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Writing Teachers Must Write

By Kristin Ackerman and Jennifer McDonough

Let’s begin with the dirty little secret that nobody wants to talk about… most teachers of  writing are not writing. Yep, we said it…out loud… it’s true!  Now, in their defense, these teachers have a lot of reasons that they do not write and several are very legitimate reasons.

To name a few…

  • Teachers are busy. Many are juggling multiple subjects and multiple classes.
  • Our schools are constantly adopting new programs so we often feel bogged down by all of the new things we need to learn.
  • We are drowning in grading, parent emails, faculty meetings, fire drill procedures etc.
  • Testing, testing, testing…need we say more.
  • There are little to no existing classes on teaching young children to write offered to teachers in college programs. Reading, math? Yes!  Writing?

As two teachers who are in the trenches we completely understand that it is not only challenging to make time to write but most of you reading this will have no idea where to even start to get the training and background on how to learn yourself.  Here are a few tips on how to make time to write, where to find mentors and why it will benefit your teaching.

  • Delegate drafting days in class. Sit with your students and write as if you were another student in the room.
  • Set aside one planning block a week for writing so that you are prepared to teach authentically.
  • Think about you’re drafts during the rare times that you have a few moments to yourself. When you go for a walk or when you’re getting ready for work. That thinking time is crucial for generating ideas. We like to jot our ideas down in a little mini notebook that we keep in our purses so that when we have time to write we can refer to our notebook to remember our ideas.
  • Get involved with other writing teachers and meet for coffee or wine to share different ways that you are squeezing in time to write and what you’re learning.
  • Find every professional resource you can on how to help kids become better writers. There are so many great professional texts out there to get you started.
  • Read, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott or Writing Towards Home by Georgia Heard to inspire you to begin your own writing journey.
  • Start a personal journal of thoughts and ideas.
  • Create a personal or professional blog to try out your writing for others. Audience is everything and will keep you accountable but also give you purpose.

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Tools of the Trade: Summer Reading

by Kelly Virgin

In a recent blog post titled A Letter to Teachers as Summer Begins, Kylene Beers writes, “I hope you each find time this summer to walk some, nap some, and read some. Actually, I hope you read a lot. Read something – lots of somethings – for pure escape, and read lots of things to learn a lot.”

If you are anything like me, you have a mountain of unread somethings that you have earnestly accumulated throughout the school year with every intention but no time to read. A few of the books in my pile that will be going home with me this summer include Mentor Texts, Second Edition, Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-6 by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capelli, Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst, and The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. With these books in hand, I hope to learn and grow as a teacher of writing, a teacher of reading, and a teacher of students living in the real world.

Mentor Texts 2nd Edition.jpgSomething on Writing: Mentor Texts

When the first edition of Mentor Texts came out ten years ago, it completely changed the way I approached writing instruction in my highschool classroom. I went from separating reading and writing instruction, to seamlessly blending the two. The result of this “aha” transformation in my teaching was immediate and inspiring. Not only did my students start to recognize a clear connection between the literature we read and the writing we crafted, they also started to explore and experiment with their writing in new and exciting ways. So my excitement was palpable when I discovered Lynne and Rose put out a second, expanded edition of this cornerstone text. Read more

Teacher to Teacher: Work in Progress

By Janice Ewing

I’ve been thinking about the phrase ‘work in progress’ lately, in a couple of ways. Being fortunate to find myself in the company of many teacher writers, through PAWLP, grad classes, and other networks, I often hear people comparing notes on their works in progress, or WIPs. I think it’s a great place to be in one’s writing. After all, it means that you’ve started something, or several somethings, but they’re still in progress, by definition, so there’s no expectation of completeness, perfection, or even ‘done for now.’ Instead, there is possibility – for improvement, expansion, compression, refinement, more or less of whatever is needed. There will be feedback along the way, some helpful, some not so much, triumphs, mistakes, epiphanies, and doubt. At a monthly writing group of PAWLPers, for example, we share children’s books, memoirs, science fiction, realistic fiction, and poetry. We learn so much from each other as we exercise our writing and critiquing muscles.

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Snorkeling and Scuba Diving in an Undergraduate General Education Literature Course: Diving into the Educational Theory Behind “Next” Practices*

 by Mary Buckelew

Student Voices
“Before choosing
The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney for my self-selected book, I figured that I’d be reading aesthetically as I wanted to read for entertainment.  After reading, I can say I read mostly with an aesthetic lens, but I did read efferently at times to soak in new information regarding my major.” (Ethan, undergraduate criminal justice major)

“I wish I’d known about the different stances of reading long before this, and I wish my high school teachers hadn’t focused solely on the efferent aspects of reading and books. I only read books in high school to pass tests, write required papers, and other test oriented stuff . . . I don’t think my teachers knew that the aesthetic stance existed. Even summer reading was always selected for us and then we were tested – efferent all the way.” (Sarah, undergraduate biology pre-med major)

“I now like to think about how I am reading, why I am reading, and I even apply efferent and aesthetic to other classes and life in general.” (“Honest Anonymous Feedback” from the end of the semester evaluations, Lit. 165 2:00)

Sarah, Ethan, and the anonymous student were enrolled in my Literature 165 classes this past spring semester. They shared these ideas in their final reflections and in final evaluations. 

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Books on the Blog: I Survived Preschool Storytime

by Linda Walker

Oh my gosh! I went solo for preschool storytime and I survived. I brought out one of my grandson’s favorite books The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. What a great way to draw in the listener. The reader speaks directly to a young audience by asking , “Hello, little Mouse. What are you doing?” The simple text and large colorful illustrations encouraged childen to make predictions and discover cause and effect relationships.

Of course any storytime should include partcipation and what better way than going on a bear hunt. Read more

How to Boost Teaching and Engage English Learners with Technology

by Aileen Hower

One thing every teacher asks when they have an English Learner in their classroom is, what more can I be doing to help support this student? Technology can be a great resource to help a teacher who wants to engage their EL as a literacy learner.

First and foremost, it is important to remember that learning a new language takes time. In our high-stakes testing environments, we want to have ELs reading on grade level as soon as possible. We see that they are intelligent and are curious about the world. We want to learn what they are thinking and share our passion for learning with them. We must remind ourselves that learning a new language, especially when there may be gaps in a student’s education, caused by time away from school due to travelling or differences in curriculum, which insist on us to give the student time to acclimate and listen first.

When the student is ready to work on literacy skills, there are digital tools that can support a variety of learning goals. Read more