From Striving to Thriving Writers: a #G2Great Chat

by, Jenn Hayhurst

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

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

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

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger

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

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

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

Dr. Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Cheesman Smith The Megabook of Fluency

by Jenn Hayhurst

On August 30, 2018 #G2Great was delighted to welcome, Dr. Timothy Rasinski and Melissa Cheeseman Smith. Tim and Melissa are fluency gurus who have so much to teach us all. Why is fluency so important?  Fluency is one way that children begin to believe in their reading prowess. I use the word prowess because it implies skill or expertise and it also implies courage and bravery. When children enjoy reading and become more skilled; reading becomes a source of joyful learning that builds them up and helps them to take future reading risks. Risks that will push them outside of their comfort zone into overdrive to their growth zone!

Yet, as part of our shared literacy history, fluency instruction got a speeding ticket. We began to focus our assessments and instruction on speed alone –  and as anyone who has ever gotten a speeding ticket will tell you, we pay dearly for that mistake.

Our conversation Thursday night mapped out a route for the complexities of fluency instruction. Our destination? To strike a balance on the elements of fluency so our instructional practices not only meet children where they are, but gets them where they need to go.

Understanding the Rules of the Road…

Think of the essential instructional building blocks of reading fluency as the “rules of the road” that help readers lay a strong reading foundation.  Just like new drivers, readers need to time to practice a lot with an expert. Here is what the #G2Great PLN had to say…

Read the Road Signs…

Road signs are a quick and efficient way to communicate important information.  Tim & Melissa gave us this powerful instructional device,  “EARS” to underscore the elements of fluency: Expression, Automatic Word Recognition, Rhythm & Phrasing & Smoothness. This tells our students the essential information they need to think about when working on fluency while reminding them to be all EARS! 

Objects May Appear Closer Than They Appear…

Speed has loomed large in the rearview mirror because for so long we been advised to keep fluency success dependent on words per minute. Ironically (just like driving a car) keeping a free and open perspective is what we really need. We need the whole picture. So while fluency has been seen through that quantitative lens of speed, Tim & Melissa have given us a revised Multidimensional Fluency Scale. One that rewards good drivers (a nod to Allstate) and that reflects a qualitative lens. 

Thank you so much for joining us, Tim and Melissa! It was a fantastic night and an excellent journey. If you want to learn more from Tim and Melissa please follow these links. You will be glad you did!

Scholastic Megabook of Fluency link:
Take a closer look at the Megabook of Fluency:
Check out Tim and Melissa on Twitter: @TimRasinski1 ‏@MCheesmanSmith@ScholasticEd #TheMegabookOfFluency
Tim Rasinski, “Why Fluency?”:
Melissa Cheesman Smith, “Today, Choose Joy: Joyfulness in Fluent Reading”: