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Patterns of Power: Review + Giveaway

“This book is an invitation to anyone who desires to move young writers beyond right and wrong and into an open world of taking risks, experimenting, and creating meaning with the patterns of power.”

“Every sentence holds a truth about writing, if only we pay attention.”

-Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca

My feelings for conventions are….complicated. As a teacher and a lover of reading and writing, I know the importance of conventions when I read and write, but I’ve believed for a long time they shouldn’t be the sole focus of what we teach young writers. I bristled at the idea that a teacher would read a writer’s work and only zero in on the missing or incorrect conventions. “It’s the meaning that counts,” I smugly thought to myself.  I imagined that writers would learn conventions through reading avidly and it would all come together without tons of explicit instruction. But the reality would always come crashing back when my third graders consistently failed to capitalize “I” or the beginning of sentences and when punctuation marks were nary to be found.

What’s a teacher to do when she doesn’t believe in assigning worksheets to correct errors in capitalization, spelling and punctuation? What’s a teacher to do when she thinks grammar rules in isolation are dull and forgettable…but kids are not writing grammatically correct sentences?

I’ll tell you what a teacher is to do- BUY Patterns of POWER: Inviting (Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1-5 (Or win it in our Giveaway….see details below!) This book, written by Jeff Anderson with Whitney La Rocca is a MUST READ for educators who want to connect the dots for readers and writers when it comes to conventions. The focus is on learning conventions in order to make your writing more powerful.

So often, we give students editing checklists to use when they are getting ready to publish a piece. I’ve had students check off every item on the editing checklist, only to look at their work and see that there are still words without capitals, still punctuation missing, still sentences that do not make sense. We can make certain conventions “non-negotiable” and create charts saying they must begin each sentence with a capital, but many students will still not include these features in their writing. This leads to frustration for all of us- teacher and student- and a feeling of helplessness as to how to get student writers to pay attention to using correct conventions.

According to Anderson and La Rocca, “Editing practice comes only after editing instruction, not before or instead of it… To get to the point where students can fluently edit their own writing, students need to slow down and pay close attention. In fact, they need to gaze at sentences as intensely as a dog stares at a squirrel. But rather than paying attention to errors or fixing mistakes, young writers hone in on how writers’ moves activate meaning. They slow down and observe the special-effects devices writers use in literature. They investigate the way conventions breathe life into sentences. We link them to author’s purpose and craft, inviting students to talk about what they see and wonder about in an author’s sentences” (13).

Teachers, don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the book. Nearing 450 pages, this text can seem daunting, but so much of this book is amazingly thoughtful, creative, immediately helpful and useful lessons to address all your grammar and convention needs! The book begins with an introduction of how reading and writing meet (Spoiler Alert- Conventions!) and then Part 1 begins with a chapter on planning. What are the specific conventions you are required to teach at your grade level? What are you noticing in your students’ writing? Next, connect the convention you want/need to teach to the author’s purpose- why do writers use this particular convention? The next step is to create a focus phrase, which is kid-friendly language that states a clearly defined goal.

Once you have your focus phrase, you “curate a small bit of writing that demonstrates the convention’s power and purpose by searching your read-aloud, favorite mentor texts, or texts that are popular with students” (23). Students study the writing and are “invited to notice” different parts and features of the sentence. Through the exploration, you help students discover the convention you want to teach and name the focus phrase. The next step is to invite students to compare and contrast the sentence you shared on the first day with a sentence you write that mirrors the convention you wish to highlight. Each day after, students have the opportunity to imitate the sentence as a group, imitate independently, celebrate their learning, apply it and learn to edit the sentence. All of this is explained thoroughly and beautifully in the first section of the book, using the focus phrase “Writers capitalize names” as an example.  A sentence from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson is used to model all the steps in the process. The lessons are planned for about ten minutes a day, which is a realistic and reasonable chunk of time for grades 1-5.

Part 2 is where your heart might start to beat a little faster, as mine did, when you see all the lessons set out for you! The lessons are organized into “The Power of Sentences”, which includes a section on capital letters, nouns, verbs, subject-verb agreement and punctuation; “The Power of Pairs”, including lessons on apostrophes, pronouns, and punctuation that comes in pairs like quotation marks; “The Power of Details”, which features adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and more; and “The Power of Combining” which focuses on conjunctions, compound sentences, the serial comma and complex sentences. Even the titles of the lessons are fun and clever (Example- a lesson on comparing using -er or more is entitled “It Takes Two- Time to Compare”).

As this post goes live, many of you are at the start of summer vacation. Here on Long Island, in New York, we are still in the thick of it, with a last day of school on June 22nd. At a time when  thoughts turn to sandy beaches and alarm clock-less days, it takes a very special professional book to make me wish (at least a little) that it was September and I could start implementing all these fabulous, fun and important lessons now! Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language is a book that will make you glad to be a teacher, working with young writers to help them explore, wonder, and apply the conventions they learn. It’s a book that I believe will transform how teachers and students look at conventions. I highly recommend this book for a school-wide book study or a grade level exploration for educators, coaches, directors and principals.

Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca write, “Before you think grammar is about the labels, about right and wrong, about memorization of definitions, or sentence diagramming, look up. Look up to where writing thrives. Writing thrives in exploration of thought and experimentation of effect. Writing moves. Writing holds detail, telling us what thoughts go with others and what thoughts need to be contrasted. Writing is about voices and music. Writing is about words of meaning strung together in ways that show their relationship with each other…The conventions of language do all these things” (428).

What puzzles or excites you about teaching conventions to your students? How might this book change the way you look at the power of conventions?

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1-5. Many thanks to Stenhouse Publishers for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1-5,  please leave a comment by Wednesday, June 13th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, June 15th. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter this giveaway.
  • 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 at Stenhouse Publishers 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 – PATTERNS OF POWER. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

154 thoughts on “Patterns of Power: Review + Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. Thank you everyone for your comments and interest in Patterns of Power! Congratulations to Julie DeMicco who is the winner!

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  2. Thank you for this great post! I just got this book at a training. I’d love to win it for a colleague! I’ve been using mentor sentences in my kindergarten class for two years and love it. I am using a “knock off” from the original by accident. Now I am excited to use this book to do the work correctly. It’s a powerful strategy.

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  3. I too have struggled with the conventions of writing. I see improvement in my students’ ability to create structure, to use repetition, to play with words, however their messages are impaired by their lack of correct conventions. Upon more exploration, I’ve learned that they don’t really understand the rules of grammar and are not just lazy so I’ve been looking for more ways to ‘instruct’ or ‘teach’ the power of using grammar to enhance communication. This book excited me the first time I heard about it and I hope to try some of these lessons in my classroom.

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  4. I previewed this book a few weeks ago (it is in my cart) and was amazed at how much in it parallels my grammar instruction … the “noticing” and identifying the patterns of language. I tell students that conventions are for the eye of the reader which helps us focus on the reasons rather than rules governing punctuation. Here’s hoping… maybe I’ll win a copy.

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  5. Kathleen, I’m so glad you reviewed this book. It’s the one book I am planning to purchase this summer because I am in a real grapple with how to teach conventions to my 5th graders next year. You convinced me it will be worth the money!

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  6. I was very excited to see the publication of this book & watched a demonstration video online with Jeff Anderson, it convinced me I need to have! Thanks for your review.

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  7. I am so excited for the possibility of cracking into this amazing book!! Revising and editing is a difficult thing to teach in a non worksheet type way.

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  8. I am so excited to read this book. As a teacher, I have tried many different ways to have students edit. Yet, I have not been completely successful. So, I am eager to see what strategies this book suggests. Winning a copy would be an added bonus.

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  9. I recently learned about this book in a course I’m taking over the summer and think it would be a great tool to use in my classroom. I wish I had it now so I can begin using it at the beginning of the new school year. You always have great information available, so I’m happy to see you shared this book as well.

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  10. I would definitely love to read and to use this book when I teach my students how to be teachers. To love the language and to use the language beyond labels is so critically important. Thanks for publishing this book!!!

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  11. This sounds amazing! I wish I had this book as an elementary teacher, but I’d love to pass it along to my old colleagues if I win. Email: info@jamieayres.com
    In the meantime, I’m so happy to see Jeff has a grammar book that’s geared toward older students as well, so I’m ordering that one on Amazon today 🙂 Thanks for sharing and for the giveaway!

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  12. Love this book! It’s an amazing resource for teachers at all grades. I get a little too enthused about playful, inquiry-driven teaching of the language standards that gets others to see the impact conventions have.

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  13. It’s my first year teaching 5th grade and my students still do not consistently and correctly capitalize nor use end punctuation. It feels that, for them, conventions are a suggestion which they can follow or not. Why??

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  14. I love Jeff Anderson’s work and use it with my 7th graders. I would love to try out the lessons in this book with my struggling writers and ELL students to help them clear up their confusions and work toward progressing to grade-level work.

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  15. My language arts coordinator just introduced me to this book. We are planning to do some professional development around it next year. I love that it comes with a study guide – so helpful when engaging teachers in professional conversations. I am so excited to use this book!

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  16. This seems to connect the use of conventions in the context of independent writing with the explicit teaching of conventions. Seems to make sense to me…

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  17. I learned of this book on Monday at a writing workshop. This would be awesome to be able to have so that I can teach my students more effective ways to learn the conventions.

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  18. I own the book…and, unfortunately, haven’t use it much yet, because it did seem a bit overwhelming. Your review makes it seem doable and user-friendly. I’m going to copy this and tape it inside my book! Thank you!

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  19. I’m constantly looking for ways to teach conventions so they are meaningful and stick. I am looking forward to perusing this book for my 5th grade classroom!

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  20. This sounds like a great book. Your blog post about editing is making me think about what I am doing right and what I need to work on. Thanks!

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  21. “Teaching” conventions has never worked. We need this type of shift-this move towards inviting students into the world “real” writing.

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  22. This is an ideal way to teach grammar and conventions and it also encourages students to practice and explore the concepts presented during writing and reading workshop.

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  23. Please automatic generator picking robot, pick ME!
    My heart did race a little as I thought about how much better I could teach writing. Invitation to edit is a great perspective.and now… language!!!
    I want to start a book and active study.

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  24. I have used “Invitation to Notice” to conventions, but was recently made aware of Jeff Anderson’s “Patterns of Power”. I am stoked to read it. I struggled most this year trying to get my third graders to capitalize and punctuate with little success. It sounds like this book and the lessons will help with that problem, as well help me show students why authors use the conventions to convey their message. I believe this will improve reading and writing in my class.

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  25. Jeff Andersons use of mentor sentences is an amazing and easy approach to teaching conventions. I would love a copy of this book, as I have really enjoyed his previous work!

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  26. Thank you for offering this giveaway. It’s on my summer reading list, but I’m over budget for book buying. I am trying to get my students to see conventions as a help to their readers.

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  27. I love this book for grade 1-5 teachers – an amazing tool for teachers! I am excited to share this resource with teachers this summer in our region! Jeff is the best and so happy he and Whitney wrote this book for the elementary teachers – where the writing begins!!!

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  28. I keep coming across this book and am incredibly drawn to it – then I remember that it’s for grades 1-5 and I work with grades 6-8! I keep wondering if I should just go ahead and get it to see how I could apply the concepts at my level. It sounds like it fits exactly what I’ve always believed and tried to do, but that it would provide much-needed structure to that messy work.

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  29. I definitely struggle with this. I don’t want to stifle the expressive writing process, yet I often have students who produce writing with great content that can’t be accessed by anyone. I love this approach & the phrase, “power & purpose” when connected to writing.

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  30. Our district focus has shifted to content and craft in our writing instructions. This is certainly where we should spend most of our time, but we are still struggling to incorporate conventions and grammar. This text looks like it could provide some guidance.

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  31. This book sounds like an answer to a challange I have been contemplating for years. Your example of students using an editing check list, with all boxes checked off but with very little actually changed in the writing, sounds so familiar. Thanks for sharing. I’m eager to read this book!

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  32. I have found great books with which to teach the power of grammar for middle school (Jeff’s other books!) and high school students, but this is the first book I have found that teaches the power and beauty of grammar to elementary students. Now that I am a K-12 Literacy coach, this is EXACTLY the book I have been looking for!

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  33. This book has the power to change the way conventions are taught. It makes so much more sense to teach the why we use conventions than to just tell students what to do. Thanks for the chance to own it.

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  34. This book sounds like exactly what I need. I have shifted from looking at conventions to focusing on the content of the writing. However, the conventions are always there like a blaring horn. I look forward to this book.

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  35. I love this book! Started using the lesson format with a 2nd grade class, and the kids loved it! Saw great results. Iwould love to win one to give to the teacher I coached!

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  36. I have been looking for something like this for a while. I love the idea of teaching conventions in the context of writing especially with a strong resource that supports that work. Students need to see the “why” behind what is expected of them so they have a purpose when deciding how to make their writing more meaningful. I’m super excited to read this!

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  37. Always looking for ways to help my students improve their writing skills. Have heard lots of great things about this authors work and would love to read it for myself.

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  38. This book is INCREDIBLE. I work for a large district in Texas, and one of my colleagues revamped the 5th grade convention and grammar lessons using the book. She also started a co-hort for 5th grade teachers to study the book and learn more about the implementation of the lessons. Shortly after that, we began a co-hort for 4th grade teachers. We will begin implementing lessons in the fall. In addition, Jeff is conducting staff development for our teachers in Aug. Next year, 2nd and 3rd grade will have co-horts to begin this work. This is an incredible resource that has completely changed our focus and thinking about the way we teach grammar and mechanics.
    “There is a reason behind every convention, and each choice a writer makes has an effect.” (Jeff)

    P.S. Don’t need a copy of the book. Just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share it’s impact!!!

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  39. I had a wonderful opportunity to hear Jeff speak last summer and was very engaged by his thoughts. During that presentation, he geared the conversation to a middle and high school audience and I’ve wondered often since then as to how to bring his ideas to the elementary level. I’m so excited to read this new work. Thank you for sharing!

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  40. This oft-overlooked yet important aspect of authentic writing! Could be the fall study group book for the first grade teachers at my school.

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  41. Well…I managed to hang on to my copy for a few days. Teachers are hungry for resources. But especially resources that make sense with authentic literacy. And second, they are looking for strategies and lessons that are ready to weave into their reading and writing workshops. When the teacher I was working with started salivating over the book and couldn’t stop reading, I had to let her take it with her. I know that a LOT of kids will benefit, even through the slobber. 🙂

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  42. Conventions seem so black and white but are so difficult to make the teaching stick! I am super excited to hear how this book can help our teaching!

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  43. My reading specialist shared her copy of “Patterns of Power” and I was instantly in love! I love the practical application of the lessons and helping students with practical application. I really loved the lessons plan in the back that made teaching so easy. You can pull a small group of students and quickly teach them a skill with the help of this book! Would love my own copy!

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  44. Looks like an amazing book! I would love to win a copy to support my first grader’s writing. Mercy Watson is a favorite series in our class.

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  45. I was (and am) going to order this book when I saw the tweet about the giveaway. The review just confirms my interest in purchasing the book for myself, but I’d love to win a copy to share with a teammate!

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  46. I was just about to order this book (seriously!) when I saw a tweet about the giveaway. I’m still going to order, but I really hope to win so I can have another one to share with teammates.

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  47. This is a fantastic overview. I’ve been asked to pilot this in my 2nd grade class next year and I’m really looking forward to it!

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  48. Everything in this article is truth! This book is the missing link for teachers of conventions. I use it with teachers and in teacher trainings because it is such a powerful tool. Lobby your principals and districts to get them for your staff today!

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  49. I love the idea of inviting the students to notice the power of conventions. Slowing down to investigate and “play” with conventions in writing sounds like something students would enjoy.

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  50. I love the sounds and ideas that’s this book brings! This past year was my first year to teach fourth grade, which in the state of Texas our students at this level are tested on their writing, as well as reading and math. I have fallen in love with this grade level, because the are just at the right age to really bring their desires to be an author alive! Yet, like many of us in the education world, you would think by this grade level students would at least have a grasp on how to formulate sentences, capitalize and punctuate them too! This year I also became our campus curriculum lead and i am helping teachers connect content areas together, move more into technology creation by our students, and I am working to help improve how we teach writing as well. I feel this book could be a huge assistance in my classroom, and in helping me encourage other teachers with new ideas and methods in teaching writing conventions to help make our campus stronger in the readers and writers we are developing!

    Thank you for always providing enlightenment and ah-ha moments for other educators!

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  51. Wow! We have talked about what’s missing in our instruction and what we can do to address students’ lack of knowledge about language conventions and grammar. I would love to read this book, Patterns of Power…, which even sounds engaging!

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  52. I am an elementary resource teacher and have grouped my writing kiddos this year to start our own writers workshop. Their writing has improved tremendously from this experience. Teaching the Power of Patterns next year will be the icing on the cake! Thank you for keeping us informed 🙂

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  53. I supervise student teachers for a university. This book would help me move my student teachers away from worksheets and instead toward an authentic way to teach grammar and punctuation!

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  54. I can’t wait to check out this book. I am a big fan of Jeff Anderson’s work. What a treasure trove of ideas to show children how writers and readers use conventions to make meaning and help them harness and apply that understanding to their own work.

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  55. Thank you for taking the time to provide the “best of the best” in terms of this newer professional text around grammar instruction! I have been a middle school teacher and advid follower of Jeff Anderson and can now recommend, with greater certainty and clarity, another of Jeff’s books to my lower grade colleagues. Can’t wait to get my hands on it this summer!

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  56. This book would be the perfect summer professional development read to help “up” my written language knowledge. Please pick my number.

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  57. It’s as if Jeff Anderson was reading my mind when writing this book! I can’t wait to dig in and start preparing for a new year and a new group of students.

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  58. I have had my eye on this book for a while now. It’s great to read your post and to know that it has your endorsement. Would I love to win a copy? You betcha!!!

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  59. Great post. I’m always so torn with how to teach conventions to my first graders and strongly believe in not teaching through worksheets or in isolation. This book sounds exciting. Almost like a dream come true!

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  60. Wow! This looks like an amazing resource! I’ve just been reflecting on how I need to improve my work with conventions next year. This looks like it might be just the guide to how to do so in a meaningful and engaging way. I’d love to win it, but if I don’t, I’ll be buying it. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  61. Kathleen, your insights have confirmed what I’ve suspected since this book appeared – that it is a must-have. It’s been in my cart for a while now and should I not win the giveaway (couldn’t believe my eyes, the book I’ve been wanting!), I will buy it!

    Love that your feelings on conventions are “complicated.” An honest truth, well-expressed. I am going to be quoting you when I lead training on writing and assessment …

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  62. I love this book! I need my own copy! Amazing to see the ways students respond when they are invited in to the club of what to do, instead of focusing on what not to do.

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