Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Planning Writing Lessons

Last week, I again had the pleasure of working with a consultant from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. While in our building, he facilitated planning sessions with teachers, who then tried these teaching points with students.

Here’s the planning process we used:

1. What do you want students to know?

2. What does it look like when students are doing this proficiently?

3. Do it yourself...model the work for the students.

4. What was your process?

5. How can you articulate this process for kids?

This follows the National Writing Project tenant of Teachers as Writers! If we are not writing ourselves, how can we teach it to others?

Write on!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Dare to be different! That’s easier said than done when you’re in high school. Mica High School students are shocked when a new student, Stargirl Carraway, arrives. They don’t know how to take her. Is she for real? Stargirl plays the ukulele, wears peasant dresses and has a pet rat that she keeps in her bag.

The students tentatively accept her, but before long, her differeces cause them to shun her. She becomes an outcast. Her ‘friends’ have to choose sides; be an outcast with Stargirl or conform to Mica High.

This is a great tale about belonging, popularity, growing up and first loves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Today I was in a seventh grade language arts class. The teacher asked students to reflect on The Outsiders and which character(s) they could or could not relate to. Each student was given some time to jot down the character and the reasons why he or she was or was not able to relate to that character.

A young man spoke up and said, “Ponyboy because we all got stuff in our life to deal with and he does too.”

I was so struck by this statement. He’s right, we relate to characters and their stuff to learn about ourselves and our world. This student, recently from Africa, might not appear to have much in common with some boys from 1960s Oklahoma. But what this student does have (like all of us) is stuff.

Are there books that have taught you a lesson in how to deal with the stuff of life?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Told in a series of 60 narrative poems, Lonnie Collins Motion (Lo Co Motion) explores the events of his young life. After losing his parents at age seven, he and his sister are bounced around to various church members' homes. Eventually, they are taken into foster care, but by separate families. Lonnie is fortunate to have a teacher, Ms. Marcus, who is teaching him various forms of poetry. Lonnie, a gifted writer, uses Ms. Marcus' teaching to deal with his emotions.

Addresses the themes of loss, perseverance, family and coming of age. This would be a great anchor text for poetic forms: haiku, sonnet, epistle, list poem, category poem.