Friday, November 21, 2014

Here are some great articles on deep thingking and writing. Enjoy!!! Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
November 15, 2014 - Issue #408

Thinking Is Good for the Soul 
Readers are plentiful; thinkers are rare.
                                             Harriet Martineau
It was early in September, and Julie was leading her third graders in a discussion of a read aloud. She began, "Now, let's think about this character. . ."  A boy piped up immediately, "I don't like thinking!" Julie's eyes widened and she responded instantly, "But thinking is good for the soul!"  
I'd been observing the class for almost an hour. There was no question it was a rambunctious group, but there was more to the tension I felt than excess energy. Julie was pushing and students were resisting, and in that moment I knew what the resistance was about.
Julie expects her students to think deeply about the books they are reading and the texts they are writing, and share that thinking with classmates. In conferences and minilessons, Julie would ask thoughtful open-ended questions, and the students would give superficial answers, throwing them back at her as quickly as possible. The need in that classroom wasn't for learning -- it was for unlearning. The kids wanted to "do school" - to rush through tasks and figure out how to please Julie with their responses. They couldn't see yet that Julie's pleasure would come from seeing them immersed in thinking hard and loving reflection.
When a student says, "I hate to think," I wonder if it is equivalent to "I hate to write," because they are viewing thinking as punishment. How many times have they heard, "You go sit in that chair over there and think about it"?  When my daughter was in the primary grades and children misbehaved in her school, they were sent to the "Reflection Room" to contemplate the error of their ways. My husband and I laughed and said it sounded a lot better than detention, but do we want kids associating reflection with bad behavior? Or maybe some students view thinking as a losing game of trying to guess what's in the teacher's head, so the more quickly they throw out an answer, the more time they will have to come up with another answer. It's a version of beat the clock being played out day after day in some classrooms, and you win by being done with the task.
Anyone who has experienced the joy of deep thinking and being immersed in a literacy activity (whether it's reading a book, writing a narrative, or listening to a story) would argue that it's good for the soul. Deep thinking provokes a happy tired feeling, like an energizing workout at the gym where you've pushed yourself, only you've built some new neuron paths instead of muscles. Julie and I chatted later about how she has her work cut out for her in helping students recognize this joy and where it can come from. But it's also the most essential work that needs to be done in schools.
This week we look at favorite characters in children's books, and how to use them in instruction. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Brenda Power
Founder, Choice Literacy


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[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives on instruction with beloved characters from children's literature.
Franki Sibberson shares her Characters We Love booklist:
Ann Williams finds a creative way for students to empathize with characters in Yoga and Character Traits:
Ruth Shagoury and Meghan Rose at the LitforKids blog have posted a fun book flight on a favorite character type from children's literature, Rapunzel and Other Maidens in Towers:
The online course Designing Primary Writing Units with the Common Core in Mind instructed by Katie DiCesare runs December 3-14. The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, print resources, and personal response from Katie. Click on the link below for more details:
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Having a real audience for your writing has always boosted students performance. Here is an article that looks at other benefits of a real audience. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Online collaboration connects 2 AP English classes
Two Advanced Placement English teachers in classrooms 900 miles apart -- one in Arkansas, the other in South Carolina -- are reporting "phenomenal" results from a program in which teachers and students collaborated in one online classroom. The teachers write in this commentary that they saw improvements in students' writing and critical-thinking skills. eSchool News (free registration) (10/29)Bookmark and Share

Friday, November 7, 2014

Here the Harrison's November writing lesson. It is great as always. Courtesy of Corbett Harrison. Enjoy!

We had a bout of the flu we had to fight-off in this house, so I'm a few days behind on posting the lesson of the month.  It's up and ready to be looked over:  I suspect there are a few typos in the lesson still, but I need to get it posted and double-check for those minor mistakes after a good night's sleep with some Nyquil.
Please note this month's lesson--inspired by the excellent student-made metaphors about writer's notebooks that I asked for in September--have inspired a new writing challenge; this time, the challenge is for teachers to do the writing after being inspired by something their students write.  I hope you'll read about it and consider entering.  Here is the link to information about this teacher/student writing challenge, though you may have to read over the entire lesson of the month in order to make complete sense of it:
I wrote this month's lesson while a little peeved at a few teachers I'm dealing with who removed the citations from some of my freely posted handouts and re-posted them at their district website, and in doing so, removed anyone's ability to know who it was that actually created the materials they are giving away to others.  I passionately address all educators' responsibilities in citing materials posted electronically at their own websites in my lesson-of-the-month's introduction, and to all of you who do properly cite materials borrowed and re-posted on the Internet, I hope you'll enjoy the "voice" of this month's lesson; for those of you who remove page citations or post things at your own websites that you probably don't have the right to, I hope you won't miss that I'm kind of making fun of you.  We're in an electronic age of lesson and material sharing, my fellow teachers; let's respect one another's intellectual property, always giving credit to those who share things they create or someday they may stop posting things freely altogether.
Thanks, and have a great month of teaching.
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
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Sunday, November 2, 2014

An upcoming lesson by the Harrisons on metaphors. Enjoy.

So...I've been putting in 3-4 hours every weekend since August into the "Lesson of the Month" for November.  I think I'm really trying to outdo myself for some reason.  My teacher model is finally done, and I think it's worthy of sharing ahead of time.  Especially if you've been using writer's notebooks this year.
The lesson I'm publishing at the Ning on November 1st, well, it's one that focuses on metaphors which is one of my favorite topics and tools for learning and teaching.  I'm really trying to create a demonstration lesson that is both fun for my kids and that would simultaneously blow the minds of the "Common Core Police," should they happen by my classroom with their clipboards and observation forms.  
Today, I am sharing this new lesson's Teacher Model ahead of time by posting it at the Ning.  Here is a link where you can open the poem and help me celebrate the four student writers who officially inspired it:  
I think I'm excited mostly about how it was written; it went through a cool process.  Four student writers from four other teachers' classrooms sent me four metaphors about their four writer's notebooks, and I used their "seed ideas" to create a "Four Metaphor Poem" that--I think--every kid who is keeping a writer's notebook should read because it contains good advice that even the great Ralph Fletcher would respect, I think.
Maybe you'll agree.  Maybe not.  Either way,  I better go feed my dogs.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a great Halloween.
--Corbett Harrison
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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Here is a update from the Harrisons. They have provided a link to a discusion tool that can be used for any lessons on metaphors and similes. Enjoy!

The November "Lesson of the Month" is close to completion, and its focus is on metaphors (and similes too, I suppose).  I know I haven't announced who won last month's "Writer's Notebook Metaphor Contest" yet, and there is a good reason for that; the best metaphors are actually being used by me to inspire the teacher model that will be included in this lesson, so those students will be announced when this lesson goes live on November 1.
We came up with a pretty smart discussion tool for the November lesson, and I wanted to share it ahead of time.  We believe it could be used with ANY lesson on metaphors and similes.
I've just posted the one-page discussion tool at the Ning:
I hope you find it useful and--perhaps--inspiring.
Take care...
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Here are some great ideas on word work in the early grades. Coutesy of Choice Literacy. Enjoy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
October 4, 2014 - Issue #402

Duct Tape Magic 
The mind once expanded with the knowledge of duct tape never returns to its original size. 
                                                        Shaun Holloway
One day late last fall, I received an order of classroom supplies. The students were excited to see what all the boxes contained.  "Open them now!" they clamored.
Without a teaching point in mind, I began to open the boxes. What was in those boxes belonged to this community of readers, writers, and thinkers.  Post-it notes, chart paper, colored pens, and highlighters were just a few of the treasures that emerged. I was methodical when ordering these supplies, knowing they would be tools to help us think.  I was still surprised at what caught the students' attention.
"Duct tape!!  Oh my gosh!  Angry Birds!  Mickey Mouse!  Owls!  Tie-Dye!  Penguins!  Flower Power!  Peace signs!  Paint splatter!  This is the best duct tape ever!"
Everyone seemed mesmerized by the choices of duct tape.  More important, their next question really changed our writing workshop and publishing for the rest of the year.
"Can we use this tape to make our books?"
At the time, that seemed like a silly question to me. Of course, they could use the duct tape to publish their books and stories. That is why I had spent my budget that way; I wanted resources for them to be independent publishers.
But, after reflection, the question made more sense to me. Looking back at the ways I had encouraged students to publish previously that year, the choices were almost entirely digital. We live in a digital world and I wanted students to be comfortable making their writing and stories public that way.
What I hadn't taken into account was the magic of creating a book, and in this case, the missing piece of that magic was the duct tape found in these boxes. The publishing in our classroom after that order came in grew exponentially.  It turns out that students love to make books; it gives them a feeling of pride and ownership. Unlike digital publishing, creating a physical book yields a tangible product.
The display bookcase in our classroom became jammed with all the books and stories that were being published. It got so bad at one point that books were three and four deep, and we couldn't even see everyone's wonderful work.  I devoted a writing minilesson to deciding together what books could stay and what books needed to be taken home to share and enjoy.
The learning for me in all this? A container of quirky duct tape options, a whole lot of choice in what students write and publish, and voila - books are born and students feel empowered.
This week we look at word work in the early grades. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Karen Terlecky
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Karen Terlecky has been been teaching for over 30 years. Her new position is as an instructional coach in the Dublin (Ohio) City Schools. Karen is featured on the Choice Literacy DVD Two Workshops: Contrasting Primary and Intermediate Literacy Workshops and blogs at Literate Lives.  

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[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Here are two features from the archives to help you look at word learning in new ways.
Amanda Adrian and Heather Rader are helping kids learn how to be Word Nerds:
Shari Frost suggests texts for joyful exploration of words in Books for Phonics Instruction: Accomplishing More Than Sounding Out Words

Start a new tradition, All Hallow's Read, by giving out favorite spooky books for Halloween. This is in addition to and not in place of candy -- you don't want your house to get egged:
Here is a fun graphic to start conversations about how long it takes to read favorite books:
The new online course Making Assessments Work for You with Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan will run October 15-26.  The course includes three on-demand webinars, a DVD, book, and personal responses from the instructors tailored to your needs on the class discussion board. Click on the link below for more details: 

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