As teachers, we are always looking for something to make our lives a little easier. I remember when The Reading Strategies Book first hit shelves and colleagues were buzzing. We appreciated the depth of strategies while also understanding that the author, Jennifer Serravallo, did what most of us wish we could do, take the best and put it all together. Well, she’s done it again. This time with writing. The Writing Strategies Book will begin filling the minds of classroom teachers everywhere in early February and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the organized connections that Jen has once again made so easy to follow and for immediate daily use.
We’ve all been there. Students are in so many different places and finding the similarities or knowing exactly what the next step should be can become daunting. That’s what I love about this graphic and the ideas that Jen offers to us. Below illustrates an example of how one might plan and build a student’s repertoire of strategies as they navigate their journey in the world of writing.
If you are familiar with The Reading Strategies Book, you will feel like you have a head start when you crack open The Writing Strategies Book. The layout impressively organizes strategies, teaching tips, language, and prompts. If something is new to you or doesn’t feel natural, Jen makes it easy to navigate and find exactly what you need to meet the needs of your most eager and most struggling writers. Once again, each strategy is accompanied by a chart, visual, or graphic image to allow you to see an example of what the teaching might look like in your classroom. What I find with these graphics is often it makes it easier for my own ideas to percolate and brew into something deeper and more rich. Having the visual at my fingertips takes away the pressure of thinking, “Okay, how do I make this work for me?” It offers immediate ideas that allow my own to flow a bit freer.
The table of contents breaks down the big areas of writing. These big ideas are what you would typically use for goal setting and the lessons that follow allow you to choose strategies that best match the needs of your students.
The chapters (goals) include the following:
- Composing with Pictures
- Generating and Collecting Ideas
- Organization and Structure
- Word Choice
- Conventions: Spelling and Letter Formation
- Conventions: Grammar and Punctuation
- Collaborating with Writing Partners and Clubs
Jen explains that she grappled a bit when organizing the book. Genre? Process? In the end, she landed on goals because so often strategies find themselves needed within so many elements of both process and genre.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the first strategy of the book is titled Talk (As You draw). As many of you know, this is near and dear to my heart. The strategies throughout span from The Pen is Mightier than the Sword to Lie (to Tell the Truth). I have found that my favorite way to get to know the book so far has been to combine lessons and create charts that build. In my classroom, we were beginning a unit on Realistic Fiction when I first began flipping the pages. I found many of my favorite lessons for generating ideas and used several to model and build throughout the week leaving a treasure trove of ideas when students began to draft their second or third story within the unit. At first glance, the charts I created may seem overwhelming but we built them together and students are able to navigate the strategies with ease because we spent time with each idea. Now, as charts should, its offering is a reminder of those lessons and acts as an anchor for generating ideas in my classroom.
This chart used lessons from Goal 3, Generating and Collecting Ideas.
Strategy 3.13 Start with a Character: Students list traits and ideas about a possible character using prompts like, who, what, description and problem.
Strategy 3.17 Get Sparked by Setting: Students use imagery, feeling, and memories to spark an idea.
Strategy 3.24 Wonder, “What If…”: I encouraged students to think of something true and then twist it in a way that developed new characters, plots, or problems.
Strategy 3.25 Mix and Match Story Elements: I used some of our favorite picture books to model this strategy during reading workshop and then moved the chart to our writing ideas chart to show that story elements can be listed and then mixed and matched. Students enjoyed using real characters from their favorite books as well as creating their own story elements and mixing them up to create a brand new story.
Strategy 3.36 Find Characters and Ideas in the World: Here students observe and wonder about their world.
Playing with these strategies and setting goals for my writers has been a great adventure the past several weeks. I am looking forward to continuing to explore all the ideas. Especially, the appendix, which offers tons of ideas for publishing and celebrations! I am willing to bet you’d love the chance to do the same and that is why Heinemann has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of The Writing Strategies Book to two readers from our community. Please see the information below for details! I can assure you, this book will be finding its way into your classroom and making your workshop hum with a whole new tune. If you want a little bit of a closer look, click here, to see Jen talk about the book and walk you through the pages and how best to use them with your students.
This giveaway is for a copy of The Writing Strategies Book. Many thanks to Heinemann Publications for donating a copy for two lucky readers. For a chance to win, please leave a comment about this post by Friday, February 3rd at 11:59 p.m. ET. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post (pending prompt responses), by Sunday, February 5th. Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.) If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – THE WRITING STRATEGIES BOOK. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.
The winners of The Writing Strategies Book are Nikki Erickson and Laura Krentel! Each will be sent a copy of The Writing Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo. Many thanks to the over 500 commenters and to Heinemann for providing the giveaway.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.