Category Archives: Writing

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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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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Using an Editor’s Mindset: An Origin Story

Back and Forth: Using an Editor's Mindset to improve Student Writing

In her new book Back and Forth: Using and Editor's Mindset to Improve Student Writing, Lee Heffernan encourages teachers to go from giving writing feedback to students as their teacher, to giving feedback as students’ editor. Here, excerpted from her introduction from Back and Forth is the origin story of her thinking:

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Who Are Struggling Learners?

Who Are Struggling Learners?

The following is adapted from the introduction to Supporting Struggling Learners: 50 Instructional Moves for the Classroom Teacher by Patricia Vitale-Reilly

I have been thinking of writing about struggling learners for many years and for many reasons. I’m sure a tiny seed was planted even when I was a young child, and that seed began to grow as soon as I started working with children and young adults. We will (unfortunately) always have students in our classrooms who struggle. They struggle in many different ways—different in both the reasons why and the ways in which they struggle. Since each and every classroom will have struggling learners, it is helpful to define the kinds of struggling learners we might encounter in our classrooms and then plan moves to support them.

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Amplifying Student Voice Through Writing Workshop, 3-12

Writing Workshop Students

Written by Anna Gratz Cockerille

When we teach students to express themselves well in writing, we are doing so much more than simply helping them to do better on school assignments. We are giving them tools so that they can express themselves to the world in the best ways possible. When we teach students to become better writers, we are teaching them to become better thinkers. We are teaching them to connect ideas, to unpack arguments, to angle details, and to draw conclusions. Perhaps most importantly of all, we are teaching them that what they have to say matters. 

Many students feel powerless in their environments. They don’t feel they have a voice, or a place in the world to share it. In writing workshop, we can teach them that they do have power, the power of words, and they do have a voice, a voice they can use for good. Any writing unit in which students are taught to choose and grow their own ideas (every unit in the Units of Study for Opinion/Argument, Information, and Narrative Writing, that is) will help students to find their voices. But there are some that are more specifically angled toward helping students to identify and express their opinions on topics that matter to them. These are: 

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Embarrassment And the Emotional Underlife of Learning By Tom Newkirk

Embarrassment by Tom NewkirkOn today’s Heinemann podcast: Embarrassment. 

We’ve all been there. In the dead of night, lying awake, replaying that one moment over and over again in our minds. The daily mistakes we make, both large and small, are part of what make us human, and yet, are often impossible to forgive ourselves for. In his new book, Embarrassment, Tom Newkirk writes, "We perform for ourselves, often the harshest of audiences.”  But how does embarrassment affect our professional lives as teachers, and how does it affect students?  Tom would argue that it is the true enemy of learning, keeping teachers and students alike silent, hesitant, and afraid. So how do we get past our anxiety, our panic, and defensiveness and become more generous to ourselves? How do we teach our students to take the risk of asking for help, or just to raise their hand in the classroom? 

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