Author Archive

Urgent Small Groups: Eating the Whole Cookie

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Recent longitudinal studies have shown that students who in early years perform as strong writers do not remain strong writers into middle school.  Rather, they slip to the middle of the pack- or worse, they become unmotivated to write.  Why is that? And what can we do about it?

2018 CLASSROOM SOLSC FOR STUDENTS: DAY 9 OF 31

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Day 9 of the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge!

2018 CLASSROOM SOLSC FOR STUDENTS: DAY 8 OF 31

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Day 8 of the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge!

4 Tips for Successful Active Involvement in a Minilesson

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In a minilesson, we work to not only demonstrate a strategy sometimes employed by professional writers, but also to provide a quick opportunity for young writers assembled before us to apply it, either in their own writing or in a co-authored class composition.  This short segment of the minilesson during which writers ‘give a strategy a go’ themselves, often called the “Active Involvement” or “Active Engagement,” allows writers an immediate opportunity for application in the supportive environs of the meeting area. How can we make this part of the lesson really count?

Conferring with Writers: Beyond the Fundamentals of Writing Workshop

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    “How about we read Goodnight, Gorilla?” Raising my eyebrows, I gazed hopefully at my two year-old daughter.  “Or maybe we could read The Grouchy Ladybug? You love that one!” “No!” Her… Continue reading

Addressing Knowledge Issues in Informational Writing

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If we do not possess a good amount of background knowledge, if we are not interested in the topic, and we were not given a choice, our writing typically suffers. Lack of knowledge in particular, as Mary Ehrenworth suggests, manifests quickly as writing weakness and writing problems. As writing workshop teachers, how might we think about and address these challenges?

Seeking Prize Donations

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The 11th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge is right around the corner! Currently, we are seeking readers of our blog who are willing to donate a prize for the participants of the SOLSC. notebooks, pens, or any other writing-related gifts that SOLSC participants would appreciate.  

Lanny’s OLW for 2018

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In watching Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s video, posted by Kathleen this week, I became inspired by the notion that we all ought to try to make the most of our time here on earth…

Teaching Small Groups in the Middle School Writing Workshop

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For many middle school teachers, planning and teaching small groups in writing workshop feels a little like the Rubik’s Cube; like this famous puzzle, there is a sense that small groups are doable (somehow, maybe?), yet the orchestration of all the many parts can make them feel overwhelming and perhaps even insurmountable.  If you feel this way, know that you are not alone.

What’s the Keynote of the Unit?

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Hurriedly making my way through the front door of the majestic Riverside Chapel on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, I glanced at my watch.  Late, I thought to myself.  Oh well, I’m sure I… Continue reading

Some Issues to Consider: Homework and the Writing Workshop

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Pushing the dance studio door open, I watched my two daughters and their two best friends bound playfully out to the parking lot.  Walking next to me was Jamie, their mother.  “Sorry,” she… Continue reading

Fitting It All In: Solving Predictable Problems

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For many of us, especially in middle school, trying to fit all the pieces of writing workshop into, say, a 41-minute schedule, can feel daunting. How can we teach a minilesson, get our kids working, confer with individuals and small groups, provide a mid-workshop interruption, and facilitate a teaching share…all in that tight time frame?

The Power of Language Revisited

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When it comes to the teaching of writing in a writing workshop, language is everything.  It is through the words we teachers choose that writers are created, built up, encouraged, and inspired.

Lights, Camera, Action! 3 Tips for Creating Maximum Effect During a Writing Lesson

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Walking ourselves through and rehearsing what we will model for young writers so as to create the desired effect(s) can be extremely helpful.  Whatever curriculum we are using, it’s just so important to walk through the big steps of our teaching ahead of time so that we plan for maximum learning impact. But what type of “effects” might be desired?

Putting the Large Stones In First: A September Check-In

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Nervously lowering myself into a chair, I scooted myself closer to the table.  Around me sat three new colleagues.  My new 7th grade teaching team.  Having moved from my familiar home in small-town… Continue reading

Not All Writers Are the Same! Ideas for Differentiating in the Writing Workshop (Part 2)

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The fact is, just like athletes that show up to the first day of practice, writers bring different skill sets.  Some arrive to middle school not knowing where to put a period, while others already know how paint vivid pictures with words that knock our socks off.  How do we plan for such a wide variety of writers?

Not All Writers Are the Same! Ideas for Differentiating in the Writing Workshop (Part 1)

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Celebrating differences among our writers can sometimes be difficult for teachers of writing. But by expecting and planning for differences, we can set our students on trajectories more matched to who they are as writers. Here are a few ideas…

Risk-taking in the Writer’s Notebook

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We learn when we experiment and take risks. The writer’s notebook could be a place worth considering as a place to do some risk-taking!

Conferring: Writing Workshop Fundamentals

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“Lift the ball with your right hand, and pretend your right knee is tied to your right elbow.”  Placing the orange ball uncertainly in my right hand, I glanced over at Mr. Brown,… Continue reading

Blog Series: Fundamentals of Writing Workshop

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Growing up as a young person, I devoted a great deal of time to playing sports.  Now, I didn’t participate in a lot of different sports — I played primarily soccer, with short… Continue reading