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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The Teacher’s Writers Notebook...

Apr 18, 2012 by

If you are a writing teacher, I highly encourage you to keep a writer’s notebook.  Because I’m not much of a journal writer, keeping a writer’s notebook used to intimidate me, and it seemed like “one more thing” to put on my to-do list.  Then a few summers ago, I participated in the Oakland Writing Project which is affiliated with the National Writing Project.  For four weeks I had to live like a writer.  I had to keep a writer’s notebook, write some drafts, share them with my colleagues in a peer response group, and even publish a couple of pieces.  Guess what I found out?  I really enjoyed keeping a writer’s notebook and “living a writerly life” (as Ralph Fletcher would word it).  I vowed to continue adding to my notebook.  You can...

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Does Student Choice in Writing Really Matter?...

Oct 12, 2011 by

I recently had a conversation with a group of teachers about whether allowing students to select their own writing topics really matters.  In the words of Lucy Calkins, “Choice matters.  Not a little, but a lot.”  In this case, she was talking about self-selected reading, but I think it applies to writing as well.  Since this question seems to surface often in my professional development work, I thought it was worth exploring a bit in a few blogposts. For today, I would like to address just three key reasons why I believe choice in student writing does matter. Engagement When students find their work meaningful, they are more engaged, motivated learners.  “Intrinsic motivation arises from a desire to learn a topic due to its inherent interests, for self-fulfillment, enjoyment and to achieve a mastery...

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Personal Word Wall

Jul 21, 2011 by

Word walls are great tools for teaching vocabulary, high-frequency words, and word patterns.  It is often a challenge to get students to use these tools, however.  "Word Wall Bobs" provide great opportunities for students to have repeated exposure to the words on our word walls and for encouraging students to use them independently. Some children still struggle, however, to use the word wall as a resource for spelling in their daily writing because they can’t make the transfer from the wall to their papers.  If you have students who have difficulty making this transfer, you might want to try using a personal word wall.  Here is one that I created for some students this year: Download Personal Word Wall How it works: Photocopy the form above onto 8 1/2” x 11”cardstock. Cut off the...

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Benefits of Writer’s Notebooks...

Sep 16, 2009 by

Many writers like to keep writer’s notebooks handy so they can jot down “seed” ideas whenever they pop into their heads.  I encourage students to do the same. The writer’s notebook is a staple in my writing classroom, probably our most important writing tool.  It is a place for my students to free write on mostly self-selected topics, a place for them to explore seed ideas which may later be taken to publication.  It is also a place for my students to practice revising their writing using the craft techniques we learn through mentor text mini-lessons. In his book Mechanically Inclined Jeff Anderson (2005) describes the writer’s notebook as a “playground for writing”. He says “I let students have recess on the page, the sweet freedom to romp with thoughts, cavort with commas, and...

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