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A Quick How-to Writing Unit in First Grade

I love squeezing in a how-to writing unit when I feel like my students need something a little different from our regular book-making writing. Instead of using how-to books as...

Mentor Text Craft Guides

As a writer, I explore and examine mentor texts all the time for inspiration and understanding about how to improve my own craft. Most of my writing friends do the...

Fifth-Grade Small Group: Paragraphs

Dana Murphy meets with a group of fifth graders to help students develop paragraphing skills, using a peer’s mentor text.

Mastering Conventions

“You’re not stepping into the ball,” Kurt said as he hit another tennis ball my way. A hundred other directions marched through my brain as I concentrated on moving my...

Helping Students Understand What Works for Them

While playing tennis with my youngest daughter and my husband, I was surprised by how much Cecily liked Garth’s constant stream of suggestions, pointers, and coaching. “He’s always right,” Cecily...

Building Reading Identities Across the Year

It was November, and a new intervention cycle was beginning. “What kind of reader are you, Giselle?” Kate asked the student who was new to one of her third-grade intervention...

Finding Time for Writing Shares

“I never seem to get to the share,” a teacher said to me in a recent conversation. We talked more, and it became clear to me that part of the...

Big Table Writing

Max Brand uses the “big table” in his kindergarten classroom as a communal spot for writing. You can see how he interrupts students naturally to make quick suggestions, and allows...

Boosting the Confidence of Writers

The first time I sat down with Aaron, I asked him about his writing identity. “How would you describe yourself as a writer?” I asked. His eyes narrowed a bit....

Charting Mentor Texts

Using mentor texts is one of our favorite things to do with our students in writing workshop, because it pushes them to try things in their writing they wouldn’t have...

Drawing and Learning in Kindergarten

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...

No Pictures Stinks!

All of us teachers have recollections of cringe-worthy moments from the earlier years of our careers. Well, maybe one or two from later in our careers, too. We all painfully...

Talking Through Characters

Our sixth graders are getting ready to write realistic fiction stories, and one of the important parts of the process is getting to know their characters. In the past, I...

Student-Centered Notes

I wrote my first research paper when I was in eighth grade. I believe my assigned topic was the death penalty, and I think I probably felt passionately about whatever...

Key Elements of Short Stories

I teach a creative writing elective, and one of the most anticipated assignments of the class is to write a short story. Students get excited about the chance to make...

Growing Toward Stories

At a recent meeting with two teachers who teach combined kindergarten and first-grade Learning Language Disabilities (LLD) classrooms, they expressed concern about their recent training in writing workshop. There’s just...

Alternatives to Graphic Organizers

The first time it happened was on a balmy November day. The room was quiet except for the sound of fingers clicking on keys and a soft baroque instrumental melody...

Writer’s Notebook Tweaks

Have you ever noticed how even the things you love sometimes annoy you? Perfection is hard to come by, and small, niggling issues tend to pop up and overshadow our...

Student-Led Minilession: Planning and Organizing Nonfiction Writing

Katie leads a minilesson in Franki Sibberson’s fifth-grade class on organizing and planning nonfiction writing.

Digital and Disney: Conferring with Ben

It would be easy to zip quickly through a writing conference about a vacation story, especially one about a trip to Disney. Franki Sibberson doesn’t do that. She slows down...

Stretching Writing in First Grade with Details

Bitsy Parks makes the home-school connection with first grader Grace early in the year as she writes about her birthday party. Bitsy encourages Grace to stretch her writing with more...