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Chatting About Conventions with Jeff Anderson & Whitney La Rocca

Mention language conventions one usually gets two distinct responses. Some people think they’re of paramount importance and wish “kids today” had a better handle on conventions. Other people think using proper conventions is overrated and could care less about grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling. I have a feeling you’re somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. (Chances are you believe conventions matter if you’re a regular TWT reader!) While most of us prefer for kids to write with grade-level control of conventions, we know it’s not the only thing that matters in a piece of writing. Conventions are one of the qualities of good writing.

Qualities of Good Writing:
Center of wheel: meaning
Spokes of the wheel: structure, focus, elaboration, word choice, voice
Rim of wheel: conventions
This is an updated version of a doodle I created in 2009 when I was trying to convey to young writers that without proper conventions, one’s writing will fall apart. Conventions are to writing as the rim is to a “wagon wheel.” (Click here to view the original doodle.)

When I was a first-year teacher, I tried to teach language conventions to students using Daily Oral Language. Nothing about DOL was sticky. Thanks to my first literacy coach, I realized that using mentor texts to teach language conventions was far more effective. Teaching conventions in this way relies on teachers to search for exemplar sentences to study with students. This is doable, but it’s time consuming.

When children write and read, learning is orchestrated, composed, and notated. They are busy mucking about with contentions, experimenting and approximating and discovering.

Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca, Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1 – 5 (2017, 5).

Enter the Patterns-of-Power process, which is a way for teachers to engage students by become meaning makers when they write. In ten minutes a day, students are invited to learn about all aspects of language conventions. The lessons teach the fundamentals (e.g., what action verbs are, what question marks and exclamation marks do) to more nuanced conventions moves (e.g., using negative correlations, using serial commas).

As we embark upon a new school year, I thought it would be helpful to talk about conventions instruction with Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca. Take a listen to the chat we had last week to get some tips about how to invite your students into becoming meaning makers of language.

In an effort to show some of the invitations Jeff, Whitney, and I talked about in the video, here are some of my daughter’s summer work samples that she did for the lesson on capitalization in letter greetings and closings.

All of the Patterns of Power resources are practical and user-friendly. If you’re looking for a resource to help you teach grammar and conventions to your students, then you’ll want to check out Patterns of Power!

Giveaway Information


Comments are now closed.

A random generator was used to select the winner of the Patterns of Power book and it will go to Kathleen Doherty.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

29 thoughts on “Chatting About Conventions with Jeff Anderson & Whitney La Rocca Leave a comment

  1. I love and use POP in the upper grades. As a literacy coach, I would love to win this Patterns of Power “Family Bundle!” Jeff and Whitney you are AMAZING!!! I went to a one day workshop presented by Whitney and it sold me on Patterns of Power.

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  2. Thank you for the opportunity! I’ve been slowly integrated some POP work into my classroom Writer’s Workshop over the past few years, but I’d love to dive head first this year!

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  3. I would love to take some time from my Readers’ and Writers’ Workshops to work on conventions and whatever else students might notice. Such a positive way to teach conventions and language! Thank you for the giveaway!

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  4. Patterns of Power is such an excellent resource – teaching/modeling/applying the use of conventions through mentor texts is such a powerful strategy. The free webinars from Stenhouse on this resource are excellent as well and were a great tool for helping us use it effectively.

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  5. I’ve loved Two Writing Teachers for years and you’ve addressed something I’m trying to incorporate in a meaningful way — Patterns of Power. Thank you! I appreciate your daughter’s work samples — seeing POP in action!

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  6. What an awesome resource. I had planned on using Mentor Sentences with my fifth graders this year, and I was honestly just going to “wing it!” While I had some pieces in place (what do you notice and apply), I was definitely missing some very important teaching opportunities to incorporate with my students. I am very excited to use this teacher and student-friendly resource next week!

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  7. As an Instructional Specialist I find teachers on both sides of the language convention line. Jeff Anderson’s POP process is a game changer to erase that line. 10 minutes a day!! Totally worth this investment to learning all components of language conventions.

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  8. This way of teaching just makes so much more sense. For so many years, what we have done just hasn’t worked. So exicted to try this out. Now that we know better, we can do better. 🙂

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  9. I’m trying out Patterns of Power for the first time this year with my third graders. I’m blown away by their imitations, how creative and nuanced they are. I’d love to see a sample for a specific grade level resource.

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  10. I began implementing Jeff Anderson’s ideas after attending a training with him several years ago. I love POP and the ways in which sentences from grade level texts are used. This creates a lot of interest from the students. I am now working with children from all grade levels K – 5. I am excited about using this to scaffold all of my kids. I love that Whitney LaRocca is working with him to create more excitement for writing. I would love to have a personal copy that I could make notes in.

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  11. Teaching conventions is so difficult if you don’t teach the kids about the purpose. If they are aware of the purpose of the convention, they can find a way to use it to impact the meaning of their piece. It is truly worth the time and effort to find the mentor text that works for YOUR purpose in your lessons. Thanks for sharing. I love these guys.

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  12. I keep hoping that someday, somehow I will find a way that will help my students learn and retain rules of conventions. This looks like a great resource.

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  13. I would love to try the Patterns of Power out with students. We need conventions resources that stick and fit within Writer’s Workshop instruction!

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  14. Goodness it made me grin to see Whitney and Jeff on this blog today! My daughter had the pleasure of spending time with Whitney via Zoom in a writing group last year and she always called it the best part of her week! Love everything about these books and what Jeff and Whitney have to share… XXX

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  15. I LOVE Patterns of Power!! I am a Literacy Coach in a K-5 elementary school and we have embraced this vision throughout our entire school. I can’t wait to get my hands on Patterns of Wonder too!!

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  16. Jeff Anderson’s books related to writing a must have for every Reading/Language Arts teacher’s professional library! He provides effective and practical teaching ideas for writing. He makes writing look easy and fun! I love the Patterns of Power K-5 book by Jeff and Whitney. So user friendly!!

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  17. I am new to the powers of patterns. We have struggled with finding the best way to teach conventions in our school district and this approach seems to be something that we need to help us make changes to our practice. Hoping to be the lucky winner.

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  18. I find Jeff Anderson’s ideas on writing to be especially helpful. As a literacy coach I often turn to his books and posts for ideas that are useful to all writers, but especially intermediate and middle school writers. Would love to get a copy of his newest book on writing.

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  19. I DEFINITELY want to win The Patterns of Wonder (POW)! Could there even be a better acronym? I think not. 🙂 I have the original POP, and the updated copy as well, because I attended one of Jeff’s workshops. I am very excited to get my hands on the emergent writers’ version, and use it with my littles. I am a literacy specialist. This would be great in my small group writing! Keeping my fingers, toes, ALL the body parts, crossed for this win!
    Lisa

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  20. I absolutely love Patterns of Power. I was introduced to this amazing resource by an amazing administrator who understood the deficiencies “Correct What’s Wrong” grammar activities possess. I am a new school, with a new principal. I’m not even sure we use POP on our campus. Guess what will be pulling out today when I get there…I have my own personal copy..lol. Thank you for reminding me of the powerful (pun intended) resource.

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