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Collaborating for Understanding in Writing

“I know you have gone over it 11 times today, but can you explain it one more time?” After spending a few days diving into understanding the truth about Christopher...

Whole-Class Reflection in Middle School

Ever since my first day in the teaching profession, my students have taught me how to be a better teacher. This may come from my own learning as a child:...

Helping Students Develop Conversational Identity

At a recent dinner party, my friend’s six-year-old daughter, Anicia, sidled up to me. “You’re a principal, right?” “Yep.” “My teacher says I talk too much.” I smiled. Anicia was,...

Growing Talk About Reading

The past year has been a steep learning curve for Kate. After nine years in a fourth-grade classroom, she moved to a literacy interventionist position, in which she pulls struggling...

Stepping Away from the Conversation

I recently watched a teacher artfully—and unexpectedly—remove herself from student talk just when it got sticky. The class of second graders had just finished reading about a group of animals...

Balancing Whole-Class and Independent Reading in Middle School

The choice between whole-class novels and independent reading can be a false one in many middle school classrooms. Katie Doherty’s sixth graders discuss their reading together of a novel in...

Talk Guide

Gigi McAllister presents a guide to her fourth-grade students to improve talk in reading trios.

Stop and Inquire

“Did Washington really chop down a cherry tree?” In the middle of a minilesson about the French and Indian War, I introduced George Washington as a young soldier in his...

Using Podcasts as an Alternative to Article of the Week

Like many teachers, I have been using Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week activity in my classroom for several years. At the beginning of the year, this activity is great:...

Better Writing Response Groups

Peer feedback is something we value for ourselves, and so we’re always looking for ways to improve the quality of feedback our students give and get. In middle school, we...

QR Code Listening Stations

Many classrooms have a listening station to replicate the benefits of classroom read-alouds in literacy stations. Yet, in my experience, listening stations are one of the most difficult stations to...

Balancing Reading and Talk

“Will you guys please be quiet and get back to your reading?” I heard myself asking my seventh-grade honors social studies class. It was obvious by their conversation that they...

Monday Headlines

A few years into our teaching career, we came across the idea of using time on Monday mornings to have our students tell stories from their weekend. The idea was...

Small Solutions for Big Problems with Classroom Discussions

If I walk out of my classroom during class changes, the hallways is abuzz with chatter and conversation. I observe intimate powwows in front of lockers and hasty discussions down...

The Power of Picture Book Conversations

I remember reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Scoot a few years ago. I was intrigued but overwhelmed by the medical jargon. I had passages marked to...

The Importance of Their Words

Just yesterday, I sat down next to a second-grade boy during his writing workshop. He and his classmates were working their way through their opinion unit, and he was managing...

Learning Vocabulary in Context with English Language Learners

Student 1: I think Frog is really nice. Me: What makes you say that? Student 1: Because he helped Toad find the list. Student 2: Yeah . . . because...

Setting the Stage for Meaningful Peer Feedback

Peer-to-peer feedback is something we value in our classroom. We expect that the feedback that peers give to one another can lead to meaningful revision, just like the feedback we...

Pausing for Reflection in Second Grade

Sean Moore pauses midway through the year with his second graders to revisit reflection strategies while reading.

Mid-Workshop Conversations

Okay, readers, go ahead: find a friend to share your thinking about the book you’re reading. The classroom teacher says these words without much fuss and noise, and students quickly...

Potato the Crow: Blurring the Lines Between Reality, Fantasy, and Play with Young Learners

One fall day as I strolled through the aisles of the dollar store looking for classroom curriculum, I came across an artificial crow.  It was realistic looking, with feathers over...