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.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share many of their favorite anchor charts for helping students connect writer’s craft to mentor texts.
Max Brand demonstrates basic drawing strategies early in the year, and then has his kindergartners attempt similar pictures. He explains how the exercise builds basic skills both in literacy and hand/eye coordination.
Shari Frost remembers how she inadvertently stifled the creativity of one of her most enthusiastic first-grade writers. Her story has important lessons for all of us about the importance of voice and choice for learners of all ages.
Melanie Meehan shares activities that help students talk about their characters before writing about them in a realistic fiction unit.
Dana Murphy discovers that what works for one student doesn’t work for another when it comes to note-taking. She provides options and then hosts a gallery walk so everyone can discover what works best for them.
Gretchen Schroeder finds her students’ enthusiasm for writing short stories flags quickly without some instruction and guidance.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills use prompts and aids to help their youngest learners tell stories and find a writing voice.
Dana Murphy is dismayed by the ways graphic organizers can sometimes limit student creativity. She uses writing notebooks and a few other strategies to begin to wean her fourth graders from depending too much on organizers.
Gretchen Schroeder analyzes the use of writing notebooks in her classroom, focusing on what’s confusing or frustrating for students. She makes some small changes that yield big results.
Katie presents a student-led minilesson in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class on organizing and planning nonfiction writing.
It would be easy to zip quickly through a writing conference about a vacation story, especially one about a trip to Disney. In this video, Franki Sibberson slows down with Ben to explore how he is meeting his goal of adding descriptive language to writing, using digital tools to assist.
Bitsy Parks makes the home-school connection with first grader Grace early in the year as she writes about her birthday party.
Louise Wrobleski uses video clips, children’s literature, and newspaper articles to teach middle school students new ways to craft persuasive writing.
Students can claim who they are as readers and writers by designing and presenting minilessons to their peers. In this week’s video, fifth grader Reagan from Franki Sibberson’s classroom presents a lesson on annotating reading with sticky notes.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills show how to break down mentor texts into brief excerpts for step-by-step scaffolding of writers in the intermediate grades.
Christy Rush-Levine presents a minilesson to her eighth-grade students about revising their literary analysis essays, using an analogy about putting furniture together.
Melanie Meehan finds that a “lift the flap” strategy works for showing students different revision options with dialogue.
If your students are equating revision with proofreading and final cleanups, Tara Barnett and Kate Mills have some practical revision strategies you might want to try.
Jennifer Allen has been fascinated with helping boys write for years, ever since her own son insisted on writing on the same topic over and over again. She shares her five favorite strategies for boosting interest in writing among boys.
Gigi McAllister helps fourth grader Griffin re-engage with his writing by pointing out some of the unique qualities of voice and style his piece possesses.
Fifth-grade writers in Franki Sibberson’s classroom encourage each other and suggest revisions to their opinion writing drafts in partner teams.
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.
Shirl McPhillips shares a poem she’s written about her grandmother Eva, and the fragments of memory that inspired it.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains how the distinction between writers and teachers who write is subtle but essential for understanding mentoring in workshops.
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