Writing Clubs: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community in the Writing Classroom

by Fran McVeigh

Wakelet archive of chat tweets here

On Thursday, March 31, 2022, the #G2Great chat featured Lisa Eickholdt and Patricia Vitale-Reilly discussing their book Writing Clubs: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community in the Writing Classroom. Neither author is new to #G2Great. Lisa was a guest host at #g2Great for The Power of Student Writing as Mentor Text on September 3 and 10, 2015 and Patty was a guest host on June 8, 2017 for Engaging Every Learner and October 19, 2017 for Supporting Struggling Learners. This new text about Writing Clubs has a magical and practical feel after the disjointedness of education in the pandemic years.

The subtitle says: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community. As I reflected on that phrase and thumbed back through the text after our chat, I chuckled to myself. Of course the three Cs were in alphabetical order. However, the most logical place to begin is community and then work backwards through the remaining Cs. Let’s get started.

Why Community?

The Writing Clubs that Lisa and Patty describe in this book are based on a writing workshop classroom. That means that certain conditions already exist and one of the most important is community. The trust. The respect. The safe environment. All writers value each other and their experiences. That power of a community naturally and planfully evolves into a collaborative setting when teachers capitalize on the time that is available for students to write.

Ideas for building community from Lisa and Patty:

Why Collaborate?

Pre-chat Quote

Research on the power of talk appears across the content areas. The increase in engagement, written production, increased depth of thoughts . . . all are possible with collaboration. The teacher has some decisions to make. Should students work as partners? Triads? Partners squared with a second partner group? Space determines some limitations and yet technology can transcend physical space when students are ready to read, review and offer feedback on each other’s work.

Why Choice?

Choice.

Do students really have choice?

What’s the reality?

Do students “get to choose” what they write about in their student writing notebooks? What they write on a daily basis? When they write? The formats they use? What do we know about what students WANT to write if we would only let them?

Consider this . . .

Conduct a status check for students. Then also conduct a status check for teachers. Move into a deep look at writing identity. If the writers have a timeline of their writing identity, have them code the times when they had choice in their writing. They may code choice of topic separately from choice in format. What information are you looking for? What information will guide your future instruction?

Why does choice matter? Carolyn succintly says it here.

When teachers responded to a question about choice, these kindergartners had 95% choice. Some high school students had little to no choice in writing. Similarly, college students had few choices.

So are students writing because they are compliant students? Do they view themselves as writers? Are they writing enough to improve? Where do they go for feedback? Do they have real audiences? Real purposes to write?

And then Part 2 of the book . . . Chapters 3 – 8 . . . the good stuff! Complement Clubs and Stand-Alone Clubs

“I barely have time to teach all the requirements. Where will this fit?”

Teacher question

Maybe you will find logical places in your calendar. Those few days before a longer break. A more casual setting during state tests. Those final days of a semester. Where writing clubs will fit for you and your students may need more exploration, but make a plan. Don’t let it fall off your radar.

The good news is that Lisa and Patty provide the rationale for complement clubs in process, craft, and digital clubs. Stand-alone clubs are genre, author, and conventions clubs. And (drumroll . . .) these clubs can be face to face, hybrid or digital learning. The frameworks have considerations for each type of learning environment.

So many resources. So many opportunities. So much joy in writing.

Lisa and Patty provide examples such as the chart below on collaborations or possible authors, or a month long outline of a club. These examples make this book a necessity for any teacher looking to ramp up their writing instruction and student engagement in writing! With Lisa and Patty’s expertise as your guide, you can consider the clubs that would benefit your students and begin immediately!

You’ve read a lot about the chat and the book from my perspective as a writer and reader helping folks navigate the writing terrain that I see and hear in districts. Let’s hear from the authors about their intentions and expectations for this book!

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

Patty began using writing clubs in her classroom years ago and saw the tremendous difference it made with her students. She loved how these clubs fostered choice, collaboration, and community. When she shared this idea in sessions she and Lisa were leading, the participants wanted to know how they could implement writing clubs.  After seeing the teacher’s excitement, the idea for the book was born. 

We have seen the impact writing clubs can have on students’ writing. Providing students with time to collaborate with their peers on self-selected writing projects and studies, can reignite the workshop classroom. We hope teachers will take the idea of writing clubs and run with it. We give examples of six types of clubs teachers might implement, but we’d love to see what new clubs teachers come up with on their own. 

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

The title of the book really says it all. In particular, the words after the colon: Choice, Collaboration, and Community. We believe these three C’s are the key to excellent writing instruction. Our book puts forth methods and ways to promote each of these concepts. Our hope is that teachers will incorporate these ideas into their instructional practice as we believe they make a world of difference in kids’ writing. 

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

As writers, we have witnessed firsthand the power of collaboration and feedback. Lisa belongs to a critique group that meets once a month to discuss each member’s current picture book. Patty has her own writing posse who she meets with to flesh out writing and professional development ideas. We have learned that writing well is a lifelong pursuit and receiving peer feedback along the way is invaluable. In addition, it’s fun! Our meetings often include food, wine, and books (some of our favorite things). Teachers are expert at taking something adult authors do, and finding a way to put these ideas into practice with students. Writing clubs are a great way to bring the idea of critique groups into our writing work (keep the wine for the adults though :)).

Concluding Thoughts

This quote …

plus a bit of “Joy Writing” or “Greenbelt Writing” (Hat Tip to Ralph Fletcher) needs to inform our educational practices. How, when and where we incorporate low-stakes writing, more choice, collaboration and increased community is literally up to us. This book, Writing Clubs, gives us the tools and the best advice from two author-practitioners who have worked successfully with writing clubs!

___________________________________

Additional Resources:

Writing Clubs Study Guide Link

Lisa Eickholdt Link

Patty Vitale-Reilly Link

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact here

by Mary Howard

On 3/24/22, #G2Great chat welcomed first time guests, Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan. Professional books are published rapidly, even in a global pandemic, but the moment we discovered their remarkable book, we knew that Shane and Jamila had crafted a very special gift between two covers in the pages of Street Data: A Next Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation (Corwin, 2021). We quickly learned why Street Data was receiving so many accolades and we wanted to use our twitter chat platform as one more path to get their stunning book into the hands of educators and decision-makers.

Before I turn my attention to the incredible thinking that Shane and Jamila shared on our #G2Great chat, I’d like to begin by drawing from Street Data:

ILLUMINATING THE AUTHORS’ STREET DATA “WHY”

When I’m afforded the blessing of writing about a book spotlighted on our #G2Great chat, I always begin with a deep dive into reading, watching, and listening to whatever I can find that will offer me insight about the book ideas. I happened on a Corwin webinar that was done when the book was published in 2021 so I was delighted to find that it can still be viewed by registering after the fact. In this wonderful session, Shane and Jamila each shared their Street Data “WHY” and this was just what I needed to open this post:

Jamila:

“What would the world look like if my children, if black children, if all children were free? It’s the question I’m asking. It’s the dream I’m chasing.”

Shane:

“This book is about radical dreaming and it’s about cracking open spaces of possibility first and foremost in our minds and our sense of imagination.”

Their heartfelt words further elevated the impact I felt when I first read Street Data. I can’t imagine a better extension to their wise words than the response we received from Shane and Jamila to our first of three questions.

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

The concept of street data was a seed planted in The Listening Leader (Jossey-Bass, 2017), Shane’s first book and our first collaboration, that people were really attracted to. We started playing with it and then Shane said, “We are learning a lot… we need to write about this.” I (Jamila) was out in the field with leaders, learning a ton about the challenges they were experiencing in leading for equity. We both have our own children who are working their way through this system, often with great struggle, and that is where it all emerged. 

Impact: Wanted to make the connection between theory and day to day pedagogy. Wanted to bridge the gap between what is traditionally framed as “equity work” and the transformation of teaching and learning.

Impact: Create a pathway toward an education system focused on agency of text test scores.

STREET DATA DEFINED IN THE AUTHORS’ WORDS

In the Prologue, Data in a Time of Pandemic, Shane brings clarity to the meaning of Street Data:

Street data is the qualitative and experiential data that emerges at eye level and on lower frequencies when we train our brains to discern it. Street data is asset based, building on the tenets of culturally responsive education by helping educators look for what’s right in our students, schools, and communities instead of seeking out what’s wrong….

WHY STREET DATA IS DESPERATELY NEEDED NOW

There are some books that bring chills when reading and Street Data definitely did that for me. From the first word to the last, I was struck by how much this book is needed and should be read by every educator and school leader:

In one of our chat questions, we shared this wonderful book quote from Shane

I’m quite certain that there isn’t one person reading those words who does not recognize that Shane’s first sentence is tragically alive and well in education: “Current testing practices dehumanize young people and teachers while leading us further and further from educational equity.”

Now let’s pause for a moment and look at the response Shane and Jamila shared with us on our second question. I don’t know many authors who can speak volumes in so few words but they certainly demonstrate that here:

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

Data can be humanizing. Data can be liberatory. Data can be healing.

Equity work is first and foremost pedagogical work

I’d like to follow those three essential beliefs using the slide that we shared just before our chat with Shane and Jamila began:

It occurs to me that responding to the profound question that Shane and Jamila posed at the top of that slide should be at the center of our discussions in every school across the entire year. In page after page of Street Data, Shane and Jamila eloquently respond to their question, offering a call to action with a flexible template to support schools in bringing their words to life where it matters most – in the company of children. 

I can’t stop thinking about their first belief: “Data can be humanizing” since the way education has approached data across the years is the epitome of a dehumanizing view that has elevated the long existing educational inequities that blind us to who our children are both as learners and amazing humans full of potential. I often wonder how many future leaders we have lost because of these systems perpetuated year after year. We expend precious minutes collecting data and then use those numerical values to label children – sorting them into the haves and have nots without any perception of the child beneath the data. Then we further exacerbate the issue by enthusiastically reducing children to mere blips on a spreadsheet radar screen. Through a testing process entrenched in the very culture of our educational systems, we are asked to willfully ignore the brilliance that exists within each child just waiting for us to notice, celebrate and respond to if we can look beyond the numbers to see the child in front of us.

In Street Data, Shane and Jamila eloquently help us to understand the heart of equity with detailed suggestions to embrace the “street data” that surrounds us and humanizes the assessment process in ways that will lift our instructional choices. But to embrace “street data” we must also be willing to embrace student agency so that we can draw from experiences that keep students at the center of the learning process as teachers take a step back to admire and celebrate brilliance in action. By putting children in the learning driver’s seat and offering choice with space and time to use it, we are afforded on-the-spot access to rich assessment grounded in and inseparably linked to learning in action.

The authors make this point beautifully in Street Data:

“We have retained a vision of what is possible when we build classrooms and schools and systems around students’ brilliance, cultural wealth, and intellectual potential rather than self-serving savior narratives that have us “fixing” and “filling” academic gaps.”

TWITTER WISDOM FROM SHANE AND JAMILA

I’d like to turn our attention back to our #G2Great twitter chat because the words of Shane and Jamila complement and extend Street Data beautifully:

Before I share closing words, I’d like to turn to a very important response from Shane and Jamila based on our third question:

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

Be brave and start somewhere. Use the Equity Transformation Cycle in the book to listen deeply with a mindset of radical inclusion; uncover root causes of inquiry with a mindset of curiosity; reimagine current reality with a mindset of creativity; and move forward with a mindset of courage.

Grow your awareness of your ways of knowing and being by choosing the margins.

My Closing Thoughts

I am so grateful for the opportunity to write this post to celebrate the important ideas that I believe will become a transformational stepping stone for educators and schools who are wise enough to read and apply the vast wisdom in Street Data. When I was searching for insight for this post, I happened on a YouTube Video that was posted when Street Data was first published. In Author Reflections, Shane and Jamila each pose a question that asks us to make Street Data a reality:

“What would it look like for the student experience to be designed for them and even by them. My hope and intention is for every person who’s thinking about what it looks like for their child to have school designed with them in mind.” Jamila

“The book is just the seed but my hope is that together we can cultivate this thriving garden of student voice.” Shane

It seems appropriate to close with words of wisdom Shane and Jamila shared on our chat. We are so grateful to you both for inspiring us all!

LINKS

Jamila Dugan’s Website

Shane Safir’s Website

Shane Safir on Twitter @Shane Safir

Jamila Dugan on Twitter @JamilaDugan

Street Data: A Next-Generation Model for Equity, Pedagogy, and School Transformation (Corwin, 2022) (purchase Street Data)

Author Reflections with Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan (YouTube Video)

Corwin Video Session with Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan (Still available for viewing)

Street Data: A Conversation with Jamila Dugan and Shane Safir (podcast)

Street Data: A Pathway Toward Equitable, Anti-Racist Schools (podcast)

Beware of Equity Traps and Tropes by Jamila Dugan

Authors Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan: 5 Things You Need to Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator or Teacher: An Interview With Penny Bauder

Teaching As A Radical Act

Read Islah’s Interview HERE • See Our Wakelet Chat Artifact HERE

Post written by Islah Tauheed

“One of the biggest lessons I learned is that we don’t empower children; we simply provide the tools for them to embody their inherent power.” ~ Arlène Casimir

I think at this point of the pandemic, we can all agree that the education system in America is deeply flawed. As teachers we gained insight and a first hand view of those problems up close and personal each day. We teach in buildings that are sterile and cold. We are told to implement a curriculum that is not reflective of the children in front of us. We work under leadership that silences many facets of our identity. When we choose to shift our thinking about teaching as a radical act, we make a decision to lead change in these problems. It was such a pleasure to join the Twitter chat this past week and join other educators looking to make big changes. 

Working to achieve this goal requires a deeper understanding of yourself. We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. Taking on tasks such as dismantling a racist school system or implementing culturally relevant learning practices can seem vague and ambiguous to a team member who is uncertain, yet the only way to deal with adaptive challenges is to grow.  Restructuring a school system requires us to take on new mindsets or beliefs to find solutions. Often these mindset shifts can happen as a result of what we learn from children. There was so much advice given out this past year from “experts” on teaching during a pandemic. However, most of the chat members shared that their biggest lessons came from students within their own classrooms. 

The responsibility of healing a system is a collective responsibility. Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared human endeavor. In the case of radical education, the human endeavor that teachers want is to further society through education. Joining social media platforms like Twitter helped add members to my community of practice. I enjoyed reading about other people you follow and what you learned from them.

Transformational leadership seeks to advance universal freedom from oppression, exclusion, and violence, and freedom to participate in economic, political, cultural, religious and educational activities equally. (Perkins & Richards, 2007) Teaching is the beginning of our journey towards achieving this noble goal.  I am so proud to stand with all the teachers lifting the voices of students and putting them first every day. Though seemingly ideal, we remain future minded and aware that it is only together, we are strong enough to enact change. Holding on to this belief in the face of resistance is the most radical act.

A Few Words of Appreciation From Mary Howard

Midway through 2021 in the middle of a pandemic that showed no signs of slowing down, our #g2great co-moderators recognized that there was a need to celebrate educators who were doing truly remarkable things. We called this chat Educator Spotlight and had our first guest, Nawal Qarooni Casiano on 8/26/21 . We knew early on that Islah Tauheed needed to be celebrated for her dedication to children as a second grade teacher and now through her extended role as an Assistant Principal supporting her teachers in honor of children.

About two years ago, Towanda Harris told me about Islah Tauheed and shared some posts she had written as well as her My Two Cents Worth With Towanda Harris podcast she had done with Islah. I wrote about that podcast HERE. Before I knew it, I was looking for everything I could find with Islah’s name on it (see links at the bottom of the page). I was completely professionally smitten by the incredible things that Islah was doing and eager to learn even more. That appreciation has only grown since I have had the chance to visit with Izzie via Zoom in preparation for our chat.

We are so grateful that Izzie honored the #G2Great community who hunger for inspiration and information and she brought all of that and so much more. This beautiful post that Izzie wrote is one more reminder why she is much needed in education and why we feel privileged to honor her on our Educator Spotlight

Please read on with some resources below to get to know Islah Tauheed

ISLAH WORDS OF WISDOM ON #G2Great Twitter Chat

Q1 Tonight we are reflecting on the title of our chat, “Teaching As A Radical Act,” based on an interview with our guest, Izzie Tauheed. What does that title mean to you? 

Q2 Tauheed said. “I teach for the children in front of me, so they feel safe and loved and affirmed in this classroom space.” How does student ownership show up in your classroom spaces?

Q3 When asked about my students, I described them as “They are brilliant, thoughtful, inspiring, and hopeful”. What has a student taught you this year?

Q4 I am influenced greatly by community we have here on Twitter and the resources that are shared. What’s one thing you’ve read that has made you a better educator?

Q5 Using strong literacy practices, we can guide our students to become engaged agents of change. My passion is to guide students in changing their communities through environmental justice. What are some areas of change you and your students are seeking to challenge?

More Read posts from Islah Tauheed

Bringing Community into the Virtual Classroom

Empathy as a Radical Act

Reading Heals the World: A Case For Literacy And Environmental Justice

Bringing Community into the Viral Classroom

The Power of a Black Teacher

Literacy is Liberation: Working Toward Justice Through Culturally Relevant Teaching

By Brent Gilson

For the archive of this chat please check out the Wakelet here

This week we had the pleasure of having Dr. Kim Parker join us to discuss her new incredible book Literacy is Liberation. The title caught me immediately when Dr. Parker announced this book would be coming out and made me think of other leaders in the field of literacy like Dr. Gholdy Muhammad and her important work.

At a conference a few years ago Kylene Beers and Robert Probst were speaking about literacy and asked us what we thought literacy was. Of course, we got the standard answers shouted from around the hall: Reading, Writing, Talking, Representing… Kylene then put forward the comment Literacy is Power and Privilege. This got the wheel turning, as I have been studying and trying to learn more about practices that we use in the classroom this idea of Literacy as power comes up often. As I read the title of Dr. Parker’s book I thought it was a perfect way to describe what Literacy really is and the power it has.

As the chat kicked off we had the opportunity to reflect on the title of the book and our understanding of what Literacy is Liberation might entail.

As we discussed our early thoughts the common link between all those in the chat was that literacy needs to be intentional for everyone in our classroom. That we need to be doing what is best to aid ALL students in being successful. This means we need to be responsive. Shift with the interests and abilities of our students. Plan with a strength-based mindset and then work to help all students realize their potential by addressing those individual needs.

The conversation moved towards our curriculum and the intentional decisions we as educators need to make to ensure that the literacy practices in our classrooms are indeed liberatory. What is the story our curriculum tells? Who does it provide opportunities to see themselves in? Who does it leave out? How can we as educators push our curriculums (often a political document) towards a more equitable and liberating experience? In my own classroom, I have found simple but purposeful steps to make my content more inclusive while still operating within the curriculum. Moving away from texts that are 30, 40, and 50 years old to texts that are more relevant today is often seen as some revolutionary act with those who lead these discussions (Dr. Parker is also a founding member of #Disrupttexts) being targetted by those who would prefer a curriculum that erases students in the name of upholding white supremacy. The idea of auditing our curriculum and the resources that support it is not something that should be seen as revolutionary it should be the norm. As the world has changed significantly since 1960 so should our resources and curriculum in a purposeful effort to provide liberation through our literacy work. These shifts might not always be easy but if we center our decision-making on our students’ needs, interests, desires, and experiences it provides us with opportunities to center around Culturally Relevant Pedagogy which is good practice regardless of student demographics.

As our chat wrapped up we spent some time reflecting on the topic of harm. Specifically how the choices we make in our classroom can harm our students. Two lessons I have learned in my visits over the years with Dr. Parker have really shaped a lot of my interactions towards intentionally avoiding potential instances of curriculum violence. The term itself was new to me and this article was one that Dr. Parker put in my path. I think about the unintended results of a Black student having to read a book like To Kill a Mockingbird which many have recalled being uncomfortable with because of the language used including the N-word. How can a Black student feel that sense of liberation that literacy work can bring if their white peer is given permission to read that word aloud in class? While not intentionally causing harm the impact is there and impact is always greater than intent. Another piece of wisdom Dr. Parker has shared with me is to not assume “best intentions” or extend the benefit of the doubt when people do make choices that oppress students or groups of people. We all make mistakes and calling attention to those mistakes and learning from them are important steps if we as educators intend to be co-conspirators in the quest to have liberatory classrooms for all students.

As I work through reading Literacy is Liberation I love the inclusion of Takeaways and To-Do’s that Dr, Parker includes in each chapter. She provides us with not only the theory but tangible practices that we can bring into our classrooms in the service of all students.

It is a bit of a scary time as we have political forces intentionally trying to limit discussion and erase whole parts of history around the world. Literacy is Liberation is another resource that can provide teachers with the support they need to create more equitable, culturally relevant, justice-focused classrooms where all students are seen, heard, respected, and uplifted as they develop into their full genius and brilliance.

Additional Resources

Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction

Wakelet contains the entire chat here

Thursday nights are just awesome. The #G2Great chats are inspiring, intellectually fulfilling and soul satisfying. Our chat with Pam Koutrakos on March 3rd hit some new personal highs for me. As the chat ended, I was collecting tweets for this blog post. I had 17 “must haves” and then after three hours of sleep, I was wide awake adding more tweets to my document with a completely redrafted focus. And then the third version settled me as I deleted, rearranged, and redrafted headers and content. What is the essence of this text, Mentor Texts That Multitask? Let’s start with a definition.

What is a Mentor Text that Multitasks?

Here is Pam’s definition.

How will we chose mentor texts?

Pam has laid the groundwork for three reflective inquiries that can guide text choices: identity, community and curriculum. Let’s use a graphic from her text to delve a bit deeper.

So why this book? Why now?

Pam’s answer to the following question is one of the reasons that I love this resource.

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

Teaching is complex, challenging, and incredibly important. I appreciate teachers and celebrate all that is already being done in classrooms. In writing this book, I have not tried to create a new program or completely new approach to teaching ELA. Instead, I hope readers walk away with a reminder that hard work doesn’t have to be draining or depleting. Teachers can find energy and joy in tweaking or reworking some of the “great stuff” already in place. This book represents a sustainable way of moving forward. It shares an adaptable framework teachers can customize time and time again. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do this work and there is a lot of excitement found in tinkering with different ideas and seeing how students shift and shape what we initially imagined.

So without further “ado” let’s dig into Identity, Community, and Curriculum for just a few insights from the chat (and some illustrations from the text). We will keep this question in mind as we read, reflect, and begin our own work: “How can we ‘tweak or rework’ the great mentor texts that we already have?”

Identity

Identity deals with the “WHO” in the classroom? Whose voices? Whose experiences? How will we know? Placing this as the “first filter’ stresses the importance of “student-centered” classrooms. One very easy way to find out is included in this first tweet: an audit of the classroom library.

A second part of this identity work includes voices. At present that also means we need to consider translanguaging that moves beyond students “seeing” themselves in the books to students “hearing” themselves in the mentor texts. Maria Walther adds more information about translanguaging below.

The blog post from our chat for En Comunidad is here.

Community

Community and Identity have some overlapping areas. I think honoring and encouraging student talk is a key to increasing engagement. Students have to do the work of learning. This means teachers and school staff need to be fluent in the languages in daily use in their community. Pam shares additional ideas about linguistic repertoires in the tweets below.

Curriculum

As the final area to be considered, curricula includes whatever occurs during the school day.

Additional Notes on Inquiry

Inquiry is critical in student-centered learning. It keeps the “curiosity” burning which is a key component of student-centered learning as Pam shares below in her definition, her list of misunderstandings, and her two examples.

Let’s see what Pam has to say about her motivations for this book.

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

When I worked as a consultant, I was able to visit so many wonderfully unique school communities. However, I noticed that there were two challenges teachers across districts shared most often: insufficient time and lack of quality resources. The ever-evolving nature of education (and insufficient funding!) frequently requires teachers to do the unimaginable with whatever they have on hand. Teachers are knowledgeable, skilled, creative, and dedicated, but this work can sometimes feel incredibly frustrating and overwhelming. 

On the flip side, I also considered the perspective of students. The fast pace set for learning often results in students feeling as if they are always being taught something brand new each time a bell rings. The concepts presented period to period and day to day often seem unrelated. Learning often feels compartmentalized and disconnected. 

I also reflected on my own personal journey. I could personally relate to these teacher and student predicaments.  As a young student, it never even occurred to me that I could use my experiences in one class to help me in another. And when I first started teaching over two decades ago, I was always searching for the “perfect” text to use with each lesson I taught – and the never-ending search for all those “perfect” mentor texts was not only time consuming, but also expensive – and often ineffective. When I look back, it hurts my heart because I now know I could have been using that time much more wisely (and efficiently). 

This all came together when I visited a local district. I started the week working with an experienced group of upper-elementary and middle-school teachers. They were feeling a lot of this familiar pressure and stress – too much to do and not nearly enough time to get it all done. That day, we deviated from the intended plan and set the playful goal of facilitating all whole-class and small-group experiences  and providing all 1:1 feedback with the same 2-page spread from the class’ current mentor text. The next day, I returned to that district to partner with kindergarten teachers (who taught using a half-day model). Time was tight- so we decided to co-plan and co-teach using one text to support reading, writing, speaking, listening, and phonics skills. We created integrated, “highly literate” experiences that transcended any one facet of literacy. Throughout both of these sessions, I could almost feel the collective level of stress decrease and the capacity for joy increase. It was then I knew for sure that I wanted to write about how we can thoughtfully craft lesson sets using a “short stack” of high-quality, multitasking mentor texts. In doing so, teachers recover more time and energy to plan, students gain more time to practice, and perhaps most importantly, everyone gets more time to play! 

When we re-allocate our time and reimagine current models of planning, we are freed up to focus on students and prepare joyful, asset-based, student-centered instruction.

And our final question with Pam’s response.

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

The day-to-day work we do as educators is complex and multifaceted. I hope teachers find a bit of “ahhhh” and a lot of joy in redefining the role of mentor texts. In the book, I share ways to maximize time. By curating just a few quality resources, we can enhance instruction. This “less is more” approach is not only appealing, but also effective! A lean selection of multitasking texts yields flexible, integrated, and multifaceted learning. By spotlighting these tools in inquiry experiences and more traditional modeled and guided lessons, teachers become prepared to not only weave together reading and writing, but also phonics, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar – and even content areas. Students create connections and begin to understand how to apply and transfer knowledge- across subjects and time. 

We can enact our deep commitment toward asset-based instruction that is unwaveringly responsive to students. We can invite learners into the endless possibilities for learning that exist within the pages of books. And none of this needs to feel depleting. I sincerely hope that after reading this book and discussing it with colleagues, teachers are able to reduce decision fatigue and feel prepared (with plenty of practical ways) to integrate multitasking texts students LOVE all across the curriculum… while of course, continuing to center students and keep them at the heart of all we do in classrooms. 

In Conclusion . . .

Mentor Texts that Multitask is not about finding perfect texts. It is also not about a brand new fancy idea that teachers need to learn. Instead it is about collaboratively working with peers to consider “How we can ‘tweak or rework’ the great mentor texts that we already have?” This will be an efficient and effective use of our time because we will be locating texts that can be used multiple times across the day and the year. And this final quote is why JOY will be able to return to teachers’ work!

Additional Resources:

Lesson Set for The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad (2019), With S. K. Ali Link

Preview of the text: Mentor Texts That Multitask Link

Video: Shake Up Literacy Learning with Multitasking Mentor Texts Link

Volume as an Intervention Priority

You can revisit our #G2Great chat Wakelet artifact HERE

Guest Blogger Laura Robb

This week, your #G2Great co-moderators were grateful to take on a very important topic that should be a central component of our discussions around the intervention process in every school. Since our wonderful friend, Laura Robb suggested this topic but is also a long time expert on this discussion, we were delighted that she agreed to write the post that follows. When Laura sent me the final draft, I got chills that stayed with me throughout the day. That is the sign of a brilliant piece indeed. We are honored to spotlight Laura Robb’s powerful voice starting with this wonderful quote below.

 Volume in Reading: The Core Intervention for Developing Readers

To become readers children need to read books at school and teachers need to read aloud to their students every time class meets. These words might sound like obvious common sense to educators since we are a storying people, and we think in terms of stories, share our thoughts through stories, and stories enable us to learn and remember information, concepts, and ideas (Newkirk, 2014, Wells, 1986).  A sad truth is that many developing readers—students reading two or more years below grade level—rarely hear stories read aloud or read books they choose.  Reading books and listening to read alouds are usually not the core intervention for moving developing readers forward and improving their reading skill and identities. 

Instead, interventions for many developing readers consist of skills such as phonics practice, developing and improving phonemic awareness, pseudo or nonsense word reading, fluency practice using repeated readings of short passages, etc.  Such interventions are easily measureable and become the data by which many intervention programs measure success.  Though children in these programs can show progress with individual skills, they frequently continue to struggle with reading, recall, and comprehension. In addition to skill practice and a steady diet of decodable texts, offering developing readers outstanding books that are relevant to their lives can change the landscape of intervention.  Moreover, when these students increase their reading volume and listen to daily teacher read alouds, they can understand how:

  • skills fit into the reading of meaningful books;
  • a knowledge of word families supports decoding using analogous thinking;
  •  phonemic awareness supports decoding;
  • hearing fluent, expressive reading during teacher read alouds can improve their fluent reading and why;
  •  practicing fluent, expressive reading with self-selected books can increase their recall and comprehension.

When Data Collection Is King

An intervention program exclusively focused on the data collection of measureable skills not only excludes volume in reading of books, but also often fails to consider the whole child—the person behind the numbers. Numbers can be deceptive and can advance the illusion that children are improving because skill assessments show progress. However, there’s a disconnect that often occurs and raises this question: If children’s skills are solid and show progress, why can’t they read and comprehend texts at their independent or instructional reading level?  The answer is that practicing skills in isolation without students experiencing how these skills link to reading books can inhibit progress in reading with enjoyment and deep comprehension.  The solution is simple: put volume in reading at the center of intervention plans and offer students opportunities to apply skills they’re practicing to outstanding books they select.

 It doesn’t matter if your school has adopted a Response to Intervention (RTI) program or if you intervene using the original intent of RTI: that teachers use information they collect through observations and one-to-one interactions with students to tailor and target interventions to each student’s needs. What does matter is that the core intervention for students always is volume in reading and daily teacher read alouds.  

Research Studies Support Volume in Reading

The research of Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988) tells the story about volume in reading. Their study found a correlation between the time students devote to daily reading and their reading proficiency and comprehension of texts.

In sum, the principal conclusion of this study is that the amount of

time a child spends reading books is related to the child’s reading level in the fifth grade and growth in reading proficiency from second to fifth grade. The case can be made that reading books is a cause, not merely a reflection, of reading proficiency. (page 302)

However, The National Reading Panel rejected the findings of the 1988 study on the grounds that it did not meet their scientific research standards. The good news is that in 2004 Dr. S. Jay Samuels and Dr. Yi-chen Wu completed a scientific study in response to the National Reading Panel and concluded that the more time students read, the higher their achievement compared to a control group.  Samuels’ and Wu ‘s scientific research corroborated the conclusions of Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding!

 Nancie Atwell also links daily reading to developing proficiency in reading books every day (2010). Volume in reading is an effective intervention for developing readers (Allington 1977, 2012; Allington & Gabriel, 2012; Allington and McGill-Franzen, 2021) and a predictor of learning success because students who read, read, read develop a strong personal reading life as well as meet words in different contexts and enlarge their vocabulary, meet and understand diverse literary genres, discuss books with peers, develop positive reading identities, and find pleasure in reading and learning. 

Even though the research on volume in reading is compelling, a survey done by Scholastic in 2017 and based on nearly 3,700 PreK-12 principals and teachers show that 94% of principals and teachers agree or strongly agree that students should choose books at school and read independently every day. Here’s the big disconnect: only 36% made time for daily independent reading. A startling statistic that most likely affects developing readers participating in RTI.  In addition to more time for students to read at school, it’s would be helpful to study how schools schedule intervention support for elementary and middle school students.

Scheduling RTI Matters

When my granddaughter was in the fifth grade, she complained many times to me about being pulled out of her core reading class to receive support services. Here’s a summary of her complaints: Everyone thinks I’m dumb. They all stare at me when I have to leave class. I always get pulled out when we have independent reading or work with a partner on a project. I hate getting pulled out. I never get to do the fun stuff.  Sometimes, we’re so intent on the interventions  that we don’t take the time to evaluate students’ feelings as well as look for alternate ways of scheduling extra help. When principles, other school leaders, and teachers collaborate to find alternatives to pulling students out of a core class, they can find the solutions that meet the needs of all students.

            My son, Evan Robb, principal of a Johnson Williams Middle School in Berryville, VA created an extra 25-minute class for intervention and independent reading of self-selected books. Students who required extra support received it during that time but also read books they chose; other students read self-selected books during that time and increased their volume in reading.

Robb discussed the need with faculty who agreed to give 5-minutes of their classes toward creating a separate class.  By pooling ideas and thinking out of the box, it’s possible for teachers and administrators to find creative solutions that allow children receiving extra services remain in their core class for independent and instructional reading. Moreover, research clearly shows that a skilled, core ELA teachers can meet the needs of most of their students.

The Core ELA Curriculum Supports Developing Readers

Responsive, skilled teachers adjust their core ELA curriculum so that it’s accessible to every student in their classrooms. Instruction includes whole-class and small-group lessons that meet the diversity of reading and writing levels among students. Instead of practicing isolated skills, all students, including developing readers, practice skills in the context of motivating, culturally relevant instructional reading texts and then have opportunities to apply what they’ve learned to independent reading of self-selected books. These teachers recognize that volume in reading matters for all learners!

Researchers and educators agree that high-quality, responsive teaching in core ELA classes can support about 80 percent of the student population, enabling them to show solid growth during the year (Howard, 2009; Owocki, 2010). Teachers can meet this high level of progress because they try to identify students’ strengths and needs early in the school year and assess students’ progress through kid watching, conferring, and frequent informal conversations (Owocki & Goodman, 2002). They also monitor students’ progress in fluency, recall of details, comprehension, making inferences, writing about reading, etc. in order to evaluate present interventions and adjust their plans so students continually improve. Responsive teachers’ intervention plans also include daily read alouds that introduce students to a variety of genres and develop a keen interest in stories. 

Consider Reading Aloud an Intervention

As responsive teachers build trusting relations with their students and start to know their students as learners and human beings, they recognize that daily read alouds are also interventions. When students listen to read alouds, they develop their imagination while picturing settings, characters, and events. They meet and hear a wide range of literary genres and begin to understand how each one works; they develop literary tastes and discover authors to explore; they tune their ears to literary language and words used in different contexts; they develop their listening capacity and experience pleasure in hearing stories and learning information from past, present and future worlds.  Read alouds form and enhance students’ literary foundation, developing students’ prior knowledge about how stories and informational books work—a prerequisite for intervening with volume in reading.

Ramp Up the Reading Volume for Developing Readers

When volume in reading is the core intervention for developing readers, they can experience the value and joy of reading, the excitement of learning new information and meeting new people, laughing, enjoying conversations about books with peers, as well as understand the connection between skill practice and reading wonderful books. As you read the list of “15 Benefits of Independent Reading,” reflect on the power of volume in reading as the core intervention for developing readers.

15 Benefits of Independent Reading

  1. Refines students’ understanding of applying strategies, for during independent reading, students have multiple opportunities to practice what they learn during instructional reading.
  2. Develops an understanding of how diverse genres work as readers figure out the likenesses and differences among realistic, historical, and science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, biography, memoir, informational texts, etc.
  3. Enlarges background knowledge and deepens readers’ understanding of people as they get to know different characters.
  4. Builds vocabulary as students meet and understand words in diverse contexts.  Independent reading, not vocabulary workbooks, is the best way to enlarge vocabulary because students meet words in the context of their reading.
  5. Teaches students how to self-select “good fit” books they can and want to read.
  6. Develops students’ agency and literary tastes. Choice builds agency and as students choose and dip into diverse genres and topics, they discover the types of books they enjoy.
  7.  Strengthens reading stamina, their ability to focus on reading for 20-minutes to one hour.
  8.  Improves silent reading. Through daily practice students develop their in-the-head reading voice and learn to read in meaningful phrases.
  9. Develops reading fluency because of the practice that voluminous reading offers.
  10. Supports recall of information learners need as they read long texts that ask them to hold details presented in early chapters in their memory so they can access these later in the book.
  11. Improves reading rate through the practice that volume provides.
  12. Develops students’ imagination as they visualize settings, what characters and people look like, conflicts, decisions, problems, interactions, etc.
  13. Fosters the enjoyment of visual literacy when students read picture books and graphic texts.
  14.  Creates empathy for others as students learn to step into the skin of characters and experience their lives.
  15. Transfers a passion for reading to students’ outside-of-school lives and develops the volume in reading students need to become proficient and advanced readers.

By increasing developing readers volume in reading, and that includes daily teacher read alouds, you can impact their desire to read which in turn improves their reading skill, offers them a wider range of book choices, and cultivates their reading identity.  As you amplify the message that volume in reading matters by making time for students to read books every day, you telegraph to developing readers that you value choice, volume in reading, and will provide support and encouragement as they embark on a journey of becoming joyful, lifelong readers.

References

Allington, Richard, L. (1977). “If They Don’t Read Much, Hope For Struggling Readers,” Voices from the Middle, 14(4): 7-14.

Allington, Richard L. (2012). What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-based Programs. Boston, MA: Pearson. 

Allington, Richard L. & Rachael E. Gabriel (2012. “Every Child, Every Day” Educational Leadership 69(6), 10-15.

Allington, R.L. and McGill-Frazen, A. M. (2021). Reading volume and reading      achievement: A review of recent research. Reading Research Quarterly. Newark, DE: ILA.e

Anderson, Richard C., Wilson, Paul T., and Linda G. Fielding. (1988). “Growth in Reading and How Children Spend Their Time Outside of School.” Reading Research Quarterly, 3(23), 2d85-303, Newark, DE: The International Reading Association.

Newkirk, T. (2014). Minds Made for Stories: How We Really Read and Writ Informational and Persuasive Texts, Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Howard, Mary (2009). RTI From All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Owocki, Gretchen (2010). The RTI Daily Planning Book, K-6.  Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Owocki, Gretchen and Yetta Goodman (2002). Kidwatching: Documenting Children’s Literacy Development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Samuels, S. Jay, and Wu, Yi-chen. (2004). How the amount of time spent on independent

reading affects reading achievement: A response to the National Reading Panel

Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.539.9906

Scholastic. (2017). Teacher & Principal School Report: Focus on Literacy.

http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/press-release/new-research-reveals-teachers-value-independent-reading-time-only-36-can-set-aside-tim

Wells, Gordon (1986). The Meaning Makers: Children Learning Language and Using Language to Learn. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Additional References from Laura Robb

There’s an Elephant in Our Classroom by Laura Robb

Our #G2Great Blog post on Schools Full of Readers: Tools for Teachers, Coaches, and Leaders to Support Students by Laura Robb and Evan Robb.

#G2Great Educator Spotlight Everything’s A Remix with Paul W. Hankins

by Brent Gilson

For a record of the chat here is the wakelet.

I sat down to write this week’s post and thought about the many different ways I could go about this. The traditional weekly blog is often a recap and sharing of the ideas raised in the chat. We did an Educator Spotlight this past week and typically have them blog about the chat and their experience. As the topic of this week focused on the beautiful work of Paul W. Hankins and his thinking around the “Remix” I thought instead to remix this week’s blog. We don’t often get the opportunity to thank those who inspire us. So, I am going to take that opportunity.

Dear Paul W. Hankins,

I think back to the names of educators who have taught me and inspired me on this relatively short 12-year journey in teaching. I think of college professors, I think of authors and consultants, I think of classroom teachers. I think of you. I remember the first time I saw work from the magical Room 407, and I was in awe. It was a multi-genre project, and the one that sticks in my mind was something about the American Dream. The author had included articles of firefighters, I think… I was completely engrossed in the intricate beauty of the project. I remember asking about it. The extended kindness and the resources offered set me on a different path.

An Example of work from Room 407


I have followed the work of room 407; I have followed your beautiful journey creating with and alongside your students. I have been inspired to try the same. The trust you extend to students is something many talk about but few follow through with. I am grateful for the inspiration.

Example of Paul’s Creations


When Covid hit, and the landscape of education even temporarily began to change, I decided to embrace a lot of the ideas that I had been admiring from a distance. I asked myself, how do we create engaging classrooms when we are limited in close personal interaction? How do we build classrooms that promote inquiry at times only through a screen? These are the questions I grappled with and returned to the ideas you have always so selflessly shared with other teachers.

Another Example of Paul’s work


We embraced both multimodalities and multigenre work. Students embraced the quality over quantity mindset; we explored creation in the classroom. As a result, room 157 became a space that honors students and ideas first and foremost. This, in large part, was inspired by you.

Worked inspired by Jason Reynolds and Paul W. Hankins from Room 157
Worked inspired by Jason Reynolds and Paul W. Hankins from Room 157


Paul, I am eternally grateful for your example to me as a teacher exploring new thinking. I am thankful that through your example, I have become more confident in the knowledge that my students can create beautiful work when given the time to explore. Ultimately I am grateful for your friendship.

Work inspired by Jason Reynolds and Paul W. Hankins from Room 157
Worked inspired by Jason Reynolds and Paul W. Hankins from Room 157
Multimodal work from Room 157


As I looked through the chat, it became clear that more were inspired through, the brief glimpses into the work you do. So, I started this little letter reflecting on the impact of the teachers in my life. When I think about teachers enduring impact, I consider the lessons our students hold long after they have left us. The lessons you have shared and put out for our “consideration” have impacted students far beyond Room 407. Just take a look at all the work done in Room 157.

Thank you.

To close I think the words from the incredible Dr. Gholdy Muhammad beautifully describe the truth that comes from Room 407 and the students who work alongside Paul. I loved them so much I put them on the wall.

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad Quote

We are all grateful for the space you and your students create, Paul.

If you would like to read more about Paul’s work check out his blog and follow him on Twitter .

Blog: https://paulwhankins.edublogs.org/2022/02/07/everythings-a-remix-g2great-17-february-2022/

Twitter: @PaulWHankins

The Writer’s Mindset: 6 Stances that Promote Authentic Revision

You can revisit our Wakelet chat artifact here

By Guest writer, Travis Crowder

Years ago, while in college and trying to find my way as a writer, I sat at the desk in my dorm room and stared hopelessly at a draft of my senior thesis. With just two weeks to go before the end of the semester, I was frantically trying to re-write the thesis I had turned in several weeks before. If I didn’t finish this paper, I wouldn’t pass the class. And if I didn’t pass the class, I wouldn’t graduate. 

The margins were filled with the wide loops and flowing script of my professor’s gorgeous handwriting. In graphite, Dr. James had marked nearly everything that didn’t work in my essay. Organization, word choice, and inaccurate references were just a few of the problems she meticulously noted in the essay’s perimeter. More than anything, she implored me to re-read my paper and figure out what I was trying to say. I have no recollection of what I did to “revise” my thesis, but I typed and re-typed until I reached the last page. Then, I opened an email and re-submitted my work. Mercifully, Dr. James responded that the paper was acceptable, so I sent it to the literature department secretary, who promptly printed it, bound it in a portfolio and sent it to Dr. James’s office. It was finished. 

In the last class, each of us in the thesis seminar received a hard copy of our work with final comments and a grade. When Dr. James handed me my paper, I glanced at the first several pages, read the new comments she had inscribed in red ink, then pushed the bulky thesis into my backpack. I carried the essay back home at the end of the semester, eventually surrendering it to the trash. To this day, I do not know what my final grade was. 

When I think about revision—returning to writing and reimagining, rethinking—I flip the pages of my memory to that time in college so many years ago. I could spend paragraphs of this blog post bemoaning the lack of writing instruction and revision practices from my K-12 school years, but here’s the rub: my lack of preparation was not/is not atypical. Students enter college every year without adequate experience with authentic writing and revision practice. I know because I was one of them. 

I even hesitate to use the word practice as it connotes something not real. My point, however, is that each experience, each time we put pen to paper, is a form of practice. This blog post, while written for publication, is me practicing. It will stand among the other pieces I’ve written, supporting what I decide to write next. In public school and college, I wrote a lot. A lot. But I didn’t practice revision. I didn’t know how. My “revision” included a hyperfocus on grammar and word choice. Don’t get me wrong—grammar and diction have an important function. But this hyperfocus affected the quality of my writing. Unfortunately, the roots of this habit burrowed deeper, and I carried it into my teaching life.  

Chris Hall’s (2021) book, A Writer’s Mindset, is a text I wish I had had when I started teaching, but instead of lamenting what I didn’t have, I will carry his wisdom as I move forward. While my writing life has changed and my approaches to teaching writing are much stronger than they were, Chris’s book sits among some of the best books about writing instruction I’ve read. This book is a journey, a crescendo of hope, that explains and models how revision changes students’ writing and students’ self-perception as writers. Chris manages, with clarity and precision, to center students and joy in the act of revision. 

In his book, Chris identifies six stances: metacognition, flexible thinking, transfer, optimism, perspective-taking, and risk-taking. From his perspective, these stances, or mindsets, lift students’ ability to revise, taking their writing from where it is to where it could be. After reading his book and underlining gobs of sentences, dog-earing multiple pages (yes, I’m one of those readers), and sticky-noting intersections I want to take to my notebook and explore with writing, I agree. 

For example, take Chris’s chapter about optimism, the second stance he explores. Optimism in regard to writing isn’t, as he states, about cheerfulness or toxic positivity. Instead, it is about “having a clear-eyed acknowledgement of all the challenges revision poses—and then taking them on anyway because our draft is worth it” (Hall, 2021, p. 43). Writers keep working on a draft because something in it compels them. Writers return, day after day, to the same words, believing that there is something there worth getting on paper. It has value, either for the writer or the world or both. 

Chris’s chapter about transfer helped me understand better how to tap into the skills writers carry with them. As mentioned earlier, everything we write stands behind us when we pick up a pen or open our computers to write. Writers hold skills, sometimes forgotten ones, that just need a little nudging. Chris states that revision lessons are important, but transfer can happen when we enter a state of reflection. “In doing so [reflecting], we call forth a trove of mental resources—whether we’re drawing from minilessons we’ve been taught, books from favorite authors, techniques noticed in our peers’ writing, or self discoveries from our own previous pieces” (Hall, 2021, p. 136). Implied here is the criticality of time and space—to reflect, to think, to notice, to make connections. To challenge the current iteration of a piece of writing. To revise. 

A last stance I’ll share is Chris’s chapter about risk-taking. Trying a new genre, writing about a personal experience, and letting go of paragraphs and sentences we’ve worked hard to craft are several risks all writers take. Whether it’s a leap to essay after composing nothing but fiction, writing into a traumatic experience, or cutting a gorgeous paragraph that contains poetic language that would make any writer seethe with envy, risk-taking supports a writer’s growth. Part of revision, as Chris states, is imagining a piece of writing as something different. Could this be something else? Would another structure or genre tell this story or convey this idea better? What we create is personal because for most of us, what we write comes from deep inside. However, Chris’s humanity radiates in this chapter. He reminds us that risk-taking is about growth, about taking a chance, about possibility. It isn’t a requirement, but risk-taking is a plunge into the unknown that more times than strengthens the piece of writing as well as the writer. 

These three stances are the ones that continue to resonate even now. I’ve read and re-read chapters and sections, lingering in Chris’s words and knowing that the writers I work alongside will grow because of his incisive thinking. 

I consider the homily I began this blog post with. While that experience continues to be embarrassing and frustrating, it is part of my journey as a writer. Could I have been more optimistic with my senior thesis? Absolutely. Could I have spent more time wrestling with paragraphs and ideas and writing to discover what I really wanted to say? Of course. But since I promised that I would not lament the past, here’s what I’m doing: I’m writing about it. I’m taking a risk. I’m remembering that we all carry stories inside us that shape who we are and make us beautifully human. And sometimes these stories need to come up for air. So we allow them to surface in the form of words. I’m not sure if any of this crossed Chris’s mind as he wrote, but he reminded me of the power of writing and what it means to take risks. I’m sure he’ll remind you, too. 

But he reminded me of something else, too. 

At the heart of our classrooms are our students. We ask a lot of them, especially when it comes to writing. I know I do. A writer’s workshop is a challenging place to sit—for kids and adults. For many, writing is a daunting task. But taking on a revision mindset gives us tools and strategies to break through roadblocks and fears. And to believe that we have something to say. 

At the end of his book, Chris offers an invitation. It isn’t an invitation to adopt his book as a programmatic approach or a plea to implement everything he discusses. It is an invitation of inquiry: What do students need to grow their writing, their beliefs about writing, and how they perceive themselves as writers? By inquiring, we start a journey. And this journey engages us in thinking about our students and what they need to become stronger, more capable, more confident writers. They may enter institutions of higher learning, and if they do, they’ll need something to hold onto as they navigate college-level writing requirements. But beyond that, and more importantly, revision will sharpen their ability to communicate, to convey ideas and stories—either real or imagined—and to discover what they want to say and how they want to say it. 

As we consider the students we work with and the rigorous yet beautiful world of writing and revision, I hope we remember its power. Right now, there are places where revision isn’t popular. Many teachers are expected to submit a year’s worth of lesson plans in the name of transparency. Yet all good teachers know that revision is critical. It’s critical in what we teach and model

But revision is not just for writing or working with students. 

It’s for all of us

Revision challenges what is and encourages us to imagine possibility. I urge you to pick up your notebook or open a fresh document and write. I encourage you to wrestle with that piece of writing, to search for what you want to say, and find the courage to share your writing with your students. To identify the spaces in your teaching life where revision mindsets can set stagnation ablaze and illuminate all that is possible. It is here, as Chris says, that we revise our teaching, our writing, ourselves. 

So, let’s start this journey together. 

Let’s dance in the light of hope, joy, and possibility. 

Our teaching will change, our writing will grow. 

But above all else, we will, too. 

Closing thought from #G2Great

We experience pure elation when we have the opportunity to read and share a book that inspires each of us and Chris Hall has definitely done that. Add to that the beautiful reflections that gifted writer Travis Crowder has so generously shared with us and you have a magical merger of inspiration. Thank you to Chris and Travis for sharing your gifts and passion for revision with our #G2great family

We will close with Chris Hall’s reflections. We asked him three questions to give us more insight on A Writer’s Mindset from his perspective.

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

Like most ELA teachers I know, I would groan when I heard my students say, “I like it the way it is,” about a draft of writing. I wanted to get to the heart of that revision resistance and figure out how to help students move past it, so I made it the focus of an action-research project. My language arts classes became a learning laboratory, where we tried—and continue to try—different approaches to create a culture of revision.

I hope teachers reading The Writer’s Mindset will find ways to make revision more authentic, engaging, meaningful, and joyful for their students. I hope the book helps educators see their writing instruction with fresh eyes—that it inspires them weave the stances of a writer’s mindset (metacognition, optimism, perspective-taking, flexible thinking, transfer, and risk-taking) into their existing workshop structures. Instead of just teaching revision as a series of craft moves or items on a checklist, I hope the book prompts educators to see how important mindset is for our student-writers—and how transformative it can be once we’ve started cultivating it.

Researching and creating The Writer’s Mindset sparked some subtle but seismic shifts in my teaching practice. I hope it does the same for educators reading it.

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

Contrary to those ubiquitous writing process flowcharts, revision isn’t just a single step in the writing process. It’s not a stage after “drafting” and before “editing.” Revision is an awareness that’s present in every part of writing. When I observe my students at their best and most engaged—and when I consider my own experience as a writer—it’s clear that revision is happening throughout the writing process, not just after the end of the first draft. Writers stop periodically to review and re-read their words, making small and big adjustments along the way. They pause occasionally to notice what’s working and what feels off. They’re aware of the moves they’re making as they’re writing (their decisions) —and why they’re trying these (their intentions).

For this reason, it’s important to not wait until a draft is over to revise—we need to ask students to periodically reflect and revise during drafting, before their ideas start ossifying. We need to show them ways to be in a “process present”—to do quick metacognitive bursts throughout the life of a draft, not lengthy “process histories” after it’s over.

Another big takeaway is the importance of modeling our own writing process with our students. Each paragraph they write contains dozens of decisions, but our students aren’t always cognizant of them. Ask them, “What’s going well with your piece?” or “How’s it going with your draft?” and we often get a shrug. By sharing our own think-alouds with our drafts—our own messy, uncertain, unpolished drafts—we can take our internal writing voice and make it heard for our students. We can take all our unseen revision moves and make them visible. This helps students start to notice and name their own emerging revisions.

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

For our students—for all writers—even a little revision can feel like a lot.

As writing teachers, we want our students to embrace revision with zeal, but perhaps it’s enough that they appreciate it—that they feel, in the words of my student Molly, that “revision means hard work, but it’s worth it.” There are times we want our young writers to overhaul their drafts, but maybe it’s enough that they make a few modest but consequential changes.

Revision doesn’t have to be radical.

The same is true for you as an educator reading The Writer’s Mindset. All the stances and practices in the book aren’t intended as a recipe to follow or an outline to revamp your entire language arts program. Instead, it’s a smorgasbord to sample from and an invitation to shake a few things up.

Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet link for entire chat archive

When the stars are perfectly aligned, nature often has a message for us. Thursday, February 3, 2022, the #G2Great chat was graced with an author who has also been a teacher, principal, superintendent and staff developer. Her books include:  Going PublicLasting ImpressionsLifetime GuaranteesWriting through Childhood, Novel PerspectivesMessages to Ground ZeroLook Who’s Learning to Read, and her most recent Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop which we were discussing. Shelley Harwayne’s depth of knowledge is vast. Her understanding of reading, writing AND students is equally vast.

With so much information in the book, in the chat and in the questions we ask our authors, I have decided to begin with Shelley’s motivations in order to understand the end goal.

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

I was concerned that some of the hallmarks of the writing workshop had gotten lost amid overwhelming curriculum mandates. I hoped to remind teachers about the joy of exploring new ideas. I hoped to re-energize the writing workshop for students and teachers alike.

My biggest goal was to inspire teachers to create their own meaningful, joyful, and accessible writing challenges for their students and to do so in the company of their colleagues.

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

Joy.

Joyful.

Exploring.

Create.

These words caused me to reread this response again. So much wisdom and so many hopes and dreams for the writing workshop to achieve! And what about the “hallmarks of writing workshop”?

The quote below was shared before the chat began. Read through it and think of the students in front of you. Is this a description of your students? Yes/No? And then is it a description of engagement or compliance?

PreTweet for Twitter Chat

Does that sound like your students? Are they curious? Do they wonder? Do they share with others? Last week in #TCRWP Supper Club, Tyrone Howard shared that our students come to us in kindergarten as question marks and exclamation points, and yet they leave elementary schools as periods. That curiosity and excitement has died out. Or has it been worn out day after day and year after year?

Stop.

Think about some kids you know. Are they still curious?

Think about some teachers you know. Are they still curious?

And are they joyful?

Let’s move onto the second question we ask authors: “What do you want to stick with readers?” Let’s see what Shelley hopes for!

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

I hope teachers will participate in all the writing tasks that they ask their students to accomplish.

I hope teachers will find ways to keep up with children’s literature and share that responsibility with their colleagues.

I hope that teachers will recognize that there are many benefits to introducing shorter genres. 

I hope teachers, (and their administrators), realize that there are many ways to achieve curriculum goals. 

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

So let’s dig into those hopes that Shelley has shared by looking at tweets from Shelley and #g2great chat participants.

Teachers will participate in all the writing tasks that they ask their students to accomplish.

Opening Twitter Chat Quote

TIP: Writing and also reading like a writer is important. Check out Jill’s wisdom, (ShelfieTalk), in these two tweets. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow when I’m reading.

Teachers will find ways to keep up with children’s literature and share that responsibility with their colleagues.

Teachers will recognize that there are many benefits to introducing shorter genres.

Twitter Chat Closing Quote

CHALLENGE APPLICATION:

Teachers, (and their administrators), realize that there are many ways to achieve curriculum goals.

Where do you see these four “take aways” in your school or life? Which ones are essential? Which ones are you going to work on? How will you continue to work on matching what you need and want in your school environment for your students with the hallmarks of writing workshop? It doesn’t have to be a perfect match. How closely are those hopes aligned? How can you increase that alignment?

To emphasize those hopes, here is the final author question Shelley was asked about a message from the heart for every teacher.

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

Long to be surprised. Create the kind of writing workshop in which you are surprised by students’ topics, their areas of expertise, their questions about the world, and the words they use to share their ideas and information.  Long to learn, as deeply as you long to teach.

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

In closing . . .

What was the message from nature that I alluded to in my opening paragraph? That perfect alignment? Expertise, Skill, Passion, Surprise and Joy are needed by teachers and students alike in writing and in life. Both groups must remain curious and adventurous. Both groups must continue to read, write, talk, and think with other groups of people. Both groups must continue to be surprised by life around them. Joyful learning does NOT occur in a black hole. It requires a collaborative willingness. Joy; where will YOU find it? Joy; where will YOUR STUDENTS find it?

Additional Resources:

Melanie Meehan’s TWT Blog about Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink

Study Guide for Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink

Online Resources for Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink

4 Essential Studies: Beliefs and Practices to Reclaim Student Agency

Blog Post: Brent Gilson

For an archive of the chat please click here

There is this question I have seen asked many times over the years, “Is this a lesson your students would buy tickets to attend?” Now setting aside that I am not a fan of the question I think the root of it is something we often ask ourselves as teachers, “Will the class find this work, this lesson, this activity engaging and meaningful?” This is a question I ask myself whenever I plan. I don’t want them to have to buy a ticket, the classroom is their space just as much as it is mine. How are we going to charge them for coming in? That said we want them to want to be there.

With all of that in mind, we were lucky this week for our #g2great chat to welcome back Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher as they shared their thinking and joined us in conversation around their new book 4 Essential Studies: Beliefs and Practices to Reclaim Student Agency. I have read many of Penny and Kelly’s books. Separately both Book Love (Kittle) and Write Like This Gallagher have heavily impacted my practice. Their joint effort 180 Days: Two Teachers and Their Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents informs my daily classroom practices. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to share my thinking and that of chat participants this week.

As the chat began we reflected on what beliefs and practices guide our efforts to reclaim student agency.

This question really made me consider my own students. This week our semester ended. I am heartbroken because it was really the most fulfilling semester professionally as I turned over so much of the decision-making to my students. We leaned into choice. We explore multimodal and multigenre creation. Students crafted beautiful artwork in response to texts, digital compositions to present their identities, the writing in some instances felt as though it transported me away from all the noise and I could just sit in the peace of their words. As kids sat with me to discuss a grade they thought best demonstrated their work and achievement many shared they too were sad the course was over but they were grateful their last English class allowed them the opportunity to explore who they were as writers.

As our conversation continued we shifted to the topic of engagement vs compliance. How do we see these things as different? What does it look like in our classrooms and how does student autonomy help us with this shift from students completing work because they must to completing it because they want to?

As students joyfully crafted pieces for their final assignments they all spoke to the difference between the multigenre project they were interested in and the Critical Analytical Essays that are so often pushed in High School. The kids were the first to ask,

When am I actually going to need to analyze a novel in my life outside high school unless I am an English major in University?

Literally all my students

I didn’t have an answer for them. The only thing I could say was, we do it because we have to. The government (who required the test) canceled it because of Covid. We could move away from it and towards work, which they were more invested in. The engagement was evident and the excitement over the project led to some really incredible writing and other work that the kids were all proud of.

Ultimately my students felt like they were in the driver’s seat and this sense of ownership over their work helped them to create.

As we focus on providing students the autonomy to make their own decisions in writing and reading we still need to model for them the pathways to success. Providing options and ideas to help build their thinking around. As Penny says above we are the bridge.

A new semester starts for me this week. A new opportunity to learn from an amazing group of kids. I hate to say that I gave my students the autonomy to make their own decisions because I don’t think it is mine to give. I think by providing a space for them to see the power that they have as text creators. The ability that they have to make decisions to move their work in one direction or another, my students found themselves as writers. I am hoping the process repeats itself in its own unique way with this new group of students coming in.

The #g2great team is so grateful that Kelly and Penny joined us this week. Grateful for the wisdom in 4 Essential Studies: Beliefs and Practices to Reclaim Student Agency and the message that our students potential is infinite, sometimes we just need to get out of the way.