Getting Started With Beginning Writers, A Review and Giveaway



gently adheres a paper rectangle to the first page of her book. Scissors, tape, and glue aren’t writing tools that have been introduced yet, and my instinct is to take away. Instead, I watch. I soon realize Camila is not off-task. She’s not consumed in an art project. She’s adding a flap to her book. “What an important decision you’re making as an author! Can you tell me more about your plan with this flap?”


is writing alongside a readaloud from the morning. I notice him draw a similar picture in his book. He’s copying, I worry. Setting my assumption aside, I ask, “Soren, can you tell me about the research you’re doing?” I discover that Soren is studying the illustrations in the book so that he can author a sequel, which he later read to the class.

For several days now, Max

has been stapling together a ten-page booklet. He races to sketch a stick figure on each page, then closes his book. He’s not putting effort in, it might appear. Minutes later, Max is surrounded by a huddle of friends, who are listening intently to him read with rich language. “Max, are you discovering a kind of book you love to write each day?” Grinning, Max proclaims, “Yes! I am a comic book writer!”

The Messages We Send

In A Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started With Beginning Writers, Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland help us think with our beliefs — in the decisions we make, in the questions we ask, in our actions, in the language we use, and in how we see children. In everything we do, we send a message, and that message should align with our beliefs (consider the messages sent if I would have taken the readaloud away from Soren, or told Camila she can’t use scissors!).

Lisa’s beliefs have become my own:

  • Writing must be a predictable, daily routine.
  • Children need to see themselves as writers, each with a unique identity. (Think of Max)
  • Writing is a process of decision-making and action. (Think of Camila)
  • Writers need a disposition for risk-taking.
  • Writers need a sense of momentum to know they are growing.
  • Writers work with a sense of craft guiding them, and they learn craft from mentors. (Think of Soren)
  • Teachers must act as if children are capable, competent writers.

(p. 6)

When we lead with our beliefs about children as writers, we’ll quickly see those beliefs come to fruition all around us.

Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland say to do this by noticing and naming the kinds of things writers do. This requires close observation of:


What we say and do can also embed big ideas,

Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland explain: “Plan for a writers’ meeting with one or two big ideas in mind, but also look for opportunities to embed teaching points in your authentic talk with children,” (p. 48). For example:


 More About A Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started With Beginning Writers

Imagine being invited to be a part of the first week of writing workshop in the classroom of Lisa Cleaveland, kindergarten teacher of over twenty-five years. Did I mention Katie Wood Ray is there too? (Begins searching the next flight out.)

You might be thinking, “I’m long past the beginning of the school year! I wish I could go back and redo it!” 

This book is not just for the beginning of the school year.

  1. The focus of each day is a pillar that bookmaking rests upon, worth lingering on and returning to throughout the year.
  2. The lessons can be taught or retaught any time. They can become the first five days of a new genre study.
  3. What we learn from Lisa after spending five days in her classroom will transform teaching long after the book is done.

On Day 1, Lisa invites children into the world of authorhood, a world where stakes are low, purpose is high, and approximation is celebrated.

On Day 2, Lisa names the important writing processes that writers engaged in on Day 1, constructing the definition, together, of what it means to finish a book.

On Day 3, Lisa establishes the importance of illustrations and text in finished books, rallying writers to use all they know to add words to each page.

On Day 4, Lisa supports children with strategies for writing words.

On Day 5, Lisa empowers writers to take ownership, as they reread and decide to add more or begin a new book.  

In A Getting Started With Beginning Writers readers get all the perks of a classroom visit, plus so much more:

  1. Videos of Lisa teaching, PLUS the thinking process behind her teaching moves and a chance for readers to practice. 

  2. Charts for kids, charts for educators — you’ll want both in your classroom.
  3. More lessons and ideas on routines, structures, celebrations, share time, and organization.
  4. Student-centered teaching. Lisa highlights the work of writers in her classroom, so kids can see what is possible for writers their age to accomplish.

Read It, and Read It Again

A Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started With Beginning Writers will not stay on an ever-growing stack of to-be-read books for long. The super digestible and playful format make it a quick, engaging read. The structure of the book, organized by each day, makes it easy to reference as needed. Each page is filled with takeaways, and you won’t want to miss a single one. So read, and read again! 


Photos (used in this post) by permission of Heinemann Publishing 2018.


Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started With Beginning Writers: Grades K – 2.  Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader.

  • For a chance to win this copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started With Beginning Writers: Grades K – 2, please leave a comment about this post by Wednesday, December 12th 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, December 14th.

  • 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 Heinemann 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 – GIVEAWAY. 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.

  • Lara Gill is the lucky recipient of this book giveaway!