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An All-School Writing Project: Six-Word Memoirs

If you want to bring everyone in your school together around writing, you can’t beat the simplicity and fun of six-word memoirs. Jennifer Schwanke describes how she sparked enthusiasm for the project in her school.

Conferences Between Middle School Parents and Teachers

Parents of middle school students are often bewildered at how best to deal with their child’s unresponsiveness. Jennifer Schwanke explains how teachers can construct conferences with middle school parents that foster reflection, action, and shared goals.

Avoiding Flat Tires

Jen Schwanke gets berated by a tire shop repair guy for ignoring routine maintenance needs on her bike. That gets her thinking about what needs routine maintenance in elementary classrooms.

Rethinking Spring Assessments

It's May, and teachers everywhere are preparing for final assessments of students. Jennifer Schwanke explains why it might be time to rethink or even ditch some of those plans.

Students Watching Teachers

Students are always watching us, whether we realize it or not. Jennifer Schwanke explains how we can capitalize on that interest to build independent reading and writing habits.

Questions for Rereaders

Lifelong readers often have books they love to reread, sometimes more than once. But young readers can also get into ruts. Jennifer Schwanke explores when rereading is fine for students, and when it should be challenged. She includes a series of questions for teachers to use when conferring with children who are rereading favorite books.

Why Bother? Practical Answers to Questions About Close Reading

Why bother with close reading? Jennifer Schwanke finds many teachers asking themselves if close reading is worth the time, when schedules are already overstuffed. She shares some prompts to help assess when close reading makes sense.

Better Parent-Teacher Conferences

Jennifer Schwanke explains how she stopped railing against the tradition and learned to appreciate parent-teacher conferences. She shares tips for making them better.

School-to-Home Journals

Are you considering school-to-home journals in your classroom this year? Jennifer Schwanke describes how these notebooks build community and literacy skills.

The iPad Is 7

Jennifer Schwanke reflects upon how the iPad and other touchscreen devices have changed the way children interact with all texts, even traditional storybooks.

Explaining a Workshop Model to Parents (Part 2)

ennifer Schwanke explains how jargon can trip up communication with parents, and lists which terms are worth defining. This is the final installment of her series on talking about literacy workshops with families.

Explaining a Workshop Model to Parents

Jennifer Schwanke explains why parent-teacher conferences can be bewildering for families, and offers advice for better ways to explain a literacy workshop model to them.

Read-Aloud Gone Awry

Jennifer Schwanke shares her experience of having read-aloud go awry in a middle school classroom.

Parent in a Foreign Land

Jennifer Schwanke shares some of the unique struggles parents of English language learners have in making their children's needs known, and how we can help them.

Student-Led Conferences from Many Perspectives

Jennifer Schwanke and Franki Sibberson share four perspectives on student-led conferences — teacher, principal, student, and parent.

Poetry Through Song

Jennifer Schwanke finds song lyrics are one way for students to see the power of poems.

An Unconventional Scavenger Hunt: Finding Errors

Jennifer Schwanke finds that a scavenger hunt for errors to add to a bulletin board is a great way to build editing skills and a writing community all year long in her seventh-grade classroom.

Replicating or Deepening?

Jennifer Schwanke finds teachers can get territorial about texts, "claiming" them for their grade level. She explores when it is appropriate to repeat the use of a text in subsequent grades.

Old-Fashioned Resources

Jennifer Schwanke cleans out a school storage area, and with advice from teachers discovers new purposes for old items she was about to discard.

Understanding Josh: The Audio Reader

Jennifer Schwanke tells the story of Josh, a special-needs student who is almost impossible to reach, until one committed teacher unlocks the key to what makes him tick as a learner.

New and Improved Nonfiction

Jennifer Schwanke remembers the days when mimeographed nonfiction pieces were rare and not welcome additions to elementary classrooms, and reflects on how much has changed.

The Beauty of Imitation

Jennifer Schwanke explains how concerns about plagiarism can get in the way of recognizing the value of mimicking the styles of other writers to find our own.

Holding a Dictionary

Jennifer Schwanke finds dictionaries (the real, not virtual, variety) are still a potent tool for teaching new vocabulary to children.

Core Memories and Gotcha Moments

Jennifer Schwanke explains why pop quizzes can be damaging to students by using a pop culture reference.

Doodlebug

What makes a teacher memorable? Recognizing a child's passions from the very first day of school. Jennifer Schwanke recounts how her second-grade teacher did just that.

Bring Back Read Aloud

Jennifer Schwanke interviews older students and discovers their most beloved memories of elementary school involve read alouds.

Best Part of Me

Jennifer Schwanke shares a favorite activity for building community and self-esteem.

What Kenny Taught Me

Jennifer Schwanke has a student who just won't sit still and behave appropriately in her middle school classroom. She finally gives up. That's where the learning begins.

Phrasal Verbs and English Language Learners

Jennifer Schwanke writes about the need for teachers to understand how phrasal verbs work and why it is essential to teach them explicitly to English language learners.

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