Preventing Summer Slide: Flexing Our Summer Literacy Muscles

By Fran McVeighWhat does summer mean in your community?  Is it about freedom from school routines or is it about supports in place to help families maneuver the tricky days and nights when parents need to work and children have more freedom?  Our #G2Great chat on May 24, 2018 had both questions and answers for “Preventing Summer Slide” but also some cautionary reminders about remembering to meet the whole needs of children. “Summer Slide” is bigger than just literacy. In these days of declining school budgets and increasing demands, this may not seem feasible YET but let’s begin with some of those general considerations for increased collaboration and communication in your community. 

Have you considered these principles?

If your summer work is already planned, take a few minutes to think about the basic needs of the students in your community over the long summer break. Will they have adequate food, shelter and transportation? Will their basic physical needs be met? How do you know? What about their social-emotional needs? How will you know that your planned summer work is effective? What information will you be collecting from the participants and their families?

Preventing Summer Slide:  What will it take?

I found two major goals/processes in this week’s chat.  The first follows the research findings of Allington and McGill-Franzen. They found that providing books for students to read at home over the summer was both cheaper and more effective than summer school programs. (link) Ways to do that include:

  • Giving students books
  • Having school libraries open
  • Teachers who continue to have book conversations during the summer
  • Teachers loaning books
  • Groups that give books

Any and all of these actions allow students to continue reading, flexing their literacy muscles. With high levels of practice, just like in sports, students maintain their current levels of confidence and competence. Students who read, write, and talk about their passionate and/or pleasurable literacy work increase the likelihood of counteracting “summer slide”. If any of this work can also involve partnerships formed in the student’s own household, there is an even greater likelihood of maintaining or increasing skills over the summer when one or two hours per week are dedicated to shared literacy actions like a narrated photo book of fun and play during the summer!

A second goal or process advocated for totally changing our approach to summer work is evidenced by this tweet.

Would efforts be more effective if there was a deliberate plan to include the following components: community-based, culturally relevant, strength-based, family-centered and literacy-based in order to LAUNCH SUMMER LEARNING?

What would each of these elements look like?


Capitalize on activities available through county parks and recreation offices, municipal music/arts/museum programs, and even explore “service options” with elderly housing units. Weekly bingo games with senior citizens can be a treat for students and seniors. Plan field trips to locations in the community. Set up a comprehensive schedule that builds on Red Cross swimming lessons or open gym sessions. Evidence of community-based efforts to promote literacy would include this sign posted in Gilmore City, IA and shared via @herz6kids.

Culturally relevant

Build relationships that cultivate strong culturally relevant interests and include teacher-student relationships that empower and motivate students. Check community calendars for meetings and events that provide cultural experiences. Promote peer teaching and learning relationships that may begin in books but further extend to face-to-face interactions.


Allow students to have choices in activities in terms of recreational activities and sports as well as reading, writing, speaking, listening, drama, and math activities. Build on what the students can do, want to do, and mirror the lives they see at home and in their neighborhood.


Build on strengths of the family by asking other members of their household to participate and respond to activities both at home and in the community. Create books of shared family stories and events. Encourage all family members to write about the same events from a different point of view. Collect recipes, songs, or poems to share with others.


What if summer literacy-based work was about choice, wonder, passion, and not the same old routine from the school year?  The use of Wonderopolis or independent choice would be one source of promoting joyful self-exploration that helps develop life long readers and writers.

For further information about a successful summer launch and summer program, check out this tweet from Valinda Kimmel.

“Summer Slide” was first reported in 1906, and folks have been searching for solutions ever since.  There is NO, ONE single solution.  It’s a complicated problem with many solutions that will assist students in maintaining or growing reading, writing, and learning. Collaborative partnerships will be necessary in order to provide optimal learning environments for all students. Considering novel solutions that involve new learning environments and opportunities to explore personal choice and wonder to this century old problem will allow students to thrive and not fall prey to the “summer slide.”

Selected tweets that were the source of ideas for this blog post:

Additional Resources:

Wakelet archive for #G2Great chat – Link

Video – McAuliffe on YouTube (for parents) – Link

Allington- Summer Slide article   Link  

Pernille Ripp – “On Summer Checkouts” 

Valinda Kimmel – “3 Surefire Ways to Avoid the Summer Slide”  

NCTE Middleweb:

NOTES FROM THE NERDY BOOK CLUB Book Floods and Book Deserts

Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Cindy Minnich, and Katherine Sokolowski

180 Days with Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle

By Fran McVeigh

What a night!  Before the chat began Paul Hankins suggested that our theme song might be Petty’s “Free Falling” and as it ended Colleen Cruz talked about re-reading the stream “…to bask in the glow of @pennykittle and @KellyGToGo.” Either celebration would be so appropriate for that hour in time. Less than ten minutes was all it took for #G2Great to trend in the top “3” due to the wisdom flying through the twittersphere so I knew narrowing down a focus for this post was going to be a challenge as Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle joined the #G2Great chat table for their first time on May 17, 2018 to discuss 180 Days:  Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents.

I first heard about this book last November at NCTE 17 from a panel presentation consisting of Nancy Atwell, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. The chair for the panel was Nancy’s daughter. Her introductions were fabulous. Each one was better than a five paragraph essay –  well constructed and so thought-provoking. I was mesmerized. I was entertained. I was so curious.

In that session Kelly and Penny shared the overview of their collaboration and I knew instantly that this was a book that I could not wait to get my hands on. But it wasn’t  just the content of their presentation.  I was completely awestruck by their behaviors.  When Nancy Atwell went to the podium, Kelly and Penny (seated on stage) took out their notebooks, poised to write and then did write throughout Nancy’s presentation.  I was so amazed by this that I tweeted out a picture that showed them, on stage, writing while Nancy was speaking. Then when it was time for their part of the presentation, it was no surprise that at times, they finished each other’s sentences . . . truly collaborative partners. Here’s the picture and a link to a brief description of their session.

Many may think this is a book only for secondary ELA teachers.


I would recommend this book to EVERY literacy coach, curriculum, and/or department chair in the district as well as every administrator.


Because the first half of the book deals totally with values and beliefs that define the decision-making process for teachers.  Elementary teachers can review it from the lenses of how they prioritize their own literacy instruction, coaching, and observation because the reading and writing standards are similar PK -12. Their work would be parallel to that of the secondary students and teachers. (Not all primary teachers will believe that this book is relevant, so don’t force them to read it!)

As the lead up to this chat, I wrote a blog post on Tuesday with many of the links listed at the end of this post. I also watched Twitter comments during the week, and then Brett Whitmarsh, (@HeinemanPub), posted this podcast the morning of the chat.  It was a read aloud by Kelly and Penny.  

A read aloud of text that I had read twice before.  

A read aloud that I have listened to twice.  

The depth of my knowledge after multiple readings and listenings cannot be measured objectively, but I can tell you that the “story” behind the text and my connections to the text have increased exponentially. I will probably listen once more as I continue composing this piece.  I didn’t annotate the text, I didn’t take copious notes. I really worked on “holding my ideas” across the text with some jots and post it flags as I “spied” on my own reading in hopes of finding the big ideas.

And then came the chat.

The two areas from their book title that continue to fascinate me are both “engagement” and “empowerment”. Do you know high school students? Do they routinely feel engaged? Do they routinely feel empowered? How does this play out in real life with the students that Kelly and Penny have in California and New Hampshire?


How do students get to the “deep thinking that reflects intellectual growth”?  Allowing student choice is a critical element. How much choice? This is most evident in reading where Kelly and Penny propose that 50% of student reading is independent reading where students choose their own reading text. How does the “content” fit into a plan to give students choice?  This entire book is about answering: “How does it all fit in?”

When students are engaged, teachers  and students will be able to dig into deeper levels of understanding. Core beliefs found in their previous books, like Book Love, by Penny and Readicide by Kelly share foundational thinking for their literacy instruction but 180 Days: Two Teachers and their Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents  provides the nuts and bolts about what this really looks and sounds like in classrooms.  Then you will discover their ideas on how to accomplish it. This is simultaneously overlaid with the WHYs so that you can follow the thinking that drove all of Kelly and Penny’s decisions.   

If students have choice, some teachers believe it feels “loosey-goosey” and seems like “free falling” because the teacher cannot plan out the year during back to school workshop days.

Free falling.  

Falling without a net.  

But as  a teacher plans there is a need to keep a laser-like focus on the end goal for the year while also waiting to see the eyes of the students before outlining the year. Within this plan is the flexibility to add/change to meet the interests of students.  An example from this school year was a mini-unit that Kelly created, planned and ultimately shared after the Parkland shooting. (Mass Shooting Unit Link)

Tweets from Kelly and Penny that Support Engagement:

As I read back through the Wakelet, I identified three themes that I felt supported “Engagement” in our chat.  We will be hearing more about engagement in two weeks when we discuss Ellin Keene’s gorgeous new book, Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning, but for now the themes of Joy, Reading and Writing Lives, and Standards and Assessments from Kelly and Penny’s tweets support increased student engagement and helped me organize my thoughts.  Do note that I deliberately left in the number of retweets and likes so that you can see how the #G2Great chat members (and or other friends within the first 12 hours) responded to this wisdom.

Which tweets stand out in your mind?  

Which ones would you like to continue a conversation about?


Empowerment is the second promise from the authors. What does empowerment mean? Again, students who feel they have choice and voice in their daily lives will feel empowered as well as able to reach a higher level of engagement. The two elements are not easily separated. The curriculum allows students to strengthen their reading and writing skills. The daily framework for instruction allows students to be more successful with less “push” and “scaffolding” by the teacher. Knowing that half of their time during the year will be spent on self-selected books is empowering. Respecting students’ lives outside of school is also empowering for students as it reduces external stress in their lives.

The clearer the learning targets, the more efficient and effective the instruction becomes.  The clearer teachers are about their belief systems, the easier they can articulate the relevance to the students. And yet, truly empowering adolescents will require change in the actions and work of students as well as teacher’s roles.  Students will have the power to control their learning within the class. The teacher’s role will be reduced as students take the lead in discussions and book club work.  This is not work for the faint-hearted. Students will resist in the beginning.


Because it is work!

Why does it matter?  

Because the WHY should be guiding all decisions!

Tweets from Kelly and Penny that Support Empowerment:

Specific tweets from Kelly and Penny that supported “Empowerment” seemed to fall into two categories:  Actions and Work of the Students and Teacher’s Roles. When students are empowered, there is no need for “fake” accountability systems. Students meeting in book groups with students across the country were interested in completing their work in order to be a part of the cross-country collaboration. Note particularly what one of Penny’s seniors said as reported in Penny’s first tweet below.

Which tweets stand out in your mind?  

Which ones would you like to continue a conversation about?

The chat revealed that Kelly and Penny originally began with 20 core beliefs and they did whittle it down to 10.  Their schedules provide for daily reading and writing. Kelly (from the book and a live PD session last week) has 10 minutes of reading and writing every day.  Time matters in terms of how it is used each day, as well as across the year and throughout the secondary careers of our students.

Time matters:

Just as I can tell you that a thousand seconds = 16 minutes,

a million seconds = 12 days,

a billion seconds equals 31 years,

and a trillion seconds equals 31,688 years.

Seconds do matter! A sense of urgency is needed!

Being responsive to our students does not mean employing a whip and timer for every time segment in class, but it does require that we pay attention to the balance of time and not waste precious minutes that take away from student application and transfer of reading and writing. At all grade levels.  With all students.

Those are non-negotiables.  The videos in the book are priceless. I remain impressed with the collaborative nature of this work.  The need to have another professional to discuss your ideas with, to plan together, to teach in each other’s classrooms.  How can book clubs meet virtually in California and New Hampshire? What do students (used to sun and sand in California) who may have never seen snow fall from the sky have in common with students from New Hampshire who ride snowmobiles to school in the winter?

What questions remain?

How do YOU fit it all in?

What will YOU do to engage and empower yourself, your peers, and your students?  How do YOU fit it all in?


Additional Resources:

Wakelet (to review all tweets from the chat)

180 Days

Sample Chapter

Heinemann podcast 1

Heinemann podcast 2

Facebook page

Podcast part 1 – Read Aloud

Resourceful – Planning

Travis Crowder Review

Kelly Gallagher website

Penny Kittle website

When Writers Drive the Workshop: Honoring Young Voices and Bold Choice

by Mary Howard

I was thrilled when Brian Kissel took our #G2Great seat of honor on 8/10/17 as we settled in to engage in a Twitter style celebration of his incredible new book, When Writers Drive the Workshop: Honoring Young Voices and Bold Choices (Stenhouse, 2017). Judging from the response, I’m obviously not the only educator inspired by his celebration of writers between two covers.

My growing friendship with Brian was an unexpected gift that began when I was perusing new books at Stenhouse and happened upon his book by a stroke of pure luck. The title literally reached out from the screen and grabbed me by the heartstrings so I excitedly opened the preview and began reading the first page of his introduction:

“Today I’m worried. I’m worried because I know too many classrooms where mini-lessons begin with “seed” stories that germinate from laminated watermelons, predetermined conferences that always start with a compliment and end with a next step, and, if it’s included at all, an author’s chair or sharing time entirely driven by the teacher to reinforce a point he or she made during the mini-lesson. Rarely do children reflect on their own writing. And if they do, it’s often to fulfill a teaching agenda rather than a learner’s agenda. When did packaged programs and Pinterest replace children as the driving force of instruction? When did everything start to look the same? (Brian Kissel, page 5)

Brian’s powerful words and two questions made it clear that I had just found a kindred spirit. In typical enthusiastic Mary style, I immediately sent an email with a #G2Great invitation at the forefront of my mind. And so began our first exchange illustrating our shared concern:

Mary: I just found out about your new book, When Writers Drive the Workshop and I must say I’m very excited by your message. I’ve become increasingly frustrated that the heart and soul of writer’s workshop has been confiscated and steadily replaced in far too many schools with instructional boxes that are turning teachers into compliant disseminators. Your book was a breath of fresh air.

Brian: For the past several years I’ve been bothered by the workshop being overtaken by these packaged programs, scripted lessons, Pinterest, etc. Our writers should be the curriculum!  So, I really wanted to write a book that puts the focus back on writers and gives teachers permission to trust that their writers can lead the way. I hope that message comes across in the book.

Oh yes, my wonderful new friend… that message came across loud and clear! Early in our #G2Great chat with Brian, our first conversation resurfaced in a Twitter exchange:  

Brian’s words should strengthen our resolve to reclaim writer’s workshop in honor of our writers. As I write celebratory words of an unexpected friendship, I reflect on our #G2Great chat and find six Brian-inspired Driving Lessons to gently nudge us to return writers to a rightful place of honor in a writer’s workshop model envisioned by great minds so many years ago:

Driving Lesson 1: Keep the Writer in Your View

If we hope to reclaim a writer’s workshop in the spirit of these great minds, we must begin by relinquishing a death grip on lessons created by those who do not know our writers. A quick google search of the words “writer’s workshop” puts an unlimited array of resources at your fingertips. But do we ever pause to consider if this plethora of questionable grab and go ideas and tools are worthy of our writers? Lesson scripts are plentiful in this day and age, but Donald Grave’s vision that we must teach the writer should highlight our obligation to reach higher by being responsive to the writer in front of us.

Driving Lesson 2: Be Present in Writer Moments

Brian reminds us that one of the most important ways to be responsive to the writer in front of us is to truly listen to the thinking we readily and willingly invite in the course of writing. We can only glean from the wisdom each writer brings to the writing table by paying close attention to little voices that rise joyfully above our own. When we are willing to step into precious learning moments that occur within the writer’s workshop experience, we acknowledge that our silence can make room for in-the-head writerly wisdom – wisdom that can lead us in unexpected directions we may never have considered before.

Driving Lesson 3: Respect Writer Perceptions

The first question we should be asking is, “Who is the writer in front of me?” The value of reflection, both from the writer’s and teacher’s perspective, was a recurring theme across the chat. Reflection allows us to see the writer from all sides using both a cognitive and emotional lens. How our children perceive of themselves as writers will play an essential role in the instructional process. In the course of listening we begin to understand the writer through their writing, their words and their actions during the writing workshop experience as well as across the entire learning day. The writing is the vehicle but the writer is our inspiration and instructional motivation that moves us into action. 

Driving Lesson 4: Embrace Writer Instincts

Why is it that goal setting is often viewed as something we do for the writer rather than using the writing experience as an opportunity to turn thinking inward. When we use their writing as a source of goal-setting inspiration, we can help children notice new possibilities as they emerge so that they can take ownership of this process. We support this thinking by acknowledging in the moment understandings that can move children from where they are to where they could be. When we actively engage writers in learning from the mindset of a writer in action, we can co-collaborate a journey of unique student-inspired step by step moves that will allow us to merge both their needs and interests.

Driving Lesson 5: Celebrate Writer Journeys

The word ‘choice’ came up repeatedly in each chat discussion. Brian reminded us that we not only need to ensure that choice is seen as an integral part of the writer’s workshop model in general but that we broaden our view of choice. When we explore choice from a broader scope, we can begin to consider how to offer our writers choice in not just what they write but also where, how, and with whom they write. Choice is a critical ingredient as it actively engages the writer in a writer-centered view of writing where joy ignite new thinking. But this will only occur if we welcome our writers to the decision making table.

Driving Lesson 6: Release Writer Potential

Our final lesson begins with another important question, “Why do we write? First and foremost we write for written expression within a safe environment where we can explore who we are and what we think and feel. But an inspired exchange with Courtney Kinney illustrates that we also write to share our ideas with others in ways that could actually change the world we live in. When we beckon a wider audience, we increase the potential for social change within and beyond our school walls. These shared experiences can give our writers the confidence and desire to use their words in powerful and purposeful ways.


As I write the closing words of this post, I can’t help but smile as I reflect back on my passionate exploration that led me to Brain and his amazing book. What began as a shared concern about the current state of writer’s workshop has since become a collective commitment to at long last put the writer back into writer’s workshop. We are inspired by Brian’s wisdom and his devotion to children. This devotion is evident with his book dedication to Tameka, a child he describes as his most important teacher who “taught me that writers must drive the workshop.”

Brian’s Twitter page quote by Isaac Asimov further reflects his spirit of resolve:

Your words are ‘planting the seeds that will flower’ into amazing young writers who reside in the writer’s workshop our children deserve Brian…

Thank you for reminding us that our writers are the curriculum!

Writer’s Workshop Learning Images Brian shared during #G2Great

More inspirational tweets from our #G2Great friends

Links to learn more about Brian

Brian’s Book(Stenhouse)

Link to Brian’s YouTube Channel:

1st Grade Author’s Chair with Brian

Brian’s Reading List


Brian’s Website:



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:


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher

by Mary Howard

Since our #G2Great chat launch on January 8, 2015, I have come to know each member of our remarkable #G2Great family as an unstoppable force. These passionate educators demonstrate their steadfast commitment to teaching each week, refusing to let anything stand in the way of professional excellence. On March 30, 2017, #G2Great explored unstoppable with guest host Colleen Cruz, author of the incredible book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom. (Heinemann, 2015)

The dictionary defines unstoppable with descriptors that any teacher would be proud to possess including indomitable; unbeatable; invincible; inexorable; uncontrollable; irrepressible. Certainly these are all professionally desirable characteristics, but it was two particular descriptors that spoke to me personally:

I have been privileged to know many unstoppable educators over the years and I am convinced that inextinguishable flames of educators ON FIRE is the fuel that drives them to move along a pathway in a life-long professional journey to unstoppable.

In the foreword to Colleen’s book, Lucy Calkins asks us to name our fears as we linger in ‘uncertainty and doubt’ where hidden opportunities reside. Calkins is the very definition of unstoppable, so we began by asking our #G2Great family to identify their fears in the form of challenges that can thwart our efforts to become the unstoppable writing teachers our children deserve.

Colleen led this discussion by highlighting a challenge that was reiterated in one form or another in tweet after tweet.

With so few precious minutes allotted in each day and so much to accomplish in those precious minutes, TIME was the clear challenge winner. Not surprisingly, our winner seems to have a trickle-down effect that directly or indirectly impacts many challenges that plague teachers:

But we only identify challenges so that we can discover hidden opportunities that elevate our work and enrich the writing lives of students. Challenges we face in the teaching of writing can feel overwhelming, but Colleen reminds us what matters most in a Heinemann video, Writing as a Tool for Thinking:

We can’t solve all the problems we’re faced with in writing instruction but we can choose how to respond to them. And our responses will make all the difference.”

As I look back on #G2Great tweets, seven essential stepping stones began to emerge that could help us as we maneuver our way from challenges to opportunities on our journey to becoming unstoppable writing teachers:

Follow Your Passions

Teachers who make writing a daily priority would be first agree that choice is a critical factor for developing as writers at any age. Colleen reminds us that all writers gravitate toward topics that reflect their passions. Through our passions we stand to learn a great deal both about our topic of choice and the process of writing. Unstoppable writing teachers on fire know that choice feeds burning embers of desire in ways that inspire us to put words on paper in the first place. Choice honors writing as a personal venture.

Acknowledge the Inevitable Struggle

Once again, Colleen speaks about writing from personal experience. Any writer would tell you – even one working on book 10 – that writing is a struggle into the unknown. If we want our writers to be willing to lean into that struggle and emerge victorious, we must first acknowledge that it exists both from their perspective and our own. We share how we meet this struggle in our own writing and then support students as they move through the muck and the mire that every writer knows exists. When we show our student writers how we face and move past the struggle in those moments when it rears its ugly head (and it will), we are showing them what it means to be “totally a writer.”

Make the Writing Process Visible

It is simply not possible to teach writing well without an insider’s perspective. This means that as professionals we immerse ourselves in the very process we are teaching by making our own writing a daily priority. With that first hand view of writing and the struggle that comes hand in hand with our commitment to writing, we can then make each aspect of what it means to be a writer public at all stages. Making our own thinking visible gives students a front row seat to what we do as writers so that we can then offer them opportunities to apply this thinking in their own writing – first with support but then ultimately on their own. This is the SHOW don’t tell spirit at its finest.

Put Writers in the Writing Driver’s Seat

Colleen’s tweet was a celebration of students as teachers from Jenn Hayhurst and Jill DeRosa. We model the process of writing and offer support to build a strong foundation of understanding, but then we step back so students can put their new learning into action without us. This stepping back gives our writers room to assume a lead role as we encourage independent problem solving. We have the courage to let students spend more time in the writers driving seat than out of it so that they will have the real life opportunities to meet the inevitable struggles that come with writing as they assume increasing control of their own writing life.

Know the Writer in Front of You

Since we can’t teach writers we don’t know, we draw from a wide range of formative assessment practices. These day-to-day opportunities fill us with the knowledge about our student writers we can then use to support them in the course of their own writing. Colleen highlights kidwatching as a powerful knowledge gathering process. Once we step back and put our student writers in the driver’s seat, we then have the freedom to enjoy the view as students actively engage in writing – both within and beyond the struggle. With this freedom to become an observer comes understandings that will inform our next step efforts.

Create an Instructional ZOOM LENS

While whole class writing instruction is one component of a powerful balanced writing design, we must also create varied structures that will allow us to meet the needs of unique learners. This differentiated support affords us time and space to meet those unique needs. To accommodate these support opportunities we need instructional frameworks in place, making side-by-side and small group support designs essential. These targeted support opportunities allow us to address the specific challenges writers face in their own writing as each writing opportunity is a springboard to support the writer in front of us.

Build a Supportive Bridge

Colleen’s exchange with Tara Smith reflects that unstoppable writing teachers support students on their journey to becoming unstoppable writers. Colleen reminds us that this risk-taking only happen within a safe learning environment where writing risks are both invited and honored. This supportive environment of risk-taking in great volumes, benefits both the teacher and student on their personal journey to unstoppable.


As I close my reflection on an amazing #G2great chat with  guest host Colleen Cruz, my initial definition of unstoppable comes back into focus. These seven stepping stones to unstoppable bring to mind classrooms where both teachers and students are ON FIRE and those flames are inextinguishable when we make it a priority to celebrate the writing and writer from all sides – ours and theirs.

Thank you for supporting our personal journey to UNSTOPPABLE, Colleen!


Twitter account


The Unstoppable Writing Teacher (Heinemann)

Independent Writing: One Teacher—Thirty-Two Needs, Topics, and Plans (Heinemann)

Writing as a Tool for Thinking (Heinemann post by Colleen)

Writing is Really Hard (Heinemann post from Colleen)

Where the Meaning Is (Fran Haley’s post on Unstoppable Writing Teacher


Hidden Gems: Naming & Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student’s Writing

by Mary Howard

On January 26, 2017, #G2Great enthusiastically welcomed Katherine Bomer to our Twitter home. Our enthusiasm was obviously shared by a multitude of educators who have been collectively inspired by Katherine’s beautiful book, Hidden Gems: Naming & Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student’s Writing.

Before the #G2Great clock even signaled our 8:30 EST welcome, Katherine set the tone for the evening with a tweet that instantly spread a shared sense of professional appreciation for student writing. The twitter door quickly opened and educators rushed forward to engage in lively (and appreciative) conversations that would breathe new life into Katherine’s words. For the next hour, children took center stage as we celebrated the beauty in their writing

In Katherine’s remarkable Heinemann blog post, See the Brilliance in All Student Writing, she reiterates her heartfelt dream for celebrating the ‘hidden gems’ in student writing:

And fall in love we did! As I looked back at Katherine’s joy-infused tweets, hidden gems tucked lovingly in her words drifted graciously to the surface and stretched across the Twittersphere. Suddenly,’falling in love’ with student writing took on a new sense of urgency through Katherine’s Hidden Gems: 


Katherine’s Hidden Gem #1: Embrace “Awestruck Appreciation” for ALL children

As educators who are committed to the success of our students, we are resolute in our belief that each child is worthy of celebration. We tuck appreciative ‘love’ dust into our back pocket reserved for any child who happens to be in our presence, secure in the knowledge that their hidden gems are awaiting discovery. Our celebrations are not reserved for a select group of children because their writing “earns” our appreciation but for EVERY child because their writing “deserves” our appreciation.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #2: See Student Writing through New Eyes

Each child brings a unique writing fingerprint to the experience. These distinctive imprints range from hidden gems just out of view to those that beckon us to move beneath the surface until we find them. We recognize that there will be different ‘levels of hidden’ but know that a gem is always there even if it is not immediately visible to us. Our commitment to find those gems drives us to look, read, and search until we do. And when it feels hopelessly out of view, we call on our fellow gem seekers because we know that they are likely to see what we cannot.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #3: Set Your Sights to Higher Levels of Expectation

While celebrating “sweet, quirky, moving writing” is at the heart of hidden gem seeking, we know it’s about so much more. We do not celebrate a product by viewing writing as surface level marks on a page, rather celebrating the process that gave meaning to those marks and why that meaning touched us in the first place. We know that it is this process that will enrich our teaching and thus student writing so we make children privy to the process in order to elevate the very thinking that will elevate our own. This writing process initiates deeper conversations with children so the thinking behind the hidden gems illuminates pathways to new opportunities to impact future gems worth celebrating.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #4: Make What May Be Invisible Visible 

The hidden gems in student writing stretch beyond the writing because they reflect our desire to recognize and acknowledge the wonderful things children are already doing at that moment in their writing lives. Looking for the writer’s NOW hidden gems sharpen our lens to support the writer’s LATER hidden gems. Zooming in on those gems today allows us to name glimmers of brilliance in the moment to set off a domino effect for new gems in the moments ahead. We use these hidden gems to create a series of stepping stones that will inevitably lead children to new possibilities in the next piece and the one after that.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #5: Respect Student Writing  as a ‘Living Document’

Each minute we are fortunate to spend in the company of children is a gift wrapped in a precious package of opportunity. This gift allows us to change places with students as we become the student and they become our teachers. As we look at their writing, we get a glimpse of the hopes, fears, dreams and joys that exist both within and beyond our walls. And as a result, we don’t just come to know their writing but to understand who they are as humans. Those glimpses help us see the writer behind the writing and our personal and professional lives are enriched because they shared their lives with us.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #6: Plant Writing Seeds that will Blossom

Teachers who celebrate the hidden gems in student writing seek to constantly plant new seeds. We accomplish this by gathering beautiful books by authors who become our co-conspirators. We invite them into our room through their books because we know we can join hands in our efforts to inspire hidden gems yet to come. With each collaboration we gain new understandings about the writing and the writer in front of us and we apply these understandings in ways we could not possibly have envisioned alone. As teachers and authors merge their efforts, we plant new hidden gem seeds lovingly beneath the writing soil until the next reading where we can celebrate anew.

Katherine’s Hidden Gem #7: Love Deeply and with Resolute Intentionality

I can’t help but wish that every teacher would print Katherine’s beautiful words so her message would be in view each time we linger beside a child and a piece of writing. When we seek to “intentionally find something to love’ we embrace a mindset that allows us to continuously expect the unexpected. We know that each time we look closely at a piece of writing from the heart, we will see the writer and find hidden gems to celebrate again and again. And our love affair with student writing then leads us to new possibilities that will enrich the lives of both students and teachers!


Katherine’s book is a virtual call to arms and teachers are ready to heed that call in a passionate quest to find and celebrate the hidden gems that reside within our students’ writing. Katherine implores us to uncover the beauty in their writing, holding their hidden gems in our hands so that we can put them on display for children to enjoy as much as we do. And in doing so we instill a shared sense of joy as we both look at writing with “astonished, appreciative, awe-struck eyes” in a mutual celebration. That vision is definitely worthy of love.

The entire #G2Great family is grateful to Katherine for inspiring a celebratory journey where each of us will continue to uncover hidden gems in student writing everywhere.

Learn more about Katherine Bomer at the links below




Hidden Gems

Heinemann page

Heinemann Podcast

Hidden Gems Interview with Stacey Shubitz

See the Brilliance in All Students Writing






Georgia Heard: Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing

by Mary Howard


On October 20, 2016, #G2Great was delighted to welcome guest host Georgia Heard. Georgia is the author of the incredible new book from Heinemann, Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic WritingWithin moments of announcing Georgia would be our guest host, an enthusiastic hum spread across Twitter and grew to a fever pitch throughout the chat.

Every once in a while a book comes along that emanates JOY. “Joy” is custom made for Heart Maps where Georgia takes us on a joyful ‘heart journey’ with student-centered maps in hand to celebrate the inner writer within each child. Page after glorious page is filled with the perfect blend of carefully crafted advice from the heart and illustrated heart maps that bring her sage advice to life. Twenty Heart Map templates in Georgia’s book have already captivated writers by giving their ideas a ‘heart home.’

During the chat, Georgia posed two questions that should give us all pause for thought.  These questions should also remind us why we need Heart Maps in schools everywhere:



Georgia’s questions reflect the spirit of Heart Maps as a flexible process designed to awaken writers’ hearts from the inside out. And so in celebration of our joyful journey with Georgia as our #G2Great guide, I reflect back on our chat through her eyes with six HEART SIGNPOSTS – from her heart to ours!


Writing from the Heart begins with MODELS

Heart Maps allow us to set the stage for student writing as we show children how to unleash their hopes, dreams and wishes from heart to paper. With an array of Heart Maps at our fingertips, we encourage them to use the one that makes most sense as we offer a powerful reflection tool they can use again and again.


Writing from the Heart is fueled by PASSION

Heart Maps celebrate the amazing stories children brings to the learning table. We honor our writers by helping them breathe new life into those stories using words and images lovingly placed on a Heart map of their choice. Passion helps them rediscover stories and relive them on the wings of writing.


Writing from the Heart extends an INVITATION

Heart maps invite children to capture whatever story they want to tell with room to envision what is possible. We do this by creating a visible forum to record thinking, unfettered by mechanics that thwart their efforts so thinking will become a springboard along a wonderful new path to writing.


Writing from the Heart inspires CURIOSITY

Heart Maps allow children to linger a bit longer in their own thinking and use this as a scaffold to writing. We are inspired by our curiosity about student ideas waiting to be awakened which in turn inspires theirs. It is this shared sense of curiosity that leads us on an exciting combined expedition.


Writing from the Heart celebrates EXPLORATION

Heart Maps give students time to explore matters of the heart, joyfully sifting through the ‘experiences that beg to be written’. We believe deeply that life experiences lead to profound writing if we are willing to take the time to let those life experiences blossom into view in personally relevant and meaningful ways.


Writing from the Heart beckons COLLABORATION

Heart Maps give children a visible tool they can hold in their hands. This concrete reference can then be shared with others as they work together to explore the words and images on their hearts collectively. Collaborative dialogue is a powerful way to transform ideas from heart map to heart writing.


Georgia’s words remind us that we must make time for what matters – and writing from the heart matters deeply. Since we started with Georgia’s question, let’s end with a question and a hope that sums up her message…


We respond to Georgia’s question by creating an atmosphere where kids will “ache with caring” and use Heart Maps to inspire children everywhere. We are so grateful for Georgia’s gift of a “metaphoric heart map as a means to discover stories” and we accept her challenge to awaken writers “most secret, true selves” while in the process awakening our most secret, true personal and professional hearts!


Georgia’s hope is answered as teachers across the world use Heart Maps to give writers a home for their thoughts and dreams as we release the writer that has always resided inside. May Georgia’s images in Heart Maps and #G2Great examples below inspire you as you continue your own joyful heart journey in the company of children.

In Heart Maps Georgia writes, “My hope is that as you explore heart mapping with your writers, you will fall in love with the stories and poems, truths and courage that will unfold–both theirs and your own” (p. 131).

And so we will Georgia. And so we will!


Bathe your heart in these wonderful images of Heart Maps Georgia posted during our #G2Great chat

Use these links below to get to know Georgia


Heart Maps Facebook Page


Amy Ludwig Vanderwater Heart Maps Post

Heart Maps Book

Two Writing Teachers Heart Maps Review

More books by Georgia Heard

Heinemann Post on #G2Great Chat