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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I am sharing this letter with you because it is an example of the excellent resources offered on the Teaching Channel for free. Take a few minutes and take a look. They only publish the best...teachers teaching real students in real classrooms. Enjoy. Courtesy of Tch.

Tue, Apr 14, 2015
Hi Darlene, here's the very latest on Teaching Channel. We regularly update new videos of excellent teachers on Tch, so check out as well. Meanwhile, here's your update.

Some of our newest videos:

Informational Texts: Reading for Inquiry
Grade 2 / ELA / Questioning
Factor, Expand, and Combine Like Terms
Grade 7 / Math / Expressions
Art of Persuasion and Craft of Argument
Grades 11-12 / ELA / Analysis
Want us to suggest videos we think you'd like? Edit your profile and tell us your interests.

See what active teachers on Tch are watching:

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Janet Allen's work is excellent. She has a long record of research-based books that have been tested in the classroom. Here is another one just in time for the new CCSS benchmarks. Enjoy!

Janet Allen's new flipchart, Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary, distills 20 proven instructional practices that will lead to visible improvements in your students' writing and speaking vocabulary. Includes printable organizers, forms, and charts linked to each tool. Download 4 of the tools now for free!
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

One of the key compnents of comprehension is text structure. Students' comprehension is supported when they understand how concepts in the text are organized. Teachers are often afraid of or intimidated at the thought of teaching text structure. The articles below deal with nonfiction read alouds. I have intentionally included these because nonfiction text structures are usually the least familiar and most challenging for readers of all ages. Read alouds are a great way to introduce and study text structures. Vocabulary is also supported by read alouds. A simple fact supports this...a student's listening vocabulary is 3 to 4 years above their reading vocabulary. Given these factors, it is easy to see why teachers in the content area should seriously consider doing some read alouds at strategic points during their instruction. Comprehending content is comprehension ... resulting from strategic reading. Courtesy of Choice Literacy.

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
March 28, 2015 - Issue #426
The Devotion of Reading Teachers
If you plan to build walls around me, know this -- I will walk through them.
                                                            Richelle Goodrich
Reading teachers are a devoted, dogged, stubborn type, aren’t they?

Last week, a fifth-grade teacher in our building led a nonfiction text discussion about sugarcane with her students. The text explained that sugar is actually derived from a plant, but it is cut and processed to create the sugar we use in cooking. The teacher, Stacey, showed many images of sugarcane and explained that it can be chewed to extract the sugar; afterward, the rough, stringy fibers are discarded as waste. Yet, despite her descriptions, her students couldn’t seem to grasp that the sweet white stuff they sprinkle on their oatmeal comes from… that.

So Stacey embarked upon a quest to find some sugarcane. She visited three grocery stores, drove on a wild-goose chase of Latino and other markets, and called produce departments all over the city.  When she looked at each manager and asked if they had sugarcane, they hesitated or looked at her with a blank stare. “Uh… no, ma’am. We don’t carry sugarcane. Never have.”

Stacey refused to give up. After a week-long search, she finally found a high-end market that stocked sugarcane. She’d called ahead, so the produce manager was expecting her. He greeted her warmly. “We’ve been waiting for you,” he said, grinning. “We don’t sell much of this.” He handed her a long stalk, then paused. “Can I ask?  Why are you buying raw sugarcane?”

She explained. “I am a teacher.  My students read about sugarcane last week, and I want them to touch and taste it so they understand what it really is.”  She added, “I have a question for you—why do you stock sugarcane?  Besides reading teachers, who buys this stuff?”

He thought a moment, and then laughed.  “Just other reading teachers,” he said.  “That’s about it.”

As Stacey recounted the tale of her sugarcane search, I couldn’t help but remember back to my days of teaching language arts. I also searched relentlessly for real-life examples to support texts. In one case, my class had read a story in which a Civil War era soldier sustained himself by eating only hardtack and salt pork. I told my students that these were staple foods given to soldiers all through the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries because they were a cheap, fatty, and filling meal; better yet, they were virtually nonperishable. I tried my best to describe the taste and texture, but I knew my students didn’t truly understand what living on these foods could possibly be like.  But I wanted them to really understand, so I searched for genuine hardtack and salt pork.

Ultimately, I got my salt pork from a local meat vendor, and had to make the hardtack myself from an online recipe. It was worth the trouble. After a taste test, my students were in a position to grasp how living on these two items as an exclusive diet would be a pretty tough way to go.

That’s the joy in teaching comprehension, after all:  the tiny little thrill that we all feel every time our students say, “Ohhhh!” and begin to expand their thinking about a concept. When we truly connect words to meaning, we’ve met our goal.
This week we consider ways to improve read alouds. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jennifer Schwanke
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Franki Sibberson has suggestions for Making Time for Nonfiction Read Alouds:
The texts and authors for this year's Global Read Aloud are being selected now. You can read details here and make plans to participate in the fall:

Brindi Anderson at the Nerdy Book Club is Letting Go of the Reins as she hosts read aloud volunteers in her middle school classroom:
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Here are some insights as well as some practical ideas for notebooks. Enjoy. Courtesy of Choice Literacy

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
March 14, 2015 - Issue #424
Eating an Orange
In this moment, there is plenty of time.

                                                    Victoria Moran

A writer’s life is a necessarily slow one. To write, I need ideas, inspiration, and details, the collection of which requires a different kind of attention to life’s small moments, which I tend to rush through.

Early one morning, while everyone else was still asleep, my six-year-old son asked me to share an orange with him. I was up early to write, but I agreed. I peeled the orange quickly and began dispensing slices with an edge of agitation. We both ate. Him savoring. Me rushing. He paused, looked directly into my eyes, and said, “Eat it slowly, Mommy.”

His statement woke me up, drew me to attention. I slowed my chewing, tasted the beautiful sweetness of the orange, and marveled at the mid-winter miracle of it. I noticed the feel of an orange slice in my hand and the weight of it as it moved from my hand to my son’s. I felt the burst of orange juice as I bit into a segment and the counterpoint of the flesh. I felt my teeth hitting each other, noticing the way I shifted the orange in my mouth and how I differentiated my chewing for the skin of the segment versus the pulp. I smelled orangeness in the air and on my hands.

Later, when I got over my writing self and realized that eating an orange slowly with my son was as much writing work as clicking away at my keyboard, all of these details found their way into my writing notebook, which these days is a combination of index cards and sticky notes that are later transferred into a Google document. In the process, I observed the connection between mindfulness and keeping a writing notebook.

Mindfulness is about fully experiencing a moment -- being present. Such “living in the moment” is, in many ways, synonymous with living a writerly life, as a writer must notice what others tend to rush past. In the classroom, one of the hardest parts of teaching students to collect ideas, thoughts, details in their writing notebooks is helping them make a habit of noticing, which requires slowing down. Such an effort to be more present can actually take a lifetime of practice, if we attend to it. Noticing the connection between mindfulness and writing notebooks leads me to wonder, however, if we can teach the use of writing notebooks via practice in mindfulness, and vice versa. Can we slow down time in the classroom -- even if just for a few mindful moments -- and draw student attention to their “now”? Perhaps, the introduction of writing notebooks should begin with eating an orange.

This week we look at the authentic uses of notebooks in workshops. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jan Burkins
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Jan Burkins collaborates with Kim Yaris at Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their new 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:
When premade reading notebooks no longer fit into her reading budget, Katherine Sokolowski comes up with a unique design starting with generic notebooks, and in the process figures out what's most important to include in them:

Here are some tips from the pros on starting your own writing notebook:
Kate Messner recommends bullet journals as a great tool for new notebook writing:

Are you drowning in data? Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan's online course Making Assessments Work for You will help you organize and make sense of information you're gathering while keeping students at the center of your work:

Lead Literacy is our subscription site designed especially for literacy coaches and school leaders. You can sample content at this link:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

More writing ideas from Corbett Harrison. Enjoy! Friday the 13th!!

If you didn't notice the Sacred Writing Time "Slide of the Month" is the one from this upcoming Friday, and as luck would have it, it's all about Friday the 13th.  Here is the direct link: 
And even though Pi Day (3-14) lands on Saturday this year, you can still have them do some writing about it this week.  I have a Pi Day Writer's Notebook Poetry lesson at the website that you may want to bookmark:  You don't need to have the "Enemy Pie" book to do this e lesson, and in my teacher model Albert Einstein is pointing with his index fingers; sometimes Mr. Stick's fingers are tricky, and I'm sorry I did them in ink.
Have a great week!
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:
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Saturday, March 7, 2015

CCSS addresses speaking and listening as well asl writing. Here is a great resource to help you comgine the three and improve thinking. Courtesy of Corbett Harrison.

Designed to improve student conversation during peer response, teacher conferencing, and revision time, WritingFix's "Sticky Note" homepage contains great resources to improve students' use of academic language during the writing process and during writer's workshop.
If you've never checked out this 6-trait inspired page, take a moment to do so.  The sheets of the different sticky notes you can  download and immediately use are impressive!
Have a great Monday!
--Corbett Harrison
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Here is a great resource. Don't miss is. Courtesy of Corbett Harrison.

This lesson link is worth your time.  When you have a moment, check out this diverse collection of student samples from 1st-8th grade students, all inspired bu the exact same lesson at WritingFix:
You know, I meet teachers who have looked over the lessons I have personally posted online over the years, most of which I admittedly designed for my own 6th-8th graders, and the teachers say, "But that's not the grade I teach. Do you have a lesson I can use with my third graders?" 
Fact #1--Adaptation is useful for writing teachers:  Good writing teachers know that a thoughtful writing lesson is adaptable!  The link shared above demonstrates this, and WritingFix is proud to feature many lessons that share many samples from many different grade levels.  Adapting a lesson's big idea to meet the needs of your own students?  I am confident you'll become an even better writing teacher if you go through that process on a regular basis. You learn by adapting.  You just do.  I did.  And I continue to.  I posted this "Goofus & Gallant Parody" lesson, which I assigned my 8th graders, and I had first grade teachers tell me how much they loved the idea and would adapt and use it.
The "Three Meal Weather" lesson at WritingFix (which, by the way,  remains one of the most visited and used lessons at the site since we first posted it ten years ago!) was written by a wonderful 3rd grade teacher (Kaycee Goman) from Northern Nevada.  Is it intended just for third graders then?  Nope!  It--like most of WritingFix's lessons--was posted because it can be easily adapted, and that diverse set of student samples at the link above is a great tribute to teachers who don't mind adapting an idea they like even if it's not designed by a teacher who teaches the same grade as them.
Fact #2--Polished student samples shared (and discussed) before, during, and after a writing assignment ups the level of quality writing you'll receive from your own students:  My kids love reading (and, to be honest, critiquing too) the samples of other students at all steps of our writing process when we're working on lessons.  They compliment the published student writers.  They discuss small things they might do to make the writing better.  They then go back to their own piece of writing, and they find other ways to improve it beyond checking their spelling and writing it neater.  Student exemplars improve other writers' drafts!
Fact #3--With your support, we plan to start publishing student samples at WritingFix again! If we save WritingFix ( by having it earn funding from its users, which we are trying to do right now, I will devote personal time so that new student samples start getting posted at WritingFix again.  I receive a lot of emails from teachers asking if this is still possible, and I have had to tell them no in the past; however, if we make our fund-raising goal (and perhaps even go beyond it!), I will start accepting high-quality student samples from teachers users of WritingFix, and we will begin posting them (with the kids' pictures) at WritingFix again.  I kind of had to stop doing this when the NNWP stopped funding the WritingFix website in 2011, but in exchange for your generous donations, I will make time to bring that practice back to teachers from all over the globe.  
Thanks in advance for considering helping the website become a community-funded website.  Thanks especially to those of you who already donated!  
--Corbett Harrison
Visit Writing Lesson of the Month Network at:
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Writing has been changed by the digital age. Here are some great ideas for classroom teachers for twitter. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief

Tips to help teachers master Twitter
Social media can be a powerful learning tool for educators, asserts Steven Anderson, a former teacher and technology director. He spoke recently at the TCEA 2015 conference, where he offered seven tips to help teachers use Twitter more effectively. EdTech magazine online (2/5)Bookmark and Share