Everyone who writes for Choice Literacy loves teaching writing, because we all write ourselves. We know it is "hard fun," as Donald Murray famously said—exasperating and exhilarating at the same time. The writing workshops you will read about here and see in our videos are busy, noisy, vibrant places. And most days, we wouldn't want to be anywhere else than in the midst of 'em! Here is where you'll find our latest discoveries, insights, and occasional boneheaded mistakes in teaching writing.
Melanie Meehan explains why it is important to mentor students who are struggling with correct examples, and why she cautions writing teachers to avoid “find the mistakes” exercises.
Do struggles with handwriting matter? They do when a student can’t even decipher his own words. Katherine Sokolowski confers with fifth grader Sauvi to help him find solutions to the problem.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills explain why short-term writing goals can help students reset expectations for their writing on a daily basis, and how they make these goals an integral part of their writing workshops.
When students set intentions, reflection and celebration go hand in hand. Melanie Meehan explains how teachers can help students become more explicit about intentions with practical cues from bulletin boards and index cards.
Katrina Edwards begins her conference with first grader Allen by celebrating all he is doing well in his writing. She highlights his language and details in writing, before moving on to new strategies to try.
Do celebrations matter? If you know Ruth Ayres, you know her answer is always a resounding YES. Here are her best tips for sharing writing in a class celebration.
If you want stronger poetry from students, a good starting point might be to explore how to write a powerful simile. Gretchen Schroeder explains how she helps her high school students play with and create better similes.
Shirl McPhillips shares a poem she’s written about her grandmother Eva, and the fragments of memory that inspired it.
Ruth Ayres explains how the distinction between writers and teachers who write is subtle but essential for understanding mentoring in workshops.
Matt Renwick describes the process of paying attention to telling details, and gives practical advice for teaching this skill to young writers.
Christy Ruth-Levine leads a small group of eighth graders as they explore how to include textual evidence in their literary analysis essays.
Suzy Kaback finds the task of creating readers’ guides helps students in the intermediate grades think about evidence in texts in more sophisticated ways.
Gretchen Schroeder’s high school students are surprised to see a deck of cards on their supply list. The cards are a tool for teaching the vocabulary of tone in creative ways.
Franki Sibberson helps Lucas plan his minilesson for his fifth-grade classmates on how to connect words and facts from two different sources.
Lucas leads a minilesson in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class on connecting facts from different sources.
Ruth Ayres wonders if the pencil still has power, taking readers through a whirlwind history of the writing tool in her life, schools, and the world.
Christy Rush-Levine integrates reading responses into her preparation for reading conferences, and then uses the responses as a tool to build goals and insights within the conference.
Tara Smith covers all the basics of how to get organized in middle school for the first days of literacy workshops.
One way to keep your instruction fresh in a required writing unit is to take on the tasks and topics yourself. Dana Murphy finds completing the assignments herself is well worth her time, and gives her a treasure trove of notebook entries to use in her conferring.
Shari Frost finds she has to do required, on-demand writing for a new job, and in the process develops a new appreciation for how teachers struggle with rigid reading and writing programs.
Dana Murphy considers how teachers can make writing workshop routines more cozy and like writing at home.
It’s not an invitation if students are required to accept it. Franki Sibberson explains how engagement depends upon true choice and lots of options in her fifth-grade classroom.
Tara Smith shares many strategies for helping her sixth graders get to the heart of understanding themes in literature.
Justin Stygles questions his conferring routine during writing workshops, and the value of interrupting students early in the drafting process.
Ruth Ayres explains why conferring records that stay with kids are the most useful for teachers.
This fifth-grade minilesson from Franki Sibberson is a lovely mix of mentor texts, Franki's own writing, and honesty about the writing process.
Melanie Meehan considers content and context for students who struggle to master new skills because of a lack of background knowledge.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills conclude their series on independent projects with advice on how to handle issues that often crop up as students design and work through writing their projects.
Melanie Meehan shares questions and reflection prompts to make the "turn and talk" strategy more effective.
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