Category Archives: Writing

Diving into the Writing Workshop

Today I am fortunate to share some of my experiences with the Writing Workshop with an excellent group of colleagues in Barkhamsted, CT.  My message will be that with the writing workshop, we can give bursts of explicit instruction with mini-lessons, but the bulk of the time is given for students to explore themselves and WRITE! If you think of swim practice, you probably don’t see the team sitting on the edge of the pool for the whole practice while the coach is talking. They need to get in the water, refine their strokes, build the muscle memory! This is the aim of the writing workshop. It is a challenge, but it is one that will pay dividends although at times you may feel like your head is barely above water. (I am into the metaphors… no apologies).

Below, I am including some links and information I am sharing with the group throughout today’s session. More to come in future posts, especially related to specific units of study.

Diving in to Writing Workshop Presentation

Informational Mentor Texts Craft Chart (example)

Two Writing Teachers Blog

Columbia Digital Texts & Series

Mini Lesson Planning Template

Throughout the day I am happy to update this list and ensure we have all of the resources we need to do our best work. In addition, I am available to support you through this journey, just a click away!

Be well,


Authentic Writers, Real Writing

I was fortunate to present professional development to a group of teachers a few weeks ago and have been reflecting on their work and the process since. During our session, we spoke about the implications of the Common Core and how our teaching has shifted to meet the new standards.
Wordle: Authentic Writers, Real Writing
One of the main goals of my presentation was to share with teachers how our own writing experiences can shape the way we teach, and putting ourselves in our students’ shoes can assist with creating an environment that encourages creativity and supports all students.  Here are some ideas I shared to assist with “hooking” ourselves and our students on the writing process:

  • Taking some time as teachers to write for pleasure, or write for the same purpose as your students. Want them to learn persuasive? Show them the Op Ed you sent to the local paper. Starting a new poetry unit? Share your own.
  • Let them write WHATEVER at first. I make sure to include “free write” time as much as possible in the classroom. I tell the kids on the first day of school that the only rule is that your pencil needs to be moving. They can write lyrics to their favorite song, a poem, story or play, or just write “I don’t know what to write”. Muscle memory is a powerful thing, and by the end of the year they are working on a variety of pieces and asking more more time to “free write”.
  • Make writing real. Writing literature reviews? Publish them on  Send letters to the board of education. Working on narrative techniques? Have them write out Fan Fiction based on a favorite game or show. Examine poorly written tweets that get bad press to prove the importance of coherent thought. It is a wonderful time to be an educator.
  • Meet kids where they are. Find out how to integrate their interests & passions. Get kids writing compare and contrast paragraphs by comparing the Wii U and the Xbox Kinect. I once tried to prove the point that you can “flash draft” with little or no research by challenging my students to think of a topic that I would know NOTHING about and betting them that I could write a full paragraph. So? I did write… about World Wrestling Entertainment. They were rolling on the floor laughing as I mentioned The Rock (I guess he has been Dwayne Johnson for a while now?). It might have been the worst paragraph I’ve ever written, but it proved my point.
  • Read. Encourage your students to read. Read in front of your students. Read the stuff your students are reading. If that means Pokemon graphic novels or dystopian YA, so be it. Just READ. Steven King does a great job explaining the critical link for writers as readers below:

Teaching writing is causing a spark to ignite. How do you help ignite a passion for writing with your students?