Category Archives: Language Arts

How to Plan for Book Clubs in Middle School

historical fiction book club option

The following is an excerpt from pages 74-75 of A Guide to the Teachers
College Reading and Writing Project Classroom Libraries, Grades 6–8
by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth

What is a book club?

Simply put, a book club is a group of readers, usually three or four, who read books roughly in sync with each other. Usually clubs read the same book, but sometimes clubs may read books by the same author, or read a series of books together that share a common genre—mystery, historical fiction, fantasy—or they may read a collection of disparate books with a common lens—thinking about interpretation, learning about shared social issues across the book.

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Tools Don’t Teach, Teachers Do! Using Tools to Support Our Teaching & Teach to Independence

Teachers Toolkits

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Building a strong workshop practice is similar to building a house. Doing it successfully takes expertise, patience, foresight, flexibility, and, of course, the right tools. Having an arsenal of resources to draw upon, in minilessons and in conferences and small groups, is key when you need to teach on your feet, reflexively and quickly meeting the needs of a range of students. 

Just as no two teachers are the same, and no two groups of students are the same, so must teachers’ toolkits be varied, personalized by the teacher and set up to best support the teachers' current group. A toolkit might be a binder filled with text samples and checklists, or it might be a digital toolkit filled with resources available at the touch of a button. A toolkit’s mode of delivery is far less important than its usability and connection to students’ needs. However you decide to store your teaching toolkit, digitally or in a good, old-fashioned binder, here are some tips for its organization and development.

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PLC Series: Focus on the Strengths of Your ELs

Welcome back to the Heinemann Professional Development Professional Learning Community (PLC) series. We are excited to present a new format for the 2017-2018 year! 

Each month, we'll share 2 posts designed to provoke thinking and discussion, through a simple framework, incorporating mini-collections of linked content into your professional development time. 

This month, our posts will challenge us to examine literacy practices so we can be more inclusive of students who speak varieties of English as well those learning English.

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After discovering a pattern of deficit thinking about her child’s reading struggles, Cohort 1 Heinemann Fellow Lisa Birno embarked on action research to investigate instructional strategies that would “increase equity and engagement through the use of purposeful talk”.

In this post on the Heinemann blog, Lisa tells the story of how she began critically examine patterns of deficit language we sometimes use to describe learners. She writes, “In order to make sense of why the child isn’t learning the way we expect, our deficit language kicks in and it damns every child we use it on.”

Take a few moments to read her post and think about a time you recall defaulting to deficit-thinking, whether it be with a student, a family member, or yourself. What phrases of deficit language dominate this memory?

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Framing Science Learning With Coherent Science Stories

The Stories of Science
Science stories can be compelling vehicles for connecting people to information. When we create overarching story lines for instruction (within a unit, throughout a year of study, or over several years), students are more likely to remember what we teach. Information is more likely to stick because (as cognitive science shows) stories are the basic organizing principle for memory. Compelling stories also engage more of the brain (Berns et al. 2013). Also, students can begin to see the big ideas of science and how they connect across disciplines. Finally, the story lines give students a coherent framework to hang their learning on.

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View a clip from our Webinar Series with Colleen Cruz

Our first live webinar session with Colleen Cruz was packed with thinking about a mindset for teaching writing, strategies to guide repetitive student writing, mirror writing, and more!

In this clip below, you'll hear Colleen give advice for helping students move past the same old writing and launch an exercise with webinar participants as they dig in to student writing to problem solve together.  

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Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Teaching Middle School Reading Units of Study: Tips from the Authors

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Teachers of middle school reading have their own, unique set of challenges. On the one hand, there is the pressure to get middle schoolers ready for high school. In high school, the demands will be high, to say the least. Students will be expected to wrestle with complex texts with minimal help. They’ll be expected to read and digest information quickly, and to write well about what they read. The inclination for many middle school reading teachers is to prepare students for a high school curriculum by angling their own curriculum toward what will come in high school. On the other hand, most middle schoolers still need plenty of instruction in reading skill work, and many are not quite ready for the high levels of text complexity of whole class novels. So what is a middle school teacher to do? 

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