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Posts from the ‘Teacher to Teacher’ Category

Teacher to Teacher: A Journey with a Mentor Text   

by Lynne R. Dorfman

take a hikeI am always amazed how much fun I have rediscovering the joy of studying a new read as a mentor text. In this case, as I am reading and rereading Take a Hike, Teddy Roosevelt – the newest book by author Frank Murphy, I am thinking about the first time I met Frank fifteen years ago. Now a fellow of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project and a personal friend I know well, I remember that Rose Cappelli and I had absolutely no idea who Frank was the summer day he arrived at our PAWLP Author Study course on the West Chester University campus to present his books, Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares and The Legend of the Teddy Bear. Chris Coyne Kehan had recommended him, and we trusted Chris’s judgment.  Frank was personable and exciting to listen to, but he completely won us over when he spied our copy of Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray. Clutching it in both hands he declared, “I used this book to write my own!”  Indeed, Katie Wood Ray is one of our mentors for our books about mentor texts (along with Ralph Fletcher, Shelley Harwayne, and Regie Routman).  Read more

Teacher to Teacher: Wish List

PAWLP PostBy Janice Ewing

In this season of giving and receiving, of lists and recommendations, I’ve been thinking about teachers, especially new ones, and what they need. So, here’s a wish list for new (and not so new) teachers:

  • Voice: the confidence to share ideas, ask questions, raise doubts about questionable practices and about why things have always been done ‘that way’
  • Agency: the understanding that it is teachers’ day to day and moment to moment decisions, based on knowledge of their students, that move students forward, not following a scripted plan with the goal of raising test scores x number of points for x number of students

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Teacher to Teacher: Independent Reading – What should I read next?

By Lynne R. Dorfman

Students in all grade levels are always asking, “What should I read next?’ It’s an important question because you want your students to continue to find books that they can read independently inside and outside of school. In Readicide author Kelly Gallagher talks about McQuillan’s study of reluctant readers (2001). It that showed a statistically significant gain in reading and writing fluency and writing complexity with students who had had a negative attitude towards reading at the beginning of the year, but at the semester’s end had improved significantly after having finished several books on their own. How did this happen? The students were given time to read books of their choosing in school without having to complete a book report, track points, or fill in a worksheet.

Csikszentmihalyi (1990) talked about reading flow – where students can get lost in the pages of a book and achieve true pleasure in the act of reading for reading’s sake without the promise of extrinsic rewards or grades. If we want our students to achieve this state of reading flow, then we have to help them find books that are interesting and inviting to them. We must provide the time and space for them to read in school before we can hope that they will read outside of school. Often, we find our busy schedules do not allow much time to consider the question, “What shall I read next?’ We find that even during a library special, we hurry from the room lined with inviting books just waiting for a recommendation (“Pick me! You’ll find adventure here!) to use the prep period to record reading, math, and writing data on the schoolwide system or respond to a parent’s phone call or e-mail. There is always so much to do, and yet….

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Teacher to Teacher: A Bridge to Diversity

By Janice Ewing

In a recent post on this blog, guest poster Stacey Shubitz talked about the values of mirrors and windows’ in children’s books, specifically in relation to their use as mentor texts. Stacey also expressed the view that books dealing with diverse characters and families should not be reserved for special months. I strongly agree, although I also feel that there can be value in highlighting particular groups at certain times, especially if it gives us, as teachers, the motivation to explore new texts, authors, or genres. Stacey also shared a list of excellent titles that may provide mirrors to some, windows to others, great readalouds/mentor texts for many. 

So here’s something I’ve been thinking about what are some strategies for the teacher who wants to embed more diversity into the classroom library, readaloud, and/or writers’ workshop, but has concerns about taking the leap into topics that might be controversial or out of his/her comfort zone? For most teachers in today’s climate, I would think (hope) that books featuring racial or religious diversity would not be cause for concern, other than that they portray authentic portraits, without stereotypes or tokenism. Can we say the same for books that portray non-traditional families, or explore sexual orientation? I think for many teachers, these are more complicated issues. 

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Teacher to Teacher: Writing a Plan for a Focus Lesson Using Found Poetry

By Lynne R. Dorfman

How can you tempt your students to take the writing plunge in the beginning of the year? I have always found that poetry is the great equalizer for student writers. Especially, the found poem helps writers gain confidence in creating something quite wonderful. Mentor texts for found poems are everywhere: newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, novels, picture books, or even other poems. Like a collage art form, the writer simply takes existing texts and refashions them as a poem. In its purest form, a found poem retains the exact words of the original text with a few omissions or additions. The writer creates a poem, making conscious decisions about line breaks and the order of the ideas.

Found poetry accomplishes several goals for readers and writers. First of all, it clearly gives students a chance to read like a writer – to find the best in prose (what often sounds like poetry). It asks readers to reread many times in order to write an effective poem; thus, deepening comprehension of text. Found poetry helps all children to be successful. It will help you get what all teachers want – 100% engagement. Found poetry is easily differentiated by text choices. In addition, it is easy to build in opportunities for collaboration.  Read more

Teacher to Teacher: The Art of Questioning

By Lynne R. Dorfman

As teachers, we often feel like we should know the answer to every question. Often, we make sure that the questions we ask in our classrooms are questions we can answer. But is it necessary or even effective to ask these kinds of questions most of the time?  What does a teacher asking questions of a class expect the class to learn from the questioning process? Can we learn from our students who just might have possible answers to questions that we have not imagined?  Read more