Every Child Can Write

by Fran McVeigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why this book?

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

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

This book is based on these beliefs:

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

Who has to have those beliefs?

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

What are obstacles that interfere with student writing?

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

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

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

Where will you begin?

Additional Resources:

Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link

Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link

Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link

Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link

Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

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

Turnstiles and Transfer

By, Jenn Hayhurst

quote #g2great

I wonder if you can relate to this. I am walking briskly to the subway turnstile, my MetroCard is out, and I’m ready to glide through the turnstile – BAM.  The metal arm is locked and wont let me pass. I am stuck having to negotiate the right amount of pressure and speed to pass to the platform so I can continue on towards my destination. How can this be? I am able to swipe my debit card with no thought at all, much to my husband’s chagrin, so why can’t I swipe my MetroCard? It seems only natural that my ability for one would transfer to the other. This is my real life scenario that demonstrates the elusive nature of transfer.

On Thursday May 12, 2016 #G2Great concluded a four part series, Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. We set out to explore Teaching for Transfer Across the Instructional Day. Transfer is a complex topic for educators everywhere. Yet after an hour of good conversation I am walking away from the chat with three overarching ideas that really bring it into focus.

Demystifying Transfer: Awareness for Teachers and Students

Maximizing our instructional power potential begins by bringing clarity and intention to all that we do and transfer is no exception. Teachers who honor the importance of transfer and who actively construct understandings for themselves is the goal. When they take the next step to demystify it for their students, transfer has the power to be transformative. Generating an understanding for what transfer is and how to achieve it with our students is the work.  Our planning for instruction and our emphasis on creating classroom environments fosters student ownership:

Cultivating Transfer: Intentionality for Contextual Learning

Classrooms built for transfer are more than physical spaces. They encourage intellectual and emotional experiences that invite children to apply their learning at every turn. This message came through loud and clear: the context we create for learning should work in concert with the context we create in our own learning lives. Learning is an experience and we can explore transfer through authentic engagement that is designed to be meaningful for students:

Motivating Transfer: Attitudes About Independence

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing students apply their learning in a new situation. Skillful thoughtful planning allows us to see beyond isolative learning tasks. Our work is to promote students’ understanding that learning is a meaningful endeavor.  Whatever we ask of students their work, ought be driven by intrinsic desire. The work needs to spark curiosity for the learner. The student has to care about their progress if they are going to thrive:

Words like: grit, growth, mindset, ownership, and collaboration are omnipresent in school districts across our nation. What do these terms mean in terms of transfer? We are aspiring to create resilient students who embrace challenge and effort over time. It is not an easy road to work hard to learn something new. It’s that much more difficult to see the connectedness for what is being learned and then to apply learning in a new context. Now more than ever we have to build our students up and celebrate those efforts. They have to know that we believe in their potential to do amazing work. Every time they transfer their learning during their independent work they will believe it for themselves.  Transfer is the work of a lifetime, hopefully we never stop learning. My emerging ability to glide in and out subway turnstiles may seem small, but it renews my faith that opportunities to learn and grow reside  in the everyday.  This is a miracle that needs to be shared enthusiastically again and again with our students.