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An Informative Writing Process YOU Can Teach

Video and blog post on an effective way to teach informative writing K-5
Hello!  I'm thrilled to share this next video with you.  In it, I describe the process I often use to write informative texts with K-5 students.  Though I use my book Stella and Class:  Information Experts to talk through this process, you don't need a copy of the book to benefit.

The four minute video briefly touches on:
  • how I stimulate questioning for informative writing
  • how to keep students focused on specific questions
  • how to chunk the task of investigating questions using sticky notes
  • how to use internet resources to clarify information and spark more thinking
  • how shared writing can be used to develop texts
  • how mentor texts can be used to push pass spots where students are stuck
  • how important it is to keep in mind that the shared work we do with students is aimed at moving them toward independence as writers

Welcome to Book Clubs! Lunchtime Discussions to Build Reading Motivation

Blog post on Book Clubs designed to build school reading community and students' intrinsic motivation to read.  Includes download of bookmark with options students can use to prepare for discussions.
Here's another technique we're using to build our school's reading climate and students' intrinsic motivation to read.  Like digital book commercials, we're expecting to see and hear students' excitement rise along with their spontaneous talk about books!

This week, we're beginning book clubs.  These aren't your ordinary, everyday book clubs, they are SPECIAL because students will be invited to attend during their lunch periods!  We're visiting classrooms (the principal, vice-principal, me (literacy coach), and the librarian) doing short book talks on hand-picked titles, asking students to sign up to read and discuss great books.  We're beginning with twelve copies of the titles listed below.  If we don't have enough students sign up from one class, we'll include another class.  If we have too many takers, we'll put names in a hat to draw out for the first club, then include those who were not drawn in the second round.  

Balanced Writing Instruction: Why Include a Combination of Writing Modes?

Balanced Writing Instruction:  Why include a combination of writing modes?  What does each mode have to offer?  Link to video of interactive writing.
Thinking tonight about how important it is to have a balanced approach to writing instruction in terms of the modes of writing we employ with students.  As with reading, varied writing modes (modeled writing, shared writing, interactive writing, and independent writing) provide different benefits for students. I wouldn’t want to short-change any of them because I don’t want to short-change the ways I can support my students’ writing development. 

During modeled writing, teachers are the writers. They do all the work. They think aloud, talking about what they are doing as they compose in front of the class. Over time, as students listen and watch, they learn the strategies writers use while composing. Be sure to model the steps you take as you model across different genres.  Don't worry if you're not a professional writer, or you're not sure of the "best way to model."  There is no "best way."  If you can write at a level slightly higher than your students, you can push their writing development.  It's okay to get stuck, make mistakes, rethink and retry, after all, writers in the real world do this all the time. 

Video: Harness the Special Power of Peer Mentor Texts

Two Minute Video featuring Janiel Wagstaff explaining the power of using students' own writing as mentor texts to teach writing in the classroom.
Here's a two minute video briefly explaining one of the reasons I use my students' own writing as a powerful teaching tool.  It piggybacks off of the post I did in August, which I have yet to get back to. The next post in the series will outline several specific strategies you can use while teaching to get the most effect from using students' writing samples as peer mentors! Happy writing!


If You’re Teaching It Well, Students’ Writing Looks Messy—Very Messy

Two minute video and blog post about helping students understand how writing, when done well, is messy business.
 A student informally jots in her think pad, figuring out what she'd like to say for her digital book commercial
Hello!  This post goes along with a two-minute video I just uploaded on the subject. 

Writing is a messy business.  Ask any writer.  They’ll tell you the way their drafts look on paper or screen—every cross-out, smudge, arrow, carat, and cut & paste--are sure signs of the work of a thoughtful writer.  They’ll also tell you this kind of reworking goes on while composing—not just while officially “revising” a piece as perhaps told to do so by a colleague or editor (see a post which details the recursive nature of writing here).  

If this is the true work of a writer, do your students know it?  Do they show signs of trying and retrying, thinking and rethinking, revising and reviewing their writing as it is developing?  Or do they only begrudgingly take place in this process when told to do so or when checking off requirements on a checklist?  How do we help students better understand that perfect writing doesn’t just flow effortlessly onto the page from our heads or our outlines or the graphic organizers we create? 

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