Thursday, May 28, 2015

Conventions often occupy most of the time teachers use to teach writing. Here are some thoughts on conventions and how to teach them. Courtesy of choice literacy. Enjoy!

 
The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 16, 2015 - Issue #433
 
 
From Obligation to Appreciation
  
It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.

                                                                             Naomi Williams  
 
Through brain imaging, neuroscientists have found that the parts of our brains that are activated when we are complaining cannot be activated when we are appreciating something. That is, we can’t simultaneously feel grateful and disgruntled. The trick, of course, is to notice early enough when we are on the downward slope of general gripey-ness and to switch to appreciation mode.

For us, a recent word experiment--switching from “have to” to “get to”--has helped. Take the laundry, for example, a never-ending job in both our homes, and most likely in yours, too. Try saying to yourself, “I have to do the laundry [or insert whatever task you dread].” How does that feel? For us, it feels heavy. A certain amount of dread builds up. We automatically begin telling ourselves stories about how much laundry there is to do, how long it will take to get it all done, and how the laundry never gets caught up.

But, if we are present enough to notice our “have to” and switch it to “get to,” the entire experience changes. Say to yourself, “I get to do the laundry [or insert the previously mentioned dreaded task].” Notice how that feels different. Follow the line of “have to” and think about the privileges associated with doing your laundry. Think about the luxuries of clothes and of cleanliness. Remember when your dryer broke and you had to drag everything to the laundromat in the interim. Think about how doing laundry isn't very labor-intensive, compared with going down to a rocky stream and beating the stains out of our clothes for one full day of each week. Think about the people you love whose clothes you are preparing, and what a privilege it is to be their caretaker, even if the person you are folding for is yourself!

Now, take this word work to school and see how using “get to” instead of “have to” can support an appreciative perspective. What “have to” thoughts can you begin to shift to “get to” thoughts. And what can transforming your language with students do to help them shift to appreciation? For example, try saying, “We get to do math now,” rather than “We have to do math now,” or “I get to grade papers now” versus “I have to grade papers now.” Watch how this subtle word change can help you and your students notice typically overlooked gifts and spend more time in a state of appreciation.

 
This week we're looking at conventions. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
 
 
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Contributors, Choice Literacy

Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their book Reading Wellness is available through Stenhouse Publishers.
 
 
Free for All
 
 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
   
 
Heather Rader explains how teaching conventions is all about Finding a Fit:
 


In Explanatory Grammar Moves, Jeff Anderson shares the power of teaching the convention of right-branching sentences to young writers:
 

This video from the Teaching Channel shows how to make punctuation instruction engaging in middle school classrooms:
 
 

Create a DVD professional library instantly and save big with our DVD Bundle Sale. Order the 24 DVD Collection and save 50% off the list prices of individual titles. The bundle includes over 40 hours of video and features Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Franki Sibberson, and many other master teachers working in classrooms with children. Choice Literacy members receive an additional discount of $100 off the sale price:
 

Join Lead Literacy or renew your Lead Literacy membership online in May and receive a free copy of Heather Rader's book Side By Side, a $25 value. Offer expires May 31 and is for online credit card orders only:

http://www.leadliteracy.com/subscribe
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sacred Writing Time Slides from Corbett and Dena Harrison.

Why do kids like to write about what foods they love and hate?  Maybe it's just my students?  Or maybe not?
Check out tomorrow's sacred writing time slide: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/450852612673146998/ to see the slide for which I created the three "writing prompts" below...
Which of my three topic choices would inspire more of your students to write for ten un-interrupted minutes (also known as Sacred Writing Time in my classroom) tomorrow in class?  Show the slide and try out all three this Monday and see if you're right!
  • Design and write about the "buffet of your dreams."
  • What would you do with billions of dollars worth of cheese?
  • What if that pizza box was SCORCHING hot instead of just warm?  Tell me that story!
Some people mistake our sacred writing time slides as "writing prompts," but they are better described as "writing possibilities."  If you've never tried sacred writing with your students, you have plenty of time in this school year to start practicing the technique in order to decide if you want SWT to be a regular routine for your next school year.  
If you're a fan of sacred writing, tell us why you think it works so well at our blog: http://writinglesson.ning.com/profiles/blogs/may-11-eat-what-you-want-day   Help us spread the word!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at: http://writinglesson.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Here is a short article on writing as well as several on closing out the year. Choice Literacy is one of the best resources for teachers. Take some time and look at their products. They may be a fit for you and your staff. Enjoy.


 
The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 9, 2015 - Issue #433
 
 
A Pile of Stories
 
The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbor.
                                                            Hubert H. Humphrey
Some of the best writing I read every day comes from the most unlikely source, a local Facebook page. I know my audience of Big Fresh readers is gaga about literacy, but do the math on this one. How does a community of 35,000 people in Maine get over 50,000 "likes" on its police department Facebook page? The answer for the Bangor Maine Police Department is this: they create a chronicle of the goings-on in the department and city that is almost always funny (and sometimes poignant), with loads of photos in the mix. I can’t count the number of times I’ve laughed out loud at a post, and marveled at the wry humor and skills of the writer.  The tales on the page have been described as a cross between The Andy Griffith Show and The Wire, which is apt. You can view the Facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bangor-Maine-Police-Department/227432866078

I interviewed Sergeant Tim Cotton, who authors the Bangor PD Facebook page, to see what tips he has for teachers and school leaders who want to do more with their social media posts. He explained, “I’ve always liked to write. My process is pretty simple – I write what I’d like to read about. I work with 100 people in this building dealing with 35,000 people in the community, so I’m sitting on a pile of great stories. The officers are terrific about providing photos, and I often just stare at a picture and start writing about the story behind it.”

I asked Tim about the humor in his writing, since humorous writing is probably the most difficult genre. “The key for me is to never make fun of the subject, but to make fun of myself and our department. Self-deprecating humor always works. I have flaws, I make mistakes, and that makes people see I am just like them. You can make light of your work without denigrating other people."

"I flew out to a cold case conference in Pennsylvania a few years ago. The speaker before me was a forensic anthropologist. He started his presentation by saying, ‘I have skills none of you have. No one here can do this work but me.’ All 500 people in the room immediately hated that guy, because he told them he was the smartest person there (which was probably true). When I spoke, I began by saying, ‘I’m here because I’m a failure. I can’t solve this case, and I need your help. But hey, I did get a free trip paid for by the government to Pittsburgh!’ Everyone laughed and was instantly on my side. The presentation wasn’t as polished or as brilliant as the forensic guy’s slides, but the audience was with me."

"What it comes down to is we’re all average, and we all have gifts. If your humor conveys that truth, you’re going to connect with everyone reading your writing.”

Sergeant Cotton had a few other tips for crafting popular social media posts and building an audience,, some of which will come as no surprise to anyone who teaches writing:
 

  1. Write every day. Tim writes first thing in the morning, usually at 4 or 5 a.m., and tries to post twice a day. “Some days, I’ve got nothing, but just sitting down and making myself write makes me come up with something.”
  2. Ask staff to share stories. If you can get them to take a photo (preferably with no identifying features of people in the photo), all the better. Teachers and school leaders are also “sitting on a pile of stories” just like Tim – but do you have a process in place for collecting them?
  3. Use your mascot. The “Duck of Justice,” a lowly wooden mallard, appears on T-shirts for the Bangor PD purchased by fans throughout the country, and in many photos on the page. Most schools have a mascot – do you have a small stuffed version of that mascot you can use in photos or bring out into the community?
  4. When all else fails, post a picture of a dog. Seriously, or post a photo of a cat, or any other pet. “People go crazy for animals on Facebook,” said Tim.

Tim Cotton does what many would say is impossible – he manages to write about the work of the police in a way that is fun, inspiring, and informative. Teachers are also in a profession that is often criticized in the media, but we know there is joy to be found in the stories in our midst. If you have plans this summer to rethink how you use social media to share those tales, I hope Tim’s writing gives you some ideas for putting your work out there in your community.
This week we share ideas for closing out the school year strong. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy
Free for All
 
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
   

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan share suggestions for helping students make summer reading plans:


Looking for the perfect read-aloud to close out the school year? We're featuring contributor picks all month long on our Choice Literacy Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy
 

Parent Anne Sawan explains why she is not a fan of assigned reading over school breaks in I Hate Summer Reading:


http://www.brainchildmag.com/2014/08/i-hate-summer-reading/
Create a DVD professional library instantly and save big with our DVD Bundle Sale. Order the 24 DVD Collection and save 50% off the list prices of individual titles. The bundle includes over 40 hours of video and features Jennifer Allen, Aimee Buckner, "The Sisters" (Gail Boushey and Joan Moser), Clare Landrigan, Tammy Mulligan, Franki Sibberson, and many other master teachers working in classrooms with children. Choice Literacy members receive an additional discount of $100 off the sale price:
 


Join Lead Literacy or renew your Lead Literacy membership online in May and receive a free copy of Heather Rader's book Side By Side, a $25 value. Offer expires May 31 and is for online credit card orders only:

http://www.leadliteracy.com/subscribe
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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mentor texts for the May writing assignment from Corbett Harrison. Enjoy!

Wow!  I had numerous emails this morning from wonderful teachers asking me to choose a cheaper and not-out-of-print mentor texts, like "31 Uses for a Mom," for future lessons.  When I first announced this lesson a few weeks back, there were dozens of used copies available at Amazon for less than $5.  Now the cheapest one is $35, which is ridiculous, I agree.
So...here are some alternative mentor texts that would work just as well--perhaps even better because the students couldn't "borrow" directly from author Harriet Ziefert--as they brainstorm uses for the Mom.
"39 Uses for a Friend": http://www.amazon.com/39-Uses-Friend-Harriet-Ziefert/dp/0399236163/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=1DBTPFB03TP5W5SVQJ36  Looks like there are currently used copies for a penny!
"33 Uses for a Dad": http://www.amazon.com/33-Uses-Dad-Amanda-Haley/dp/1593540280/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=1DBTPFB03TP5W5SVQJ36  Copies for a penny and reasonably priced new copies!
No promises on how fast the reasonably-priced copies will go.  In two weeks, you users of this cleaned off Amazon's shelves of all the used copies "31 Uses for a Mom".   And never forget about your library!  I've seen many of Ziefert's books in my nearest branch's picture book section.
--Corbett Harrison
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at: http://writinglesson.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

May's writing lesson, courtesy of the Harrisons. Enjoy!


It's officially posted at my site and ready to use: May's Writing Lesson, which could make an excellent Mother's Day writing assignment.
A NOTE ABOUT THE CITED MENTOR TEXT ("31 Uses for a Mom")  It's out of print, and in the past month, you users of my website have cleaned out those on Amazon who were selling their used copies for reasonable prices.  Here's the good news: You can teach this lesson without the mentor text (or any of its available cousins, like "41 Uses for a Grandma" http://www.amazon.com/41-Uses-Grandma-Harriet-Ziefert/dp/1609051068/ref=pd_sim_b_3?ie=UTF8&refRID=0KB7V5G51SNVM5DAE4HM). At the lesson link, just share my posted teacher model about our dog Pudge, and I am confident your kids will get the idea of 'Unique Job Descriptions for Someone You Love," which is the idea of the assignment.
Here's a link to the Lesson of the Month, plus a notebook idea, a great Sacred Writing Slide for May, and a suggestion for having students write about new vocabulary words: http://corbettharrison.com/LotM.htm#month
Have a great month!  Summer is on the way!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (http://corbettharrison.com)
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at: http://writinglesson.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More information from the Harrisons...some great ideas. Enjoy!

1)  My Random Grouping Cards that Teach Common Core Vocabulary and Grammar Skills through Transitional Tasks:  I've undertaken a huge new product that will be featured at my website over this summer, and I'll be previewing pieces of it for teachers to try out this next month.  You know, there are a few long-standing members of this Ning that have purchased (and supported us!) almost every product we feature at our personal website.  I want to design a few card sets to honor those teachers while asking them to personally try them out to make sure they are error- and typo-less, and if you believe you're one of those faithful teachers who've purchased and used a good number of our already-created products, please contact me here: corbett@corbettharrison.com
2)  We Saved WritingFix until 2020! Thanks to you!  Dena and I are absolutely humbled that 162 people donated to our Indiegogo campaign.  We made the amount we need, and WritingFix and this Ning are SAFE for five more years.  I would like to offer anyone who donated a product from our own personal websites as our way of saying thanks.  A lot of you donated anonymously, but I know you can send me a screen shot or a forwarded email that verifies your donation to our cause, and you can request any one of the products we currently offer if you can provide the proof that you stepped up and gave.  Please take advantage of this if you donated.  Please.  I'd like very much to give you something useful, something that Dena and I have created since we lost funding for WritingFix and began creating useful writing tools for our own websites.  Again, if this applies to you, please contact me here: corbett@corbettharrison.com
Our Spring Break ends this weekend and then we're back for the final long-haul.  I hope you all had relaxing Spring Breaks too!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (http://corbettharrison.com)
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at: http://writinglesson.ning.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network
 
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