Ruth Ayres

Ruth Ayres is the director of the Lead Learners Consortium in northern Indiana. She blogs at Ruth Ayres Writes and is the coauthor of Day by Day and many other books, all available through Stenhouse Publishers.

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Sharing Writing in a Class Celebration

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.

Encouraging Teachers to Write

One of the biggest challenges literacy coaches face is getting teachers to write. It’s worth the effort, because nothing else is as effective in helping teachers understand and implement successful writing workshops. Ruth Ayres shares three practical strategies for helping teachers put pen to page.

Being a Teacher Writer Is More Than Being a Teacher Who Writes

Ruth Ayres explains how the distinction between writers and teachers who write is subtle but essential for understanding mentoring in workshops.

The 15-Minute Meeting

Ruth Ayres uses key questions to keep her lesson debrief meetings only 15 minutes long, and finds that the limits provoke rich conversations and reflection in a short amount of time.

Three Questions to Open Coaching Conversations

Ruth Ayres shares her favorite prompts for helping teachers think in new ways about the challenges they face, and a literacy leader’s role in assisting.

Becoming More Strategic in Coaching Stressed Teachers

From shorter meetings to tapping data in creative ways, Ruth Ayres shares her best tips for supporting stressed teachers.

Does the Pencil Still Have Power?

Ruth Ayres wonders if the pencil still has power, taking readers through a whirlwind history of the writing tool in her life, schools, and the world.

Confusing Children

Ruth Ayres explains why we can’t assume children who have experienced trauma understand the foundations and routines of how school works

Wounded Warriors: Trauma and Literacy Routines

Ruth Ayres explains which workshop routines are essential for children who come to school bearing trauma.

Conference Records That Stay with Kids

Ruth Ayres explains why conferring records that stay with kids are the most useful for teachers.

Time to Plan

When the school doors close for the summer, literacy coaches and school leaders face the landscape of a blank calendar for the new school year. Ruth Ayres thinks through how to prioritze time in a way that supports your beliefs and values.

Dropping In Versus Scheduling

Ruth Ayres explains why setting a coaching schedule is crucial for success, even if the work is mundane and challenging at the same time.

A Change in the Weather: Moving from Teacher to Coach

Ruth Ayres finds that coaches can't help but feel a little ambivalent about losing their teaching role, but it's important to embrace the changes in responsibilities if you want to coach well.

A Variety of Share Sessions

Ruth Ayres catalogs her favorite types of share sessions (from old favorites to creative innovations) in writing workshops.

Meaningful Data

Ruth Ayres explains how data can make students and teachers feel empowered or deflated — so much depends on what you are looking for and how you present it.
 

Coach and Principal Relationships

Ruth Ayres has suggestions for stronger and more productive relationships between literacy coaches and principals.

Conferring Matters: A Coach’s Perspective

Ruth Ayres shares strategies for building teachers' conferring skills. This article is part of a new occasional series, Expectations and Nudges, where Ruth Ayres and Lee Snider will explore the same topic from the perspectives of a literacy coach and a principal.

Culture for Coaching Part 4: Schoolwide Coaching Cycles

In the final installment of this four-part series, Ruth Ayres explains how she systematically expanded coaching cycles teacher by teacher until they were a schoolwide norm.

Is Writing Essential?

Ruth Ayres shares some of the powerful connections between stories and writing workshops.

Culture for Coaching Part 2: Resistance to Cycles

Ruth Ayres faces passive defiance when teachers learn they will be participating in coaching cycles as part of a school improvement plan. This is the second installment in a four-part series on building a culture for coaching within a resistant staff.

Culture for Coaching Part 3: Baby Steps for Launching Cycles

Ruth Ayres shares the four components of launching a coaching cycle successfully. This is the third installment in a four-part series on building a culture for coaching within a resistant staff.

Creating a Manifesto

Ruth Ayres explains why writing a manifesto may be the best way to learn what you truly believe about teaching, learning, and literacy.

Culture for Coaching Part 1: Introduction

A failing grade for a school was splashed across the local newspaper and resulted in mandated coaching. It wasn't a recipe for success. Ruth Ayres explains how she built a coaching culture under challenging circumstances. This is the first article in a four-part series.

Rocking the Boat

Ruth Ayres recalls a humorous canoe trip as a teenager when a group leader had to rescue her and she didn't like it. She realizes sometimes this is just the role literacy coaches need to take on, even if it sparks initial resentment in teachers.

Get in the Pool: Teachers Who Write

Ruth Ayres shares how she was always someone who wrote — until she became a teacher. Getting back into writing was all about motivating her reluctant students.

Conference Records That Stay with Kids

If we want to teach everyone in the school to be student centered, conference records need to stay with kids. Ruth Ayres explains how this works.

Benched

Ruth Ayres explores what literacy coaches can do when they are sidelined or marginalized by difficult conditions in a school.

Do I Really Have to Keep Conferring Notes?

Ruth Ayres answers a question from teachers, Do I really have to keep conferring notes? Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.

 

Conferring Questions

Ruth Ayres finds there can be a difference between questions in writing conferences that inspire an enthusiastic response, and those that foster more reflection and independence.

Teachers Who Write

Ruth Ayres shares the power of a professional development session that reawakened her love of writing and then transformed her teaching.

Everybody Wants to Be a Hero (and Needs a Guide)

We are wired for story, and sometimes children living hard lives need to learn how to rewrite their story. Ruth Ayres shares the teacher's role in the process.

Best First Drafts

Ruth Ayres confers with fourth grader Nicole and reinforces advice from her mom about capitalizing proper nouns, as well as the importance of applying what you know about conventions in first drafts.

Top 10 Conferring Tips

Ruth Ayres gives her best advice for honing your conferring skills with this succinct list of tips for better conferences.

Six Ways to Empower Teachers to Write

Is there anything riskier for teachers than writing and sharing your writing? Ruth Ayres has tips for helping teachers take this essential leap.

How to Keep Conferring Notes

Ruth Ayres shares her grid notes sheet, and takes teachers step-by-step through the process of using this assessment tool in conferences and instruction.

Mentors for Process and Habits

Ruth Ayres shares some of her favorite mentors and mentor texts for developing good writing processes and habits.

Conferring with Ashley: Pink Hair

Ruth Ayres confers with a first-grade writer early in the year. This brief conference with a simple text is all about building a rapport in September and celebrating illustrations.

A Joyful Mess

Ruth Ayres writes about the messiness of analyzing needs, celebrating achievements, and thinking about what’s next with writers in workshops.

Five Steps to Meaningful Formal Celebrations

Ruth Ayres gives a step-by-step process for closing out the school year with a meaningful writing celebration that welcomes the entire community

Three Little Tweaks for More Effective Communication

Ruth Ayres realizes that the sheer volume of information teachers receive each day overwhelms any attempt at real connection. She explains some simple changes she made to improve her communication skills.

Persevere

Ruth Ayres realizes that sometimes the most important advice coaches can give to teachers is to just hang in there when things don't go as planned in reading workshops.

Bounce-Back Spirit

Ruth Ayres shares the "bounce-back spirit" all educators need through the inspiring story and video of Heather Dorniden.

Conferring Over “Finished” Writing

Ruth Ayres challenges Grant to add paragraphs to his “finished” piece.

Student Writing, Filters, and Social Media

Ruth Ayres explains why filtering is one of the most important concepts writers need to understand in this social media age, and she shares a simple lesson and chart for teaching students how filtering works.

Coaching Basics: Choice

Ruth Ayres explains how coaches can help teachers value choice in writing units through flexibility in genres and other structural supports.

Making Home Connections While Conferring

Ruth Ayres meets with Zoey, a quiet writer who is drawn into the conversation through family stories and a mentor text with vivid illustrations.

A Thesis Statement: Conferring with Connor

Ruth Ayres confers with sixth grader Connor about constructing a thesis statement.

Back to Basics: Choice

Ruth Ayres explores the boundaries of student options in writing workshops.

Stories from Illustrations: Conferring with Kendall

Ruth Ayres draws out the story-writing possibilities with first-grader Kendall by conferring over her illustrations.

Coaching Basics: Routines

Ruth Ayres shares a simple protocol for coaches to use with teachers when they are thinking through changes to routines in their classrooms.

Figuring Out Social Media Together

Ruth Ayres finds storytelling is at the heart of social media, and describes how teachers and students might work together to find a place for social media in classrooms.

See Their Stories, Not Their Misbehaviors

Ruth Ayres finds that most negative behaviors in writing workshops are rooted in unmet needs. Here is how she demonstrates this truth with teachers, using a simple glass jar and some tape.

“How Can I Help?” Conference

Ruth Ayres helps a fourth grader reflect on whether she is finished with her personal narrative, and how Ruth might assist her.

A Good Coach Is a Good Wingman

Ruth Ayres explains how a literacy coach is a wingman for teachers, with a mission of watching for danger, protecting, supporting, and encouraging.

Why I Stopped Asking, “Where’s Your Pencil?”

Ruth Ayres finds the brain research is grim when it comes to the needs of neglected children, but there is still much that teachers can do to support healthy growth in students from challenging home environments.

Matching Resources to Teachers: Tools for Coaches

Ruth Ayres explains how coaches can use technology to match teachers to resources in an era when what's available online can be overwhelming.

Back to Basics: Routines in Writing Workshops

Ruth Ayres considers what's essential in writing workshop routines.

Sorting with “Kinds of”: Technique Minilessons

Ruth Ayres finds it is helpful for teachers and students to sort through different types of writing techniques lessons in planning for instruction and revision.

Second-Grade Minilesson on Paragraphs

Ruth Ayres uses a student text to demonstrate the importance of paragraph breaks in this second-grade minilesson.

Space to Draft

Ruth Ayres argues against lockstep approaches to the writing process.

Empowering Teachers to Share: Leading More Powerful Professional Development Sessions

Ruth Ayres provides more time and opportunities for teachers to share learning and artifacts from their classrooms during professional development, and is amazed at the results.

Conferring with Izzy

Ruth Ayres confers with Izzy to help her create an organizer in her writing notebook.

Five Notebook Pages I Can’t Live Without (and Neither Should Students)

Ruth Ayres shares five “mentor pages” from her writing notebook that you’ll want to develop and use over and over again in demonstration lessons.

Coaching Minute: Getting Started with Evernote

Ruth Ayres and Deb Gaby talk about how they are beginning to use Evernote and different ways of organizing the tool.

How Long?

Ruth Ayres provides a ready reference guide for the typical length of everything from a minilesson to a conferring session.

Getting Creative in Building Relationships with Teachers

If you are struggling to build relationships with a few teachers in your community, you might enjoy these creative suggestions from Ruth Ayres.

Coaching Minute: Building a Coaching Rapport

Literacy coaches Ruth Ayres and Deb Gaby chat with second-grade teacher Cathy Laker about building trust in coaching and teaching relationships.

I Have Time

Ruth Ayres explains why these are the three most important words for literacy coaches to say throughout the day.

Moving Away from Bed to Bed: Conferring with Ty

Ruth Ayres confers with fourth grader Ty about his personal narrative, and works to move him away from a “bed-to-bed” approach in his writing.

Personal Narratives and Memoir: Conferring with Bode

Ruth Ayres confers with Bode about the difference between personal narratives and memoirs, and the value of mining the writing journal for topics.

Find the Common Ground

Ruth Ayres is set up to fail in a toxic environment, yet finds a surprising way to build community among a middle school teaching team.

Conferring About Illustrations

Ruth Ayres encourages a young writer to emulate a favorite illustrator.

Preparing to Model Writing Workshop

Ruth Ayres explains how she uses conversations with classroom teachers to prepare for modeling instruction.

Effective Organization

 Ruth Ayres has tips for organizing desks, tables, chairs, and materials to support literacy learning.

Effective Student Writing Groups

Ruth Ayres has advice for effective peer feedback in writing workshops.

An Organizing Tool for Writing

Ruth Ayres gives fourth grader Allie an organization tool for brainstorming memoir possibilities early in the year.

A Secret to Successful Teacher-Coach Relationships

Ruth Ayres shares a secret of the most successful coaching relationships.

Fifth-Grade Memoir Writing: Conferring with Wesley

Ruth Ayres confers with fifth grader Wesley about his personal narrative on scouting.

Conferring About Illustration in Kindergarten

Ruth Ayres confers with five-year-old Abby about her apple illustration early in the school year.

Conveying Messages with Cover Art

Ruth Ayres confers with fourth grader Braden about the importance of inviting cover art for the book he's written about a vacation.

Coaching Minute: Professional Development Matters for Us

In this brief video, Ruth Ayres explains why professional development is important for all of us, no matter your leadership role.

Coaching Minute: Celebrations

Ruth Ayres talks about the importance of celebrations for coaches, teachers, and students in this brief video.

Visiting the Doctor: Conferring with Alexis

Ruth Ayres confers with first grader Alexis about her visit to the doctor for a shot. The conference focuses on illustrations and labeling.

Brave Noah

Ruth Ayres tells the story of Noah, a brave first grader with a hard home life who has few happily ever afters as a writer.

Coaching Minute: Teachers First

In this brief video, Ruth Ayres explains why listening and asking genuine questions are essential when mentoring teachers.

Drama and Two-Page Spreads: Conferring with Max

Ruth Ayres confers with second grader Max about the drama of losing his dog, and the value of using two-page spreads to tell a story.

Coaching Minute: One Size Does Not Fit All

Ruth Ayres talks about the importance of varying responses to teachers with diverse needs in this two-minute video.

Collecting Ideas in the Writer’s Notebook

Ruth Ayres confers with third grader Jade about the importance of the “collecting” phase for writers.

Instructional Coach: A Position of Contradictions

Ruth Ayres writes about the inherent tensions in coaching, and ways to deal with them.

Words Chart Minilesson

Ruth Ayres develops a words chart in this brief minilesson with second graders.

Keep Going

Ruth Ayres has advice for moving forward, staying positive, and focusing on what’s important.

How to Start a Writing Group

Do you have a goal of starting a writing group in your school or district? Ruth Ayres provides a step-by-step guide.

Inside and Outside Views: Conferring with Rebecca

Ruth Ayres confers with first grader Rebecca about perspective and illustrations in her writing.

Coaching Minute: Little Things

In this brief video tip, Ruth Ayres reminds us it's the little things that matter most when it comes to coaching.

Building Foundations

Ruth Ayres shares a professional development activity which helps teachers think deeply about their beliefs and how they are expressed in practice.

Second-Grade Minilesson on Capital Letters

Ruth Ayres presents a minilesson on capital letters to a second-grade class.

Coaching Minute: Flexible Plans

The key to successful coaching in classrooms? Ruth Ayres believes it is flexibility and keeping some space in your schedule for the unexpected, as she explains in this Coaching Minute video.

Reporting and Crafting: Conferring with Ezra

Ruth Ayres confers with Ezra about revision — using a mentor text to help him move from reporting to crafting in his writing.

Powerful Conferences

Ruth Ayres explains how deciding the purpose of conferring in advance can lead to more powerful conferences.

Coaching Minute: We Are Guests

What does it mean to be a guest in a classroom? Ruth Ayres considers the complex role coaches have as visitors to classrooms.

Time In/Time Out Conference: Andrew

In this "time in/time out" conference, Ruth Ayres and Cathy Laker meet with second grader Andrew, who is working on a "versus" story in writing workshop.

Illustrations in Kindergarten: Conferring with Dalton

Ruth Ayres confers with kindergartner Dalton early in the year, focusing on his illustrations to build storytelling skills.

Coaching Minute: Working with Principals

Ruth Ayres has advice for how literacy coaches can work effectively with principals in this one-minute video.

Coaching Minute: Different Philosophies

What do you do when the teacher you are coaching has a different philosophy? Ruth Ayres advises you to find common ground in this coaching minute video.

Time In/Time Out Conference: Ava

The Time In/Time Out Conference is a terrific way for coaches to maximize time and reflection in classrooms. Literacy Coach Ruth Ayres and Cathy Laker confer with Ava, a second grader in Cathy's classroom. They use timeouts to share conferring responsibilities and reflection in the midst of the conference.

Why Write?


Ruth Ayres answers the question of why writing matters for busy teachers who struggle to find time for their own writing notebooks.

“We Gather Together”: On Research and Weddings

Ruth Ayres and her colleagues use a marriage analogy to help middle school students and their families understand the research process. The article includes a nifty example of a pamphlet to share with parents.

Turning “Unfortunate” into Good Fortune

Is this your worst professional nightmare? Ruth Ayres accidentally sends an email with the unvarnished truth to the whole school staff, instead of the administrator it was intended for. What happens next includes a surprising amount of learning.

Busywork?: From Classroom Assistant to Agent of Change

Ruth Ayres deals with the conundrum of wanting to assist teachers to build relationships as an instructional coach, yet not accepting all menial task requests.

Dear Teacher, Dear Principal

Ruth Ayres shares two sample letters explaining her role as a literacy coach to teachers and principals.

Symbiosis: Choice and Structure in Writing Workshops

Ruth Ayres and Heather Rader draw on their work as literacy coaches and teachers to explore the complex connections between choice and structure in writing workshops.

Word Count

Ruth Ayres finds that keeping a word count is a potent way to increase writing quality over time.

The Writing Process . . . and Processes

Ruth Ayres considers elements of the writing process that are common to all, and which ones vary according to the needs, interests, and quirks of writers.

 

Nourishment: Making Time and Space for Little Joys

We can’t forget the importance of being kind to ourselves. Ruth Ayres explains how small pleasures add up to big delights.

Make a Really BIG List

Big lists can be intimidating, especially when our to-do lists are long and never quite finished. Ruth Ayres explains the power of big lists in other contexts, especially writing, and how they might actually provide comfort and security when tackling big projects and ideas.

On Perfection and Goals

Ruth Ayres explains how she sets realistic goals for her own learning during the year.

Dear Eve Bunting

A persistent seven-year-old has some powerful messages about confidence, patience, and sending writing out into the world.

Write Today

Ruth Ayres describes her own experiences as an author, blogger, and teacher. She shows how possible and essential writing is for even the busiest educators.

Respond, Reflect, Rejoice: The 3 Rs of Writing Celebrations

Ruth Ayres explains how teachers might put less focus on big, showy events, and more on the daily small pleasures and joys of writing success in classrooms.

What Can You Learn From Slice of Life Writing?

Ruth Ayres inspires us to develop the habit of writing on a regular basis by taking a bite out of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Inside and Outside Views Minilesson

Ruth Ayres leads a minilesson in second grade on inside/outside views — what’s happening objectively (on the outside) vs. emotions (on the inside).  The terms are a good starting point for helping young students distinguish between facts and opinions.

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