Melanie Meehan

Melanie Meehan has been the Elementary Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, Connecticut since 2012. Melanie wrote Every Child Can Write, published by Corwin Press in October 2019, and, The Responsive Writing Teacher, co-written with Kelsey Sorum, published in March 2021. Connect with Melanie on Twitter @melaniemeehan1.

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Celebrating with Fan Fiction

Melanie Meehan shares how a short dip into fan fiction can be a wonderful way to inject some play and raise engagement in writing.

Writing Conference: Establishing Setting

Melanie Meehan uses A Day’s Work as a mentor text to help fifth grader Emily develop setting in her writing.

Using Humor to Teach Language Standards

Teaching parts of speech is viewed as dreary work for most teachers. Melanie Meehan shares how you can infuse some fun into it with a little bit of humor.

Writing Realistic Fiction

Melanie Meehan explains how she takes students step-by-step through the process of creating realistic fiction.

Getting Students in the Learning Zone

The zone of proximal development (or ZPD) is the sweet spot for learning—just enough challenge with just enough support to take on the challenge. Melanie Meehan shares how teachers can create scaffolds in their classrooms that help students find their own ZPDs.

Mentor Text Craft Guides

Melanie Meehan helps students see the craft moves in mentor texts by tucking brief guides into many of her favorite children’s books in the classroom library.

Mastering Conventions

Even eight-year-olds are expected to master a dozen or more conventions. Melanie Meehan shares a process for helping students focus on the small steps needed to master any convention with peer support.

Text Set Resources

Melanie Meehan shares some of her favorite resources for developing text sets.

Helping Students Understand What Works for Them

Want students to become more independent? Melanie Meehan recommends that you take each student through a reflective process to figure out what learning processes and habits work for them.

Finding Time for Writing Shares

Finding time for writing share sessions may begin with trying out a few different options to see what works in your classroom. Melanie Meehan presents some of her favorites.

Boosting the Confidence of Writers

We can teach students craft moves for their writing and how to punctuate. But how do we build their confidence? Melanie Meehan helps Aaron see his needs as a writer, but even more importantly, his strengths.

Talking Through Characters

Melanie Meehan shares activities that help students talk about their characters before writing about them in a realistic fiction unit.

Becoming More Inclusive

Every teacher wants to be more inclusive. But where do you begin? Melanie Meehan presents three practical starting points.

Narrative Mini-Charts

Melanie Meehan finds narrative mini-charts are a powerful tool in her coaching arsenal as she works in classrooms with teachers to help students develop storytelling skills.

Rethinking Homework

Melanie Meehan explores research findings on homework, and provides a series of prompts for thinking through with teachers how to revise homework practices to be more relevant and helpful for students and families.

The Power of Paper

Melanie Meehan details how different paper options can be a powerful scaffold for students as they explore different writing genres. She includes many sample scaffolds to download for use in an opinion writing unit.

Revising Dialogue in Narrative Writing

Melanie Meehan finds that a “lift the flap” strategy works for showing students different revision options with dialogue.

Grammar Games

Melanie Meehan shares two of her favorite games for teaching grammar, including templates and web resources.

The Importance of Correct Examples

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.

When Students Set Intentions

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.

Meeting with Building Leaders

Melanie Meehan shares her agenda items and strategies for productive regular meetings between literacy coaches and principals.

Tips for Planning with Teachers

Melanie Meehan shares some of her favorite templates for flexible lesson planning with teachers.

Helping Teachers Develop Their Own Chartbooks

Melanie Meehan personalizes learning for teachers by helping them develop chartbooks to use in workshops.

Content and Context

Melanie Meehan considers content and context for students who struggle to master new skills because of a lack of background knowledge.

Improving Turn-and-Talks

Melanie Meehan shares questions and reflection prompts to make the “turn and talk” strategy more effective.

Looking Forward with Students

Melanie Meehan uses reflective questions and video to build a library of materials at the end of the year to use with next year's class.

Backward Chaining

How do you help students who are far behind their classmates in tackling writing projects, and have had years of learned helplessness in approaching complex tasks? Melanie Meehan takes on the challenge with a backward-chaining model.

Grammar Instruction in Fourth Grade

Melanie Meehan coaches a fourth-grade teacher who is trying to improve his grammar instruction.

Inspiring Students to Revise

Melanie Meehan uses revision strips to move young writers beyond "I'm done!" and into expanding and editing their writing.

Questioning Within Read Alouds

Melanie Meehan looks at the issue of engagement through the lens of student questions during read alouds, and shares a strategy to provoke more thoughtful student participation.

Asking Students to Grade Themselves

Asking students to assess and grade their own work cements learning and deepens understanding for many students, but only if it is done in a thoughtful, collaborative way. Melanie Meehan takes you step-by-step through the process in a fifth-grade classroom.

One Teaching Point at a Time

Melanie Meehan opens her coaching notebook to show how she helps teachers slow down and avoid trying to teach too many writing skills at once.

Bulletin Board of Independence

Melanie Meehan uses independence bulletin boards to provide students with options when working on their own during units of study.

Keeping Minilessons Short

Melanie Meehan gives three quick management tips for tackling the challenge many teachers face — keeping minilessons short.

The Intersection of Social Studies and Language Arts

No time for social studies is a common lament. Melanie Meehan helps teachers find ways to integrate reading and writing into social studies instruction.

Building Specialist Capacity

Melanie Meehan explains how she creates videos to enhance the skills of paraprofessionals and volunteers working in classrooms.

More Productive Workshops

By early in the new year, literacy workshops should be humming with productivity. If you're in one that isn't, Melanie Meehan has suggestions for working with the teacher to find and solve problems together.

More Productive Writing Workshops

Melanie Meehan shares how everything from transitions to clutter can provide clues for how to increase student output and enjoyment.
 

Tools for Striving Writers

Sometimes a student just. won’t. write. Melanie Meehan shares her favorite tools in her bag of tricks to get the pencil or pen moving across the page.

When Teachers Design the Professional Development Calendar

Melanie Meehan finds that a simple process early in the year that gives teachers more control over the professional development plan builds excitement for new learning.

Be Someone Who Writes

Melanie Meehan shares some practical suggestions for helping teachers (and literacy coaches) build a writing habit and get over their feelings of inadequacy as writers.

Exploring Text Features

Melanie Meehan works with a small group to talk through how nonfiction text features might enhance their informational writing.

The Evolution of a Coaching Tool Kit

Melanie Meehan moves from a cart to a bag to a small baggie . . . and then back to a cart again. She explains how the tools she brings to classrooms and the thinking behind them have changed over time.

Three Ways to Keep Coaching Student Centered

Melanie Meehan shares practical tips for keeping the focus on students in coaching sessions.

Student-Designed Development Cards

Melanie Meehan finds that student-designed development cards are a great way to get students invested in literacy goals.

Jumpstarting Student Writers

Melanie Meehan shares a simple coaching tool she uses to rev up young student writers.

Tapping into What Students Know

Melanie Meehan shares the value of assessing what students know first, and then tapping into this knowledge in new units.

The Power of a Plastic Frame

Melanie Meehan shares her favorite tool for leaving a bit of her coaching behind in classrooms, one student at a time.

Assessing Instruction in the Midst

Melanie Meehan shares some ways teachers can press the pause button in the midst of teaching to assess whether they are teaching the right lesson at the right time.

Choice Professional Development Sessions

Melanie Meehan tackles a professional development session scheduled at a tough time of year by turning it into an opportunity for participants to share their growth and learning.

Mentor Texts and Important Reminders

Melanie Meehan shares four important tips for using mentor texts effectively with students of any age.

Teachers Who Write

Melanie Meehan explains why your own writing, however imperfect it is, might enhance your teaching tremendously.

Professional Development Choice and Follow-Up

Melanie Meehan finds that including choice and reflection in professional development options leads to more classroom changes over time.

The Power of Mini-Charts

Melanie Meehan finds that the effectiveness of the charts she uses in coaching is magnified by shrinking them down and sharing them with many teachers.

Grammar Instruction in Fourth Grade

Melanie Meehan coaches a fourth-grade teacher who is trying to improve his grammar instruction.

Poetry Love

Why not poetry? Melanie Meehan asked herself what genre might work best for a summer writing academy for students. She explains why poetry is the perfect summer genre for students who might be reluctant to receive extra support.

Teaching Students to Start at the Right Place

Melanie Meehan uses focus questions for teaching students to start at the right place in their writing, moving them beyond the bed-to-bed stories that plague so many literacy workshops.

Getting the Ball Rolling in a Realistic Fiction Unit

Melanie Meehan helps elementary students move from narratives to realistic fiction by beginning with “facts” about their fictional characters.

Goal-Setting Ideas for Students

Melanie Meehan shares a wealth of ideas for better goal-setting with students.

Increasing Student Engagement During Minilessons

Melanie Meehan has tips for keeping students engaged during minilessons.

Data Mining Before a Coaching Cycle

Melanie Meehan shares the importance of considering data with teachers at the start of a coaching cycle.

Meeting with Principals

Melanie Meehan finds that the five different principals she works with have different needs and work styles, but using a common agenda template in meetings ensures good communication for everyone.

A Chartbook Tour

Melanie Meehan gives a “tour” of her chartbook, explaining how she organizes the sketches to use in her classroom coaching.

Why I Don’t Like Erasers

Melanie Meehan explains why erasers can be problematic in writing workshops, beyond just eliminating the ability of teachers to see the progression of revisions in a young writer's work.

Advice for a New Coach

Melanie Meehan shares her best advice for a new coach who is just beginning to forge relationships with teachers.

Parent Bulletin Board

Melanie Meehan takes on the challenge of designing a bulletin board to help parents support writing at home.

Teaching Students at Their Own Level

Melanie Meehan explains why perfectly designed lessons aligned with standards are useless if they aren’t at the level of the students in front of you.

Learning Targets

Melanie Meehan explains how she changed her demonstration lessons to include more of her own process in creating learning targets, and how sharing this assessment with students helped them focus their work.

Creating a Strategy Tool Kit

Melanie Meehan describes the power of developing strategy tool kits for coaching, and presents some of the tools in her kit for teaching revision strategies.

Engagement in Writing Workshops

Melanie Meehan shares some practical strategies for keeping students engaged that she often uses in demonstration lessons.

The Importance of Their Words

Melanie Meehan shares strategies and prompts for helping easily distracted young learners focus in conferences.

Share, Learn, Grow: The PD Bulletin Board

Melanie Meehan explains how she uses a bulletin board to spread resources and teaching ideas throughout a school.

Teaching Punctuation with Poetry

Melanie Meehan discovers that the spare form of poetry is especially useful for teaching conventions.

Table Charts in Second Grade

Melanie Meehan chats with second-grade teacher Nadia Egan about her ingenious use of table charts to enhance conferences and whole-class instruction.

Helping Struggling Writers in Second Grade

Melanie Meehan chats with second-grade teacher Nadia Egan about creative strategies for helping struggling writers.

Mentor Texts for Crafting Nonfiction

Melanie Meehan talks with a third-grade teacher about how she helps students focus on craft elements in nonfiction mentor texts.

Coaching a Shift to a New Writing Unit

Melanie Meehan coaches a third-grade teacher who is transitioning between information- and opinion-writing units, emphasizing how charts might be used in the class effectively.

Coaching for Kindergarten Writing

Melanie Meehan meets with kindergarten teacher Katie to talk through the needs of two children who are just beginning to learn how to transfer their stories from home to the page.

The Value of Pre-Assessment

Melanie Meehan explains why a baseline assessment at the start of any writing unit is well worth the time.

Digging into Research Questions

Melanie Meehan explains how helping students deepen their questioning strategies leads to more thoughtful research projects.

Kindergarten Writing: Helping Advanced Learners

Melanie Meehan meets with kindergarten teacher Hayley to examine student work and talk about how to help young learners who are still in transition from home to school environments.

New-to-Grade-Level Teacher Tool Kit

This is the time of year when many teachers are getting new grade assignments for the coming year. Melanie Meehan shares a tool kit she's designed to help each teacher make the shift.

End-of-the-Year Reflection

Melanie Meehan shares a series of thoughtful questions to help students reflect on their process as writers, and what they need as they move into the summer and new classrooms.

Developing Individualized Convention Checklists with Students

Melanie Meehan works with third graders to develop personalized conventions checklists.

An Individualized Conventions Checklist

Melanie Meehan finds that a flexible conventions checklist that students develop according to their own needs is the best way to ensure conventions are taught in the context of authentic student work.

Coaching and Tracking Conferences

Melanie Meehan shares some of her favorite prompts, strategies, and tools for effective conferences with students.

Coaching Minute: Baggies

Melanie Meehan shares her bedraggled baggie—the essential tools she carries with her when she confers with students.

Strategies for Elaboration in Opinion Writing

Melanie Meehan works with fifth graders who are struggling to elaborate on themes in their opinion writing.

Coaching Minute: What’s in My Bag

Melanie Meehan opens her coaching bag to share her favorite on-the-go resources.

Unintended Benefits of Recording Minilessons

Melanie Meehan explains the value of recording minilessons when coaching, and also shares some tips if you are new to the practice.

Coaching Minute: Conferring Cards

In this brief video, Melanie Meehan shares the simple cards she gives to students when conferring. These cards document compliments and challenges to guide the student after the conference is over. They also give the classroom teacher a sense of what was discussed in the conference.

Student Self-Assessment Strategies

Melanie Meehan works with fifth graders to help them create their own set of indicators of success in a writing unit.

Coaching Minute: Cycle Evaluation Form

Melanie Meehan shares her coaching cycle evaluation form and why it is helpful in this quick video tip.

The Importance of Encouragement

Melanie Meehan and a coaching colleague transfer lessons from their children participating on sports teams to their coaching sessions.

From Compliments to Challenges: The Conferring Card

Melanie Meehan uses a conferring card in her writing conference with Cara to ensure she has a record of the strengths and revision possibilities they discussed.

Coaching Minute: Student Work Form

Melanie Meehan talks about the importance of developing assessment forms for coaching cycles that focus on student work and integrating analysis of the work into plans for instruction.

Getting Creative with Writing Celebrations

Celebrations are the pause that refreshes between writing units for many teachers. Melanie Meehan shares suggestions for creative celebrations.

Wonder and React

How do you scaffold students for independent work? Melanie Meehan finds Wonder and React is a great strategy to use with fifth graders during an information writing unit.

Helping with Management Challenges in First Grade

Melanie Meehan is coaching a first-grade teacher struggling with management. She shares her top four strategies for focusing students during minilessons.

Ending Coaching Cycles with Reflection

Melanie Meehan shares tools and tips for integrating more reflection into coaching cycles.

The Intersection of Social Studies and Language Arts

Melanie Meehan writes about how teachers in her state are dealing with the time-crunch issue in social studies instruction by naturally integrating more social studies into the language arts program.

Debating How to Begin Stories

Melanie Meehan shares a minilesson using student writing as a model for experimenting with leads.

Professional Development Planning

Melanie Meehan reflects upon what went well in a full-day professional development session early in the year as she plans for follow-up midyear.

Engaging a Room Full of Third Graders

Melanie Meehan works with a third-grade teacher to rouse interest from a class of compliant students who lack engagement.

No Cookies: Reflection and Celebration

Melanie Meehan and a fourth-grade teacher develop a lesson to help a challenging class of students reflect on their learning.

A Complicated Relationship with Standards

Melanie Meehan looks at how expectations for curriculum and professional development have changed with the Common Core, and not always for the better.

What I Wish I’d Known As a New Coach

Melanie Meehan shares her best advice for new coaches, hard-won from experience.

My New and Improved Writing Toolkit

What's in your bag? Melanie Meehan shares her favorite tools and how she organizes them in her bag for on-the-go coaching in writing workshops.

Repertoire: A Coach’s Perspective

Melanie Meehan considers how coaches, teachers, and students can build a range of strategies they know how to access easily for independent learning.

Provoking Young Readers

Melanie Meehan finds read aloud is a great time for children to connect opinions and experiences.

Shifting to Student-Centered Coaching

Melanie Meehan explains why she made the shift from focusing on teacher skills to student needs in coaching, and how that has led to more reflective practice for everyone.

Setting Goals During Mini-Celebrations

Melanie Meehan recommends linking goal setting to small celebrations as a great way to build community and skills at the same time.

Choices for Paragraphs

Melanie Meehan finds third grade is a good age for helping students develop paragraphing skills.

Video for Last Days of School

Melanie Meehan encourages teachers to build a video collection of students at work to use with next year’s class.

Breaking Tasks Down into Steps

Melanie Meehan identifies a crucial step in assessing student needs: asking students to think through where learning breaks down for them.

Celebrating “The Voice” of Writers

Melanie Meehan presents a fun activity for late in the school year that uses the format of The Voice television series.

Setting Goals with Students

Melanie Meehan shares anchor charts and strategies for goal-setting.

Coaching Notetaking Skills

Melanie Meehan gives advice for coaching teachers on student notetaking skills.

Giving Students a Notebook Tour

Melanie Meehan finds a notebooks tour is a terrific minilesson for helping students expand the ways they use notebooks.

Three Classroom Games for Literacy Learning and Laughter

Melanie Meehan suggests some favorite classroom games for building literacy skills.

What Holds Students Back in Writing?

Melanie Meehan brings together her recent observations in classrooms to identify five things that get in the way of students moving forward as writers.

Guiding Principles for Conferring

Melanie Meehan shares what’s essential in conferring.

Four Ways to Breathe Life into Classroom Charts

Melanie Meehan has suggestions for helping teachers reconsider and refresh the anchor charts in their classrooms.

Administering a Pre-Assessment

Melanie Meehan works with a new teacher to develop and administer a writing pre-assessment early in the school year.

Talking Through Characters

Melanie Meehan shares activities that help students talk about their characters before writing about them in a realistic fiction unit.

Maximizing Instructional Time at the Start of a New Unit

Time is precious in classrooms, so Melanie Meehan shares strategies to ensure it isn't wasted at the start of new writing units by teaching skills students may already possess.

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