Saturday, December 12, 2015

Here is the lesson of the month from Corbett and Dena Harrison. Some great resources shared. Enjoy!

Happy almost-New Year, writing teachers and writing friends,
I'm pleased to say this month's lesson is our 40th lesson of the month!  Thanks to all of you who've supported us in this venture over the years.  We are also less than 1000 members from having 30,000 followers of this online collection of lessons, which is pretty cool.
1.  This month's lesson -- Community of Writers = Neighbors Who Talk -- was inspired by the last few workshops I did for teachers.  A common question was "How do you get your students to talk to each other in a productive way during writing time?"  My answers was 'A Community of Writers,' which is a term I've used since reading Nancie Atwell way back when, but I realized I didn't have a lot at the website that explained how I build that community; this lesson is a short peek into that process, and it will be followed with other peeks in the year to come.  Be sure to notice Dena's new project at the lesson: "Take What You Need" Posters, which come with instructions for how to freely download the first three posters she's made from our newly-established Teachers Pay Teachers store.
2.  Help me in congratulating Michigan 8th grader -- Collin -- whose popcorn bowl metaphor for his writer's notebook and his teacher's Pinterest campaign earned him bragging rights as most popular writer's notebook metaphor in 2015.  You can enjoy all four of the top metaphors (and the poem those metaphors inspired me to write) using this link: We will sponsor this competition again in September of 2016!
3.  And a shout-out to all those primary writing teachers who are doing such a great job building a foundation of writing skills that those of us teaching higher up the academic "food chain" benefit from.  I couldn't do any of this without the four great feeder schools in my school's zone.  Say THANK YOU to your favorite primary teacher this year by directing them to the website of my former Co-Director of the Northern Nevada Writing Project -- Jodie Black: "Start To Learn"  There, she has complementary model lessons, and she also sells her wonderful resource workbooks (for practically nothing!) that she gives to all participants who take her VERY POPULAR local inservice classes for recertification credit!  I haven't met one primary teacher who has taken either of her two writing inservice classes who didn't tell me it was the best workshop they EVER attended.  Thank you, Jodie, but thank you also to all those primary colleagues who are making writing instruction both fun and skill-focused!
Have a great end of December, all of you!  Keep up the great teaching!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (Always Write and WritingFix websites)
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:

Here is a great article on stamina and engagement. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 21, 2015 - Issue #459
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.

The mere brute pleasure of reading - the sort of pleasure a cow must have in grazing.

                                                                     Lord Chesterfield

Last month I visited reading workshop in Katrina Edwards’ first-grade classroom in West Linn, Oregon. It was early in the year, and students were honing their partner-reading skills. After 20 minutes of independent reading, the children paired up with their designated partners. Melinda and Jared sat 10 feet from me, side by side. Melinda opened her book and the conversation went something like this:

Melinda: Okay, so. . .
Melinda: No, wait . . .

Melinda jumped out of her seat, threw Jared a “oh you are so in trouble buddy” glare, and marched over to Katrina on the other side of the room. I couldn’t hear what she said to her teacher, but I could imagine.

Is it terrible that I live for these moments when I am observing in classrooms? I love seeing the amazing things kids can do. And I love even more seeing the amazing things teachers do when kids behave in unexpected ways.

Katrina walked over to Jared and said, “Come with me. I want to look at some of our friends’ reading partnerships that are strong and take some pictures, and I want you to come with me.” Katrina walked across the room, and as she moved between clusters of students, she gathered up a couple more kids who weren’t focused in their partnerships, becoming a sort of Pied Piper of Problem Children. As she made her way to the center of the classroom, she stopped with the group at different reading pairs, asking the young readers at work what they were talking about and how they decided who went first in the conversation, all the while snapping pictures with her iPad as the group watched the partners in action. After a few minutes of quietly observing and talking to different pairs of students, she turned to each child in her walking group, looked them in the eye, and asked them individually,

“What did you notice?”

“What were your friends doing in their reading partnerships? How did they help each other?”

“What problem were you having in your partnership? How might you solve it?”

The entire stroll through the classroom collecting students, observing three different successful student partnerships, and debriefing with each struggling child took only six minutes to complete.

I thought of what Katrina didn’t do. She didn’t sit down with Jared and ask him why he was mooing instead of talking with Melinda. (Who knows? Maybe he was reading about cows? Maybe he thought he was a cow? Maybe he’d put too much milk on his cereal? Does it really matter?)  She didn’t tell Jared how he was supposed to behave. She didn’t threaten him that he had better straighten up and fly right OR ELSE. Instead, she let his classmates show him and others with similar needs what a successful reading partnership looks like.

We talk about “showing, not telling” all the time in writing instruction. But the principle is just as useful in helping children monitor their reading and writing in classroom communities. And the showing not telling does double duty - many successful children may not be fully conscious of their skills, but their metacognitive awareness is built as those skills are noted, recorded, and reflected upon by peers.

It’s hard for any teacher to see a child who is mooing instead of reading and conversing as a gift, especially when you’ve got a visitor in your classroom eagerly scribbling away in her notebook, writing down your every move. But watching Katrina improvise her way through the Case of the Mooing Reading Partner was the best present I’ve received in weeks.
This week we consider student engagement and stamina. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:

Are the words stamina and engagement synonymous? Cathy Mere defines the terms by observing her first graders:

Stamina is a term we use often in literacy instruction, but it can be tricky for students and teachers to define in classroom contexts.  Heather Rader looks at the specific attributes of writing stamina, as well as how to model it for students:

Melissa Taylor has tips for parents when reading is too "sitty" for active kids -- these strategies can help children build reading interest and stamina:

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Reflections on Chapter 7. Write your reflection and comment on two of your colleagues' posts.

Reflect on the use of checklists, benchmark papers, and learning progressions when conferencing with students one on one or in small groups at your grade level.  Give examples.

Lucy Calkins on 6-8 Writing Instruction - YouTube
Mar 25, 2014 - Uploaded by Heinemann Publishing
Lucy Calkins discusses the unique challenges of middle school writing instruction, such as the expansive ...

Reflection on Checklists, Chapter 5.

Please write a response to the following reflections and comment on two of your colleagues'.

1.  Explain the following quote from Calkins as it relates to the use of the checklist in the writing classroom and share your opinion.
" Checklists are especially important if the person is intent on not just pulling off a complicated project, but also on getting better at that work --- on improving the odds of success, raising the rates, maximizing the progress. "

2.  Explain the following quote from Paul Tough as it relates to the use of the checklist in the writing classroom and share your opinion.
"When kids believe that they can change their intelligence they actually do better.  They try harder."

Following is a great video that relates to the above quote.  Enjoy. 

The language you use to praise students can help encourage or discourage a growth mindset and has broad implications for how students persevere in the face o...

Notes for the November 12, 2015 Writing Committee Meeting at Vinalhaven School

The writing committee met on November 12, 2015.  Prior to the meeting, teachers collected narrative writing samples K-12.  As a committee, they reviewed writing samples using Calkins’ rubrics.  The following areas of focus were identified,  based on student samples, K-1.
Students need to:
  •  be able to write a complete sentence early on.
  • be able to create a story with a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • be able to write for sustained periods of time.
  •  be able to revise their work.
  •  be able to use upper case and lower case letters correctly.
  • be able to use transition words.
Teachers need to:
  • consider administering the assessment to small groups so they can scribe as the students write, as well as observe writing behaviors included in the rubrics.
  • consider using three pieces of paper for writing stories – one for the beginning, middle and end of a story.  This might help students understand the concept.
Next Steps:
The writing committee will:
·     Create a glossary for terms to be used by teachers when teaching writing. 
o  Entries to include:
§  Sentence
§  Story
§  Beginning, Middle, End
·     For the next meeting read chapters 5/7 in Calkins' Writing Pathways.
·     Bring copies of a high, middle, and low student narrative samples for your grade level (2-12).  We will score them when we get together and continue to look for trends.
·     Bring copies of scoring guide from Calkins’  text.
·     Write response on Vinalhaven blog on Darlene’s post on Chapters 5/7.  Comment on two of your colleague’s posts.
·     Our next meeting will be held on December 14.  The entire committee will meet that day to continue to look and score narrative samples.

Thank you all for your hard work.