Archive for May, 2019

Math and Academic Safety

Hanging inspirational posters on the wall is not enough to take care of the emotional baggage about mathematics our students bring. In Chapter 3 of Necessary Conditions, author Geoff Krall goes beyond platitudes, digging deep into the root causes of students’ accumulated feelings about mathematics and themselves: mindset, race, gender, identity, social pressures, tracking, academic status, and past math experiences. Drawing on real examples from his case-study schools, Krall gives teachers and departments specific, practical steps for change, so we can create academically safe classroom cultures in which our adolescent students can thrive.

Click the image to read the chapter.

Go here to get your copy of Necessary Conditions today.

Add comment May 23rd, 2019

3 Types of Mentor Texts for Writing Workshop

Mentor texts can become powerful teaching tools in writing instruction. In their new book, Welcome to Writing Workshop, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman describe mentor texts as “examples of exemplary writing that can be studied to lift the level of student writing.” They describe three distinct types of mentor texts—published, student written, and teacher written—that can be used with students. Here’s how they define each type and how they can be used to teach your students to read like writers.

Published Mentor Texts

Published mentor texts are written by writers who have gone through the publication process (i.e., worked with an editor) with traditional and nontraditional publishing options outside of school. Published texts can include, but are not limited to, books, articles, and short stories. Most often, in elementary school classrooms, mentor texts are fiction and nonfiction picture books that showcase the qualities of good writing to students. Teachers may also share and study books of poetry, short stories, or middle-grade novels alongside students in minilessons, strategy lessons, or conferences.

Student-Written Mentor Texts

Student-written mentor texts are pieces of writing created by children. Typically, they’re written by a teacher’s former students and shared with future classes. These student-written pieces can come from any stage of the writing process (e.g., notebook entries first drafts, published pieces) so students can have a vision of the type of writing they’re expected to accomplish. Many teachers have children at several levels of sophistication whose work they regularly keep and archive during each unit of study for using it with students at varying stages of development in the future. Students are often inspired by the work of mentor authors who are students from their own class as well as students from a previous year’s class. Studying the work of other student writers at their same grade level is highly motivating. It helps create an “I can do that” attitude!

Teacher-Written Mentor Texts

Teacher-written mentor texts are crafted by teachers in service of the units of study they are teaching. Writing you do—at any stage of the writing process—can be held up as a mentor text for students since you are the living, breathing author who can discuss the moves you made right there in front of your students. Some teachers craft mentor texts for their students using the mirror writing concept (Cruz 2015) so their demonstration text is accessible to their students. By using mirror writing, a teacher can create a piece of writing tailored to a student’s ability level, thereby making it an accessible demonstration text.

This is just one technique you can use to strengthen your writing instruction through a workshop approach. Get Welcome to Writing Workshop and get started on writing instruction that will instill a lifelong love of writing in our students.


Cruz, M. Colleen. 2015. The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Add comment May 23rd, 2019

The Writing Wallet

The following is excerpted from Teach Writing Well: How to Assess Writing, Invigorate Instruction, and Rethink Revision! by Ruth Culham.


Wallets are a commonplace item. But even though the contents may be similar among individuals—credit cards, IDs, cash, photos—the particulars will vary. I have a driver’s license from Oregon, for instance, and you likely have one from another state—but we both have driver’s licenses. Wallets are handy for storing things you need to make a purchase, board a plane, show a picture of a grandchild, share insurance information, and so on.

Using a Writing Wallet for writing practice is a simple, straightforward way to engage students in revision.

I propose that you have students create a Writing Wallet for the same purpose: as a simple storage place where they can hold a small set of rough-draft writing pieces until they need them. No two students will have exactly the same papers, because each composes differently, but they will collect a similar set of papers to store. These papers become practice pieces they can revise for one key quality at a time as you conduct specific focus lessons on writing craft.

The Benefits

The benefits of the Writing Wallet are simple. Instead of using worksheets or prepackaged materials, students apply what they are learning to their own writing in guided practice. Each student has a personal portfolio of work that reflects his or her current level of writing skill. If a student is struggling to form a sentence, for instance, his pieces in the Writing Wallet will reflect that. And if another student is writing fluently and with skill, her pieces will reflect her ability as well. Both students will need to revise but at different levels.

In the Writing Wallet, students are working on pieces that reflect what they know and writing about topics that they’ve chosen and are interested in; no other tests or placement decisions are needed. They have their own personalized, differentiated works in progress, just waiting to be called into revision service. The pieces can be worked on again and again, giving the student an insider’s view of what revision should really look and feel like.

Student Writing Becomes the Heart of Instruction

Using a Writing Wallet for writing practice is a simple, straightforward way to engage students in revision using their own work as the resource for their practice. The student’s writing becomes the heart of instruction and learning as you fold it into the recursive nature of the writing-to-assessment-to-instruction-to-revision-to-learning process. The Writing Wallet is a simple, interactive tool that allows students to succeed where worksheets have failed.

To learn more about Teach Writing Well, go here.

Add comment May 17th, 2019

#StenhouseMath Twitter Chat with Marian Small RECAP

On Tuesday, May 14, Stenhouse hosted its third #StenhouseMath Chat with well-known Canadian math expert and author, Marian Small, to discuss the ideas from her upcoming book, Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It. Here are some of the Tweets from Marian that really resonated with participants.

“If kids can’t remember every little thing, shouldn’t we focus on things worth remembering?”

“As an educator, I need to show my students I love to learn. So I need new learning to talk about with them.”

“When you talk to kids, they remember teachers with passion (or weird earrings).”

Click the image below to view the recap of the chat in its entirety. Read to find out how people are discussing understanding the math we teach and how to teach it!

Understanding the Math We Teach and How to Teach It by Marian Small is now available for preorder and is expected to be released in August, 2019.

The next #StenhouseMath Chat will continue in the fall. Look out for a schedule this summer! Follow @StenhousePub and #StenhouseMath on Twitter and Facebook for the latest math news and updates.

Add comment May 15th, 2019

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