emergent writers · giveaway · katie wood ray · kindergarten

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!


50 thoughts on “Getting Started With Beginning Writers, A Review and Giveaway

  1. It is so important for us to NOTICE and NAME the things that students are doing right in their writing!! If we believe in our students as writers, they will begin to believe in themselves as well. Every move we make sends a message!!


  2. My hope as a first year kindergarten teacher is to begin my teaching career with a strong foundation in guiding my students to be writers- and feel excited/empowered to share their ideas through pictures, words, and dictation. My mentor teacher shared this post and I’m excited for this new resource!


  3. I love the reminder to notice what students are already doing! Thank you for organizing all in one book! I cannot wait to share with my team!


  4. What a helpful chart – what kids need to know about texts and process and how to talk about it. This looks like another insightful and helpful book with Katie Wood Ray. I don’t know Lisa Cleveland, but am anxious to get to know her through this book. Looks like a winner.


  5. Thank you for this post. I am a teacher in Spain who loves your language, stories and your growing mindset in your blog. Really excited about getting the giveaway! I would like te leaen and be like a Chile.


  6. I’m always looking for an easy to navigate resource that not only deepens my knowledge within the subject of writing, but also speaks to the teachers I work with. The Classroom Essentials series of books is not only informative, but full of actionable items and it’s pretty too! I’ve been pouring over A Teacher’s Guide to Wrtiing Conferences and absolutely love it! I can’t wait to take a look at this book next!


  7. I am going to be honest, I had no idea this was even out. Katie Wood Ray is my writing crush and I live by About the Authors and her other books!!! I need this book in my life!


  8. Just…wow! The nine box noticing and naming “quilt” should be hanging front and center in every primary classroom! Cannot wait to read this book! Thanks for the stellar review with amazing connections to your own writers.


  9. I NEED to read this book! I am thinking back to my Master’s Thesis, and how this was exactly what I examined. As I changed my beliefs to more positive presuppositions, the kids’ work and attitudes about writing shifted as well. The power of our words! Thank you for this post Kelsey! 🙂


  10. So often teachers look from a deficiency point of view. This paradigm shift is SO important. I love the “act as if” attitude. Thanks!!


  11. It’s all about noticing what your writers are doing right and letting them know! Right now, my schedule is so ridiculous that I do not have time to confer with writers, unless I stop teaching reading groups. There’s a new plan coming at my school that will give me 30 more minutes each day. It will be devoted to writing conferences!


  12. This book has transformed my writing workshop with my kindergarteners! Having the video snippets of Lisa with her students perfectly compliments the book and helps me walk into each day’s workshop with greater confidence and focus. My writers are so excited to make their books every single day, and enjoy sharing them with each other. (burtsfieldd[at]sd5[dot]k12[dot]mt[dot]us


  13. Oh, how many times have my own Camila, Soren and Max made me question what they are doing… does this COUNT as writing? This book will help me articulate to myself and the colleagues I guide and teach with exactly what beginning writers do when we give them time, really look at what they are doing, and use that to guide our writers’ meetings. Looking forward to the end of the giveaway so I can have the book in my hand, through the contest or my own order.


  14. Our kindergarten team has been working hard this year to develop a writing routine with students. Your blog posts have been a great resource to share with them as they plan and implement daily writing time. I know they will find this one beneficial! This book sounds very useful and full of practical ideas. Can’t wait to read it!


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