The Tenth Annual Slice of Life Challenge kicks of March 1 and in this guest blog post Stacey Shubitz, cofounder of the Two Writing Teachers website, argues that to become an effective writing teacher, teachers need to be writers themselves. Stacey is the author of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts.
Empower your teaching by being a teacher-writer
My daughter is adjusting to full-day kindergarten this year. Like many kids her age, she is exhausted when she comes home. As a result, we pulled her out of ballet and tap classes—she wanted to chill after a seven-and-a-half-hour school day rather than attend dance classes.
My husband and I searched for a Sunday afternoon activity because we wanted her to have an extracurricular interest. A friend suggested aerial arts class. The idea of my daughter hanging upside down and swinging from a piece of fabric scared me. The first thing I did was check the instructor’s qualifications. Upon researching, I learned the instructor had been performing and teaching aerial arts for nearly a decade. I wasn’t convinced I’d keep our daughter enrolled past the trial class, but the teacher’s experience was enough to let my daughter try it.
Once we arrived at the trial course, the teacher demonstrated everything she wanted the children to do before they did it. She talked about what might be challenging. She spotted the kids as they tried different poses in the fabric. She repositioned their hands, supported their bodies (when necessary), and encouraged them with supportive words. As a result of her expertise as an aerial artist and a teacher, I enrolled my daughter in weekly classes.
Just as teachers of aerials need to be proficient aerial artists, teachers who lead writing workshops should be writers themselves. I never would have enrolled my daughter in the aerials class if the instructor wasn’t a proficient aerial artist herself. Similarly, I believe writing regularly plays a role in becoming an exemplary writing teacher.
If you want to be the best teacher of writing you can possibly be, there are a few things you must do: read high-quality professional books, attend professional development about writing, surround yourself with colleagues who will study student writing alongside you, and do a lot of your own writing. If you’re not sure how to get started with your own writing, please join my colleagues and me for the 10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.
The Slice of Life Story Challenge began on Two Writing Teachers in 2008. The online challenge’s mission is to support teachers who want to develop and sustain a daily writing habit. Over the years, the challenge has created a community of teacher-writers who are better able to support the students they serve in writing workshops. Teachers are invited to write a slice of life story—an anecdotal piece of writing about a small part of one’s day—on their own blogs and then share the link to their story on our blog. Each person who leaves a link to his or her own blog visits at least three other people’s blogs to comment on their slice-of-life writing.
I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. Being a teacher-writer means you can confer with your students and feel a special kind of camaraderie. Being a teacher-writer means you understand the struggles and frustrations as well as the triumphs and the beauty. Being a teacher-writer means you will transform your students’ lives because you believe in the power of words. It is my hope that all children who take part in writing workshops will have teacher-writers.
I hope you’ll join us for the 10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge this March. We are a welcoming community of teacher-writers—at varying points in our careers—who come together to share blog posts about the ordinary moments in our lives. Click here to find out how to join our community of writers.
Stacey Shubitz is an independent literacy consultant, an adjunct professor, and a former elementary school teacher. She’s the author of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts and the coauthor of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice. She blogs at Two Writing Teachers and can be found on Twitter @sshubitz.
February 15th, 2017
We just posted the full preview for seven new and recent books from our Canadian partner, Pembroke Publishers.
Thinking Strategies to Guide Literacy Instruction in Secondary Classrooms
Kyla Hadden and Adrienne Gear
At any age or grade level, powerful readers are those who are aware of their thinking as they read. This book demonstrates that instruction in the key strategies of connecting, visualizing, questioning, inferring, determining importance, and transforming can help high school students develop their reading skills and get more out of their work with fiction and nonfiction.
Grades 8-12 • 128 pages • $24.00 • Available now
Questions and Answers That Meet the Needs of Real Teachers
In his new book, David Booth answers questions from real teachers about building skills in literacy—from phonics to comprehension, from simple exercises to rich reading materials. Drawing on more than forty years of experience in education, David shares hard-learned lessons about what has—and hasn’t—worked for him.
Grades K-12 • 128 pages • $24.00 • Available now
Student Diversity, Third Edition
Teaching Strategies to Meet the Learning Needs of All Students in K-10 Classrooms
Faye Brownlie, Catherine Feniak, and Leyton Schnellert
Based on extensive classroom research, Student Diversity presents many examples of teachers working together in diverse classrooms to improve their teaching practice—from the primary and early years to middle school and high school.
Grades K-10 • 160 pages • $24.00 • Available now
Everything You Need to Get the Students on Your Side and Teach Them, Too
This easy-to-read, humorous survival guide for substitute teachers presents strategies to get students on your side and make classroom management easier for the whole day. You’ll get ready-to-use tools, tips, and lesson ideas for every grade from kindergarten through 8th.
Grades K-8 • 160 pages • $24.00 • Available now
The Four Roles of the Numerate Learner
Effective Teaching and Assessment Strategies to Help Students Think Differently About Mathematics
Mary Fiore and Maria Luisa Lebar
This book introduces a framework (sense maker, skill user, thought communicator, and critical interpreter) that supports an integrated approach to effective mathematics instruction. It builds on educators’ understanding of how to effectively teach mathematics and borrows from successful frameworks used to teach literacy.
Grades K-12 • 128 pages • $24.00 • Available now
Relationships Make the Difference
Connect with Your Students and Help Them Build Social, Emotional, and Academic Skills
This book provides the scaffolding that teachers need to establish strong relationships with their students and create caring classroom communities that build relationships with parents, school administration, staff, and support specialists.
Grades K-12 • 128 pages • $24.00 • Available now
Teaching with Humor, Compassion, and Conviction
Helping Our Students Become Literate, Considerate, Passionate Human Beings
How can teachers make their literacy classrooms a place of joy? Full of simple strategies and activities for building community, this practical book is committed to promoting strong literacy skills and creating mindful classrooms where students are free to speak with compassion, write with conviction, and read with joy.
Grades K-6 • 128 pages • $24.00 • Available now
January 9th, 2017
Tom Seavey (1944-2016), co-founder of Stenhouse Publishers
On Christmas Day, Tom Seavey, who founded Stenhouse with his wife, Philippa Stratton, died suddenly of a heart attack after spending a wonderful day with his family. Tom is being remembered as a loving and devoted husband, father, and grandfather, as well as an innovative and highly-regarded publisher of books for educators.
Tom helped launch Heinemann in 1978 where, together with colleague John Watson, they grew the company to become the leading publisher of professional development books for teachers. In 1980 they were joined by Philippa Stratton, Tom’s wife, who focused on finding and cultivating authors. Heinemann went on to publish several authors who would become familiar names to nearly every educator in the country–including Don Graves, Lucy Calkins, and Nancie Atwell.
In 1993, Tom and Philippa left Heinemann to start Stenhouse Publishers as a subsidiary of Highlights for Children of Columbus, Ohio. At Stenhouse, Tom and Philippa repeated the success they had had at Heinemann with a series of bestselling titles. In 2010, Philippa became the only publisher to win the Outstanding Educator Award from the National Council of Teachers of English for the body of work she and Tom had published at Heinemann and Stenhouse.
“Tom’s approach to publishing combined taste, independence, curiosity and, often, a non-traditional mode of thinking,” said Kent Johnson, CEO of Highlights for Children. “Because of his modesty, only a few people truly know the greatness of his contributions to these publishing houses and, most importantly, to educators.”
After a life of work on behalf of teachers, Tom retired in 2008. His wide-ranging interests included reading, travel, cooking, furniture-making, learning Hungarian, and volunteering at Florence House, Portland’s women’s shelter, where he helped prepare and serve lunch.
Tom is survived by Philippa and their daughter, Eliza Seavey, who is the nurse manager at Harbour Women’s Health in Portsmouth, NH. She is married to wife Jamie Stone and the couple have two children, Nora and Ben.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Preble Street (preblestreet.org), the umbrella organization for the Florence House women’s shelter where Tom volunteered.
Tributes to Tom by Stenhouse staff members:
From Dan Tobin, president of Stenhouse:
About 11 years ago this month, my sister-in-law Toby Gordon called to tell me her old friend Tom Seavey was leaving his position as marketing manager at Stenhouse. She thought I might be interested in the job. Toby had worked with Tom and Philippa for years at Heinemann and she thought Philippa and I would make a good team at Stenhouse.
I was a big fan of what Tom and Philippa had accomplished at both Heinemann and Stenhouse so I gave Tom a call. That led to the strangest and most interesting series of job interviews I’ve ever had. At some point in the conversations, we reversed roles and I began telling Tom why I lacked the experience to fill his shoes while Tom was working to convince me I was the ideal candidate. Of course, Tom won the argument; he was very persuasive.
Where Tom, Philippa, and I connected was our common commitment to teachers. I had spent 13 years as a curriculum editor and writer at EDC, a nonprofit education research organization, and the one thing I had learned from studying decades of EDC school reform research is that the teacher is the most important variable. A mediocre curriculum in the hands of a good teacher is better than a wonderful curriculum in the hands of a mediocre teacher. In the end, it’s the skills and knowledge of the teacher that matters most.
Fortunately for me, Tom stuck around to teach me the business. He left Stenhouse to go to work for our parent company, Highlights for Children, selling international rights and he moved his desk to an empty office on our first floor. Several times each week, I would go down and sit in the rocking chair next to Tom’s desk and pepper him with questions. He was the perfect mentor—patient, wise, and clear.
Well, not always totally clear. Tom had a thick Maine accent and he sprinkled his advice with all sorts of colorful terms and expressions. The introduction to the catalog was “guff.” Good conversations were “mulch.” Pointless conversations were “chin music” and pointless guff was “flapdoodle.”
Tom was a man of strong opinions but that was coupled with endless curiosity and intense modesty. He loved to turn the spotlight on others he found to be smart and interesting—especially teachers. That’s his legacy at both Stenhouse and Heinemann.
From Toby Gordon, math and science editor:
I met Tom in June 1988, on my first day as a young editor at Heinemann. He ambled over to my desk, not bothering to introduce himself, and in his thick Maine accent—which I took as British—he started asking me questions about me and my job. I discovered over the years that this curiosity spread into all corners of his life—from his brilliant co-directing of Heinemann and then Stenhouse with Philippa, to his love for beautiful wooden furniture-making, to gourmet cooking, to the most wide-ranging reading interests I’ve ever known. And underlying these pursuits was a down-to-earth, unpretentious spirit; always looking and commenting on the world with a particularly wry wit, Tom never ceased to amuse and amaze me.
Tom and I became good friends at work and in the world, as our young families grew up together, picnicking in Philippa and Tom’s beautiful backyard, swimming at Peak’s Island, hanging out in NYC. In our more recent years, we swapped names of doctors and mechanics.
In one of the last emails Tom sent me, he thanked me for passing on the name of one particularly gifted fix-it guy. In his typical Tom-esque style, he wrote:
“Thanks for recommending Aaron. We have decided to form a fan club. If he does everything as well as he did our bathroom, he’s a shoo-in to replace LePage [Maine’s controversial governor]. Probably could also solve the mind-body problem, find the least common denominator, and explain the rules of cricket.”
This short note says so much—why I found Tom so endearing, and why I’ll miss him so.
From Maureen Barbieri, editor:
I knew Tom as the head honcho at Heinemann during the years when I was a classroom teacher. I’d see him at the booth at NCTE conferences year after year, engaged in conversations with authors, teachers, and other school people, always interested and knowledgeable. He had great radar, much like Philippa did, when it came to scoping out new talent. When I asked Mary Ehrenworth, then a high school art history teacher, to present with me in 1999, Tom came to hear us. Later he sought me out to ask for more information on her, suspecting she’d be the new ‘it girl.’ And he was right. Of course, it wasn’t long before Mary became a Heinemann star.
As the years passed and Philippa and I became friends, I had the chance to know him socially as well, and I was impressed with his insatiable curiosity and his wonderful sense of humor. He was a reader, and he had definite opinions on things. Smart, but eager to hear what other people thought. I found him fascinating, if a bit intimidating. He had a way of looking right at you, asking the follow-up question that made you examine your premise, reconsider your point.
When I looked at Tom and Philippa I saw a true partnership. Two equals, smart, passionate, creative people making a fascinating life together. I saw affection, respect, admiration, even devotion. They seemed to get much more out of life than most people – traveling, house swapping, attending concerts and plays, reading everything, and always making time for friends. Tom’s volunteer work, quietly done, revealed another side of his character. What kind of a person shows up to sit with a hospice patient week after week and then spends time with the family as they adjust to their loss? Who makes a commitment to work in the kitchen of a homeless women’s shelter? Tom Seavey did, and for many years. A quiet example of what a life well lived can look like.
My favorite memory of Tom is from a summer day in 2015. My husband Richie had been gone for about five months, and I was having lunch at their lovely house, babbling away. I caught myself, and apologized, explaining that, since I now lived alone, I tended to ramble on whenever I got to be with people. Tom was reassuring. ‘Oh, no, don’t worry. You are welcome here,’ he said. And the thing is, I believed him.
From Zsofi McMullin, marketing content editor:
I first met Tom at the cafeteria of Maine Medical Center. I worked at the hospital at the time and received a cryptic message from the hospital’s interpreter services – a man called them looking for someone to teach him Hungarian.
That man turned out to be Tom and we met once a week for several months for Hungarian lessons. For a while I couldn’t really understand why he was trying to learn Hungarian – an impossibly difficult language – but I think he must have liked the challenge and I know that he loved the country, spending weeks in a rented flat in Budapest, sometimes transporting packages back to the U.S. for me from my mom.
We always chatted for a while after our lessons and during one of those conversations I mentioned that I didn’t particularly enjoy working at the hospital. Tom said that he knew just the right job and company for me and after a few rounds of interviews I landed at Stenhouse. That was almost 12 years ago now and I will always be grateful to him for bringing me into the Stenhouse family.
January 5th, 2017
Whether you are ready for 2016 to be over or not, here we are, looking ahead to an exciting 2017! But before we can look ahead, let us look back at the top blog posts for the past year. Check back with us soon for a lineup of our spring titles and more great content! Happy New Year!
Top posts for 2016:
Establishing Routines for the Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz
Poems, Right from the Start, by Shirley McPhillips
Why Students’ Reading Plateaus, by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Wide Awake to Stories, by Katie Egan Cunningham
Finding Your Writing Tribe, by Stacey Shubitz
December 20th, 2016
Tracy invites you on a journey through this most magnificent book of stories and portraits…This book turns on its head the common misconception of mathematics as a black-and-white discipline and of being good at math as entailing ease, speed, and correctness. You will find it full of color, possibility, puzzles, and delight…let yourself be drawn in.
— Elham Kazemi from the foreword
While mathematicians describe mathematics as playful, beautiful, creative, and captivating, many students describe math class as boring, stressful, useless, and humiliating. In Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, Tracy Zager helps teachers close this gap by making math class more like mathematics.
Tracy spent years observing a diverse set of classrooms in which all students had access to meaningful mathematics. She partnered with teachers who helped students internalize the habits of mind of mathematicians as they grappled with age-appropriate content. From these scores of observations, Tracy selected and analyzed the most revealing, fruitful, thought-provoking examples of teaching and learning to share with you in this book.
Through these vivid stories, you’ll gain insight into effective instructional decision making. You’ll engage with big concepts and pick up plenty of practical details about how to implement new teaching strategies.
All teachers can move toward increasingly authentic, delightful, robust mathematics teaching and learning for themselves and their students. This important book helps us develop instructional techniques that will make the math classes we teach so much better than the math classes we took.
December 15th, 2016
We are excited to be heading to Atlanta next week for NCTE 2016. We hope to see you at Booth #405 — stop by to browse our latest titles, pick up one of our fabulous tote bags, or meet one of our fabulous authors.
Download a full list of Stenhouse authors presenting at the conference.
Author signings at our booth:
12:30 p.m.: Kathy Short and Jean Schroeder (Teaching Globally)
1:30 p.m.: Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris (Who’s Doing the Work)
2 p.m.: Jennifer Allen (Becoming a Literacy Leader)
Cris Tovani (Talk to Me)
Ann Marie Corgill (Of Primary Importance)
2:30 p.m.: Ralph Fletcher (Making Nonfiction from Scratch)
3 p.m.: Melissa Stewart (Perfect Pairs)
3:30 p.m.: Jeff Anderson (Revision Decisions)
9 a.m.: Katie Cunningham (Story)
10 a.m.: Franki Sibberson and Karen Szymusiak (Still Learning to Read)
11 a.m.: Dorothy Barnhouse (Readers Front and Center)
Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan (Assessment in Perspective)
1 p.m.: Ruth Culham (Dream Wakers)
Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli (Mentor Texts)
2 p.m.: Jennifer McDonough and Kirstin Ackerman (Conferring with Young Writers)
3 p.m.: Erik Palmer (Good Thinking)
November 10th, 2016
Stenhouse editor Tori Bachman gives us a behind-the-scenes peek into creating the Growing Independent Learners online workshop with Debbie Diller. The workshop is now available on our website!
By Tori Bachman
As we neared the finish line of editing the manuscript for Debbie Diller’s Growing Independent Learners, Debbie brought up a new Big Idea: an online workshop to help teachers really dig in to the ideas presented in the book, to show how to assemble all these pieces from standards to team planning to classroom organization to whole-group instruction, small-group differentiation, and ultimately, independent literacy work at stations.
Stenhouse has never created an online course, but as we started to research and think it through, it became more and more clear that this was a perfect book to start with.
After about a year of planning, Stenhouse video editor Nate Butler and I traveled to Houston to film the video portion of the online course. Nate has done many video projects in his career; I have not. In a way my newness was a good thing: I didn’t know what to expect, so I just paid close attention and tried not to get in the way. But in the end, I not only learned a lot about video production, I also learned a lot about Deb’s teaching philosophy, her instincts in the classroom, and her gift with children. And reflecting on the experience, I see three main points that apply both to the creation of the video and Deb’s Growing Independent Learners model:
Planning and organization are critical to success – and help you make in-the-moment decisions
Deb and I spent a full year, along with Nate and our colleagues, planning the outline and structure first, then filling in details to flesh out our vision for what to capture on film. We wrote a script for Deb to follow in the scenes in which she’s addressing the camera, along with bullet points we wanted Deb and the teachers to discuss in more off-the-cuff conversations. Nate and Deb created a shot list, and from that Nate developed a shooting schedule. We had a professional crew on site – cameraman, sound engineer, and teleprompter – to bring all this planning to fruition. We shot for three full days in two locations – Deb’s house and an elementary school in Houston. All that advance planning made the small hiccups completely manageable. We all had a clear vision and direction for the project, so we were able to make decisions in the moment, and we were able to add and take away and go with the flow. Planning! It’s critical. And a big part of Deb’s philosophy of teaching. I get it now.
There’s no substitute for a good team – in school, in the workplace, during a video shoot
A big evolution in Deb’s teaching over the years has been the critical role of teachers working together to plan instruction. We see it big time in the new book, then watch teachers planning with Deb in the online workshop. As I sat behind the scenes on the video shoot, it struck me how important our team was in the process: every person had a role and a distinct skill or strength to bring to the project. I know nothing about operating a boom mic or sound board, for instance, but James knew what every dial and knob on that board controls. It’s the same in your school, too, I’m sure: You may have a knack for teaching the finer points of writing, but your colleague really shines when it comes to breaking down mathematical thinking. You work together to fine-tune how your students learn and grow their thinking.
Kids really can reach independence – and they’ll have fun doing it – within a few months
Seeing literacy work stations in action, I have to admit, was a highlight of this past year for me. It’s one thing to read about children working independently – understanding it cognitively, seeing photos, hearing anecdotes – but my understanding and appreciation reached a whole new level as I watched first graders reading and writing together, listening to books and retelling to their partner, using academic vocabulary and pretty sophisticated language…and all on their own. Their teacher, Tracy Gilbert, taught small groups during work station time, using smaller versions of anchor charts she’d created with the kids during previous whole-group lessons.
We know these kids didn’t jump right in to independent work from day one. Literacy work stations take planning, teamwork, and thoughtful scaffolding through whole-group lessons and small-group instruction.
At the end of the three-day shoot, I returned home tired yet completely energized. This has been perhaps the most collaborative and creative project I’ve worked on – and seeing Deb in her “natural environment” in front of a room full of antsy, eager, brilliant little ones was the perfect culmination of over a year of work.
November 1st, 2016
Today’s guest post by Vicki Meigs-Kahlenberg might sound a bit ambitious — even crazy: write an entire novel with your students during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But Vicki, author of the new book The Author’s Apprentice, has some practical advice as you gear up for this challenging, rewarding, and possibly life-changing writing exercise with your students. Good luck and let us know how it’s going in your classroom!
Get your students writing for NaNoWriMo
October is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the sweater-weather, the changing leaves, and the pumpkin spice everything. But my absolute favorite thing about this time of year is gearing up for NaNoWriMo! During National Novel Writing Month teachers, students and folks from around the globe take part in the challenge to write an entire novel in the thirty days of November. It sounds crazy for anyone, so why on earth would you ever attempt to write novels with a class of heterogeneously grouped students who don’t even particularly care for writing in school at all?
Because it’s magical.
Much like the changing leaves, exploding with vibrant colors, so too will your students’ attitudes and efforts in writing change and explode with possibilities that even they had never imagined. I have been a middle school teacher for more than 20 years, and I can honestly say that nothing compares to writing novels together as a class. It is arguably the single most impactful academic experience that a student can share with his classmates. It builds confidence and motivation for students (in writing and in other areas of life), it reinforces what we are already teaching and makes it meaningful to our students, and it helps them to feel like they are a part of something that matters for real out in the world.
Here are a few tips for a successful dip into Lake NaNo:
- Integrate it into your existing curriculum to give authenticity, meaning and purpose to what you already do in your classroom.
Participating in NaNoWriMo presents obvious benefits for our students by connecting the writing work that authors do in the real world with the writing work that we do within our classrooms. It provides validation and a wonderfully authentic opportunity for students to apply the literary elements you are already teaching such as characterization, plot, setting, and conflict in their own writing. And they get to demonstrate their knowledge of literary devices such as flashback, symbolism, imagery, and irony throughout the month in the same way that real authors do.
Additionally, something unexpected occurs inside every student who takes part in this ridiculous challenge. After writing their novels, students will never read another story or novel without knowing the work that went into developing each character and his or her actions. They will no longer casually breeze by vivid details, deliberate word choices, or imbedded symbols. Learning the skills in the reading portion of the curriculum, and then fearlessly crafting and applying them in their own writing makes an impression. This synthesis of knowledge bridges the gap between reading and writing and brings new meaning and a heightened awareness into their everyday reading and writing lives.
- Write with your students.
C’mon, admit it. If you teach English or language arts, you know that somewhere deep down inside you have this dream of writing “The Great American Novel” one day. Carpe this Diem. If you truly want to make an impact with your students, you can’t just teach novel writing; you have to get in there and get your hands on that keyboard and experience novel writing side-by-side with your students. You have a writer’s voice. And the world needs to hear it.
- Build a true community of writers within the classroom.
Out in the real world, writing communities serve to hold its members accountable, to provide support and encouragement when needed, and to offer feedback at all steps in the writing process. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our students could come to expect this same kind of support system within our classrooms? Now they can at www.ywp.NaNoWriMo.org . Here, teachers can create a virtual classroom so that everyone can stay connected whether they are writing at school or at home. Teachers can post announcements, assignments, and even writing challenges (such as: “Find a way to include green Jello into your next scene. Go!”) to keep everyone excited and on their toes. Many of my students will also ask for support and feedback directly in the message feed. Sometimes it’s to help them move past writer’s block, sometimes it’s to test out a line or two for audience feedback, and sometimes it’s to help their characters make tough decisions. It is so comforting to know that even when we are writing on our own at home, we are never alone. And that makes all of the difference.
- Build a true community of writers out in the community.
You already know you are crazy for taking on this insane challenge with your classroom, so why not spread the word out there in your community? I’m serious; share with your community what you are setting out to accomplish for the month, and get them to join you in your efforts. Contact your local newspaper and news station to see if they’d be interested in reporting this story of your class taking on insurmountable odds to write novels in 30 days! Share your idea with local businesses and see if they’d be willing to donate goods or gift certificates for the students who meet their word count goals. (Our local ice cream parlor gave us free ice cream cone certificates as awards!) Host “write-outs” around town for your students to get together and write in the evenings or on the weekends in coffee shops, book stores, and even the mall food court! Don’t be shy. The more people see you and hear about what you are doing with your class, the more the excitement builds. No doubt that everyone you talk to will be amazed by your enthusiasm and dedication to your students.
- Celebrate a job well-done.
Participating in National Novel Writing Month shows our students that we believe in them, even when they think that what we are asking is impossible. Novel writing is both messy and empowering. Through the process, students develop writing fluency and stamina, and the ability to produce higher-quality on-demand writing. And that is worth celebrating.
October 19th, 2016
How would historical figures solve today’s conflicts and problems around the world? Sarah Cooper is back with a blog post about how her students researched reformers and wrote about how their chosen figures would change the world today. Sarah is the author of Making History Mine and she teaches English and history at Flintridge Preparatory School in California.
A Roundtable of Reformers
By Sarah Cooper
How would labor agitator Florence Kelley, author Barbara Ehrenreich and reformer Helen Keller solve the Syrian refugee crisis?
How would Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court plaintiff Fred Korematsu and environmentalist David Brower address gun laws?
My eighth graders asked themselves these questions in groups after each of them researched an American reformer.
In previous years, students had simply presented a few facts about their reformers to the class and also played part of a song that echoed the reformer’s ideals (Katy Perry’s “Roar” for Carry Nation or “We Shall Overcome” for Pete Seeger, for example).
The songs were fun to hear, but even these short presentations seemed to drag out over several days of class time.
This year I wanted students to spend these days being more hands-on: learning about other students’ reformers and then applying this knowledge to modern-day problems, many of them similar to ones their reformers had tackled.
So I created student groups, roughly categorized by the kind of reform their person did.
For instance, Bob Dylan, Sojourner Truth, Marian Wright Edelman and Rachel Carson came together as people who used their words for change.
Here are the directions I gave one Tuesday in class, after students had read through each others’ short research papers.
- Now, make a list (as long as you want!) of 3+ current issues you think your reformers would like to explore together. Feel free to flip through your current events notes and articles to help you brainstorm. Write down everyone’s ideas without judging or commenting.
- Once everyone has shared ideas, go back through the list you’ve generated and talk about which issue might be the most interesting for your reformers (you!) to research tonight and talk about solving tomorrow. By the end of class, decide on one issue on which everyone will find a different article tonight.
That night, students texted or created a Google Doc to make sure they found different articles on their group’s topic.
In class on Wednesday, they first wrote individually for 5-7 minutes on why they chose this particular article and what their reformer would think about it, and then they shared the articles with their group.
After that, students brainstormed at least six solutions or approaches that their reformers might use to tackle the issue. They honed in on one approach they liked best and developed a plan with at least several steps.
The plans ran the gamut on the spectrum of intricacy, radicalism and violence.
One example came from students who thought that, if alive today, their reformers – Eleanor Roosevelt, Carry Nation and Jane Jacobs – would have fought for “women’s right to an abortion.” Their steps read:
- Have strong debates all over America – in the government and in cities, through town hall meetings.
- Use intimidation tactics – psych out your opponents.
- Be the voice of larger grass-roots organizations.
- Hold protests in front of opponents to gain awareness.
- Have fundraising events.
- Build upon Roosevelt’s government connections and Jacobs’ grassroots movement connections.
A group of radical reformers – John Brown, Margaret Sanger, Dolores Huerta and Carry Nation – attempted to solve the Syrian refugee crisis with persuasion and intimidation:
- Start by hosting rallies and sending letters to non-conforming countries (countries that aren’t letting in refugees).
- Gather a small army of protesters.
- Go on a boat with an army to Syrian refugees and take the refugees to countries like Britain. Also use other forms of transportation.
- Smuggle in refugees while fighting security.
Obviously these solutions are only skim the surface of how one would tackle an issue. What I liked about them was that the students really had to ponder different methods of change and figure out which historical tactics would work equally well now.
The Greensboro Four’s nonviolent sit-ins? Still a promising tactic. John Brown’s violent attempt to seize a federal arsenal? Maybe not as effective.
Next time I hope to ask students to create a longer action plan and then have their classmates vote on which one they thought would be most realistic and effective.
Such a a mini-negotiation session would imitate the process their reformers went through, creating a grass-roots feel in our own classroom.
October 10th, 2016
Here is a quick roundup of recent reviews of our latest books. Be sure to check them out online — many of them are still available for full preview before you buy!
In the July 2016 issue, Midwest Book Review showcased two Stenhouse titles on the “Education shelf” of their Bookwatch List. Well Played, 6-8 by Linda Dacey, Karen Gartland, and Jayne Bamford Lynch was hailed as “… a top pick for teachers who would inject play and learning into a math curriculum.”
Interactive Writing Across Grades by Kate Roth and Joan Dabrowski was found to be a “…solid guide for any teacher of these grade levels who would integrate an interactive writing program into the classroom.”
Read the full reviews
Midwest Book Review’s Bookwatch also featured Making Nonfiction from Scratch in January, calling it, “a thought-provoking critique of how nonfiction writing is taught in schools.” The “Education shelf” of the May’s Library Bookwatch also recommended Who’s Doing the Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris, saying, “Thoroughly informed and informative, and exceptionally ‘user friendly’ in tone, content, commentary, organization and presentation, Who’s Doing the Work? is very highly recommended for professional and academic library …collections.”
Read the review for Making Nonfiction from Scratch
Read the review for Who’s Doing the Work
A MiddleWeb reviewer gushed about Close Writing by Paula Bourque, calling it full of, “practical, easy-to-implement and innovative ideas that will enhance your Writers Workshop experience without taking time away from what our students need to do — write.” The reviewer adds, “This book is meant to be read and reread. To be read closely…To be read with a colleague…to be read at the beach…to be read here, there and everywhere!”
Read the full review
The same MiddleWeb reviewer also loved Craft Moves by Stacey Shubitz, saying, “I tried words like “Fabulous” and “Exciting,” but they seemed inadequate to explain how powerful and important Stacey Shubitz’s new book, Craft Moves is to middle grades teachers and students everywhere.”
Read the full review
Teacher’s Toolbox investigated Growing Independent Learners by Debbie Diller, and decided that, “The author does a fantastic job of coaching teachers to make learning practical and fun. …This book is full of great ideas for organization, standards alignment, anchor charts, and balancing whole group, guided groups, and independent learning! It is a must for early elementary school teachers!”
Read the full review
Well Played, K-2 by Linda Dacey, Karen Gartland, and Jayne Bamford Lynch was spotlighted by Meaningful Math Moments, where the reviewer said, “what impressed me the most were the points they raised around the teaching of games/puzzles; these were highly insightful!” She concluded, “I highly recommend this resource and intend to use it this coming year!”
Read the full review
And Franki Sibberson over at A Year of Reading blog reviewed Christopher Danielson’s book Which One Doesn’t Belong? and called it a great conversations starter around shapes and geometry. “If you are interested in inquiry based thinking and routines that empower kids AND if you want to learn more about quality talk in the math classroom, you need this book immediately!”
Read the full review
September 27th, 2016