Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia

You can access our chat Wakelet artifact HERE

By Brent Gilson

“I know lots of writers who love to create characters and invent imaginary worlds. But for me, the real world is so amazing, so fascinating, that I just want to learn as much as I can about it and share it with other people. That’s why I write nonfiction.” -Melissa Stewart

When I was a kid I did not spend a lot of time reading novels. The occasional Choose Your Own Adventure would be thrown into the backpack to read at home but generally, I was a reader of nonfiction. My grandpa was an avid bird watcher. I remember going to visit and just thumbing through his collection of books learning about the species of birds that would frequent his yard. I have the clearest memory of my other grandparents giving me these little binders full of fact files on different animals, I toted that around with me everywhere. The Komodo Dragon file was my favourite. My earliest Scholastic Book Fair memory is buying this sweet dinosaur book and giving out the stickers to my friends. Spending time learning about ecosystems in this giant book full of beautiful art and fold-out pages is another memory that I can picture as clear as it was yesterday.

The librarian at my school often had to remind me to return the Arms and Armour (Canadian not a spelling mistake) book. I think I checked it out more than any other book in elementary school. I would study the different swords of different areas and their armour. I would imagine what the battles could be like. I was not limited to facts; nonfiction books were the passport to imagination for me in those early years. I wrote stories of knights battling dragons, I studied their swords. These nonfiction texts jump started my fiction reading. They were more accessible, more engaging to the young reader than just pages of text. Beyond that, I learned. I built background knowledge of history and the world. In a time when disinformation is at an all-time high arming our kids with knowledge as they enter the world should be a top priority of teaching and utilizing nonfiction text provides a structure that is both engaging and informative.

As a middle school and high school teacher, I have noticed a decline in the drive to consume nonfiction that my elementary students had. I imagine it is a combination of the “I know it all” attitude the teenagers often proudly display and the fact that with academically heavier courses they no longer see non-fiction as an escape. Either way I want to get back into nonfiction in my classroom and after last Thursday’s chat, I know Five Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books by Melissa Stewart and Marlene Correia provides a wonderful structure to get teachers started.

We ask our authors to reflect on three questions that will offer readers insight for their thinking. Melissa and Marlene respond to our first question:

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

MS: As a children’s book writer, I developed the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction classification system for myself. I hoped that if I could get a stronger sense of the breadth of the nonfiction market, I might have better luck crafting the kind of writing publishers were looking for.

When I shared the system on my blog in 2017, the response was tremendous. To date, that post has received more than 500,000 hits.

At first, I was surprised that the system resonated with so many people, but then I began to see its broader uses in a school setting. The table below from p. 49 of 5 Kinds of Nonfiction: Enriching Reading and Writing Instruction with Children’s Books, highlights that different categories can be used in specific ways during literacy and content-area instruction:

So that’s one of the book’s main messages. When students are familiar with the characteristics of the five categories, they can predict the kind of information they’re likely to find in a book and how that information will be presented. And that understanding can help them identify the best books for a particular purpose as well as the kind(s) of nonfiction they enjoy reading most.

MC: For me it was a realization over 15 years ago during a professional development workshop, where I was asked to list all the texts I had read recently. I quickly came to the realization that most of what I read and used was nonfiction (news articles, professional journals, recipes, etc.) That’s when I first began thinking about my own classroom collection of books and how few nonfiction titles were available. But, at first, I didn’t think my students would really want to read nonfiction. I was convinced, as many educators are, that they preferred fiction and stories.

I conducted a small-scale action research study that proved my assumptions wrong. I had students in my class choosing nonfiction over fiction at the library every week. From then on, I took a more deliberate approach, and my own interest and love for nonfiction expanded. I met Melissa, was impressed by her work as a researcher and author, and the rest is history.

My hope is that other educators and librarians will use more nonfiction, from all 5 kinds, in their instruction and in their book collections.

Melissa and Marlene give us more insight with the second question:

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

MS & MC: Many educators have a natural love of stories and storytelling. They fill their classroom libraries with fiction and focus their literacy instruction on stories because they assume that kids feel the same way.

But as these charts show, many children think differently. They prefer expository nonfiction—writing that explains, describes, or informs in a straightforward way.

How can you transform these info-loving kids into passionate, motivated readers? Hand them an expository nonfiction book on a topic they find fascinating. Marlene created this terrific Book Match Survey to help teachers, librarians, and parents do just that.

To show students that your honor and respect all books and all reading, be sure to include all 5 kinds of nonfiction as well as fiction in literacy and content-area instruction. Read nonfiction aloud. Feature it in book talks, book clubs, and whole-school activities. 5 Kinds of Nonfiction provides tips, tools, and strategies to help you share and celebrate nonfiction with students.

In our final question, Melissa and Marlene give us a sense of direction:

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

MS: It’s so important to meet students where they are in terms of their natural reading preferences. Once they have a solid foundation, they’ll develop the confidence to stretch and grow and blossom as readers. They’ll begin to explore new topics, new formats, new writing styles, new genres. It’s exciting to support students on this journey.

MC: Nonfiction has the potential to deepen student learning, fuel their interests, and cultivate their curiosity about the world. All students can LOVE reading! It takes getting the right book, in the right hands at the right time.

Nonfiction on Display: Melissa Stewart Dishes on the 5 Kinds of Nonfiction

Thanks to Melissa and Marlene for sharing their thinking about 5 Kinds of Nonfiction. Check it out as you consider what kinds of texts you are reading. You may surprise yourself.

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/

Writing Unbound: How Fiction Transforms Student Writers

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet transcript of our #G2Great Chat here


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

I think that we have made writing in schools a task, heavy labor. We need to connect writing with play, with improvisation, pleasure, and friendship.

Tom Newkirk, email.

Tom Newkirk’s response hurts my heart. My teacher heart. My writing heart. My parent heart. My grandmother heart. My literacy being just hurts.

It hurts my heart because I also know it to be true. Writing has become a “chore” in many classrooms, whether it is the kindergarten classroom where students COPY sentences from the board daily, the fourth grade classroom where students respond to daily writing prompts from the teacher, or the middle school classroom where students are engaged in formulaic argument writing day after day. Of course, not all classrooms have reduced writing to tasks and heavy labor. But many classrooms in middle schools and high schools across this country teach “how to write a sentence”, “how to write a five sentence paragraph”, and “how to write a five paragraph essay”. Disheartening. Disillusioning. Deadly for a writer’s heart.

Necessary?

Appropriate?

Well-intentioned?

Expected?

Required?

Where do your writing experiences fit? Consider the stories in this blog post. Do they parallel your experiences? You will see stories of writing from writers, teachers of writing, and wisdom from some writing experts!

And now, back to our regular format. Typical posts begin with our title slide and some background on our author or topic. So let’s resume our regular program!

Our #G2Great chat on Thursday, May 27, 2021 with Thomas Newkirk tackled a variety of issues about writing that all writing teachers need to consider. We were discussing his newest beautiful book, Writing Unbound: How Fiction Transforms Student Writers, which is student-centered, qualitative research. Research carefully and respectfully gathered from students and teachers! This was a return visit to #G2Great for Tom who hosted in January of 2018 to discuss Embarrassment and the Emotional Underlife of Learning. His previous books, Minds Made For Stories and Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones continue to grow our thinking about current fads as well as what we need to hold tightly to in order to realign and reignite our actions, visions, and beliefs about writing instruction.

I love to write. I write best when I have choice in topic/content and organization. I know that’s not always possible. I’m not comfortable writing fiction and stories are still hard. Not fun. Not pleasurable. But in recent years I know that stories cultivate friendships as I have learned through Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life. I have searched for the source of my failure feelings with fiction. One factor: I came from the era when we were taught that our writing should never include “I” or “you”. I and you were consistently “red-inked” by multiple teachers. Consequently it became easier to avoid situations where an “I” or “you” story felt more natural. Avoidance seemed to work. A second factor from my own school days – I don’t remember ever feeling that my teachers were WRITERS so there was little encouragement. And thirdly, writing was often a task or assignment to be completed only by students. Fiction . . . It was never presented as a choice in junior high or high school.

So here are two quick stories from my writing life.

My obsession with improving writing instruction began with a course on writing with Sue Meadows after I had been teaching for a decade or two. Sue was a local district administrator with ELA Curriculum responsibilities. And then I was hooked. Atwell, Graves, Harwayne, Hansen, Murray and Spandel were just a few of the writers that I was studying. I became a sponge. I went to additional training on the “6 Traits” and thoroughly absorbed the notion of aligning instruction with the rubrics used in assessment. Through assessment academies, I also went on to co-lead district-wide writing assessment. Each opportunity led to increased understanding and typical me, I never waited for “someone else to bring the learning to me”. Instead, I continued to search for more information about writing processes and the different genres of writing. My goal: Continue to grow my own understanding of “Quality Writing”!

In November of 2014, I attended and presented at NCTE in Baltimore. One speaker in a panel presentation stood out: Tom Newkirk. I was fortunate to have a seat in the packed room. I chuckled with conference attendees when Tom said that a “hamburger” organizer was an “even bigger insult to a hamburger” besides it often resulted in boring, dull, tired writing. I appreciated his emphasis on student choice writing even as I knew that would be a tough sale for some of the high school teachers in my region. Since that date, my collection of Tom Newkirk’s books has risen exponentially.

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

I felt that there were several “disconnects.” Students are immersed in fictional narratives–movies, video games, books, TV. But they are rarely given the chance to write in these forms. That’s one disconnect. Another is the profusion of fictional writing outside of school (e.g. fanfiction) and its absence in school. I think schools are still operating on an outmoded idea that reading is the dominant form of literacy, and that writing, particularly fiction writing is for the talented few. That’s no longer the case Finally, we praise the benefits of fiction reading as creating empathy and self-understanding. Why can’t the same be said for writing fiction–creating characters? So my goal is to open space for a kind of writing that students are eager to explore.

Tom Newkirk, email

Opening space. I wouldn’t have written about video games until my grandson introduced me to Mario Brothers. But I still don’t know enough to write about it. Fiction reading is my absolute favorite. Fiction writing is my absolute least favorite writing. I don’t know the expectations. I haven’t written enough fiction to write it even “passably” well.

What do you know about fanfiction? Here’s an excerpt from fanfiction.net under “Books”.

1,237,100 fanfiction pieces about these 5 books. WOW!

What is the role of fiction in our students’ lives. Are students being asked to READ fiction but NOT write fiction? Isn’t that ironic?

This leads me to the final question that we ask our authors.

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

I hope that they will open their practice to allow fiction writing–not even necessarily requiring it, but making a space for it. I hope that they will listen to students–about what they want to write, and their experiences writing. I hope that teachers themselves try out fictional writing. I hope that teacher prep will make a place for fictional writing as prospective teachers move toward their career. And I hope that our instruction will avoid formulas and instead look inductively to how writers actually write.

Tom Newkirk, email.

Many hopes: allowing fiction writing, listening to students, trying it themselves, teacher prep, avoiding formulas and examining real writing.

Now that we have looked at Tom’s goals for his book and heard two of my stories about writing, let’s get to the heart. What are students saying about their writing? These two quotes were part of the #G2Great chat.

Writing Unbound, Thomas Newkirk

Some people don’t get the “What if?” Some people like the easier what ifs of what if this happened to so-and-so, in modern day. Other people can’t stand that kind of stuff and that is what fantasy is for.

Helen, quoted in Reading Unbound

I can relate to Caroline’s “flow of ideas” as drafting is a messy spot in my head with ideas ping ponging everywhere. As for Ernest’s ideas, I think I would pass on the writing a story and the analysis. Helen speaks of the freedom of “What if?” in fantasy writing. Maybe my niche in writing would be to verify more informational text/ideas that could be added?

What I take away from all three students and Tom’s tweets is that writing stems from many sources and that we must trust students because 1) they do know a lot and

2) there is no one way for writing to go!

And they, the students, know it!

But I don’t see that flexibility for students or even for teachers of writing in many of our schools.

The wakelet contains so much wisdom from Tom Newkirk and the many teachers and #G2Great friends who join us weekly. The remainder of this post is going to focus on just this one question.

Why has fiction writing diminished in the upper grades?

  1. Call for college prep writing and Common Core Standards

College and Career Ready

I call this bias, the cattle-chute vision of preparation. This is why a creative writing elective is often viewed as a kind of indulgence, unrelated to the main mission of high school writing. I think of the advice that the young Dav Pilkey received: that he would never make a living drawing silly cartoons about a principal who thinks he is Captain Underpants. That, of course, was several million book sales ago.

Tom Newkirk, Writing Unbound

Some folks do not believe that fiction writing has a place in academia; fiction writing is for beginning writers. That leads us to reason two.

2. Fiction is too easy and not rigorous enough.

… narrative is not a discrete type of writing—it is our primary mode of understanding, and it underlies all writing.

(Newkirk 2014)

It simply makes no sense to deny students the opportunity to write in the genres they choose to read.

3. Lack of personal perception of competence and conviction that fiction fits into daily writing instruction

Fiction writing can also offer an experience that I feel is crucial to enjoying writing: the feeling that writing generates writing—that a word suggests the next word or phrase, that we can listen to writing and sense what it suggests. And even for teachers committed to fiction writing, it’s a tough fit in the curriculum. Stories take time and are often far longer than more contained forms of writing—an editorial, for example, which can be held to a few paragraphs.

Tom Newkirk, Writing Unbound

Not all writing is equal. Writing-like activities are available that may or may not parallel reading activities. Tom calls these peripherals. It may surface in writing prompts, vocabulary or comprehension work.

In Conclusion . . .

As I searched for a way to conclude this post I was drawn back to these questions that Tom Newkirk used to close chapter 2 of Writing Unbound. What are your answers? How would your students answer them? They might be a source of reflection on past instruction or planning for next year’s instruction!

So we need to ask: Can we inhabit the dizzying worlds that Ernest and his friends create? Can we experience with them the dangers and narrow escapes? Can we even help them think through their plots, imagine their characters? Can we play their game? It’s a challenge worth taking up.

Tom Newkirk, Writing Unbound

LInks for Additional Resources:

On the Podcast: Writing Unbound Link

Sample chapter from Writing Unbound Link

A Confession from Tom Newkirk about Writing Unbound Link

Bridging the Divide between Creative Writing and Literary Analysis Link

Added 06.07.2021: “The Power of Writing Collaborative Fiction” by David Lee Finkle LInk

Point-Less: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading

by Jenn Hayhurst

To view the chat archive click here

A pandemic, an economic crisis, and ubiquitous social unrest are begging us all to wake up and take notice of all that is fundamentally wrong within our society and public systems. Teachers, in particular, are at a crossroads to consider what we value most. What practices do we cling to as we face an uncertain start to school? Sometimes a book comes along at exactly the right moment. I think this is one of those times. Sarah Zerwin has written the book, Point-Less: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading, to help us find a better way forward.

Decreasing the emphasis on numeric grades while creating a classroom culture that embraces risk and celebrates learning is a value that requires action on our part. Any big important work begins with big important questions: Why this book? Why right now? Why is it so important that we move beyond numeric grades alone? How can we begin this shift to a more holistic assessment system in our classrooms? What if we were able to tap into students’ motivation? Just asking these questions makes me feel dizzy with excitement.

Why this book, why now?

Sarah recalls her initial motivation for writing her book:

I got to the point several years ago where I could finally see clearly how the focus on points and grades in my classroom was getting in the way of my students doing authentic work as readers and writers, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. The book captures a process I landed on after quite a bit of trial and error, and I hope that process helps my readers to think through how they might grade more meaningfully in their classrooms, in ways that work for their particular teaching contexts. I want my students to read and write so they can make sense of our complex world and use their voices to impact it; when they were focused on grades and points, they weren’t doing this important work.

Sarah M. Zerwin

When the Numbers Don’t Add Up…

Becoming a literate citizen of the world requires more than just a passing grade. A numeric grade is just one part of a bigger picture. Sarah inspires us to consider how we can grow our instructional practice to be more inclusive of our students.

Just because our districts or schools provide us with numbers-based grade books to keep track of our students’ work doesn’t mean that’s how we must get to our students’ final grades. We can design a different path that invites our students to read and write in ways that matter to their lives rather than focusing on collecting points. We can put learning solidly at the center of our classrooms so they orbit around that rather than the points-based exchange that centers the traditional grading system.

Sarah M. Zerwin

Intrinsic Motivation Leads to Realizing Potential!

Believing that students will embrace learning for learning’s sake is easier than you’d think. To make this a reality it requires a little time, a little trust, and lots of relationship building.

Our students want to do work that matters to them. They know exactly how a traditional grading focus gets in the way. Talk to them honestly about this and listen carefully–they’ll tell you what they need. It’s definitely a leap of faith to leave the traditional grading system behind, but once your students trust that you are really, truly stepping out of the grading game, they’ll follow you.

Sarah M. Zerwin

Thank you, for guest hosting #G2Great and for your leadership by writing this insightful and practical book, Sarah. If you believe that your students are more than a number, then here are some links to help you get this work started in your own classrooms:

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.

#G2Great Spark! Quick Writes to Kindle Hearts and Minds In Elementary Classrooms

by, Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to preview the book.

On Thursday, May 2, 2019, #G2Great welcomed Paul Bourque to chat with our PLN about the powerful impact quick writes can have on young writers. As I reflect on the chat and on my own writing identity, it is becoming very clear to me how true this is, not only for young writers but for writers of all ages. Writing is a chance to open up thinking and to focus on developing a perspective on things. Quick writes are a light tool that opens up the writing process in an invitational way. This is so important because the more writers write the more confident and skilled they become. When it comes to writing, volume and stamina matter a great deal:

As we prepared to have Paula be part of #G2Great, we asked her what her intentions were for writing this book. Spoken like a true writer, and teacher this is what she said:


I know to get better at something we need to practice it–a lot. As I have seen curricular requirements heaped upon schools, teachers, and students I have witnessed writing frequently becoming confined to a unit of study or a workshop block of time in a school day. I didn’t think this narrow window of writing was enough practice for our students to grow as writers and it certainly wasn’t giving them the opportunity to write for a wide variety of purposes.

I also knew teachers could not add more to their plates that needed extensive planning and assessing, so I wanted to find a way to ‘sneak’ more low-stakes writing into our school days. It had to be quick and it had to be painless. I found that inviting our students to quick write for 5-10 minutes at different times of the day for different purposes was a powerful way to get that extra practice and stimulate more thinking. These short bursts of writing could spark curiosity, explore and express opinions, encourage gratitude and mindfulness, and even foster appreciation and awareness.

I wanted to share this work we were doing with our K-6 students so I pulled together a collection of our “sparks” to help kindle hearts (with appreciation, gratitude, and empathy sparks) and minds (with metacognition, mindfulness, and mindset sparks). I hope that these small sparks ignite a flame of passion for more writing opportunities in classrooms everywhere and an appreciation for the power of writing to foster deeper thinking.  

– Paula Bourque

Paula’s words seem to whisper in my ear, as they inspire me to continue to shape my own core beliefs about what it is to teach writing. One thing that I believe is that when teachers actually practice writing themselves, their instruction becomes greatly enhanced by their real-life experiences – not as teachers, but as writers. But many teachers (and students) are reluctant to write. Paula and the #G2Great PLN shed some light on this problem. Here are some thoughts that explore entry points for writing…

I encourage you to go back to the Wakelet to either catch up or revisit Paula’s appearance on #G2Great to learn more. I was excited to write this post because I believe that Paula’s book is sure to generate more writing for your students and will inspire you to consider the many ways to leverage this approach. There are so many ways to use quick writes, from Informational Quick Writes that spark wonder and curiosity, to Social Emotional (SEL) Quick Writes that help all writers get in touch with themselves in ways that will generate real authentic writing. Her book is also a treasure trove of resources, like video files, and prompts to get you started. It’s just that good. When it comes to writing, getting started is half the battle, and when we lower the stakes we open the door.


Lower The Stakes, Raise the Risk Taking: Our students need opportunities for more low-stakes writing. Without the worry of grades or evaluation, students can feel free to take more risks and explore their thinking, free to reflect on their own words without the filter of someone else’s lens of expectation. They’ll overcome the anxiety of getting started when they initiate multiple pieces of writing each day/week and reduce their incidents of writers’ block. It may not happen right away, it takes time to build a habit and to stop worrying about what others may think so our students can discover what they think. There is no “right answer” to a Quick Write!

Paula Bourque

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

From Striving to Thriving Writers: a #G2Great Chat

by, Jenn Hayhurst

The word is out: writers make better writing teachers! Oh, boy, while many teachers readily identify as readers not as many identify as writers. The good news? Identifying as a writer doesn’t mean that we all have to be talented authors or that we all have to love writing. We do need to find ways to engage in the writing process to make authentic and meaningful connections that inform our instructional practices. How do we begin to do that work? How do we learn to see beyond our own experiences? How do we build a knowledgable community of others? Meet authors: Sara Holbrook, and Michael Salinger. On January 17, 2019, they, alongside, Stephanie Harvey (wow!), joined #G2Great to talk writing and share their collective wisdom to get this important conversation started.

Working with Scholastic, they have given writing teachers a resource to love and rely upon: From Striving to Thriving Writers. Their motivation for writing this book is simple…

“Our lessons were developed in collaboration with teachers all over the world, and we are excited to share them. We are constantly evolving, modifying, and adapting our lessons to what teachers tell us they need. What we hope is that these writing frameworks will be immediately useful to teachers no matter what writing program they have in place in their school.”

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

What exactly are frameworks for writing? After reading, From Striving to Thriving Writers, I now think of frameworks as an elegant tool that students and teachers can use to enter into the writing process. Writing frameworks offers an array of mentors to explore and support writing. They provide a solid structure to hang your hat on while granting safety so writers may take risks:

The chat was a quick one and as I returned to read over tweets to write this post, it became clear that our G2Great PLN had a deep appreciation for the powerful combination of embracing mentorship while encouraging ownership over the process. For me, that is an important takeaway that makes this book an important addition to my professional texts.

What three big takeaways readers can glean from reading this book? According to the authors…

1. Writing in subsequent versions where teachers challenge writers to greater detail and sophistication with each version.

2. Co-construct with students on each version, modeling drafting and revision.

3. Writing is a means for students to communicate their ideas, but it shouldn’t be taught in isolation – all our writing lessons involve collaborative reading, writing, and speaking, developing students’ overall communication skills.

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

This is such a well thought out and balanced approach to writing instruction, and it is just so important to be an intentional writing teacher. Teaching students how to write is something that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Regardless of their future pursuits, whether they are writing poetry, memos, blogs, or tweets. Writing is the thing that will help students represent themselves in an increasingly literate world.

This is what I believe: I believe the written word has the power to actualize our individual sense of agency and can be a source of fulfillment. I am very interested in being the best writing teacher I can be. Thank you, Sara, Michael and of course Stephanie for writing From Striving to Thriving Writers. Your book is helping me grow my practice.

If you think so too and would like to learn more please follow these links:

Writers Read Better: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work into Powerful Genre Reading

by Mary Howard

On August 2, 2018, we had the great pleasure to welcome Colleen Cruz back to our #G2Great chat as second time guest host. Our first chat on 3/30/17 celebrated her wonderful book, The Unstoppable Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom. (Heinemann, 2015). Of course, we didn’t hesitate to begin planning for a repeat visit as soon as we heard about Colleen’s amazing new book, Writers Read Better: 50+ Paired Lessons That Turn Writing Craft Work into Powerful Genre Reading (Corwin, 2018). We were thrilled to spotlight this powerful new perspective for nonfiction writing.

Colleen’s newest book explores writing and reading in such a brilliantly unique way. I quickly realized that it was important to look at this incredible information through Colleen’s very wise eyes. This week I am taking a departure from our typical chat post by sharing an interview with Colleen. I couldn’t type fast enough to capture her thinking and I am so pleased to share her exact words with you here:

Your book fills an important void in the literacy world by celebrating the reading/writing connection with a twist. Why did you decide to write about this particular topic? 

I’ve been playing with the idea behind this book for several years. Those ideas began with a game I frequently play with my friends who are also writers (Colleen wrote about this in the introduction of her book on page 16). I would read a headline and then they would guess how the lead was going to go. I noticed that my friends who were writers were far better at playing the game than those who were not. This made me really think about the idea that writers really do read better. I often think about this idea as a reader and a writer. When I’m in the middle of a book, I’m so much more aware of the moves that writers are making because I am also a writer. I notice how they use craft and structure and purpose and I can spot fake news in a minute since I can see how they are trying to manipulate the reader as a writer. I feel like this book is very much an idea that I’ve been playing with for a long time and a colleague of mine had been begging me to write about the ideas that led to this book. I wanted to write about the very process that I use in my own life and work and to put those ideas in a book to help teachers move toward this thinking. I think this book is needed because it’s a shift in our thinking. Teachers typically think about writing about reading or mentor texts so the ideas in this book are asking us to think of writing as a way to service reading and that felt so important. I didn’t write this book sooner because it felt so obscure so I wanted to really think about how I approach this in my own life to make it clear to teachers through this book. The main reason I wrote this book is that I know how it has impacted me as a writer.  As writers, we are a thousand times stronger readers than those who are not writers.  There are so many things that teachers haven’t tapped into yet and so I wanted to support this thinking.

How can we encourage teachers to embrace writing as an entry point that would also increase reading understanding? Where can teachers begin to do this important work?

I think that this depends on the priorities and needs of each teacher. Sometimes our needs aren’t always our priorities and so we have to take that into consideration to begin this work. One place I see teachers as most interested in doing that work are those who feel pressed for time – for example, middle school teachers who are compartmentalized. They are limited in the amount of time they have so approaching reading through writing makes the work more efficient and streamlined. For many teachers, the typical strategies they are using in reading to teach comprehension, decoding or engagement just aren’t working. They feel at a loss for what they can do to move those students forward when what they are doing isn’t addressing their needs. Sometimes the best way to support those kids is for them to be on the other side of a desk and assume the role of writer. Helping them to approach reading through writing gives them a meaningful purpose and empowers them as both a writer and reader. Writing gives them the behind the scenes tricks to see how texts work. When kids realize that they just wrote a piece about their dog, then they can begin to see that this will help them read a text about volcanoes. This gives us a different way into reading and it’s such a powerful process. Many teachers say that they’ve instinctively felt those connections between reading and writing and yet they haven’t looked at the ways that writing lifts reading. For those teachers, Writing About Reading is absolutely next step territory for them to explore this powerful process.

Reciprocity has long been an essential topic in literacy research. How does Writers Read Better explore the teaching of reading and writing from a different perspective?

When I first began writing, I was really surprised to learn that there were no books on this topic. I was aware that the research supporting this idea goes back as early as the 1950s. Lucy Calkins was one of the first to show that these connections existed and that often kids learn to write before they learn to read. So, this is not new research. What’s interesting to me is that Katie Wood Ray wrote about how reading supports writing in 1999 in her groundbreaking book Wondrous Words. I think a lot of people hadn’t really looked at this idea before but as soon as we read about it, it seemed so obvious. Because the ideas were so earth shaking, many teachers only think about reading coming before writing.

We as teachers tend to hold onto our thinking in one direction. I recently had an experience where I was looking at my computer screen in a video chat but it was showing the mirror image so I had a hard time knowing which hand to raise and which side of the book to hold up. A lot of teachers have used mentor texts as a way to use reading to support writing so looking at how writing supports reading may feel foreign. Many teachers believe that reading has to come first because that’s what they learned and so it feels more natural. But if teachers were to truly look at the research they could see that we can support the first independent exploration of a text in reading by exploring that thinking on paper first through writing.  I think many of us just hadn’t thought of it that way before so now we are considering a different way of looking at our teaching. For most teachers, once they’ve explored this idea they think, “Of course!” They begin to realize for the first time that it’s been there all along, like when you look at the dashboard and see the gas tank image. It’s always been there but we just haven’t noticed it before. Now we can begin to think about reading and writing in a unique way. Helping teachers maneuver this different way of thinking is the crux of my entire book. For some reason, they may be having a hard time wrapping their heads around how writing can help reading. And even though it may be what we learned first, we can change our perspective by looking from a different angle.

You created incredible lesson samples in the book. What thinking were you hoping to support by sharing these lessons?

I don’t write “lessons” so I didn’t intend to write lessons in this book. But as I started thinking about the book, I realized that in order for teachers to be able to do this work, they would actually need to see it in action. The lessons are meant as flexible ideas, so a “One thing you can do is…” kind of thinking. This helps teachers see what this could actually look like in practice. I tried to make the lessons as streamlined as possible such as creating the lesson steps at the beginning. A teacher who knows how reading and writing workshop works could just read the lesson steps and create their own lesson process while there are specific examples for those who need more support. I wanted the lessons to be written out the same way that I would do those lessons with children so that teachers could imagine one way the lessons might look. After Carl Anderson read the manuscript he said that he started playing a game with himself where he would wonder what the flip side of this reading skill was in writing. He said that it was helpful to see an example of a flip side of writing using reading. I intentionally did not include every writing skill in this book because this is not a writing for writing sake but a writing for reading sake book. The paired aspect of the lessons is the essential piece, so the only lessons in the book are lessons that support reading. You can find wonderful informational writing lessons in gorgeous books like Craft Lesson by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi or Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study. This isn’t a book just about writing, but the interplay between reading and writing. Any lessons you would purely teach for reading or for writing aren’t in the book. Pairing the lessons helps to give the message that the lessons are supporting the reciprocal skills for both reading and writing.

What looks different when a teacher is a teacher of literacy rather than a teacher of reading and a teacher of writing?

The message that I am after is that I’m not teaching a subject but am teaching you how to be a literate human being. Some teachers say, “I’m a writing teacher so I have to teach grammar, thesis statements and show not tell” or “I’m a reading teacher so I have to teach decoding, prediction, and interpretation.” They may teach both of those subjects in the day and yet they still think of them differently. When they’re in reading workshop, they’re only thinking about reading. When they’re in writing workshop, they’re only thinking about writing. My goal is to change that thinking. I do think that the digital revolution has helped this thinking. The digital revolution underlined the notion that literacy is a dialogue. We don’t just send our ideas off like a message in a bottle. Our readers read but our readers also write. This provides an amazing interplay as a reader and a writer. This idea also has huge implications in terms of things like social justice and the way we live in our world now. When we take in information like a sign in the subway, it’s not enough to take that in passively but to think about what it means in our world. So, when you’re teaching literacy you’re teaching active reading and active writing in response to it.

What do you hope this book will accomplish in the education field and inspire these changes in our teaching?

Well I have a hope and a worry for this book so I want to start with the worry. My first book, Independent Writing, was published in 2004 (Heinemann). When that book came out my hope was that teachers would open up new opportunities for kids to write and to engage in more independent projects. Unfortunately, that book was ahead of its time and many still consider it revolutionary that kids could actually run their own writing projects. My fear is that Writing About Reading will sit on the shelf as an idea that is ahead of its time even though it stands on the shoulders of esoteric research. My fear is that it might not change the way that teacher teach and that they will still see their role as teaching reading and writing vs. teaching literacy. My hope is that when teachers are teaching writing they will begin to see the connections to reading and how they can use writing to support reading and when teaching reading they will think about what could come comes before this or after this. I hope that they will begin to wonder if there is a reciprocal skill that they can explore. If we are willing to look outside of the way we think about of reading and writing then we can begin to explore writing in science, socials studies, math and across the learning day. When students are watching a music video or commercial, I would hope that they will also think about something they have written so that they can see the interrelationships between word choice, language and meaning. My hope is that teachers will start to change the way that they look at their teaching and that they will always think about the other side or ancillary skill and recognize multiple sides for another way of thinking. It’s like moving our teaching from 2-D to 3-D thinking.

Do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?

I hope that teachers know that the book is designed to make their lives easier and more fun. This is a book with a lot of fun and joy and I made a real effort to make it accessible to different learning needs with many unique access points that lean on 21stcentury ideas – not just digital tools but the mindset of the information revolution that we will need to engage in critical thinking as both producer and consumer. The biggest thing that I hope is that it makes the readers of the book understand that they can go off the rails and invent their own lessons that are playful accessible and interconnected.

I’d like to personally express my deep gratitude to Colleen both for writing this wonderful book and for taking the time to give us an insider’s view of her thinking process. Colleen has met her promise in the introduction to create a book that would capitalize on the “magic”. In Colleen’s words:

“No matter how you teach, whatever your curriculum is, or how much time you have, you will find something in this book that will not only help bring more energy and connectivity to your literacy instruction, but also maximize our time and your students’ ability to transfer literacy skills.”

Let the “magic” begin!