Category Archive: middle school

Strengthening Writing Partnerships, Part I

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A writing partner provides a sounding board and creates a social opportunity for feedback, criticism, and notions of what improvement could look like or sound like. The problem with partnerships, however, is that left to their own devices kids are not very good at being partners. How can we help kids get better? Here are a few strategies…

Writing Conferences: What to Do When a Writer Doesn’t Say Much?

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When conferring with a writer, our big aim is to engage in a meaningful conversation with the student about his or her writing.  An individual writing conference is likely the single most effective way for a teacher to help move a writer forward. But many times, even with our best intentions and attempts at “training” students how to converse during a conference, the student will sometimes say something curt, like, “Good.”  Or, “It’s fine.”  Silence.  That’s it.  That’s all they have to say. What to do?  Fear not!  Conferring Carl suggests six strategies to help teachers address this situation…

Different Ways to Use Checklists in Writing Workshop

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Student-facing checklists can be a powerful tool.  While rubrics are helpful for teachers, checklists are helpful for students.  Checklists can serve to provide clear targets for writers as they strive to craft pieces of writing. But what might be different ways to use them in your writing workshop? Read to find out…

Enlisting Writing Support from Parents

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Parents can be a tremendous educational resource.  Yet, in middle school it can be challenging, as developmentally our students are beginning to morph from children into young adults. Thinking about next year, I have drafted some ideas for partnering with parents on how to help their kids become stronger writers.  How might parents provide support in the way writing workshop teachers believe is most helpful?  Here are a few ideas…

End of Year Reflections and June Planning

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As we approach the end of another school year, many of us begin making plans for outgrowing ourselves. But what might be some lenses to think through when taking on such a task? I have a few ideas . . .

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?

Tools of the Trade — A Guest Blog Post by Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg

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We can’t control what happen next in our news feeds or in the lives of our students. By making intentional time in our curriculum for writing, sharing and publishing, we can equip our students with the most powerful tools we have available to develop and strengthen their voices within our classrooms, and create a confidence within to speak their truths out in the world.

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.

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!

Changing Tack: Learning from a Writing Conference

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It’s great to be prepared when we are conferring with our writers. However, being ‘prepared’ and being ‘present’ are not the same thing…

Showing Not Telling: Demonstrations Matter

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We’ve all likely taught ‘show, don’t tell’ lessons in our narrative units. But showing not telling can have instructional meaning, as well…

On the Pitfalls of Hiding Out

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Sometimes in a busy and chaotic schedule, we inadvertently miss attending to some of our students who like to “fly under the radar.” Being systematic and intentionally positive can make a big difference for some of our writers.