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Wrapping up the Revision Decisions blog tour

revision-decisionsI hope you had a chance to visit all of the blogs during our week-long blog tour talking about Jeff Anderson and Deborah Dean’s new book, Revision Decisions! Today is your last chance to leave a comment on any of the blogs — including this one — for a chance to win a free copy of the book!

Here are some highlights from the tour:

The Two Writing Teachers

Jeff Anderson and Deborah Dean have a new book that deals with revision in grades 4 – 10.  Revision Decisions: Talking Through Sentences and Beyond is a professional book that will help students realize that reseeing, reformulating, redesigning, rethinking, recasting, reshaping, and retweaking isn’t so scary.  In fact it can be fun!  (Yes, I wrote FUN!)

Writing is messy.  As teachers we need to provide our students with opportunities to see our struggles as writers.  When students see us revise (i.e., rewriting, throwing out chunks of text, adding new parts), they’ll come to understand that revision is a natural part of the writing process.

Great writing usually doesn’t pour out in first drafts.  All writers need time and space to revise sentences, paragraphs, or whole pieces of writing multiple times to get it right.

The Reading Zone

Q: In a school system where standardized tests only value quick, rough drafts, how do teachers help students value revision?

Jeff: Great question. A few things come to mind. This same conundrum faces middle and elementary teachers as well as your high school students. First, when we revise often, our first drafts get better each time, right out of the chute. So, the playing with sentences we call for in Revision Decisions lessons, prime our writers best craft to the surface. In exploration and discovery of how sentences can be put together, young writers minds are opened to possibility. These possibilities eventually get applied (sometimes with our nudges). As the Writing Next report (2007) concludes sentence combining is a proven pedagogy for improving student writing in grades 4-12. So there’s that. But also most standardized writing test have a test on revision, editing, and grammar. To pick the best sentences, students need practice at this kind of evaluating, and this is just the kind of practice they’ll get in Revision Decision lessons.

Deborah: We’ve had quite a few teachers ask this question; there is so much concern about testing! But we both believe (and our work with student writers seems to show) that this kind of playing with sentences improves even students’ one-shot writing, which is often all they have time for on tests. After this kind of playing around with sentences and paragraphs, they have more ways of using language effectively stored in their heads, so they can use it spontaneously as well as in situations where they have time to revise and craft more carefully.

The Nerdy Book Club

When Jeff told me that he was working on a new book with the brilliant Deborah Dean, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. If these two thought leaders had something new to teach me, I wanted to learn. Revision Decisions: Talking Through Sentences and Beyond pushes our thinking as Jeff and Deborah introduce a framework for teaching students how to revise. By framing and naming revision techniques in ways we can model and practice with students, Jeff and Deborah help teachers understand the revision process and move students forward as writers and thinkers.

Focusing on the importance of sentence combining as the foundation of good revision, Jeff and Deborah offer a framework that supports writers first, then their writing. Trust, practice, risk-taking, play—without these fundamentals it’s difficult to engage students with revision.

From this supportive foundation, Jeff and Deborah move teachers step-by-step through model lessons that show young writers how to examine mentor texts, reflect on techniques, and hone in on targeted changes that improve their own writing.

Rich with resources, Revision Decisions offers lesson sets, anchor charts, authentic sentence models from children’s authors like Sarah Albee and Albert Marrin, and conversations from students as they ask questions and learn to revise.

Digital Writing, Digital Teaching

Q: How do you balance teaching “revision decisions” with authentic pieces of student work against these constraining types of test questions? In what way are we able to have students transfer their knowledge of grammar from their “revision decisions” into the reality of test prep?

Jeff’s Response: The cool thing about the concrete acts modeled and experimented with in Revision Decisions is that they are based in a sound research-based instructional methods and help prepare kids for test. Sure, it will work best for critical thinking, revision, and sentence combining questions that students are sure to encounter. It’s not so much about editing; however, since we only use grammatically correct sentences to play with and combine, they are getting exposure to correct texts as they reformulate and revise.

Thinkers. That is what we want our students to be in our classroom, in the world, and even on tests. Thinkers. Thinkers evaluate what best communicates and idea, analyzing, testing it. This is all built into the lesson cycle or progression in Revision Decisions.

2 comments November 14th, 2014

Talking poetry

Spend an hour in good company with poet and Stenhouse author Shirley McPhillips and National Writing Project host Tanya Baker as they discuss poetry, Shirl’s new book Poem Central, and the joy of reading the right poem at the right time. So pour a cup of tea and click on this link to listen to the entire interview.

Add comment September 23rd, 2014

Register now to chat live with The Sisters

There’s still time to register for our live online chat with The 2 Sisters, Gail Boushey & Joan Moser, Tuesday, March 25 at 3:30pm ET. Submit your questions in advance or during the chat. All registrants will be able to access the recorded event afterward:

What is Daily 5? Is it easy to get started? Are any special materials or resources needed? How do Daily 5 and CAFE fit together? In this new video, Gail & Joan answer some frequently asked questions:

Add comment March 21st, 2014

Meet us in San Antonio for IRA!

We will be in San Antonio this weekend, April 20-22, and we hope you will stop by at booth #1727. You will be able to browse and buy our books and receive a 25% show discount, meet our authors, and receive this FREE poster for your classroom or office.


This is also a great chance to find out more about our Read & Watch books. Authors Lee Ann Tysseling (Word Travelers) and Lee Ann Spillane (Reading Amplified) will be at the booth to present mini-sessions about their online books. Stop by to see what the buzz is about and receive a free trial!

Here is a list of author signings and mini-sessions:

Saturday, April 20
10 a.m.: Debbie Miller (Reading with Meaning)
11 a.m.: MINI-SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling
1 p.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
2 p.m.: Steve Wolk (Caring Heart & Critical Minds)
2 p.m.: Jeff Anderson (10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know)
3 p.m.: Cris Tovani (Talk to Me)
3 p.m.: Brenda Overturf, Leslie Montgomery, Margot Holmes Smith (Word Nerds)

Sunday, April 21
9 a.m.: Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan (Assessment in Perspective)
11 a.m.: Carol Bedard and Charles Fuhrken (When Writing with Technology Matters)
Noon: Mary Shorey (Many Texts, Many Voices)
Noon:MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling
1 p.m. MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
1 p.m.: Debbie Diller (Moving into Math Stations)
3 p.m.: Steven Layne (Life’s Literacy Lessons)

Monday, April 22
9 a.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Spillane
10:30 a.m. Julie Ramsay (“Can We Skip Lunch and Keep Writing?”)
1 p.m.: MINI SESSION with Lee Ann Tysseling


1 comment April 16th, 2013

White Wonderful Winter: Using Strong Verbs to Create an Image

We continue our early National Poetry Month celebration with another Your Turn Lesson from Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, the authors of Poetry Mentor Texts on using strong verbs to create an image. Leave your short poem in the comments section for a chance to get a free copy of Poetry Mentor Texts!

White Wonderful Winter

Word choice is an important part of any kind of writing. Poets, especially, need to be conscious of the words they use as they create images with only a few words. In this lesson, writers are reminded of the power of strong verbs in writing. The scaffold provides a framework that ensures the success of all writers.

Hook: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner is a wonderful source of verbs for this particular scaffolded poem. In the book, a young girl is cross-country skiing through the woods with her father, while under the snow is a secret world where animals eat, sleep, and hide. Students are fascinated by the activities of the animals, so it is a good idea to introduce this book as a read-aloud first before using it as a mentor text. Return to the book and ask students to listen for the verbs the author uses to describe the actions of the animals and the people. They can record them in their notebooks or on individual whiteboards.

Purpose: Writers, today I will show you how you can use strong verbs to create clear images for your reader. We will use this scaffold to create poems about winter:



White wonderful winter!

Kids _________________________

Grown-ups ___________________

White wonderful winter!

Brainstorm: Together with the class, create a t-chart of verbs. On one side, list the verbs from the book that describe the actions of the animals and people. Students can brainstorm additional verbs for winter activities. For the other side, ask the class for verbs that could be used with snow. Your chart may look something like this:

        Animals and People                                    Snow               

disappear     glide         scratch                           glistens

doze             climb        swoosh                           whispers

dodges         snooze     snore                              swirls

huddle          snuggle    scurry                             blows

cuddle          listen        build                               piles

ski                leap          cheer                              blankets

complain      toboggan    skate                            sparkles

Model: Use the scaffold to create a poem. Think aloud about the words you choose to use for the images you want to create. You can add other words, such as conjunctions or transition words, to help shape your poem. Here is an example from Rose’s notebook:


Snow blankets the earth while
Animals snooze peacefully underground
White wonderful winter!
Kids cheer joyfully and
Grown-ups cuddle by a cackling fire
White wonderful winter!

Shared/Guided Writing: Together with your students, create one or two poems. Discuss how the use of strong verbs helps create a more precise image. Students can also work in pairs or triads and share their thinking.

Independent Writing: Ask students to create their own winter poems using the scaffold. Some students may use the scaffold as a guide or adjust it slightly to meet their needs. Here is an example from a second grader:


A Winter Wonderland

by Josh

Snow falls on the earth.
Animals dream
Of a warm spring!
White wonderful winter!
Kids ice-skate in an ice rink as
Grown-ups slurp hot cocoa.
White wonderful winter!

 Reflection: Ask your students to reflect on how the writing worked for them:

Was creating the poem easy or hard? Why?

Did you revise your poem to use a stronger verb?

How did using a strong verb help you to create a clearer image in your writing?

Options: You can try this scaffold with other seasons or holidays, adjusting the phrases as needed—perhaps “Sizzling Sunny Summer” or “Thankfully Thankful Thanksgiving” or “Fabulous Festive Fall.” The book Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi compares and contrasts a thunderstorm brewing outside with what is happening inside a young girl’s house. It is also a good mentor text for strong verbs.

1 comment March 26th, 2013

Talking to kids about unspeakable events

In the wake of last week’s tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, all of us are struggling to find words to express our grief, horror, bewilderment, and outrage. Our friends at Responsive Classroom offer some practical tips for teachers and administrators looking for help on what to say—and what not to say—to a roomful of students:

Although you are dealing with your own grief and fears, when you are with students tomorrow and in the days to come, do your best to focus on the children and their needs. It’s daunting, but projecting an emotional front of calm and safety and not showing extreme grief, anger, or fear with students is one of the most effective things you can do to keep children from feeling anxious. Principals and other school leaders can support teachers and staff in this by checking in frequently, by providing space and time for counseling, and by supporting teachers’ efforts to take care of themselves and each other during this time.

Plan for a week of learning that emphasizes peace, inclusion, and community in a secure, predictable environment. Stick to familiar routines and schedules as much as you can. Set academic goals that will allow students to feel masterful and successful, safe and in control. Plan to do activities that you know your students enjoy. Read aloud books with kind and loving characters, whether fictional or real. Although nothing can undo Friday’s tragedy, we can help restore children’s belief in other humans by showing them the opposite—that people can be good, noble, and selfless.

If your class uses an arrival routine such as Morning Meeting, that familiar structure will be especially helpful now. Greeting each other, using an established, predictable format for sharing, doing a physical activity or singing together can all help affirm classroom community. Try to choose greetings and activities that foster a sense of peace and community, and consider using particular favorites of the children. Stick to the structure you’ve already established for meetings. As many educators did after 9/11, you might use Morning Meeting as a place to talk about the Sandy Hook tragedy with children, but don’t let discussion or sharing about it dominate or take over your meetings.

Make time at the end of the day to check in with the group. In classrooms, a routine such as Closing Circle gives teachers an opportunity to hear what the day has been like for students and to take a measure of what is on their minds. A brief check in for faculty and staff can also be helpful at times like this.

For more tips from the Responsive Classroom, visit their website.

Add comment December 17th, 2012

A Collage Poem: The Cento

Author and poet Shirley McPhillips continues our Poetry Month series this week with a post about collage poems. Make sure to check out her previous posts on bringing students into the world of poetry and blogging about poetry. Share your own cento in the comments section!

A Collage Poem: The Cento

Recently I started a collage notebook. Each page has an arrangement of shapes, colors, and textures suggesting a theme, an idea. Keeping this notebook, I find myself being attracted to materials for making collages. I collect papers of all sorts. I save art magazines. I dismantle packaged products. The expectation of creating something keeps me looking for possibly useful and surprising materials.

After Hurricane Irene, for example, I tore pieces from an old watercolor painting and cut shapes from an art magazine to make an abstract design suggesting the ferocity of that storm. Plants spiking, twisting, wrenching. Light shafting, cutting. Water curling, grasping, overlapping. Ever after I will think of the storm with my new image in mind.

A poem form called the cento can be thought of as a collage poem. Cento means “patchwork” in Latin. It is a type of writing, especially a poem, composed wholly of quotations from the works of other authors. A whole new poem, a new meaning, is made from choosing and assembling lines from other poems.

Poets can make small changes in the lines they choose for a cento, or use lines exactly as they appear. Usually a cento will include no more than one line from each poem, and the lines may represent one poet or several poets.

Lest we get excited that this may be “stealing” lines, we can remember T. S. Eliot’s statement: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” It seems respectful practice, in any case, to cite one’s sources. (My opinion.)

On the Academy of American Poets Web site, the staff show how they composed a cento using lines from Marie Ponsot, Emily Dickinson, Charles Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Samuel Beckett.

More contemporary centos, such as John Ashbery’s “The Dong with the Luminous Nose,” are often witty and play with ideas and images. See also “Wolf Cento” by Simone Muench.

Finally, creating a cento is not about constructing but rather arranging lines in a particular sequence. That arrangement can delight and inspire and move us for the same reasons that any other kind of poem can.

Cady (grade six) wrote a cento after looking through his favorite collection called ’Til All the Stars Have Fallen, poems selected by David Booth. He used sources from James Reaney, Myra Stillborn, Jane Wadley, Joanne Lysyk, Ken Stange, Robert Heidbreder, Dorothy Livesay, Chief Dan George, and Anne Corkett.

The wind was a tall sweet woman

circling the shadow of every tree
tramping the grass so that it lay flat
cackling with laughter—

speaks to me
now raise your arms and fly, fly, fly.

This night I rise and scream
Till I’ve cried the rivers full.

O where have you gone?

1 comment April 18th, 2012

Reading Recovery

It’s hard to believe that our “spring” conference season has begun! First up, Stenhouse tracked to Columbus, Ohio, for the 2012 National Reading Recovery conference. Peter Johnston was one of several authors signing books at the booth. His new book, Opening Minds, is now available in a package with his previous book, Choice Words. Visit the Stenhouse website to buy both and save!

Add comment February 6th, 2012

Happy Holidays!

The Stenhouse blog will take a little break until 2012. Thank you for following and commenting all year long. We hope you enjoyed our blog tours, our first ever Summer Writing Blogstitute, and the many videos, articles, and poems we posted throughout the year.

We leave you with the view of Monument Square from our offices in Portland, Maine. Merry Christmas!

1 comment December 23rd, 2011

Thursday roundup: Celebrating teachers

Amanda Villagomez, a teacher from Oregon, recently started a new series on her blog called Celebrating Educators. She hopes to inspire new and veteran teachers alike by sharing educators’ journeys. In the latest installment Stenhouse author Pat Johnson writes about how she discovered her passion of working with struggling readers. Check back with Amanda’s blog often to read about other teachers’ journeys and to share yours!

And while you are on Amanda’s blog, also check out this great review of Herbert Broda’s recent book Moving the Classroom Outdoors.

Stenhouse author Franki Sibberson recently interviewed Kelly Gallagher about his new book, Write Like This. You can listen to the podcast and read the full transcript on the ChoiceLiteracy website.

Kelly’s previous book, Readicide, was also mentioned in a blog entry on the Tucson Citizen website by op-ed writer Marc Severson.

Add comment September 8th, 2011

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