Sunday, July 30, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/31/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
This week I finished Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste and Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley. Both were unique. I'm super excited that I don't have to wait for the sequel to Jumbies. I also read some picture books and read more of The Evaporation of Sofie Snow. AND I started listening to Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I love everything about this series from Jenny Han. Teenage Jen Vincent would have been a huge fan too!

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm so excited to still be volunteering downtown this week because it gives me lots of listening time so I plan to finish up Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I'd like to finish Sofi Snow and I have Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari to read too. This is my last full week of summer! I can hardly believe it!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Teachers Write 2017 - Tales from the Classroom #3

Hi! Hi! Hi! 

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Week three is complete! This upcoming week is my last full week of summer so I'm excited to make the most of the last week of Teachers Write. And I hope you are too! I'm excited to hear about your plans for the last week but first I have my own tale from the classroom to share this week!

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Yup! Me!
Okay, so as I'm prepping to write this I'm realizing I probably could have shared this tale from the classroom at the beginning of Teachers Write...but hopefully it's still something that might be helpful as you continue writing for yourself and as you head back into school and into writing with your students!

I wholeheartedly believe that the more we write, the more we think like writers. If anyone is going to improve their writing, then they first have to write. And again, the more we write, the more practice we have but also the more we have to work with as we go through the process. This quote from Don Graves himself captures exactly what I mean: 
I learned about free writing in high school when I was lucky enough that my high school English teacher taught with reading and writing workshop. We did free writing a lot. Since then, I free write to get started, when I'm drafting AND I especially free write to get unstuck. It's a useful tool to know how to use in different parts of the writing process and a place I like to start with students. 

Just like we reserve time for independent silent reading everyday, we can reserve time for writing everyday. Since I don't have my own classroom these days, I'm always excited to go into friends' classroom to introduce free writing. In the last two years, I've done free writing with second graders all the way through eighth graders. Below are the slides I use. I show a clip from Big Hero Six and talk about just because we want ideas to come...it doesn't mean it's going to happen. Then I show pictures I took as examples of how I pay attention to things I notice around me that give me ideas for something I could write about. 

And then we get to free writing! I share the rules: keep your hand moving, focus on ideas, let your ideas flow, and be brave. That be brave rule is super important because no matter how old you are, there could be a little voice in your head telling you you're writing isn't good enough. I model for the students. Together we shout out, "Bring it on, blank page!" And then I free write my heart out...as sloppy and illegible as it comes out, as rambly as it comes out, leaving spelling errors on the page so they know - truly - this is about IDEAS and not about perfect spelling and grammar and punctuation. (That comes later! I promise. That's what revising and editing is for.) And when the time is up, we all say, "I can write. I am a writer. The proof is on the page!" Finally, the students get to do it. Don't forget to cheese it up and make sure you get a hearty, "Bring it on, blank page!" One of my friends had a student who was so good at belting it out, he led the class every time! Feel free to use my slides. I have other resources up on here on my website too.


Free Write - Writer's Notebooks - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Here are some eighth graders free writing with their teacher. It's important for students to be able to choose whether they want to free write in a notebook or free write on their computers. Some teachers I work with choose to start all students with paper and pencil or all in a Google Doc and others give them a choice. It's up to you but I do think there is value in choice and in recognizing that ultimately we probably want kids to compose digitally. I vote for not limiting them to one mode or another but to helping them make a choice for themselves.

And at the end of the year I was invited to a Poetry Slam that one of our second grade classes hosted as a year-end celebration. If you look super closely, you'll see that their signs say, "We are poets, the proof is on the page!" You can believe my heart melted into a little cup of love when I saw this! 
 
If you haven't done a free write yourself in a while, I invite you to give it a try! Set a timer for a few minutes, it doesn't have to be long and get your fingers moving. Don't stop and think, just let the words come. And be sure to get your students writing the first day of school. Get them used to taking a blank page and making something out of nothing. Set the tone. If you really want them to believe they are writers, invite them to write. Teachers Write is all about walking the walk instead of talking the talk. Well, let's do the same in our classrooms. If we really want to help our students become better writers, let's walk the walk and make sure they write everyday. Because when we write everyday, we can become better at writing a whole lot easier than if we don't. I mean, it makes sense, right!?


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What can I say? I love writing. 
And I love hearing how YOUR writing is going!

My goal for this week was to add hit 38,000 words....but I got stuck. I added a lot of words but I got to a point where I hit a wall and decided I needed a break. I'm volunteering for 826CHI this week so I got to write all week with middle schools and it was awesome. My own writing has gotten better for sure and I did get to 31,000 words. I'm celebrating even though I didn't officially meet my goal. I'd like to get 40,000 by next week. I was hoping I could get to 50,000 by the end of Teachers Write but I think 40,000 is more realistic. We'll see how I do!

I hope you enjoy our last week of camp! 
I'm so glad you are still here and plugging along! 

Today, in the comments:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-so-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-totally-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:
1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.


Happy writing all!
P. S. Thank you for replying to each other's comments! 
While I read them all and do my best to reply and 
reply as soon as possible it doesn't always happen.
I so appreciate you cheering each other on through Teachers Write! You r-o-c-k!

Psst! Yes, you! One more thing...
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter here!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/24/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Eep! I have been listening to Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley still and Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste but I did a lot less reading than I anticipated this week. (I was doing all that writing...)

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Seriously, I'll be driving downtown Monday through Thursday this week since I'm volunteering for 826CHI's middle school summer writing camp so I'll have lots of time to listen to auditobooks. I should be able to finish Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley and Jumbies and then get started on something new. I'm so so so excited for this week!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Teachers Write 2017 - Tales from the Classroom #2

Hello there, friends! Can you believe we're halfway through Teachers Write already!

I know, I feel you. It's going way too fast! Time flies when you're having fun, right? I'm super excited to hear about all the fun you've been having but first, I have a special guest post today from one of our Teachers Write participants, Jennifer Laffin. Ever since she told me about this project she worked on with her students, I've been telling everyone about it. I'm sure you're going to think it's cool too!

Excitement was in the air. You could feel it. You could hear it.  Best of all, you could see it.  The hallways were lined with student-made cardboard books called cartoneras. Every student had written one. Now, it was time to share them.
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It was early May and the students at my school, Star Center Elementary in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, were enjoying an hour of celebrating the publication of their cartonera in our annual Cartonera Project Celebration. They buzzed around the hallways, bouncing from book to book -- carefully reading and considerately leaving a “Raves From Readers” comment in each one they read:

“I did not know there were that many different kinds of owls. I learned a lot from your book.”

“I like how you added a picture of Walt Disney’s first cartoon. It was cool!”

“I can tell you love Italian greyhounds from all the details you wrote in your book.”

“I laughed out loud when the dog stole the grandpa’s fishing pole!

For the past seven months, students worked on developing their writing skills, writing every day in their classrooms with the help and support of their teachers and peers. After spring break, every student (yes, every) in our kindergarten through 5th grade school choose a favorite piece of their writing to revise, edit and publish in the form of a cartonera, a cardboard book.
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Then on this afternoon in May, our Cartonera Celebration Day, our student-authors put their book on display outside their classrooms and spent the hour reading and responding to each other’s cartoneras. Younger students met up with their older buddies and read cartoneras together. Teachers snuck in some reading and raving while supervising the hallways. School board members, principals, janitors, parents, and other community visitors roamed, read and raved too. At the end of the hour when our authors returned to their classrooms, grabbed their cartonera, and read over their Raves, it was simply magical:

“Your brother read my book! He liked my joke at the beginning!”

“I can’t believe Mr. Steele read my cartonera!”

“Juan told me I should write a sequel to this book! He wants to know what happens next!”

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The school was buzzing -- all because of writing! (More information on what cartoneras are and a video of our Cartonera Project and Cartonera Celebration can be found in a link at the end of this post.)
But the Cartonera Project Celebration is more than just a celebration of writing, just as the cartoneras are more than just another published piece of writing. I think what elevates the Cartonera Project to the next level is actually quite simple: It is writing for an authentic audience.
When you or I write, we write in different ways depending on who our audience will be. When I am writing in my journal and I know only my eyes will see the page, I write in a more stream-of-consciousness manner, often not paying much attention to paragraphing and other conventions. When I write for children, I pay special attention to the words I choose, the lessons I want to convey, and sentence structure. When I write on one of my blogs, Teach Write or Sweet Writing Life, I know I am writing for other teachers so I choose topics that would be of interest to them, give lots of examples, and be sure that I have communicated my thoughts clearly and concisely.  
When students write and publish a cartonera, they are writing for a real audience, just as an author does. They are invested in their topic because they know many people will read it and they want their reader to feel something from their words. They choose their words carefully, add illustrations to enrich the story or topic, choose catchy titles and attention-getting grabbers, and make sure that all of the conventions are cared for in order to make the reader’s job easier and more enjoyable. It is not an “assignment.” Heck, it’s not even graded! But I would argue that our student writers get more out of this project to grow their writing identities than any other assignment they do in the entire year. Why? It all comes down to audience.
Why is writing for an authentic audience important?
  1. It gives the writer a sense of purpose. They are writing beyond themselves, beyond the teacher and beyond a grade. There is a goal in sight. It is probably unlike any writing goal they’ve had all year.
  2. When the reader responds to the writing, in our case on the Raves From Readers page, the author gains an understanding of the effect their writing had on their reader. Were their jokes funny? Was the setting clear? Did they teach the reader what they intended? Was anything confusing? This feedback is invaluable for growing a writing identity and engagement with writing.
  3. There is importance in their writing because someone will read it. (Someone beyond the teacher or their writing partner.)
  4. This writing is formative, not summative. It will not receive a grade. It does not have to be over with the placement of the final period. It can continue to live on with the audience and the interaction with the reader.
  5. It is real-world writing. It’s what real authors do. It’s what you and I do when WE write. (I’m not planning on turning this post into a teacher for a grade, after all…)


Being a teacher who writes has helped me gain a clearer understanding of the need for an authentic audience when my students write. It has helped me experience the interaction between the reader and the text from a different point-of-view. Knowing that someone else will be reading my writing has raised the bar for me to make sure I put my best work out there for you.
It’s similar to the writing we do here every day for Teachers Write. When we write and leave a comment on the daily post, we know others will see it. This shapes the words we use, the ideas we develop, and how we go about communicating our thoughts. It is a powerful motivator.
In preparing this post for you, the Teachers Write participants, I wanted to convey how a project at my school helped to elevate the level of writing our students did and how it was affected by being a teacher who writes myself. As you return to the classroom in the coming weeks, I challenge you to think of ways you can include an authentic audience in your writing classroom. I promise you -- it will make a world of difference!

If you think you would like to bring The Cartonera Project to your school, I can help with that too! The following resources may help.


Video of The Star Center Cartonera Project



You can also contact me directly for more information or to ask any questions through email at jennifer@teachwrite.org or on Twitter @laffinteach and @TeachWriteEDU.

Here's more about me: I am a former 4th and 5th grade teacher who found my passion for teaching writing and being a teacher who writes when I participated in the National Writing Project’s Summer Institute six years ago. I am now the owner of Teach Write LLC, an educational consulting company that specializes in helping teachers become stronger teachers of writers as well as develop writing habits themselves. I live in southeastern Wisconsin with my husband, two kids, two dogs, and too many notebooks and pens to count.

Thank you, thank you to Jennifer for sharing her cartoneras project. I'm obsessed with trying to figure out how to do this in my district. Jennifer and I met with a couple of other Teachers Write friends, Joy Olenick and Greg Armamentos, this week to talk about writing. Just one more example of why I absolutely love Teachers Write - fab friends in our online community have become real life friends.

And now! I can't wait to hear how week two went!


My goal for this week was to add another 5,000 words to my draft and I was actually a drafting machine! I've been tracking my progress with Pacemaker and seeing my word count move up along the graph really motivated me. Believe it or not, I hit 22,000 words last night. Woo hoo! I have to add a disclaimer here that I've NEVER written this fast in my life! Drafting has gotten easier with practice...please know that I've had many days when trying to get 500 words out was torture and don't think that I write like this all the time. Based on how I did last week, my goal for this week is to hit 38,000 words. Wish me luck! 

Today, in the comments:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-so-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-totally-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:
1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.


Happy writing all!
P. S. Thank you for replying to each other's comments! 
While I read them all and do my best to reply and 
reply as soon as possible it doesn't always happen.
I so appreciate you cheering each other on through Teachers Write! You r-o-c-k!

Psst! Yes, you! One more thing...
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter here!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/17/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I blame nErDcamp...I just had too much fun and then needed the rest of the week to recover! I did listen to more of Highly Illogical Behavior and I read more of The Evaporation of Sofi Snow...but I'm not done yet. I also started listening to Tracey Baptiste's The Jumbies. I did read through a bunch of workshop books I checked out from the library and I read a whole stack of picture books too.

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I just planned out the whole week in my bullet journal (why is it so hard to stay on top of things in the summer?!) and I have lots of trips to the dog park scheduled in so I'm hoping that will give me some time to read Highly Illogical Behavior and Jumbies with my ears. And I'm planning to finish Sofi Snow it's sooooooooo good. It reminds me a bit of Ender's Game and Hunger Games and it's riveting.

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!