Every Kid A Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing by Kelly Boswell

by Fran McVeigh

The Twitter chat is available in its entirety at this Wakelet link.

On Thursday, June 24th, Kelly Boswell joined the #G2Great chat to discuss her book, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing. Other books by Kelly include: Crafting Nonfiction Intermediate and Solutions for Reading Comprehension coauthored with Linda Hoyt and these two by herself, Write This Way: How Modeling Transforms the Writing Classroom and Write This Way From the Start.

This is one of those blog posts that I began early in order to process the information and to do justice to the topic amidst a busy summer. I reread Kelly’s book. I listened to her podcasts. I reviewed her quotes and then fresh off four days of writing institute, I wrote three or four possible hooks. As the chat ended, I raced to my draft “possibilities” document full of joy. The chat had been exhilarating. Joyful. Respectful. Packed with ideas. And so student-centered. But I couldn’t find a way to begin this post. Or more accurately, I couldn’t find a way that I liked well enough to begin this post. I chalked it up to being tired and waited to reread the Wakelet Friday morning to save some tweets to use. But I was stuck without an appropriate introduction.

Saturday started out with a fantastic Text, Talk, and Tea Zoom with Clare, Franki, Laura and Lynsey. After they shared their text set, I kept returning to several ideas from Colleen Cruz’s keynote closing for the #TCRWP writing institute. Colleen talked about the trust that students place in their teachers and how we need to celebrate that trust and learning in order to appreciate, amplify and pass the mic. Here’s her slide:

Colleen Cruz #TCRWP Keynote, 06.25.2021

Appreciate. Amplify. Pass the mic.

We can do that because we find JOY and LOVE in students’ writing when we remove barriers and focus on providing the instruction that supports them in writing. This joy and love was what I saw as the vision behind Kelly’s book and the reason that her writing strategies DO get everyone writing. There’s no blaming students. There’s no shaming students. There is an expectation and a vision that everyone can write . . . once the environment and instruction is prepped for them. We can do that because we are ALSO writers and we value both process and product. We value writing… and writing… and writing!

After finding my own connections to Kelly’s book, I wanted to honor her purpose in writing this book because I, too, have heard these questions.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

This book is a response to the question I hear the most from the teachers with whom I work – “What about those kids who don’t like to write?” 

Many of us, at one time or another, have found ourselves in the company of a few (or perhaps more than a few) students who shrug when asked about their writing. They slump in their chairs instead of jumping into writing with energy and vigor. They sharpen pencils or ask for the bathroom pass or decide it’s a good time to organize and reorganize their desk. They groan when you announce that it’s time or write or they barrage you with questions along the lines of “How long does this have to be?” 

Many teachers mistakenly think that the problem lies with the reluctant student. I had a hunch that, like most things, teachers and classroom environments created either reluctance or engagement. 

In this book, I set out to explore this topic – why do the writers in some classrooms seem so reluctant while students in a different classroom dig into writing with enthusiasm and joy? Could we, as teachers, create classrooms and writing experiences that could increase engagement? As I spoke to students and teachers and taught lessons of my own,  my hunch was confirmed: The environment and community we create in the classroom, along with some specific, yet simple, teaching strategies, have an enormous impact on how students engage with writing. 

And that vision led us to our second question.

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

One of the biggest takeaways that I hope teachers embrace is that the problem of reluctant writers is NOT the kids. As teachers, we have the power to embrace and use some simple, practical strategies that support ALL kids to engage in writing with enthusiasm and joy. These six strategies are outlined in the book: 

We can: 

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment

Let’s pull back the curtain and look a little further at some of the six strategies shared by Kelly during the chat.

1. Use mentor texts and teacher modeling to fuel engagement.

2. Create a safe and daily space for writing.

3. Expose writers to real readers.

4. Offer more choice. (choice of paper, seating, topic, etc.)

5. Maintain a healthy perspective on conventions.

6. Shape and create a healthy writing identity through assessment.

In conclusion, I return to the final question for our author and just a few additional thoughts.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

As teachers, the goal of all of our planning and teaching and conferring and assessing is, simply this: 

  • We want kids to fall in love with writing. 
  • We want kids to find words that they love and never let them go. 
  • We want kids to see writing as a way to connect with others, share ideas and engage in civil discourse. 
  • We want kids to know that writing is a powerful tool that they can use to think, reflect, remember and influence others.  
  • We want kids to discover that the act of writing is its own reward. 
  • We want them to know, deep in their bones, that writing has so much to give and so much to teach. 
  • We want kids to live joyfully literate lives. 

It starts with us.

When we provide time for students to joyfully tell their stories, we must Appreciate. Amplify. And pass the mic! This mutual respect and trust between writers and teachers of writing results in classrooms filled with joy, purpose and energy. To conclude, a repeat of the closing quote from the chat, in Kelly’s own words:

Let’s get started!

Additional Links:

Blog Posts (Heinemann):  https://blog.heinemann.com/conferring-with-kids-remotely-tips-for-remote-writing-conferences-from-kelly-boswell

https://blog.heinemann.com/positive-practices-for-you-and-your-students

Podcasts: https://blog.heinemann.com/podcast-demystifying-the-writing-process-with-kelly-boswell?hsCtaTracking=ee7df32b-f50a-49f2-adf8-67e9076b7157%7Cdc1d2e0c-2715-48ff-ab7f-4b640204da9e

Books: https://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Boswell/e/B00E59W45Q?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_3&qid=1620140304&sr=8-3

Article: https://www.languagemagazine.com/2020/02/19/harnessing-the-power-of-a-teachers-pen-2/

Trusting Readers: Powerful Practices for Independent Readers

by Mary Howard

On 6/10/21, we welcomed first-time #G2Great guests Dr. Jennifer Scoggin and Hannah Schneewind to engage in twitter-style dialogue around their book, Trusting Readers: Powerful Practices for Independent Reading (2021 Heinemann). Their shared belief in ‘trusting readers’ is not simply two colorful words on the cover and lovingly described in chapter after chapter. Trusting Readers and how we might bring those words to life is the very heart and soul of an amazing trust-filled collaboration. 

Jen and Hannah emphasize this central trust theme in a quote we shared in our chat:

As I began to reflect on this post and the book that inspired it, I found myself pausing to ponder their heart and soul using the word “TRUST”. As I often do, I turned to the dictionary where I found two meanings that worked beautifully in concert along with several descriptors.

These ‘trust’ references made perfect sense in the context of Trusting Readers. After all, we can’t claim that we truly trust readers unless we can demonstrate unwavering belief that children deserve and need our trust and the freedom to put that trust into action as we create a relationship of mutual ‘trust and respect’. We willingly embrace our responsibility to demonstrate trust for our children by offering opportunities that matter where it matters most – in the company of the very readers we claim to trust. 

Although these dictionary references seemed fitting, the heart and soul I felt as I read Trusting Readers from cover to cover was missing. I quickly turned back to Jen and Hannah for that missing connection. It didn’t take long to find the heart and soul that the dictionary didn’t quite do justice. In their introduction on page xv, Jen and Hannah write an opening invitation to teachers:

Notice that Jen and Hannah are speaking directly to educators here. While every word is essential, the word POSSIBILITY looms large. They ask us to see the POSSIBILITY that surrounds us when we trust our readers as we also trust ourselves to make trust-worthy day-to-day decisions in the name of kids. The word POSSIBILITY appeared in varied forms across the book, lifting its impact even higher. Their gentle words of flexible advice with powerful practices for independent reading oozed POSSIBILITY for trusting readers and ourselves as we seek to design learning experiences that will celebrate us both. 

Already knowing the deep trust Jen and Hannah demonstrate for us across their book, the tweet below caught my attention two weeks before our chat. After Fran McVeigh complimented their Classroom Indicators for Engagement they describe “as clearly visible and observable” on pages 54-55 of Trusting Readers, they wrote:

We always ask our #G2Great authors to reflect on three questions to gain insight into their thinking. Their reflections on our first question offered a wonderful peek into their shifting purpose during writing informed by student stories: 

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Our original intention in writing this book was to make conferring with readers easier.  During our time in schools, we noticed that conferring is often a missing piece of classroom practice.  Our goal was to come up with a framework that would simplify it while also making it impactful.  After delving deeply into the research and studying our own conferring, we realized the truth: Conferring is hard, especially when as a teacher you are trying to do and say everything “right.”  

Instead of making it “easier,” we let go of preconceived notions of what conferring should be and opened ourselves up to listen closely to students tell the stories of themselves as readers.  Instead of having conferring be about waiting for the student to make a mistake so we can teach them a strategy to correct it, we emphasize the power of starting with strengths, honoring student identity and constructing relevant instructional pathways alongside students. We hope teachers implement the Cycle of Conferring and see conferring with fresh eyes.

Jen and Hannah open Trusting Readers by reflecting on their shared experiences in “supportive, trusting environments” where they were afforded the freedom to make instructional decisions that would enrich the lives of learners. As I read this, I thought about my own experiences in schools where I was a trusted professional and in those where I was seen as a compliant disseminator. My memories were a reminder that this trust is sorely missing in too many schools. While most teachers model trust for their children in spite of this sad reality, we add a level of challenge for designing a learning environment where children are seen as trusted co-creators if the level of professional trust that we know is critical is in short supply. This can become a breeding ground for mistrust and make it harder to draw from the instincts that impact trust in action.

Whenever I sit down to write a blog post based on the books of our guest authors, I seek to merge both the book and chat experience into my reflections. Having read the book before the chat, I keep it close as I revisit the chat wakelet to pull in new wisdom shared during the chat (albeit at a slower pace thanks to our ability to capture their wisdom in a chat artifact). I carefully mine the chat for author tweets that reinforce and extend their book wisdom. And I always manage to find it.

Let’s set the tweet stage first by celebrating the foundation of trust with examples:

As I gathered their tweets, I saw many connections between the book and chat with the sense of POSSIBILITY I felt in Trusting Readers. In honor of these findings, I’d like to share eight POINTS OF POSSIBILITY that were inspired by a combination of our chat and book wisdom with a collection of additional tweets added the end of this post. It is my hope that these twitter references from Jen and Hannah offer a starting point for making trust for our readers and those who teach them a shared reality: 

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #1: Hold Tight to Your Beliefs

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #2: Keep Students at the Center

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #3: Value Meaningful Intent

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #4: Celebrate Unwavering Love

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #5: Learn to Listen to Kids 

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #6: Highlight Strength-Based Data

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #7: Refute the Myth of Perfection

POINT OF POSSIBILITY #8: Embrace the Journey

With these POINTS OF POSSIBILITY in mind, let’s turn back to Jen and Hannah as they reflect on our second question: 

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

We hope that teachers will embrace the invitation to reinvent Independent Reading. Try having your students set up the classroom library. Start the year with a whole class inquiry into reading engagement or identity instead of focusing on routines. (We love good routines– but do we have to start with them?) If you are new to conferring, jump in and do Discovery Conferences. Try the Cycle of Conferring with a handful of students before doing it with the entire class. As Debbie Miller says:  What is the best that can happen?

We also hope that teachers will embrace the challenge to stop using labels and deficit language. We have to retrain our brains to only ever speak about students in terms of strengths and next steps. This is harder than it seems, as it is easy to fall back on the shorthand of “struggler” and “low”. We have to actively resist the norm of labeling. All students deserve to be seen.  When we see them, their strengths, their interests and all the possibilities in front of them, teaching (and learning) is joyful.

MY CLOSING THOUGHTS

As I come to the close of this post, I am drawn back to the gift of Trusting Readers. Jen and Hannah don’t just tell us how to trust our readers and ourselves. Rather, they show us in page after glorious page by sharing examples, charts, conversations, and a generous array of research-based advice that invites teachers to trust their readers by trusting themselves in a spirit of two-sided trust that is empowering!

Trusting Readers offers teachers a haven for POSSIBILITY in safe spaces where trust abounds. Grounded in numerous examples that illuminate POSSIBILITY, Jen and Hannah ask us to celebrate all that our children bring to the literacy table and to trust the ever-changing knowledge and understandings that we bring to that table as we ensure that children are at the center of our every effort. This combined sense of trust amplifies POSSIBILITY as trust is viewed as a two-way proposition.

Since I opened this post by borrowing the POSSIBILITY that Jen and Hannah elevate for us all, I want to return full circle to the first quote from their introduction on page xv with the addition of three essential questions worthy of exploration: 

And THAT my friends, is where POSSIBILITY resides. If we are wise, we will take the time to sit very still so that we may notice those glimmers that are sure to beckon us on a moment-to-moment and day-to-day basis. It is within these GLIMMERS OF POSSIBILITY that trusting readers and ourselves can converge into brilliant living color view!

Jen and Hannah highlight this mutual trust in their response to our final question:

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

 Trust yourself and your students. It may require some bravery to disrupt the “but this is how we have always done” thinking in your school.  Hold onto your belief system and be ready to cite research that supports your decisions.  Make all parts of your literacy instruction relevant and joyful, and find like-minded colleagues with whom to collaborate.

Thank you, Jen and Hannah. We are so grateful to you for generously sharing your wisdom in your beautiful book and on our #G2Great chat. We are richer for both and we promise to keep our sights on Trust from our side and theirs in the coming year.

Tweet collection from Jen and Hannah that reinforce our Points of Possibility


LINKS

Identity and Why It Matters
 
Trusting Readers, Trusting Ourselves
 
Reflection and Discovery: The Power of Reading Identity in Independent Reading

A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Workshop Essentials #G2Great

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Please click here to access the Wakelet archive

For the past two days, I participated in a car parade through my district to show my students that I care about them, that I miss them, and that I hope to see them soon:

As I write this post to you readers, I am feeling overwhelmed. COVD 19 has instantly made everything I know about the world seem scary and strange. So I try to find my center, I keep returning to the things I know for certain. When it comes to my professional life, I believe that when I teach children how to read, I am teaching them how to better understand the world. When I teach children how to write, I am teaching them how to share their voice within the world.

Now more than ever we need to preserve the integrity of the Writers Workshop. Last week, Katherine Bomer and Corinne Arens joined the #G2Great community to discuss their book, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Workshop Essentials: Time, Choice, Response (2020, Heinemann). It was an amazing discussion and it left me thinking about their three important facets of writing workshop: time, choice, and response.

Time

I love Katherine and Corinne’s image of a bubble of time when it comes to Writing Workshop. It makes me think of a delicate translucent barrier that preserves thoughtful, intentional work:

Choice

When teachers sit next to students as writers first, they understand how necessary choice is to the writing process. If you are told to write something the process is very different than if you elect to write something. When we are trying to educate our students on the value of writing then we really need to make room for choice. Fortunately, so many members of #G2Great wholeheartedly agreed:

Response

Words connect us all. When young writers understand that they are writing for an audience they truly experience the power of the pen. We can always take pen to paper, or tap the keys against a blank screen to create something that will hold meaning to another. In this way, we are never alone. It is no wonder that when children have skilled teacher-writers to develop their process alongside them, they grow to love writing:

History has come to call on our generation. What will we take with us from this experience? Literacy matters. When the happy day comes that all our students return to school, let’s remember that Writing Workshop will help them make that transition. It will cultivate their sense of self. It will give them permission to explore their thinking. It will be a way to examine their emotions. It will set them free to pursue their passions. We, their teachers, have the power to blow a bubble of safety around that time. We can devote that space for them to choose what they want to write. We can respond to their writing in ways that are both healing and celebratory. Thank you, Katherine and Corinne, for writing this beautiful book and reminding us all:

  • Time is precious
  • Choice is freedom
  • Response is connection

Every Child Can Write

by Fran McVeigh

The #G2Great team exuberantly welcomed Melanie Meehan to the October 3, 2019 chat two days after Every Child Can Write: Entry Points, Bridges, and Pathways for Striving Writers entered the world. As I pondered both entry points and organization for this post, I decided to begin with Melanie’s words in response to our three basic author questions.

1.  What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

Every day I get to work with writers across all grades and across all levels. Because of my work, I have seen the impact of increasing access and entry points for writers that has led to growth for these students, regardless of functioning levels. 

Very few people enjoy a struggle when they don’t believe they will overcome it, so we have to figure out ways to make the learning and growth seem possible to everyone in the community– especially to the writer. There really is a big difference between thinking about students as struggling or thinking about them as striving, and I hope that people who read this book come away re-examining their beliefs about students.

So often our beliefs become our truths. I want everyone– including and especially our children– to believe that every child can write, and then I want teachers to have practical strategies and resources to help make that happen.

2.  What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

Not everyone is ready for the same curriculum and instruction on the same day, but it’s overwhelming to deliver an entirely separate lesson for students who aren’t getting it. That being said, the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development as described by Lev Vygotsky is a game changer for me. We can’t keep asking students to try out tasks and strategies that are way beyond their reach and ability, and it’s exhausting to create scaffold after scaffold that helps writers create a product without understanding the process. When we do that, we’re sending messages over and over that they can’t do it without us or the scaffolds we create. With those consistent messages, it’s human nature to stop trying and avoid the task or situation all together. So how do we change it up in ways that empower students, but is within the realm of possibility for teachers? That’s where reconsidering entry points may welcome students into the learning process. Or maybe it’s constructing bridges so that students have different ways to join the process. That’s where those metaphors that make up the title come it. I hope that teachers see practical and possible ways to teach all students to write. 

3.  What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Our job is to find the entry points and provide the access so that students are challenged and moving forward without being overwhelmed and over-scaffolded. We live in a world where being able to write is a critically important and empowering skill. We can all teach them to write when we believe they can and we have the tools and understandings.

So many times even when students look like they are paying attention, they have no idea of what the lesson is really about. Engagement, interest, caring about something– those have to be in place for not only behavior, but also for academic growth. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but the message of the book is that all children can write.

Why this book?

I am a bibliophile. I probably need a 12 step program because I am addicted to books. I love to explore the ideas in a book through multiple readings. I also love to meet authors and hear about the books in their own voices. So when an author that I admire professionally writes a book, I study it pretty carefully. I was waiting for this book for months. I asked Melanie about it in March over coffee. We put the chat on the schedule in June, and Melanie submitted the quotes and questions in record time.

And then I finally had a copy to read. Every Child Can Write had me hooked from the first reading of the Table of Contents – written in complete sentences. Thorough. Thoughtful. Timely. With provocative yet practical ideas. Well organized – so well organized that I read it from cover to cover, TWICE, before I drafted my first blog post. I reread some parts, read the Blog Tour posts, revised my draft, and studied the blog posts again. I was worried about capturing the essence TWICE and doing justice to this gorgeous addition to the professional world.

This book is based on these beliefs:

1. All children can learn to write. 2. It is a fundamental imperative that we do everything in our power to teach the students in our care how to express themselves through words and through writing. – Meehan, M. Every Child Can Write. xviii.

Who has to have those beliefs?

Students and teachers alike have to believe that all students can write and that is fundamental to every chapter in Melanie’s book. It’s also fundamental to the literacy instruction in classrooms around the world. All students. All teachers.

What are obstacles that interfere with student writing?

Beliefs are the beginning. Then instruction has to match those beliefs. Sometimes the instruction does not meet the students’ needs. What obstacles might interfere with learning? Check out a sampling of responses from our twitter chat. Have you heard these from your students or teachers?

Knowing “potential obstacles” can help you address obstacles confronting writers in your classroom. Do the students need practice? Do they need choice? Do they need confidence? Crowd sourcing these possibilities from a #G2Great Twitter Chat is one way teachers can step outside their current practices, sharpen their focus, turn their gaze back to their students, and study them anew. (The responses to “perfectionism” as an obstacle can be found in the Wakelet link.) You may also have collaborative conversations with your grade level team to explore improvements in environment, routines, practices and usage of charts through a book study. Every Child Can Write provides support for instruction and problem solving with entry points, bridges and pathways to help striving writers gain independence.

What do you need? Entry points? Bridges? Pathways?

Where will you begin?

Additional Resources:

Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link

Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link

Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link

Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link

Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

FYI:  I reviewed an advance prepublication copy of “Every Child Can Write” that was available for the #G2Great team.

Welcome to Writing Workshop with Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman

By Fran McVeigh

The #G2Great chat on Thursday, April 4, 2019 welcomed writing workshop aficionados near and far as a powerful duo, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman, joined us to chat about Welcome to Writing Workshop: Engaging Today’s Students with a Model That Works. It was an hour of celebration as well as an hour of learning and affirmation of basic principles of writing workshop practices.

Welcome to Writing Workshop was lovingly written by expert writers, expert writing teachers, and expert writing coaches. As you enter the book, whether you are a novice to writing workshop or an experienced teacher, you will find that Stacey and Lynne’s words linger in your brain and you will return to pictures, pages, and charts to consider your own alignment with the expectations outlined. Kelsey Corter said it well on TWT:

Welcome to Writing Workshop is not the kind of book to read and shelve. It needs an accessible home, perhaps at a favorite writing spot, or perhaps in the classroom, alongside a conferring toolkit. Keeping Welcome to Writing Workshop nearby means never being in it alone. Stacey and Lynne are there, every step of the way.” TWT Blog

In this blog post, you are first going to see Stacey and Lynne’s responses to three questions about their goals and messages for Welcome to Writing Workshop. And then you will view some curated tweets that are representative of just a small portion of the  tweets generated during the #G2Great chat, followed by some additional resources available to support your learning.
Stacey: Write alongside your students no matter how uncomfortable it feels at first. Keep doing it. Day after day, it will become easier. If you’re writing, then you’re part of the classroom community of writers and that is the secret to being a great teacher of writing.

Lynne: Make time for writing every day. Writing is the most valuable tool we have for thinking aloud on paper. Writing instruction and time to write daily is absolutely essential. When our thinking is there, we can organize it, layer it, and revise it. We can let other people’s thinking in because we are not worried about forgetting what we wanted to say. After we listen to others, we can revise our thinking. Expressing our opinions, sharing information, and telling our stories. Human beings are storytellers. Every day is a new page to write on. The stories of our lives are important!Stacey: We hope teachers will listen to children’s ideas when they confer and help them create pieces of writing — across the genres — that hold meaning and value to them. Most of all, it’s my hope that teachers will treat kids like real writers. Kate and Maggie said it well in the foreword, “The promise of writing workshop is that if we help every child become a writer, they will write and think well. This book shows us ways we can thread that needle—how we can reach for high standards yet not at the expense of the heart and soul of our classrooms.”

Lynne: Of course, that a teacher of writers has to be a teacher who writes. Writing is not a spectator sport – you have to jump in and play the game! Modeling with your own writing and thinking aloud so you can make your process visible to your students. So, an understanding of the importance of writing process. Also, we talk about the importance of the physical and the socio-emotional environment. Our workshop should look like, sound like, and feel like it is student-centered where our young writers have a voice and lots of choice. Another big takeaway is daily time for writing which involves good planning so we can move through a literature hook, modeling, active engagement, and on to writing. Closing with reflection is also essential.Stacey: There were two motivations for writing this book. First, we were both adjuncting and noticed there hadn’t been a new, stand-alone book on the fundamentals of writing workshop in quite some time. I was teaching online and had grad students in my classes from across the USA and around the world (e.g., India, Peru). Many times my international students were unable to get print copies of books and wished there was an ebook they could purchase on writing workshop. Therefore, we thought it would help if there were a new book, that would also be an ebook, about writing workshop. Second, through the consulting work we do, we noticed that many teachers are given a curriculum to teach writing, but they are unfamiliar with the guiding principles that make writing workshop work. Therefore, we wanted to write a book for people who were new to teaching writing workshop so that they would have a solid foundation on which to implement the curriculum they were given.

Lynne: I have wanted to write this book for years and years!  My interest in writing began in elementary school. I was inspired by my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Steinberg and even tried to write songs. I loved playing folk guitar. Later, I became an NWP fellow through the PA Writing & Literature Project. As I began teaching graduate courses on writing and presented at conferences, I realized how many teachers were uncomfortable with their own writing and with teaching writing. When Stacey and I got together to talk about the possibility of writing a book about writing workshop, we realized that the last book that discussed workshop essentials was a book by Ralph Fletcher – Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide. Ralph’s book was not available as on online publication. It was a 2001 copyright, so we thought there was room for our book. Our goal was to provide video clips as well so teachers could have a glimpse into writing workshop classrooms.

Curated Tweets

In Welcome to Writing Workshop, teachers will find tips to enhance their writing instruction including how to manage time, choice, environments and the socio-emotional supports to engage ALL learners. A teacher who is interested in “re-invigorating” or making their workshop more joyful will find the essential information in this text and supporting materials and videos. The pause at the end of each chapter in the “When You’re Ready” section provides the time and space for the reader to reflect and consider how to best use their new learning. Check it out! You won’t be disappointed!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
#G2Great Wakelet Link
Stenhouse Book preview Link
Kelsey Corter’s Review on Two Writing Teachers Link

Carl Anderson – A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences (K-8): Classroom Essentials

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Carl Anderson, joined #G2Great this week and true to form the conversation was positively brilliant! From the first time I started to make the pilgrimage to Teacher’s College, Carl Anderson, was always one of my “have to see” presenters. He has this amazing way of speaking that makes me want to lean in and listen closely with both ears. He blends his extensive knowledge for conferring, personal reflection, and story until his words come out like honey. Golden and sweet and it just makes my teacher soul feel… at home. As I listen to Carl, because in my mind we are good friends, I know that my work with students, the work that matters the most, stems from is just knowing how to listen and to be responsive.

To me, a writing conference suggests all that is good in school. Here we are, two writers, having a really good conversation. A writing conference is our way to help each other learn and experience all that writing brings with it. The thrill and power of a well-chosen word, the ability to capture a moment in time, or the opportunity to share and understand something new. Our one goal is to grow. Together, teacher and student sitting side-by-side the child is speaking and I am listening. So, when I think of conferring, the word that comes to mind is essential.

Listening is undervalued in a world that celebrates the extrovert and speedy responses. Whoever is the loudest and whoever gets there first is the one to be heard. That’s a huge problem when it comes to being a learner. The more I learn to honor what students share with me the more I realize there is not a “right” or “wrong” way to write. There is just the writing process and my students’ approximation of that process. Carl suggests that our work with students is shared but it begins with an open invitation…

I think it’s natural to feel the pressure of filling time and space with words when things get quiet during a conference. I am learning that wait time is a powerful way to leverage engagement. My students are learning how to process their thinking knowing that I am fully invested in them, one child at a time. Time is a precious commodity and who better to spend it on than my students.? How do I know if I am being responsive? I can make the brave choice to video tape my own teaching and watch myself. I can learn alongside an expert and push my professional learning to new levels by watching Carl. These are the practices that #G2Great are founded on…

Young writers approximate their learning. Every time we invite them to expand upon their thinking they begin to refine their process. Talk is the way to cut a path to really knowing the writing process. Writing gives a platform for genuine self-expression. to think deeply, and build up meaningful experiences with spoken and written language.

Conferring can be daunting!  After I’ve given wait time, and explored students’ thinking within the writing process – I have to know what to do next. Knowing how to be responsive means understanding typical patterns, then knowing how to decide on what to do next. A good way to show children what to do is to rely on the experts. There are all kinds of mentors that help students (and teachers) grow…

A conference asks us to lift our presuppositions. A conference is a formative assessment. A conference is an opportunity to teach with gusto, and most of all with heart. It may not always be perfect but it will always be an attempt at grace.  A conference is a live property, it is something unique every time because it is an extension of each student. It is in the moment teaching that tells students that they are trusted  because they are actively informing its process.  They inform the process with their words, their writing, and their values.

 

Learning with Carl, and all the educators who came out to be part of this chat has filled me up with this great sense of wellbeing.  His words of wisdom to this new  teacher is good advice for us all…

Yes, conferring is the work of a professional lifetime. I know I will be striving to continue to grow as a teacher who can listen with with an open mind for the rest of my career. One who seeks to understand my students, and the writing process better one conference, one conversation, at a time.

Links to Learn More With Carl Anderson –

Guest Host Carl Anderson How’s it Going?

By Amy Brennan

On November 9, 2017 #G2Great was honored to have Carl Anderson as a guest host. When we think about conferring in writing workshop, Carl Anderson is the one we all look up to and want to learn from. He is who I attempt to channel anytime I sit down with a child to confer about their writing. The first words that come out of my mouth when I sit next to a writer are taken from Carl. I sit down and say, “How’s it going?”

Relationships

The numerous times that I have seen Carl speak at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and the most recent when I was able to participate in his section during the writing institute last June always causes me to pause. The thing about Carl is that he takes something, which arguably is the most challenging part of the workshop model and puts it within your reach. He makes sure that no matter what your experience is you can sit next to a child and begin to help that child become a better writer.

Even in Carl’s first tweet of the night he began to develop relationships with all of us who gathered around the #G2Great table to talk about conferring that night. He started by asking us, “How’s it going?”

Carl shows us that conferring is about building relationships. When we approach a writer for a conference and think first about building the relationship or getting to know the writer it does not seem so difficult. It allows us to begin to confer with students in reading and writing. Carl often says, “You cannot get better at something unless you do it.” This I have heard him say numerous times when talking with teachers who share their struggle or sometimes worries about conferring and getting it right. When we approach the conference through the lens of a getting to know a writer, the pressure reduces and we can just do it! In turn each and every conference we have will teach us to become better at conferring.

Relationships then develop as we open the conversation with our writers. We can begin to help a writer grow as we get to know them and develop a trusting and supportive environment. Writing is risky, and that trust and support is necessary so that a writer will take the risks they need to as they develop their writing. Writing is also very personal, and that too requires a trusting, supportive relationship.

Reflections 

Conferring is an opportunity for reflection. In a conference it helps the learning process to allow some space for reflection. As the teacher, it seems that the first point of reflection comes when I review my conferring notes from my last visit with the writer. The next reflection point comes after I research what the writer is doing or after the writer tells me how their writing is going. I need to reflect on this in order to make a decision as to what I will teach that writer today. In reflecting on that I need to identify something that the writer will carry with them not only on this piece, but to other pieces they write. This is consistent with Lucy Calkins’ message in that we focus on teaching the writer, not the writing. Making this decision is significant enough to require a moment of reflection.

Additionally, if we want to maximize the learning experience for the teacher and the student we have to consider John Dewy’s wise words,  “We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.” Often making space for the writer to reflect or process their thoughts is a time when I jot my notes or reflect myself, this helps me to make that quiet time for the writer to reflect.

 

 

Revisions 

Writing is all about the revision, this is the most powerful, yet difficult part of writing. The reflections allow for the possibility of revision which is the pathway to improving the work of a writer. Each time a writer makes a revision the writer is trying a new move, and these moves can be used on any writing. The writer takes these moves with them everytime they write.

Revision for the teacher who is conferring I would argue is just as important. Once I reflect on the writer, I can make revisions to my teaching plan for that writer. That revision becomes another conference or teaching point for a conference that I can put in my toolkit. I often envision my own conferring toolkit like a large handbag with many cards in it, and everytime I confer with a child I place a new card in my handbag. Each time I revise one of those cards I make a new card. I think that multiplying factor is what gives me the motivation to just sit with a writer and talk about what they are doing as a writer. It removes the intimidations that I once had, because I know this conference will be added to a new card to place in my handbag. I know that when I sit with a student I can always pull one of these cards from my handbag, if I need to.

Thinking about revisions in this way extends the conference from that one conference or that one writer to every conference or every student I will confer with over the course of my time talking with writers. The potential is truly limitless, especially when I reflect, share and collaborate with colleagues.

 

Carl Andrerson brilliantly starts conferences with “How’s it going?” This simple, yet powerful question opens up so many possibilities and extends beyond a writing conference. His book, How’s It Going? is one of my most reread and worn books. His first tweet of the #G2Great Twitter Chat included his perfect question, “How’s it going?” This demonstrates the power of the question and the insight that Carl shares with us. It carries over to all areas of meeting with children, just the other day I had the opportunity to sit down with several children in the principals office and the first thing I said was, “How’s it going?” It provided an opening to a conversation, it established relationships and allowed time for reflections and revisions in our thinking.

 

 

 

I Am Reading with Kathy Collins and Matt Glover

By Amy Brennan

On October 5, 2017 #G2Great welcomed two of the greatest advocates for our youngest meaning makers. Kathy Collins and Matt Glover support our earliest readers in nurturing ways by promoting a healthy reading identity while thye develop a love for reading as they make meaning with texts they read, whether they read the words or make meaning through the pictures or their memory of a familiar read. In their book, I Am Reading, Kathy and Matt open their introduction in part by sharing that their fascination wtih children’s thinking is what brought them together, which makes complete sense as Kathy came to the collaboration from a background of reading and Matt came from his experience with writing. Reading and writing are really rooted in the thinking that comes before, during and after both reading and writing. They are about making meaning.

Limiting children only to just right books impacts meaning making and reading identity

Children may be developing decoding skills as they advance through these levels, however they may lose the benefit of making meaning with texts and engaging in a playful sense with books that help to develop the thinking skills that children develop even before they can read conventionally. Reading identity begins to develop right away and if students are limited by choosing only just right books they begin to limit their own reading identity by these levels. The rush to advance through levels further impacts reading as students lose opportunties to interact with texts in real ways where they are developing the thinking and talking work that develops comprehension and meaning making with texts.

Rereading familiar picture books helps children’s reading, oral language, and reading identity

There are many benefits of children rereading familiar texts. Often the reading of familiar texts is discounted and comments such as, “She has heard it read so many times, she has just memorized it.”  It is helpful to consider what the child is doing when reading the familiar book:

  •  Applies reading or thinking strategies
  •  Paces the reading to the pages/illustrations
  •  Uses picture cues to make meaning or support memory
  •  Returns to previously read pages to start over
  •  Adjusts voice to reflect meaning of the text
  •  Recalls and uses rhymes and patterns in the text

In addition to strategy use and thinking there are language benefits to both reading aloud familiar books and children reading familiar books.

  • Vocabulary
  • Expressions
  • Concepts
  • Literary language patterns
  • Syntax

A child’s initial moments with unfamiliar books are critical and how we support them matters 

As a child encounters an unfamiliar text they will engage with the book in different ways than they do with familiar books. How we encourage and support this interaction matters. It matters because when children read unfamiliar books before they are reading conventionally it can be empowering. When children have opportunities to engage with texts that are unfamiliar they will need to be resourceful, put in effort, make meaning, take risks and solve problems. It is not as common for a child to pick up and engage as deeply with an unfamiliar text and for this reason how we support them matters. Children need to be provided with opportunities to choose and to read unfamiliar books as well as have motivation to do so. Supporting students to choose unfamiliar books that are:

  • Interesting and accessible
  • Have illustrations that are detailed enough to support meaning
  • Have characters who look like they are saying something
  • Elements of the illustrations are somewhat consistent

Just right books, familiar books, and unfamiliar books were just some of the topics we explored durring the chat. To learn more about supporting our earliest readers such as informational books and the value of conferring check out our #storify for the chat with Kathy Collins and Matt Glover. Their book, I Am Reading is a great source for anyone who reads with our earliest readers and wants to look deeper at ways to nuture early reading.

 

Kara Pranikoff Guest Host #G2Great Teaching Talk A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation

By Jenn  Hayhurst

I think by now everyone know members of #G2Great PLN like to talk. As a matter of fact, my good friend and mentor Dr  Mary Howard just hit 50.5 K Tweets! To use Mary’s words, “What can I say, I like to talk.”

Teachers embrace talk because it is foundational for creating community. A good conversation grants us access to higher levels of understanding. On May 18, 2017 Kara Pranikoff hosted #G2Great to discuss her new book, Teaching Talk, A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking and Conversation and we explored ways to leverage talk to develop greater sophistication for how to use talk to bolster thinking and learning in the classroom.

Bridging research to classroom practice is the heart of Mary’s book, Good To Great Teaching . When we say “yes” to research, the next thing to do is to make our classrooms home to action research. We are all approaching the end of a school year, and now is the perfect time to try out some of the practices we are learning about during our #G2Great chats so we can finish strong and use what we learn in the year ahead.  

As I think about how I can strengthen my  talk practices in my own teaching. These two tweets sparked my learning into action:

Jenny and Kara inspired me to think about and adjust my own practices. First I will more intentionally offer explicit models to increase student engagement within collaborative dialogue and second I will keep a concrete reference of that dialogue use as an instructional springboard to next steps. The following is a transcript of an exchange between a partnership. The transcript is from two students discussing the benefits of using Thinking Tracks. Thinking Tracks is a tool I created, after attending a Summer Reading Institute at the Reading and Writing Project. The intention for the tool is  to help students annotate texts quickly.

 

London: “Well a thinking track is really like used to jot down something. Like if I say, in the book Shortcut, they’re on a train track. That’s surprising to me, so I’d like jot down a surprising mark.”

Daniela: “Yeah, like um I will use this the Thinking Track by surprising. When they were all like looking and listening to the sounds and looking they were all surprised. I was surprised too that the kids were there on the train tracks. It is dangerous because they hurried and looked at the train coming through.  On the other side they thought a train wasn’t coming, but the train passed! Someone could have maybe got hurt.”

London: “It (this book) opens up with a big twist and we just started the book!”

Daniela: “These tracks, like funny, important favorite, and surprised, connecting, I wonder, and there is one more conforce, confus, confusing.” (laughing a little) “You can all use these even the little pictures that show us how to use them.”

London: “It’s just  a quick jot.”

What did my transcriptions do for me as a professional willing to shift my stance as a learner?

It shows me that both students have a strong understanding for how to use the tool.

It shows me that Daniela is learning how to integrate academic talk into her conversational speech.

This conversation gives me some insights as to the kinds of language standards I might want to lean into.

I can see that multisyllabic words, even familiar ones, might be still challenging to read flexibility.

I can use this conversation as mentor text to teach other students how to use the tool in a number of ways!

I can read it aloud to the rest of the class, or even next year’s class to demonstrate the value of the tool by pairing that with a copy of Donal Crew’s Shortcuts.

I can leave a copy of the transcript for students to read and annotate in a write around.

Just the act of transcribing their conversation sends a strong message to my students, we value talk here. It elevates their conversations to a new level of importance. They begin to see each other as a source of information to learn from. Wow!

I am grateful that Kara has elevated my own thinking about talk and I am going to use these points and her phenomenal book to fine tune my thinking this summer.  Yes, this just the beginning of my learning and  I invite you to join me so we can all delve deeper into her remarkable thinking. If you are reading this blog, you are the kind of teacher who is on a constant journey to bring your good classroom practices to great ones. It is every author’s hope that their work will inspire ours. When we read a professional book we are entering into a partnership that aspires to empower learning and benefit the intellectual world that we create for our students. We are co-creating a better opportunities for ourselves and our students. Happy reading.

LINKS

Teaching Talk: A Practical Guide to Fostering Student Thinking & Conversation

http://www.heinemann.com/products/E08676.aspx

Breathing New Life Into the Talk in Your Classroom

http://www.heinemann.com/blog/breathing-new-life-into-the-talk-in-your-classroom/

Feedback That Moves Writers Forward With Guest Host Patty McGee

by Jenn Hayhurst

On Thursday, April 6, 2017 #G2Great began a conversation with Patty McGee about her new book Feedback That Moves Writers Forward from Corwin Press. Teachers enthusiastically delved into the topic and the conversation sparkled with brilliance and optimism. I think @TeachWriteEDU  captured the #G2Great experience beautifully with her tweet:

I am filled with complete gratitude because as @TeachWriteEDU put it, “there is so much goodness here…” this chat spurred me to think about some  questions we all can ask ourselves.

How does feedback influence our writing identities?

Formative feedback and identity are essential to growing as a writer. Feedback is like a continuous story that we tell our students to extend meaning making. Feedback maximizes a learning stance from a position of strength. Feedback is an invitation for students to know that we hear them, we see them, and that together we are authoring their unique writing identities. This is big work. This may be how students decide what writing will mean to them. How will it will fit into their lives? Through feedback we strive and to help each student to find an original voice and influence:

With Patty in the lead, we all focused on how specific feedback builds a writer’s identity with our students:  

In Patty’s book she recounts an experience she had during a workshop with the incredible Ralph Fletcher: “In a writing workshop by the inspiring Ralph Fletcher a few years back, Ralph asked the audience of hundreds of teachers to raise their hands if they considered themselves readers. Most hands went up. Including my own. He then asked, ‘How many of you consider yourselves writers, or even like to write?’ I looked around, oddly comforted by the fact that I was not the only teacher who seemed to be doing their best to fake the love of writing for students.” (p 5)

What experiences formed your writer’s identity?

As I thought about these question, my thoughts turned back to the story of my childhood that had a lasting impact on my own writing identity…

Yellow sunlight streamed in through giant panes of glass, warming us as we sat around the kitchen table. Coffee cups steamed darkly in contrast to the brightly painted porcelain cow creamer. Her mouth, forever frozen, in an open circle of surprise. There I was drinking actual coffee with my father! No longer just a gawky twelve year old girl. No, now I am a writer. I am one of two writers, drinking coffee, and thinking deeply. My dad leaned over my paper, loosely holding pencil in hand and laughing at the funny parts. A swell of emotion filled me and I became light headed. I don’t know if came from the caffeine or the pure elation at his response to my writing. That experience marked the beginning of a lifelong love with writing… and coffee.  

A Call To Action – A #G2Great Community of Writers: What’s your story?

We invite you to reflect on the experiences that have shaped your writing identity.  Blog about it, so that we may leave each other feedback that elevates our practice. If you leave your links in our Comment Boxes we can continue to examine who we are as writers and practice giving feedback that pushes writers forward. We can generate writing experiences for ourselves so we may lift the level of writing for our students.

Patty McGee Links

Patty’s Websites:

www.pattymcgee.org

www.drgravitygoldberg.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pmgmcgee

Patty’s Book: Feedback That Moves Writers Forward (Corwin)

https://us.corwin.com/en-us/nam/feedback-that-moves-writers-forward/book251633

Help Students Reflect and Set Goals for Powerful Learning by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/02/help-students-reflect-set-goals-powerful-learning/

The Power of NOT Answering Content-Specific Questions (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/03/power-not-answering-content-specific-questions/

Three Moves to Awaken Dormant Writers by Patty McGee (Corwin Connect)

http://corwin-connect.com/2017/03/3-moves-awaken-dormant-writers/

ILA Blog Post Part 1: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2017/03/16/looking-for-a-fresh-new-design-for-pd-try-a-residency-part-1

ILA Blog Post Part 2: Looking for a Fresh, New Design for PD? Try a Residency

https://www.literacyworldwide.org/blog/literacy-daily/2017/03/23/looking-for-a-fresh-new-design-for-pd-try-a-residency-part-2