Ruth Ayres is the editor of the Choice Literacy site and director of The Lead Learners Consortium in northern Indiana. Ruth’s background includes work as a middle and high school language arts and science teacher, a k-12 instructional coach, and writing books, articles, and lots of blog posts. She wrote Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers (Stenhouse, 2019) and other books. When not writing professionally, Ruth collects stories of adoption, faith and whimsy. You can follow her at Ruth Ayres Writes or on Twitter.
The Choice Literacy Book Club discusses The Barren Grounds on the podcast.
Empowering Readers (Part 1) is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Bitsy Parks discusses celebrating writers on the podcast.
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills discuss mentor texts for argument writing on the podcast.
Ruth Ayres suggests four notebook pages to help students balance facts and emotions when writing persuasively.
Heather Fisher discusses planning for professional learning and finding meaning in reading on the podcast.
Finding meaning in reading is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Gretchen Schroeder discusses recognizing bias on the podcast.
Christy Rush-Levine discusses meaningful conversations on the podcast.
Meaningful conversations is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Ruth Ayres observes a writing workshop that is remote. She reflects on the ways students offer feedback and how their community of writers is established.
Nawal Qarooni Casiano shares how to empower choice in kids leading minilessons on the podcast.
Honoring Student Identity is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Author studies are the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Humor in Literacy Workshop is the theme of this week’s Big Fresh.
The place of humor in literacy workshops is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Building better book clubs is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Strategic small groups is the theme of this week’s newsletter.
Giving feedback online is the focus of this week’s newsletter.
This week we look at how to build and sustain remote learning communities.
We look at how to help students differentiate between fact and fiction in this week’s newsletter.
We look at building kindness and community in this week’s newsletter.
We help teachers move from teaching retelling to theme in this week’s newsletter.
Ruth Ayres confers with second grader Reagan about writing she is revising for publication about a class trip to the zoo that included her grandmother. Ruth introduces her to the concept of frames in illustrations, using an example from a picture book.
Ruth Ayres attends a share session at the end of a second-grade writing workshop conducted entirely in Spanish. It’s a gift and privilege for her to experience what non-Native speakers do every day in English language classrooms, and it makes her reflect upon what it takes to make anyone feel welcome in a classroom or school community.
Ruth Ayres eavesdrops on some moms complaining about homework assignments, and finds the experience leads to reflection on the dangers of forcing students to make themselves vulnerable in classrooms.
Ruth Ayres observes a coach who is a master at modeling lessons. What looks easy and natural on the surface belies all the skill and planning just below the surface.
Ruth Ayres shows how one first-grade teacher saves precious time by not ending minilessons with lots of directions for independent work.
Ruth Ayres is interrupted during a busy day by a first-grade teacher who enthuses over the details in a student draft. This leads to some reflection on the importance of taking time to marvel.
Ruth Ayres encourages her son to use the web for assistance when doing homework, and then has to ponder whether what she is advocating qualifies as cheating.
Ruth Ayres explains how to scaffold teachers as writers with continuous invitations and low-risk opportunities.
Ruth Ayres remembers how using her writing in instruction transformed her teaching, She shares three strategies for helping teachers inject their writing into lessons.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains how the distinction between writers and teachers who write is subtle but essential for understanding mentoring in workshops.
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.
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.
From shorter meetings to tapping data in creative ways, Ruth Ayres shares her best tips for supporting stressed teachers.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains why we can’t assume children who have experienced trauma understand the foundations and routines of how school works
Ruth Ayres explains which workshop routines are essential for children who come to school bearing trauma.
Ruth Ayres explains why conferring records that stay with kids are the most useful for teachers.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains why setting a coaching schedule is crucial for success, even if the work is mundane and challenging at the same time.
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.
Ruth Ayres catalogs her favorite types of share sessions (from old favorites to creative innovations) in writing workshops.
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.
Ruth Ayres has suggestions for stronger and more productive relationships between literacy coaches and principals.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres shares some of the powerful connections between stories and writing workshops.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains why writing a manifesto may be the best way to learn what you truly believe about teaching, learning, and literacy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres explores what literacy coaches can do when they are sidelined or marginalized by difficult conditions in a school.
Ruth Ayres answers a question from teachers, Do I really have to keep conferring notes? Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.
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.
Ruth Ayres shares the power of a professional development session that reawakened her love of writing and then transformed her teaching.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres gives her best advice for honing your conferring skills with this succinct list of tips for better conferences.
Is there anything riskier for teachers than writing and sharing your writing? Ruth Ayres has tips for helping teachers take this essential leap.
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.
Ruth Ayres shares some of her favorite mentors and mentor texts for developing good writing processes and habits.
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.
Ruth Ayres writes about the messiness of analyzing needs, celebrating achievements, and thinking about what’s next with writers in workshops.
Ruth Ayres gives a step-by-step process for closing out the school year with a meaningful writing celebration that welcomes the entire community
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres shares the "bounce-back spirit" all educators need through the inspiring story and video of Heather Dorniden.
Ruth Ayres challenges Grant to add paragraphs to his “finished” piece.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains how coaches can help teachers value choice in writing units through flexibility in genres and other structural supports.
Ruth Ayres meets with Zoey, a quiet writer who is drawn into the conversation through family stories and a mentor text with vivid illustrations.
Ruth Ayres confers with sixth grader Connor about constructing a thesis statement.
Ruth Ayres draws out the story-writing possibilities with first-grader Kendall by conferring over her illustrations.
Ruth Ayres shares a simple protocol for coaches to use with teachers when they are thinking through changes to routines in their classrooms.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres helps a fourth grader reflect on whether she is finished with her personal narrative, and how Ruth might assist her.
Ruth Ayres explains how a literacy coach is a wingman for teachers, with a mission of watching for danger, protecting, supporting, and encouraging.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains how coaches can use technology to match teachers to resources in an era when what's available online can be overwhelming.
Ruth Ayres considers what's essential in writing workshop routines.
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.
Ruth Ayres uses a student text to demonstrate the importance of paragraph breaks in this second-grade minilesson.
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.
Ruth Ayres confers with Izzy to help her create an organizer in her writing notebook.
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.
Ruth Ayres and Deb Gaby talk about how they are beginning to use Evernote and different ways of organizing the tool.
Ruth Ayres provides a ready reference guide for the typical length of everything from a minilesson to a conferring session.
If you are struggling to build relationships with a few teachers in your community, you might enjoy these creative suggestions from Ruth Ayres.
Literacy coaches Ruth Ayres and Deb Gaby chat with second-grade teacher Cathy Laker about building trust in coaching and teaching relationships.
Ruth Ayres explains why these are the three most important words for literacy coaches to say throughout the day.
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.
Ruth Ayres confers with Bode about the difference between personal narratives and memoirs, and the value of mining the writing journal for topics.
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.
Ruth Ayres encourages a young writer to emulate a favorite illustrator.
Ruth Ayres explains how she uses conversations with classroom teachers to prepare for modeling instruction.
Ruth Ayres has tips for organizing desks, tables, chairs, and materials to support literacy learning.
Ruth Ayres has advice for effective peer feedback in writing workshops.
Ruth Ayres gives fourth grader Allie an organization tool for brainstorming memoir possibilities early in the year.
Ruth Ayres shares a secret of the most successful coaching relationships.
Ruth Ayres confers with fifth grader Wesley about his personal narrative on scouting.
Ruth Ayres confers with five-year-old Abby about her apple illustration early in the school year.
Ruth Ayres confers with fourth grader Braden about the importance of inviting cover art for the book he's written about a vacation.
In this brief video, Ruth Ayres explains why professional development is important for all of us, no matter your leadership role.
Ruth Ayres talks about the importance of celebrations for coaches, teachers, and students in this brief video.
Ruth Ayres confers with first grader Alexis about her visit to the doctor for a shot. The conference focuses on illustrations and labeling.
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.
In this brief video, Ruth Ayres explains why listening and asking genuine questions are essential when mentoring teachers.
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.
Ruth Ayres talks about the importance of varying responses to teachers with diverse needs in this two-minute video.
Ruth Ayres writes about the inherent tensions in coaching, and ways to deal with them.
Ruth Ayres develops a words chart in this brief minilesson with second graders.
Ruth Ayres has advice for moving forward, staying positive, and focusing on what’s important.
Do you have a goal of starting a writing group in your school or district? Ruth Ayres provides a step-by-step guide.
Ruth Ayres confers with first grader Rebecca about perspective and illustrations in her writing.
In this brief video tip, Ruth Ayres reminds us it's the little things that matter most when it comes to coaching.
Ruth Ayres shares a professional development activity which helps teachers think deeply about their beliefs and how they are expressed in practice.
Ruth Ayres presents a minilesson on capital letters to a second-grade class.
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.
Ruth Ayres confers with Ezra about revision — using a mentor text to help him move from reporting to crafting in his writing.
Ruth Ayres explains how deciding the purpose of conferring in advance can lead to more powerful conferences.
What does it mean to be a guest in a classroom? Ruth Ayres considers the complex role coaches have as visitors to classrooms.
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.
Ruth Ayres confers with kindergartner Dalton early in the year, focusing on his illustrations to build storytelling skills.
Ruth Ayres has advice for how literacy coaches can work effectively with principals in this one-minute video.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres answers the question of why writing matters for busy teachers who struggle to find time for their own writing notebooks.
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.
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.
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.
Ruth Ayres shares two sample letters explaining her role as a literacy coach to teachers and principals.
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.
Ruth Ayres finds that keeping a word count is a potent way to increase writing quality over time.
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.
We can’t forget the importance of being kind to ourselves. Ruth Ayres explains how small pleasures add up to big delights.
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.
Ruth Ayres explains how she sets realistic goals for her own learning during the year.
A persistent seven-year-old has some powerful messages about confidence, patience, and sending writing out into the world.
Writers’ Notebooks are an important tool for writers. Ruth Ayres designed a field experience to showcase how elementary teachers use notebooks with young writers.
Compassion and understanding are as important to workshop instruction as strategies and routines. Ruth Ayres compiled a field experience to highlight the way understanding the social-emotional needs of students (and ourselves) allows for safe learning environments.
This field experience invites us to consider a handful of craft moves to teach young writers in minilessons, conferences and share sessions.
Spend time noticing the details that reflect beliefs and influence instruction. Ruth Ayres set up room tours for a field experience focused on more than trendy spaces.
Small group reading instruction is an important part of elementary literacy. This field experience is a sampling of a variety of examples.
The value of picture books with older students is often questioned. Ruth Ayres assembled this field experience to allow insight into the depth and power of picture books for older students.
This field experience invites us to consider the routines of opening the day, workshop norms, meeting areas and transitions to make workshop run smoothly.
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.
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.
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.
Helping students learn to choose books and develop stamina are important to developing independent readers. Ruth Ayres designed a field experience with opportunities to see minilessons, small group instruction, team meetings and a share session that support independence in readers.
Ruth Ayres shares how a principal changed the literacy story of his school from failure to success by having the courage to cultivate “lone nut” leaders.
Spend time with the youngest writers and you will be mesmerized by their writing processes. Ruth Ayres assembled a field experience focused on kindergarten writers.
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.