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Reflections from an Author: Why Teachers Must Write (Guest Post)

By Frank Murphy

Recently, Lynne Dorfman wrote a Teacher to Teacher post about using my newest book, Take a Hike Teddy Roosevelt, as a mentor text to help guide the instruction of teachers of young writers.  (Of course, I was, and still am, flattered!!)  Soon after, on a Saturday in January, we co-presented on the same topic for some dedicated members of the Capital Reading Council in Harrisburg, PA.

In a nutshell, I started the event off by sharing the story of how Teddy became so dedicated to environmental conservation; then Lynne went about analyzing how she could use this book as a mentor text for elementary school student writers. (If you’ve never seen Lynne present – she’s like a literary surgeon on Skittles!!).  She focused on many things, from strong verbs to exact nouns.  Even artful sentence fragments!  (I hope she thought that one was artful!)  All of Lynne’s analysis forced me to recollect so much of the writing and rewriting and imagining of writing that I did over the last few years of constructing and crafting this book in collaboration with my editor, Anna Membrino.  It also made me reflect on a recent lesson that I taught to my current sixth grade students that I’ll discuss later.  Read more

From the Classroom: Organization is an Act of Revision

By Brian Kelley

CaptureI’ve always admired my father’s garage. It is organized. Utility shelves on the left. Steel pegboards and hooks on the rear and right walls. Every tool has its place. He knows where everything is, yet he is constantly revising the content of the garage.

My mother keeps adding stuff to the house, and older stuff is belched out to my father into the garage. So, my father makes decisions. He replaces and rearranges. He adds what he must. And he deletes. I know for a fact that he would love to delete a lot more.

When I teach organization to middle school writers, the lessons of my father’s garage must be in the DNA of my methods. Everything has its place. Nothing starts organized, and this includes writing.

Organization is an act of revision.  Read more

Tools of the Trade: Pete&C

By Rita Sorrentino

petec_logoThink Hershey. What comes to mind: chocolate, adventure, shopping? Definitely. And here’s one more opportunity that might interest you – PETE&C (The Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference). Yes, Hershey. PA has a lot to offer its visitors throughout the year, and as it plays host to this annual statewide event in February, it brings together educators, innovators, students, vendors and exhibitors all focused on efficient and purposeful uses of technology in the field of education. A few weeks ago, I attended the ninth annual Conference and was sweetly rewarded with many opportunities to learn, grow and connect in this fast-changing Edtech world. Here are a few of my gold nuggets (chocolate not included). 
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Guest Post: Why Teach the 6-traits of Effective Writing?

by Dr. Jolene Borgese

We need only go to the source to find why we need to teach the traits—Vicki Spandel. Vicki, while working at the Northwest Laboratory, worked with 17 teachers at Beaverton, Oregon School District, using the research of Paul Dietrich, who created an analytical writing assessment rubric. Through their work with Vicki, they also identified six characteristics true of all good writing (ideas. organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency and conventions).  Vicki capsulizes the reasons for teaching and using the six traits:

  1. Builds students understanding of concepts like voice
  2. Provides language for thinking and talking about writing
  3. Gives students options for revising
  4. Teaches students to think – by making them evaluators
  5. Connects reading and writing through mentor texts
  6. Puts students in charge of their own writing process  (Creating Writers, 2013 page 3). 

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Books on the Blog: The War that Saved My Life

by Ginny Magill Jervis

Today, middle school teacher Ginny Jervais, a 2015 PAWLP Fellow, brings us a review of the novel, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

The War That Saved My LifeImprisoned by the four walls of the London flat her family shares just before World War II arrives in England, Ada Smith has barely experienced the outside world. Her uneducated and abusive mother refuses to release her from their apartment in order to conceal Ada’s club feet, a sign of the devil according to her mother. In this way Ada lives the first ten years of her life, fearful of her mother’s beatings and lonely for companionship.

When Ada’s brother and other neighborhood children are evacuated into the country before the first bombs hit London, Ada sneaks away with them, and she and her brother are placed with a lonely, grieving woman. In this new life in the country, Ada slowly enters a world where she experiences the joys of open fields, pony rides, caring friends, and loving parent figures. Amidst these new adventures, however, Ada is aware that one day she may return to her old life.  Read more

Teacher to Teacher: Promoting Greater Independence in Writing Workshop

By Lynne R. Dorfman

It is always a challenge to teach writing and run an effective writing workshop, but part of the problem may be our reluctance to set our writers free. We must trust that they will make good choices, use materials and their time appropriately, be able to offer advice to each other, and assess their own writing and set goals.  It is important to realize that we are not the only teacher in the classroom. Our classroom is a giant think tank, a community of writers that can come together in many different formats to assist, advise, critique, and challenge. Read more