Archive for September, 2010

Contribute to the new edition of I See What You Mean!

If you are a classroom teacher who is interested in visual literacy, we have an exciting opportunity for you! Steve Moline, author of I See What You Mean, is working on the second edition of his book. He looking for some new student work to include in the new edition.

We’ve created a Ning group where you can see examples of visual texts,  find topic ideas to use in your classroom, and upload your students’ work. Steve will pick which student examples he will include in his book and those who get picked will receive two copies of the new edition – one for you, the teacher, and one for your student whose work was selected.

Head over to the Ning group to find out more and e-mail if you have any questions.

Add comment September 13th, 2010

Poetry Friday: My Grandfather

This week we have another student poem from third-grader Carter White. The poem appears in Ralph Fletcher’s book, Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices.

My Grandfather
by Carter White

Blinded from the light
Him my helpless grandfather
In his bed.

The light bright gray, calm, and

I walk in and see him.
I feel sad yet I
Feel happy that he is
Getting better.

He looks at
Me with
Dull eyes and a
Pale face
I hear foosteps outside the room
Sounds of
Runny noses and
People wiping away tears.
I leave the room.
I look back and
See the tube in his
A sick face.

When I shut the door
I wonder
What does he feel
Will he have cancer
Was he sad like we

2 comments September 10th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday Original: Writing tips from Mark Overmeyer

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Quick Tip Tuesday on the Stenhouse Blog, right? But this Tuesday is a bit different, because instead of sharing a Quick Tip from a Stenhouse book, we bring you a Quick Tip Original from Mark Overmeyer, author of What Student Writing Teaches Us and When Writing Workshop Isn’t Working. What does it mean that it’s an original Quick Tip? It means that it’s never been published anywhere, and that it comes straight to you from a master teacher of writing. Enjoy and share!

Writing Tips from Mark Overmeyer

Have fun when you teach writing. Be joyful.

Whether you have just started back to school or you are weeks into your writing workshop, I cannot stress enough the importance of joy. I am lucky enough to visit many classrooms in schools across the Denver metro area, and the ones that function best seem to include one key element: joy. Here are some tips for creating more joy in your workshop:

Encourage the use of humor. Consider using humorous mentor texts with your students. Mo Willems has become a standard feature of most primary classrooms I enter these days, and I have yet to meet a student who wouldn’t jump at the chance to write a new Pigeon book (along the lines of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! or a book similar to Knufflebunny: A Cautionary Tale. Also for primary students, consider Melinda Long’s books How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don’t Change Diapers if you sense kids might like to write a pirate story. For intermediate grades, the books I continue to see in so many backpacks and on so many desks have a wimpy kid on the cover – Jeff Kinney has done us a huge favor as we try to convince students that they do have moments in their lives that are worth writing about. Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are full of short anecdotes in the form of diary entries that have helped many of my students in the past few years generate ideas and develop enthusiasm for writing personal narratives. And the film can be used in excerpted form to help students understand the concept of writing a scene, or a short part of a day, rather than the entire day.

Have fun while you read their writing. I work in a district just like many of yours: teachers have a lot of testing to do in the beginning of the year. Even if this testing includes some kind of required writing sample, raise the energy in your room by talking about how happy it made you to read their writing. Don’t read writing just to come up with a rubric score – have fun while reading it. Go in each day and talk about how much you are learning about your students as people because of their writing. One of the most resistant writers I have encountered in awhile is a third grader who managed to write a few words about fishing the first day of school. I use him as a model every day when I work in his classroom now. I say things like: “Writers, you are doing the work all writers do when they first come up with ideas – you are writing what you know. And Tyler knows about fishing. He knows about carp fishing on a lake, and he knows about fly-fishing in a river. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with today!” Though I cannot tell you that Tyler has produced pages of text, he does not produce at least half a page, and a picture, every day. And most importantly, he does not groan when it is time to write like he did the first day I met him.

Allow plenty of time to share. Don’t save sharing time for just the end of the workshop. Expect students to share ideas before they write, interrupt the workshop briefly to celebrate a student’s writing during writing time, and make sure to include as many students as possible at the end of the workshop sharing time. If your students are writing longer pieces, you can edit this process by asking them to share a favorite part of their story, or you can ask them to orally tell part of the story and just read their most recent page. If you have some shy students who do not like to share, ask for permission early in the school year to share their work with the class. All students, hopefully, will become confident enough to share their writing frequently as the year progresses.

Be positive about your own writing experiences. Be honest about your own struggles as a writer, but share your joy as well. Talk about how rewarding it is to create your own pieces and to share these pieces with the class. Let them into the world of your own writing process by sharing some real world examples of how writing made a positive impact on your life. You can think of cards you have sent, poems you have written for special occasions, or opportunities you have had because you worked hard on your writing. Help students to see that writing is alive and well in the “real” world: writing matters. Writing makes a difference.

1 comment September 7th, 2010

Poetry Friday: Thank-You Notes to Elementary School Teachers

This week’s poem comes from our very own Charles Fuhrken, author of What Every Elementary Teachers Needs to Know About Reading Tests.


Thank-You Notes to Elementary School Teachers
Charles Fuhrken

To Mrs. Box,
First grade teacher,
For days I stared
out the window at
the playground
when I was supposed to
read about a boy
named Dick and a girl
named Jane. Instead of corner
time, you gave me
a pencil and a Big
Chief tablet and let me invent
my own stories—and I forgot all about

To Mrs. Meischen,
Second grade teacher,
I still have
the first place
prize I won in your spelling
bee—a ribbon of
blue construction paper cut out and
laminated. Down to me and
Gloria, the word was
“to be grateful for”—and I still

To Mrs. Torres,
Third grade teacher,
Each day after
lunch we sprawled out
on the story rug and clung to
tales about a chocolate
factory, a red fern, and a giant
Spinning words like
Charlotte in her web, you
were Radiant,
Terrific, and Some

To Teachers Everywhere,
We students remember
ant aquariums and Weekly
Reader, cursive
handwriting and talent shows, sock
puppets and science
fairs, show and
tell and field trips, times
tables and i before e. Moments glued together in our minds like
the collages you treasured from us, displayed in the hallway, and praised
with bright eyes and a contagious

4 comments September 3rd, 2010

Stenhouse books in Rwanda

In June we told you about how some of books made their way to Belize to help teachers there improve literacy education. Now we have another report from Rwanda, where Juliana Meehan took copies of Yellow Brick Roads and Words, Words, Words by Janet Allen, Strategies That Work by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis, and Nonfiction Matters by Stephanie Harvey. Juliana and her professor, Kathleen Malu, a Fulbright Scholar at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), and professor of education at William Paterson University of New Jersey, used the books in two different level classes: a large class of 160 freshman and sophomore students and a smaller class of juniors/seniors. But before they could get down to the business of teaching strategies, Juliana and Kathleen had to tackle some language barrier issues. Here is Juliana’s report:

Professor Malu shows off Nonfiction Matters

My original plan was to center the lesson on how we can use high quality picture books to teach literacy, and then to show how each of your books contains strategies to help students master reading and writing skills. However, I found that my lesson needed adjustment because of the current language situation in Rwanda.
The traditional language of Rwanda is Kinyarwandan, although Swahili is also widely spoken. For decades, the language of education and commerce has been French, since Rwanda was once a Belgian colony.  In January of this year, Rwandan President Paul Kigame (who has just been re-elected for another 7-year term) mandated that the official language of Rwanda is now English and that all education must be conducted exclusively in English.  You can imagine what a difficulty that poses for teachers and students who speak fluent French but who may have little or no practice with English!  So, my classes–especially those with the younger undergraduates–as well as my interaction with teachers in the field had to be adjusted for the fact that most of them are beginning English speakers.  With the large undergraduate class (see picture), I periodically stopped during the lesson and defined words before we could go further.  (We were reading the picture book Mr. George Baker written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Jon J. Muth, a Candlewick Press publication.)  After the story we reviewed the Stenhouse books.  The students were very interested in them and wanted to know more.  They are excited that they will have full access to them and will use them in their subsequent classes at KIE.
With the older junior/seniors whose English is more advanced, we were able to explore the materialsin more depth and have pedagogical conversations.  In fact, the students took the books home and evaluated them.  Their assignment for Dr. Malu and me was to examine a text and report back what they thought of it and how they might use it as a teacher.  Here are excerpts of their reactions, unedited, straight from the students’ pens (the names have been changed).  I’m sure you can see that these books will not be lost on these young teachers!

Juliana talks to a group of students about Strategies That Work

Strategies that Work:

“This book details strategies, methods and ways to teach comprehension to students … as a future teacher I like it! … the elements found in this book are helpful to me in my career of education. It is the modern way of teaching which puts the student in the center of education and the teacher as a helper and not a dictator. … In teaching I will be using some of these methods found in this book to help my students to read and understand … –Jacqueline

Strategies That Work. “I have been exploring this package and I found it interesting as well as very helpful.In fact, I have liked it and I am still enjoying reading it. The choice and arrangement of the materials are some of the factors which make the book likeable. It seems to be selective in its structure, consistently well organized, and developed in a concise manner. … It is rather practical than theoretical. This is why it falls under my favorite choice. .. briefly, I really like this book mostly because it gives responses and hints for success while dealing with teaching young learners. I consider it relevant to both current and prospective teachers, as I am.”

Yellow Brick Roads: “… the book shows how much the participation of both teachers and learners is needed so that students get knowledge about reading skills. For many reasons, I liked this book.  It reminded me that it is better for the teacher to have teaching aids while teaching. For example, while the teacher is teaching how to read effectively, he/she has to give the textbooks to learners and guide them by correcting some mistakes … in teaching, this book can help me because each of its pages contains guidance for both students and the teachers.” –Marcel

Words, Words, Words: “After reading this book … I got interested in the topic called “Why teach vocabulary?”   –Auguste

These reactions show that the students are engaged in the difficult tasks of perfecting their English while training to be teachers (in that new language!), but also show that the ideas and methods proposed in the books are new and exciting and vastly different from what they have been taught, both as students and as future teachers.  For example, the idea of a student-centered classroom is revolutionary!  They have been raised on the “I-talk-and-write-notes-and-you-copy-and-memorize-them” method!

A great need still exists.  The people are intelligent, hard working, and motivated.  However, at present resources are few.  On a visit to the KIE Library, I saw scores of large boxes of donated books which, on closer inspection, were manufacturers’ leftovers and of no use to the Rwandan students at KIE.  For instance, one box was filled with workbooks to accompany an outdated textbook (which was missing) on the economy of China!  So, the Rwandans need books, but they need quality, relevant, culturally appropriate books, not leftovers.  You at Stenhouse can be proud that the books you’ve given them are the best available to teachers, the very top of your pedagogical line. That was not lost on the students, either.  They knew and appreciated they were getting materials that teachers in the United States are using right now.

Add comment September 2nd, 2010

Podcast: Lisa Miller on digital storytelling

Lisa Miller’s new book, Make Me a Story: Teaching Writing Through Digital Storytelling, shows teachers how to integrate technology into their writing instruction. In this podcast Lisa talks about how easy and simple it is for teachers to create a digital story with their students.

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Add comment September 1st, 2010

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