Saturday, January 18, 2014

Following are some great articles on the creation and use of anchor charts in your classrooms. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
January 18, 2014 - Issue #366

Reading a Community

The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power.
                                                      Wael Ghonim

A second-grade teacher in my building got a surprise the other day.
We'd just come back from our holiday break to tackle the second half of the school year. Mrs. Hurto gathered her second graders for read-aloud, as she always did just before the class went off to lunch.  "Ooooh!  What Sisters Grimm book are we going to start?" one of them asked eagerly.
"We're going to take a break from Sisters Grimm," she told them. "I have another great book I know you'll like."
Instantly, all the students surrounding her protested. Loudly. "No!" they said. "We want Sisters Grimm!  We missed the stories over break and were excited for a new one!"
Mrs. Hurto persisted. "There are so many wonderful books out there; I want to try some new ones. You'll like it. Trust me." With that, she opened the new book and began to read. The students listened, sullen and with eyes downcast. Mrs. Hurto forged on.

Sometime later when Mrs. Hurto returned from lunch, her students were just completing their 30-minute indoor recess. As they returned to their desks, Mrs. Hurto walked to her desk to put her lunch box away -- and promptly burst into delighted laughter. 

Over recess, the class had banded together to write Mrs. Hurto an "anonymous" letter. In careful young second-grade handwriting and with second-grade mechanics, it read:
Dear Mrs. Hurto, Every Body is mad at you for not reading Sisters Grimm. So stop making us suffer.

There you have it. The letter, conceived and delivered by a group of second graders, shows the power and passion of a small group of excited, eager readers. 
The next day, Mrs. Hurto returned to Sisters Grimm. How could she deny such commitment, dedication, and enthusiasm?  It was clear that her students were hanging on to her every word, and they had bonded closely with the characters in the series. Time enough later to broaden their horizons. For now, the suffering must end.
This week we look at anchor charts in classrooms. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin, Ohio. She also blogs about her personal pursuits at

Free for All

[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 for considering anchor charts in classrooms.
Shari Frost takes A Closer Look at Anchor Charts:
Suzy Kaback finds the Writing Strengths Anchor Chart builds skills and community at the same time:
In a new podcast, Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz, the authors of Smarter Charts, have chart-marking advice for teachers:
The Chartchums blog from Marjorie and Kristi explains the Method to (Our) Charting Madness. This is a great check-in for January when teachers are considering goals and progress midway through the year:
Join Franki Sibberson for the online 12-day course The Tech-Savvy Literacy Teacher offered January 29 - February 9. This interactive course includes three webcasts, Franki's newest book, a professional development DVD, and an introduction to scores of resources on the web to integrate into reading and writing workshops. For more details and to register online, visit this link:

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Strting the new year with Dena and Corbitt Harrison! Authors of Writing Fix! Enjoy!!

Happy 2004, fellow teachers and writers!
My New Years Resolution?  I'm figuring out how to make my writing instruction even better this  year!  I'm currently working on a new resource that will randomly and quickly divide my different-sized classes into reading or writing discussion groups, and the tool that shuffles them requires them to try out a few new vocabulary words when they sit down with their groups as part of our class transition; I'm excited to try out these "group sorting" tools this spring and work out the kinks; then, I will decide if they're something that will go up at the website as a product.
Speaking of products...August/September are often the craziest times to start new classroom routines, and many of you (me included) struggled with implementing new things at the start of this 2013-14 school year. January/February are perfect times (in my opinion) to try again anything you knew was a good idea but perhaps was pushed to a back-burner in the chaos of school opening.  Those of you who purchased but still aren't regularly using things like our writer's notebook Bingo cards, Sacred Writing PowerPoint slides, or our newer Vocabulary/Writing lessons and Dena's new Reader's Notebook Bingo cards, this could be the best month to bring them out and establish (or re-establish) the routine.  Winter-to-Spring is a great time to "try out" a new routine, so you can de-kink  it before the 2014-15 school year.
An Update:  In Northern Nevada this year, we don't have to go back to school until January 13th this year, which is right now making some of you grumble at me because you're already back...and I'm sorry.  I am working this week though, spending some time finalizing some new navigation tools at the website.  I've discovered if you add a new lesson to your website every month, it's starts becoming a little cluttered; I am working on fixing that.  I want people to be able to easily access all the past lessons we've featured at the "Writing Lesson of the Month."
I'll post January's lesson by the end of the week; I'm waiting to hear back (over e-mail) from one of my kids whose sample I want to post; as soon as I have that permission, I will post that lesson officially.
LESSONS ACCESS:  In the meantime, if you have the time, I'd love for you to take a moment to analyze the new layout I've created for my two most popular lesson collections online:
  • As always, my daily, weekly, and monthly writer's notebook routines serve as the "glue" that holds my mini-lessons and writer's workshop expectations together. At my Writer's Notebook Resource Page, I've added a lot more student samples, more access to additional samples (through my Pinterest boards I've been creating), and I've added a few new resources and lessons that didn't previously have links to them.  Check out the for a fresh set of ideas for your students' writers notebooks.  
  • My vocabulary routine has become totally solid, and I'm really stoked by that; it's wonderful to hear my kids using such rich words in their writing and speaking.  Now that our weekly vocabulary task has become "routine," they're starting to stop thinking about the task as much, so I'm adding a few new surprises to our weekly vocabulary activities in class.  At the newly-redesigned Vocabulary Resources Page, you'll find so many new samples from both me and my students.  I hope you enjoy and use at least one of the ideas.  Try out the "Personifying Vocabulary Words" Powerpoint lesson, if you don't know where to start; my students LOVE to personify vocabulary words now, and they spot personification in our reading so easily.
Look for January's lesson to be posted in the next 72 hours.  If you're back at school today, hang in there!  If you're heading back next week, take advantage of that extra time to set a "better writing instruction" New Year's Resolution for yourself.  
Have a great rest of the week!  Yours in good teaching...
--Corbett & Dena Harrison, Writing Teachers (
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:
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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

With the beginning of the year 2014, I decided to post this article today in order to allow teachers to continue to rethink their implementation of the CCSS. Take a close look at the highlighted section. Courtesy of ASCD Smart Brief.

The Role of PBL in Making the Shift to Common Core

Editor's note: John Larmer, Editor in Chief at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), contributed to this post.
The Common Core has embedded within it some Big Ideas that shift the role of teachers to curriculum designers and managers of an inquiry process. How can project-based learning (PBL) help with this shift?

Big Idea #1: I am a designer.

Common Core calls upon teachers to shift away from writing daily lesson plans and toward carefully mapping out long-range units. Daily lesson planning is important, but it must occur within the context of a larger plan.
PBL Connection: To meet the demands of the Common Core, teachers need a framework for designing units. In PBL, the project is the unit. It requires careful planning from start to finish, as BIE emphasizes in its project planning framework.

Big Idea #2: I facilitate inquiry.

Research and sustained inquiry are emphasized throughout the standards, but most prominently in the writing strand, because written analysis and presentation of findings are critical in both college and careers. To meet the demands of the Common Core, students must be able to build knowledge and expertise through careful reading of increasingly complex texts about the same topic of investigation.
PBL Connection: To meet BIE's 8 Essential Elements of PBL, inquiry must be academically rigorous and position students to pose questions, gather and interpret data, ask further questions, and develop and evaluate solutions or build evidence for answers. Well-designed projects teach students how to be deep, analytical thinkers and require perseverance through the inquiry process.

Big Idea #3: I set students up to dig deep, search for meaning, and craft reasoned arguments.

Common Core requires teachers to shift from promoting a "searching for the right answer" mentality to explicitly teaching students how to dive into texts and search for meaning. Students need ongoing access to inquiry experiences that build their understanding of the world through text, and that explicitly teach them how to support arguments with evidence.
PBL Connection: Projects can be framed around compelling problems, issues or challenges that require critical thinking and prompt students to craft reasoned arguments in response to the driving question. Through balanced assessment in PBL, teachers can assess the critical thinking process as well as products, enabling students to self-assess their critical thinking skills.

Big Idea #4: I create conditions in which students can learn how to persevere.

Perseverance is an underlying theme in the Common Core Standards. To meet the standards, students need to put forth sustained effort through in-depth investigation of issues, building understanding of varying perspectives, reading complex tests, listening carefully, and sharing their reasoning.
PBL Connection: In PBL, students are asked to demonstrate perseverance by analyzing and solving problems, and thinking critically in an in-depth and sustained way. Revision and reflection, one of BIE's 8 Essential Elements, requires PBL teachers to provide students with regular, structured opportunities to give and receive feedback about the quality of their work-in-progress, demonstrate perseverance, and polish their products until they successfully meet the established criteria for success.

Big Idea #5: I integrate content and create relevance.

Common Core requires teachers to move away from teaching skills in isolation and toward the integration of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language into long-term unit plans. Students should be able to see the relationship between standards as they transfer concepts and skills in the classroom to the world outside the classroom walls. Rather than learning in a decontextualized way, Common Core demands that students have ongoing experiences to learn about the world through reading, and that they understand the relevance of what is taught.
PBL Connection: In PBL, key culminating products are complex in nature and enable students to demonstrate their understanding of a blend of concepts and skills. Well-crafted Driving Questions are both understandable and inspiring to students, and provide a meaningful, authentic context for learning. Projects motivate students to learn because they genuinely find the project's topic, Driving Question and tasks to be relevant and meaningful. Entry events powerfully engage students both emotionally and intellectually, making them feel invested in the project. This provokes students to dive into inquiry and gives them a reason to read, write, listen and speak about the topic of investigation.

Big Idea #6: I facilitate meaningful conversations.

Common Core requires a shift from teachers doing much of the talking to creating conditions in which students can engage in meaningful conversations in which they learn how to use evidence for claims, listen carefully, draw meaning and evaluate others' reasoning.
PBL Connection: Collaboration is a requirement in PBL. When students work in project teams and interface with people beyond the classroom, they have conversations about what they are learning, possible answers to the Driving Question, and how to create project products.
The bottom line for teachers who are wondering how to make the shift to Common Core? Think PBL!
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