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A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from JoAnn Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher

Words are powerful, and conventions allow us access to this power.-Michelle Polito (2017 Grammar Matters Participant)

Comprehension Strategies Across Space and Time

by Mark Weakland

The other day, while playing through the Lennon and McCartney song Across the Universe, two lines captured my attention: “Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letter box. They tumble blindly as they make their way across the universe.”

It’s definitely a great sixties lyric, evocative of the mind-expanding ethos of the times, and for some reason it set off a small avalanche of thoughts about literacy in my brain. First, a text-to-self connection: the lyric reminded me of a few students I’ve taught over the years. Next, a thought about how difficult it can be to lead students, whose thoughts “meander like a restless wind,” to a deeper comprehension of the texts they read. Finally, feeling grateful that effective comprehension strategies have been identified, and we can bring them to students.

Over the past three years, as I’ve read studies and articles and as I’ve listened to literacy gurus speak at conferences, I’ve learned that three categories of strategies are especially effective at leading students to greater comprehension: activating prior knowledge, summarizing, and asking and answering questions. In addition, as I’ve worked with teachers in elementary schools, I have learned that when a handful of already effective strategies are applied across space and time, literacy strength is built within a system. In other words, when multiple teachers in multiple content areas across multiple grade levels employ a few well-chosen comprehension strategies, the literacy program of an entire school is made stronger.

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A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from Harry R. Noden

Writers are artists who craft artistic pieces with words the same way a painter would with paint.

-Sharon Williams (2107 Grammar Matters Participant)

A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from Donald Graves

This post is a reminder that conventions and content work together to give words power.
– Melissa Weathers (2017 Grammar Matters Participant)

Tools of the Trade: C3WP

by Kelly Virgin

Late this past March I spent two beautiful spring days holed up in a conference room in D.C. feeling both overwhelmed and excited by four letters: CRWP (now known as C3WP). The College, Career, and Community Writers Program is a National Writing Project initiative aimed at providing teachers across the nation with resources needed to help their students critically read and analyze multiple points of view in an attempt to responsibly enter the civic dialogue. As their website explains, the program “answers the contemporary call for respectful argumentative discourse.” In an attempt to reach this lofty, yet vital goal, NWP has gathered and created an impressive stockpile of mini-units complete with suggested text-sets, graphic organizers, audio and visual materials, formative and summative assessments, and suggested extension activities.


In the months following my brief introduction to this program, I spent numerous hours mining the provided resources in an attempt to meaningfully pass the information along to fourteen teacher-leaders through PAWLP’s Advanced Institute. While I still feel slightly overwhelmed by all the possibilities of the program, the three intensive days I spent locked away this summer with a group of thoughtful and inquisitive teachers helped me boil it down to three essential elements: time, access to multiple perspectives, and the freedom to choose. With these three key elements in mind, any teacher can start to meaningfully engage his or her students in thoughtful, thought-provoking, and responsible argument writing. Read more

A Writerly Life: Words of Wisdom from Ralph Fletcher

When writing is meaningful to us, we’ll work at it until it makes us smile (. . . or cry).

 -Melissa Radico (2017 Grammar Matters Participant)