Rules to Live By: A Lesson in Argument Writing from Two Young Writers...

Jan 18, 2013 by

I happened to catch a brief segment of The Today Show this morning and couldn’t help thinking about how writing empowers people by giving them a voice—even young people.  The segment was about a Walmart cart pusher finding a notebook that was written by two young girls and then misplaced in the Walmart parking lot.  The young man was so impressed by the notebook that he found a way to locate the authors and return it to them.  The notebook was called “Rules to Live By” and included over 150 rules.  Some of the rules were funny ones like, “Don’t bite the dentist.”  Others were more serious like, “Don’t text and drive at the same time.”  When asked by Matt Lauer how the girls determined which rules to add to the book, they explained...

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Fishing Expedition for Poetry

May 11, 2012 by

I like to start my poetry units by first immersing students in free verse poetry books and encouraging them to name what they notice about this type of poetry.  Then I help them realize that poems are hiding everywhere by taking poetry walks around the classroom and outside of the school.  Early on in the unit—even before I have done minilessons on things like using line breaks, repetition, or metaphor—I have them try their hand at writing some poems of their own.  Most students jump right in and try it, but there are some that are hesitant and not quite sure where to start. I would like to share some strategies for helping students get their thoughts down in free verse poem form.  I encourage you to try this out with a poem of...

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What Do Students Say About Choice in Writing?...

Nov 11, 2011 by

I recently posted a blog entry about three reasons I think we should allow students to choose many of their own writing topics: 1) engagement  2) agency 3) independence.  In a subsequent post I wrote about how we can balance student choice with required writing. Today I would like to share the viewpoints of a couple of student writers.  The first is an excerpt from a letter I received several years ago from a former student.  I had the pleasure of teaching Chelsea as a second-grader and then looping with her to third grade.  A few years later she sent me an e-mail about how things were going for her in middle school.  Here is what she had to say… “I learned this year in sixth grade most of the things I learned in...

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It Seems to Work for Patricia Polacco...

Oct 27, 2011 by

In a recent post I wrote about the importance of allowing students to choose their writing topics.  Whenever I make that statement, I am always prepared to hear the “Yes, but…” responses.  “Yes, choice seems important, but don’t I have to teach my students how to write for a prompt?”  “Yes, but my students have to be able to pass the state writing assessments, and the state test doesn’t give them a choice.”  “Yes, but what if my students say they don’t have anything to write about?  They just don’t have background experiences, so they can’t think of good topics.”  I want to make sure there are no misunderstandings here.  Is there ever a time when students need to write to a prompt?  Yes!  Should we teach them how to write for a prompt? ...

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Asking Questions

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Adding details; organization Description: Some young writers have difficulty clearly conveying their message on paper. They know what they want to write about but struggle to capture their thoughts on paper in a way that is clear to the reader. This mini-lesson helps students see the need to clarify their information and include enough details for the reader. Model this technique by writing a “story” on the overhead or chart paper: My brother has a dog. Ask students what they think of your story. Most will say that you need to write more. Ask students what they want to know about your dog. They will ask questions such as, “What is its name? Where did you get it? What does it look like?” Write a second draft of your story, including answers...

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