Guilty as charged. I can recall numerous times when I asked a student, “Are you ready to publish your writing?” I swiftly sent them off to rewrite, type, or illustrate their work. That writing was then retired to a class bulletin board, or even worse— my desk. Done. That was the end of that piece. It now belonged to me. Lee Heffernan has shown me the error of my ways.
Lee’s book speaks to the idea of student empowerment, accountability, meaningful writing, revision, and publishing. Her work essentially shows us how to move students from fake writing (writing that is just for the teacher) to writing that has purpose and passion. Lee manages to marry process and product in a way that will inevitably set a new standard for writing instruction for teachers everywhere. Her work breaks ground with tenets that shift our writing instructional norms and inspires students.
In reading workshop classrooms, many goals that teachers have for students and that students have for themselves are tangible and measurable. These include being able to read books at higher levels of text complexity and becoming more skilled in areas such as inferencing, predicting, and thinking critically. There are other goals that workshop teachers keep in mind that are perhaps less tangible and measurable but are nonetheless just as important when helping children to develop thoughtful, rich reading lives. These include working well in partnerships, developing greater independence in managing the reading process, and bravery when tackling the challenges that arise when becoming a better reader.
Editors are the crucial, unseen collaborators of published writers. In her new book, Back and Forth: Using an Editor’s Mindset to improve Student Writing, Heinemann author Lee Heffernan describes adopting that role in her classroom and how it helps student-authors dig in and produce dramatically better writing. Lee relies on both student-centered pedagogy and the experiences of numerous professional writers and editors. On today's podcast, we started our conversation with why students can be reluctant to revise.
Thankfully, I selfishly agreed to write the foreword for this book. Not only did it mean I could read it before anyone else, but I could also see how another teacher implements writing instruction using a project-based format. By page seven, I was annotating comments like, “I love the voice.” “She is so honest.” “I can try this idea tomorrow.” Jealously, I wanted to be the author of the book, not just the foreword!
By Chapter 3, the jealousy was gone and I was captivated. I thought to myself, This teacher-author knows me. She knows my struggles. She knows what I care about as a writing teacher, and most importantly, she knows the wide range of students I teach. Author Liz Prather shows readers how to balance authentic, engaging writing instruction with the responsibility of meeting standards to prepare students for college and beyond. She understands that choice drives engagement and that when students have a purpose or an opportunity to investigate something they are curious about, the desire to write well increases.
There are many reasons to read this book, but I’d like to highlight two—one for teachers and one for their students:
Adapted from Teaching Nonfiction Revision: A Professional Writer Shares Strategies, Tips, and Lessons by Sneed B. Collard and Vicki Spandel
Have you ever watched a film that you enjoyed, but afterward had trouble describing— or, worse yet, never thought about again? Unfortunately, many Hollywood movies fall into this category.
They seem well-constructed and crackle with gee-whiz action, yet leave the audience empty and disappointed. Most often, the problem boils down to one issue: there’s no person or thing in the movie that we actually care about. Instead of being character driven, these movies are plot-driven. They are defined by events instead of characters that we actually identify with.
To move a child to become a lifelong reader and writer takes commitment, passion, resources, and teamwork. The most powerful teams extend beyond the child and her classroom teacher to include other students, other teachers and administrators, and, not least, the child’s parents and caregivers. Certainly, in most cases, everyone on the team wants the child to succeed at reading and writing. But on the best teams, everyone shares an understanding of what success looks like and what it takes to get there.