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What Writers Need

A couple of summers ago I decided to be a writer full-time for two weeks. I woke up each day and headed to campus, filled with excitement, some anxiety, and...

Writing Effective Conclusions

This year I actually had a student ask me, “Do I have to write a conclusion? Can’t I just stop?” Besides making me laugh, this question stopped me cold for...

Using Mentor Texts Across the Writing Process

During our prep for state testing, Alex wrote lead after lead in her on-demand narrative pieces that mimicked the structure and phrasing of Owl Moon. She knew the lead to...

Assessment Refresh

“I don’t know how to do this,” Jenny whined. “Will you help me?” Jenny was an eighth grader who had dealt with major health issues throughout middle school. She had...

Tools for Striving Writers

As our district’s writing coordinator, I love working with children who are struggling to write. Yes, I love to work with the gushing writers, but there’s something really rewarding about...

Moves for Struggling Writers

When I taught fifth and sixth grade, I remember one student who was a very reluctant writer. He had mastered a variety of ways to avoid putting words down on...

Assessment During On-Demand Writing

It's early in the school year. We've started the activities we've planned to build a community of kids who care about each other and value learning. It's time for the...

Using Student Checklists in Literacy Intervention

I don’t know about you, but I am a list person. In fact, I adore lists in all their splendor: lists on sticky notes, on notebook paper, on whiteboards, and...

Giving Graphic Organizers a Go

When my literacy coach fanned out five graphic organizers for text structures (description, sequence, compare/contrast, problem/solution, and cause/effect) and suggested I ask each child to try roughing out a plan...

Gradual Release of Responsibility in Small Groups

At times in our teaching careers, we’ve stepped back and realized we’ve been teaching too much. It happens when we’ve gradually fallen into a cycle of teaching a new minilesson...

Push Pause: Dealing with Failure in the Midst

“Take out your previous argumentative essay.” “The one I passed back last week.” “With the rubric stapled to it.” “I wrote on the rubric with blue ink.” “It should be...

Writing Share Structures

Can I share today? I want to share. Me too, me too! The clamoring for attention was driving me crazy. Ten minutes into our workshop and students who had barely...

Lunchtime Storytelling

I was routinely late to my lunchroom duty. The sounds, the smells, the lingering playground arguments, and the too-hard-to-peel-open pudding cups repelled me. Back in September it was enjoyable. I...

Flexible Groups: Moving Beyond Levels to Assess Reading Needs

Gail Boushey and Joan Moser (“The Sisters”) discuss how their thinking has evolved when it comes to flexible groups. The video excerpt shows Joan working with a group of kindergartners....

Launching and Sustaining Writers’ Notebooks

Ruth Ayres confers with third grader Jade about the value of collecting ideas in her writer’s notebook, and shares some strategies for organizing the information. Click here to download the...

Conferring with Spencer: Writing Notebook Topics

Katherine Sokolowski helps fifth grader Spencer brainstorm topics for his writing notebook.    

School-to-Home Journals

I love school-to-home journals. I’m talking about the type where a student writes a letter to someone at home once or twice a week, and that someone—a parent, usually, but...

Is Writing Essential?

Sam, my son, writes with me every Saturday morning. It’s a long-standing tradition. One day he asked, “May I use your phone? I want to figure out the word for...

Using Stories to Launch Writers’ Notebooks

Twenty-two fourth graders are gathered on our blue carpet framed by bookshelves. One of us is perched on our stool, Fireflies! by Julie Brinckloe in hand, scanning the faces in...

Planning for a Narrative Writing Unit of Study

When we take a vacation to Disney World, our family has almost as much fun planning the trip as we do going on it. Once we decide how we’ll get...

Dabbling: Reviving a Focus on Play

It was April, and we were beginning our final unit of study in writing workshop—narrative nonfiction. Coincidentally, my own National Poetry Month poem-a-day project was narrative nonfiction—poems inspired by the...