At Back to School Night, a parent pulled me aside to ask about his daughter’s spelling. Will we work on spelling, he wondered? He was concerned that his daughter was a poor speller. Will I be giving a weekly spelling test? (I won’t.) When parents think of their children as writers, spelling and conventions are often foremost on their minds. They worry their child is not progressing as a writer if there are spelling mistakes or errors in punctuation usage.
Today’s blog tour stop for Melanie Meehan’s brilliant book, Every Child Can Write, focuses on Chapter 8 in the book, entitled “Spelling and Conventions- The Pitfalls and Potholes Along the Trail.” Melanie is my fellow co-author here at TWT and I’ve long since admired Melanie’s writing and her perspective on teaching students to be independent learners whose skills transfer from unit to unit. Melanie’s writing is always both inspirational and super practical. (Her charts are my #goals!) Her new book, Every Child Can Write, is that perfect mix of interesting stories mixed with insight about teaching striving writers and practical, next steps for busy teachers. Every teacher who wonders how to reach our striving writers (all of us) should read Every Child Can Write.
In Chapter 8, Melanie encourages us to think of writing with two lenses- compositional skills, which include generating ideas, using craft moves, and purposefully structuring sentences for impact, and transcriptive skills, which include spelling, conventions, subject-verb agreement, neatness, etc. One of the elements I love in Every Child Can Write is a boxed off section that emphasizes the big ideas in the chapter. In this chapter, the big ideas include showing students the correct spelling and conventions usage, teaching within a student’s Zone of Proximal Development, and finding ways to embed conventions practice across the school day. Melanie breaks each big idea down and explains how this looks in the classroom and what teachers can do to help students grow in their transcriptive skills.
A feature included in Every Child Can Write is “Pause for PD”. In this chapter, in the Pause for PD section, Melanie walks you through creating conventions and spelling related centers, which allow for students to use their authentic writing instead of pre-printed examples. In another Pause for PD section, Melanie has the reader examine a student’s work and consider what transcriptive skills to teach him next. I envision these sections being so helpful in starting rich conversations when teachers are reading this book together as part of a professional development experience.
One of the ideas I plan to implement with my third grade students is the individualized conventions cards. Students can fill in the rules they are working on regarding capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. These cards can be utilized in the drafting and editing times in the writing process. Another idea that would be really fun to try out is playing with punctuation. Melanie suggests taking a sentence (“We saw the ducks”) and adding different kinds of punctuation. Read the sentences aloud to see how your voice changes and how the meaning of the sentence changes based on punctuation. While this would be a fun activity, it would be a way to see the purpose of punctuation for both readers and writers.
All of Melanie’s ideas and tips center around making students more independent and transferring their learning. She includes charts that show how teachers can subtly shift the questions they ask so students are more mindful and strategic about the choices they are making. The chapter ends with questions for the reader to consider about all that was just read and then three action steps that a teacher can take right away to implement the ideas and approaches detailed in the chapter.
Melanie Meehan has created a book that teachers will want to read and implement right away! Every Child Can Write is engaging, fun, inspiring, practical and makes me feel excited to head into the classroom tomorrow to try out these ideas. To me, that is the sign of a must-read professional book!
If you haven’t visited Clare Landrigan’s blog, check it our here to listen to an interview between Clare and Melanie discussing the book. Tomorrow, Paula Bourque’s blog is the next stop on the blog tour, followed by Lynne Dorfman and finally Fran McVeigh. Please plan to join the #G2Great Twitter chat, all about Every Child Can Learn, on Thursday, October 4th. Leave a comment below for a chance to win your own copy of Every Child Can Learn!
*I have received an advanced complimentary copy of Every Child Can Learn.
For a chance to win this copy of Every Child Can Write, please leave a comment no later than October 7th by 11:59 pm EST. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number.
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If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of EVERY CHILD CAN WRITE within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.