stations, collaborate with each other and me, etc.

3.) Streamline processes that I have in place so that I am taking less paper home that does not need to go home. (I.E. paper that does not require extra feedback)

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