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Periods. From the Writer’s Point of View

by Elizabeth Hale

Ever since I can remember, teachers have lamented about their students’ use of periods, or rather, the lack thereof, especially teachers beyond the primary grades.  After all, their students have been hearing about using periods for almost half their life! These teachers certainly talked about periods and taught lessons about them, but the reminders of “Don’t forget to end your sentences with periods!” just never seemed to stick.

One reason is that we were all giving the same advice we got in elementary school of why we should use periods: “The reader needs to know when to stop and take a breath.” But this advice is from the reader’s perspective, not the writer’s. And the truth is, unless someone is reading writing out loud, “the reader” doesn’t need to take a breath! When I put myself in the shoes of a fourth or fifth grader, I saw this generations old advice was just not that convincing.

So how do periods benefit the writer?  Once I slowed down the thought process of constructing a sentence—raising my pencil or finger on a keyboard to make a little dot—it came to me:  periods help writers take a pause before writing their next sentence.  This pause is a gift because it can be a vehicle for attending to the writerly advice teachers give all the time, “Don’t forget to add details and description!”  With Memoir, students already have rich details of sound, color, shape, and texture in their minds: it’s just a matter of taking the time to pause and “see” them again in their mind so they can put them in their writing. So rather than just remind students to add details, we can show them the thought process, guided by those periods, of bringing details into writing.

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From the Classroom: Personalized Mentor Texts to Inspire and Elevate Student Writing with Independent Reading Books

This month’s From the Classroom post comes from Lauren Heimlich Foley, a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Holicong Middle School in Central Bucks School District. If you feel inspired after reading Lauren’s post on mentor texts, please comment below and also consider sharing your own favorite lesson here on the blog. Click here to learn more.


GRADE / SUBJECT

7th Grade English Language Arts

LENGTH

Approximately 20-25 minutes occurring throughout the school year

PURPOSE

Last year, I devoured The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: his books became a constant source of inspiration—fueling my writing, providing minilesson examples, and driving book talks. When I shared Paolini’s ideas, style, conventions, and craft with my students, I modeled how to “read like a writer,” and in turn, my seventh graders began noticing and emulating the way the authors of their Independent Reading Books wrote.

During one writing conference, Caleb declared, “I want to experiment with one-word sentences like in Hatchet.” Skimming the book’s pages, he pointed out “Divorce” and “Secrets” and explained, “Gary Paulsen uses these words to build questions, mystery, and suspense for readers.” The next day he shared his mentor text and revisions with the class as our minilesson. Caleb’s final poem highlighted five words: “Victory. Freedom. Peace. Unity. Hope.” In his reflection, he stated, “The best part about [Paulsen’s] writing is the one-word sentences he adds in. It creates emphasis on the words. I [accentuated] the words of what the [Allied] soldiers [on D-Day] are fighting for because to them these words are really important.”

Intrigued by the power of personalized mentor texts, I considered ways to foster independent reading as a writing tool and dedicate instructional time to observing word choice, voice, sentence fluency, and other stylistic decisions in students’ individual books. Additionally, I wanted to create more opportunities for students to teach one another, take charge of their learning, play with writing, consider risks, and become stronger readers and writers.

NOTE: This lesson can be adapted to use with any text:

  • Fiction, nonfiction, or poetry
  • Whole-class, book club, or independent reading
  • Any age and reading level (picture book, YA novel, or adult book)

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Tools of the Trade: March Madness

By Rita Sorrentino

I always enjoy the transition from one month to another. I delight in turning the pages on my wall calendar with a feeling of newness, encouragement and opportunity. Even now, while I do value the convenience of managing time and productivity with digital devices and tools, I still hang on to a yearly calendar. Its lovely colorful images beautify the wall space and my preference to keep it unmarked reminds me to take a long view of what matters.

When March arrived a few days ago I remembered a verse from a poem I learned in my elementary school days, “March brings breezes, loud and shrill, to stir the dancing daffodil” (The Garden Year by Sara Coleridge). It’s similar to the familiar “lion and lamb” predictions for unpredictable March. Both shed light on our yearning for longer warmer days and colorful surroundings.

My gran Read more

Books on the Blog: Brave Clara Barton

Review by Lynne Dorfman

Frank Murphy’s latest Step Into Reading biography is a cradle to grave story about Clara Barton. Frank, a sixth grade teacher in Council Rock School District in Bucks , Pennsylvania, loves the research behind a good story. Frank tells us of Clara’s shyness on the very first page, in part, because she spoke with a lisp.  He shows us how all her family members taught her something different and important.

Clara became a teacher of a one-room schoolhouse in New Jersey.  The school grew to be big, and Clara wanted to become principal, but the position was given to a man instead. When the Civil War began, Clara helped injured soldiers on the battlefield, even though many men felt women had no place there.

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Writing in the Dark

By Janice Ewing

 

Like many others, my husband and I lost power in the storm on Friday night, March 2nd. Like some others, we are still without power, as the next storm blows in. In fact, our neighborhood sustained more damage last Friday than I can ever remember, with downed trees and power lines, electrical fires, broken backyard sheds, and damaged cars. Fortunately, no one was injured in our area.

On Saturday morning, after surveying the situation at our house and in our immediate neighborhood, we went to a local Panera to decide what to do. It was crowded for the early hour, and everyone was set on charging their various devices as they fueled themselves with coffee. A seat next to an outlet was like a center orchestra seat for Hamilton.

“No power…” new arrivals would simply say, as they contorted their bodies to reach the outlets at a nearby table. The response was always empathetic. Once settled in, we listed what we would have to do without: heat, light, hot water, TV, and other things we take for granted but don’t absolutely need, like toast. We did have an intact house. PECO estimated restoration of power at 11:59 on Tuesday, which sounded a lot like Wednesday, which turned out to be when the next storm was coming. (It also turned out to be overly optimistic.) We considered the options of staying with relatives or friends, or possibly booking a hotel room, but agreed that, if possible, our first choice was to stay put with our two cats, both of whom are terrible travelers and even worse at adjusting to a new environment. The highest priority was a safe and practical source of heat, and after some internet research and a phone consult with a helpful brother-in-law, we decided on a kerosene heater.

 

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