Sunday, January 8, 2017

Here is a powerful strategy for pre-writing or preparation for a debate. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Inner Circle/Outer Circle Debate Strategy
This debate strategy focuses on listening to the views of others and responding to them. It is an excellent pre-writing or debate strategy.
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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Here are some great articles on revision - a topic all writing teachers need to teach. courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
December 03, 2016 - Issue #530
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It's an undo-it-yourself project.
                                                                                                        Abigail Van Buren
If you live in Maine and spend any time outdoors, you’ve got to be vigilant about looking out for ticks. These small, nasty critters lurk in the grass and weeds, and a bite from one can be the source of a debilitating disease. You don’t come through the door after any time outdoors without a quick and careful search for ticks.
Lately I’ve been thinking about a different kind of tic -- those idiosyncratic features that show up, unconsciously and unbidden, in any writer’s work. They are a different kind of blood sucker, draining the vitality out of writing.  We all have them, and whether you’re writing newsletters for parents or memos to the school board, ferreting out your writing tics can improve your communication in subtle but potent ways. Here are three of the most common tics found in writing from teachers and school leaders:
Relying on “the research says” to make a point.  Research matters, but you need to trust your own authority. And if you don’t yet have authority with your audience, establish it with the honest, unvarnished and funny stories from your classroom and school that you share freely with others. Heck, your audience won’t even trust the research you cite if they don’t trust you first.
Overuse of  just, really, and pretty.  These spare words and qualifiers minimize the value of your ideas. On one level, they are throat-clearers -- the professional’s equivalent of a teen’s like and you know.  On another level, they take the oomph out of whatever word follows. Remove them from almost any sentence, and you’ll be amazed at the new rhythm and clarity in your writing.
Too many exclamation points!!! You may be using these to convey how excited you are!!! Instead, trust that the ideas and experiences you are presenting can generate excitement all by themselves.
As Dani Shapiro notes in Still Writing, “Our [writing] tics are a road map to our most hidden and sensitive wounds.” As I’ve looked at my own writing tics and those of the authors I’ve edited, I realize they are all generated from a wellspring of fear. We don’t trust our voice, or authority, or that others will value the experiences we are recounting as much as we do. Ridding writing of tics won’t take away that sense of vulnerability all of us have in putting words out to the world, but it will make you a better writer.
This week we look at how to teach revision strategies. 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: or Pinterest:]    

Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan offer three strategies to use during writing conferences with struggling students:

In Space to Draft, Ruth Ayres argues against lockstep approaches to the writing process, including a rigid view of what constitutes revision:

You can see Ruth Ayres in action in her How to Peer Edit video, which includes sample anchor charts and a sample conference between two boys:
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Monday, December 5, 2016

What is it like to have dyslexia? This article explores dyslexia and includes how it impacts writing. Well worth the read. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Dyslexia is widespread but often misunderstood, Gabrielle Emanuel, an education reporter with dyslexia, writes in this commentary. Emanuel highlights the challenges some students with dyslexia face in the classroom and beyond.
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

This article outlines how to teach students critical thinking across content. I am thinking a good writer must apply these thinking strategies while writing - and then transfer it to print. Take a look and see what you think. Courtesy of Mind/Shift.

Three Tools for Teaching Critical Thinking


Jason Watt had trouble empowering his middle school students to push their thinking further. Many students already had deeply ingrained ideas about what they were and weren't good at, what they could and couldn't accomplish. In a training on "integrative thinking" at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, Watt finally found the tools he needed to develop students' critical thinking. Several Ontario school boards are now supporting training in the effort.

Integrative thinking involves these three tools:

Ladder of inference
The ladder of inference is a model for decision-making behavior developed by Harvard professors Chris Argyris and Donald Schön. Students learn how decisions are made and identify how assumptions can lead to conclusions, including false ones. By knowing how decisions are made, students can think more critically about situations. Watt's students use this technique to solve social disputes as well. "We've learned that there's nothing wrong with questioning, so the kids have become much more willing and accepting of criticism because it's not really criticism anymore."

Decisions are often weighed in pros and cons, but integrative thinking asks students to see multiple positive sides of an idea, even in terrible ones. Students then combine those ideas to create another idea. "The students now are no longer afraid to think," Watt said. "They're being more creative thinkers." He even uses integrative thinking in math instruction, asking students to use the ladder of inference to determine information in a word problem, or asking them to do Pro/Pro charts for different multiplication strategies and then letting them come up with their own third way. His students' math scores started skyrocketing, and even better, they no longer felt they weren't "math people."

Causal Model
Teacher Jennifer Warren starts the first semester by asking students to do a causal model of their values. She asks them to pick three to five things they value, anything from profound qualities like independence or kindness, to passions like music or hockey. They then dive deeply into why they value those qualities and ask questions like, what caused that? Often this requires them to have conversations with family about values taught to them from a young age.

She then asks them to make visual representations of their causal models and present them to one another. "I like that because they realize people don't value the same things that they do," Warren said. Those causal models go up on the wall as a reminder that everyone in the class is different and that the diversity of values, perspectives and opinions makes them better problem solvers.
Learn more
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Friday, November 18, 2016

Strong writers build knowledge first

Solve the problem of "I don't know what to write," once and for all by cultivating student expertise on the topics they are studying. Deep content knowledge and strong vocabulary are the building blocks of an engaging composition. Here's how to help students develop a content-rich base for their writing, and then use genre study to uncover the tools for conveying that knowledge. Read now.

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