Friday, July 3, 2015

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: A Must-Have!

On Monday, I wrote about The Unstoppable Writing Teacher by M. Colleen Cruz, but I did not even remotely do it justice. There is so much to say about this book as a reference for teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, or anyone else who works with developing writers.

First off, let me just say that Colleen Cruz had me hooked from the first line of her introduction which was "I am a pessimist." She follows that line with a series of pictures that I will leave for you to discover. Her challenge to readers is to figure out the meaning of these pictures while reading the book. Love. That. Then, the rest of the introduction validates how hard teaching can be, but encourages us to see challenges as opportunities. Love that, too.

Except for the first and final two chapters, each chapter revolves around a common statement that teachers are likely to say about teaching writing, and, with the exception of only one, I have heard all of them. Here's a sampler of some of the chapter titles. Don't these sound familiar?
  • "I don't know what to teach the student. He's a much better writer that I am."
  • "I can't seem to get my students to stay writing unless I'm sitting beside them."
  • "I don't feel prepared to work with a student with such big challenges."
  • "I teach grammar, but my kids don't learn it."
Every--and I mean every-- chapter is full of practical advice and tools to use in the classroom. For example, there is a curated list of possible mentor texts to use with sophisticated writers for several genres, where the columns are "If your whole class mentor is usually:" and "You might try this." Just like that, I have another whole set of mentor texts at my disposal to share with the teachers I work with. 

The third chapter is one of my favorites, and focuses on how to work with struggling writers. In this chapter, Colleen talks about scaffold, and I have never read a better explanation on what a scaffold should and should not be. Some of my favorite lines in this chapter are:
  • "Just as an infant balks at having to lift his own spoon to his mouth, many of our students would prefer to have a teacher sit beside them and support them every time they write." (26)
  • "When we are constantly hovering over a student, or in a worst-case scenario actually do the writing work for him, we are not able to see what a student can actually achieve independently." (27)
  • "Now I know that is I am going to use scaffolding, I need to make sure it matches the individual student's needs and still allows her to work at her maximum capacity." (28)
  • "Additionally, when putting a scaffold in place, we need to concurrently have a plan for how and when to remove it." (28)
So many of these lines spoke to me, as a trained special education teacher, as well as a writing coach and coordinator. When I work with teacher in upcoming years, I will definitely have some of these pages copied and highlighted for teachers to process and reflect on. 

Another chapter that I will have ready to share at all times is Chapter 5, "I'm finding some student writing repetitive and boring." I love how Colleen reminds us that we need to find moments of importance within our lives; these moments don't have to resonate around the world, but they have to resonate with ourselves. When we model and teach students  to be on the hunt for the moments that matter to in our lives, we teach more than writing; we teach them the value of their lives. Colleen ends Chapter 5 with a bulleted list of how to maintain the conditions for risk-taking within writing workshop. If (when) you get this book, put a stickie note on pp 54-55, copy them, and return to them often. Each bullet is worth a lot of reflection and thought. 

Throughout The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, there are charts, tools, and resources to copy and use. Right. Now. For examples:
  • A list of sentence stems sorted by writing genre (41)
  • A list of ways to time-transport yourself to the age of your students (51)
  • A student writing survey to help get to know your writers (62)
  • A chart for Student Observation Note-taking (64)
  • A letter to send to families explaining the practices and theories of writing workshop. (Brilliant!) (111)
  • A chart of common questions and possible responses from doubting care-takers (112)
  • A student interest questionnaire (121)
Every one of these tools is going into my toolkit as resources to share with teachers. Any one of these could make the book worth its cover price of $21.

But wait, there are still final thoughts in an inspiring, validating, and emotional conclusion. You not only figure out the meanings of the pictures from the first page, but you also feel great about the work that you do. 

Thank you, Colleen. You have created a gift to all teachers of writing. 
Enjoy!


Monday, June 29, 2015

Slice of Life: The Connections Between Yoga and Learning


On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world!

While I look forward to many aspects of summer, one of the best is spending time in Rhode Island near the beach and re-establishing myself as a member of an amazing yoga community. Practicing yoga has a great correlation to my writing quality and productivity, and yesterday while in class (even though I do know that I’m not supposed to drift into other thoughts) I thought about what the instructor said about the practice of yoga and how it relates to the lives of writers. Here are some of the connections.

1. The pleasure is in the process and not the product.
This statement reminded me of the mantra to teach the writer and not the writing. As teachers of writing, and of writers ourselves, we have to trust in the truth that we improve by doing, even when sometimes the doing isn’t all that good. If we are constantly looking to create or have others create that perfect piece, it isn’t going to happen. Instead, everyone will be frustrated.

2. Find clarity in the spaces.
Sometimes, when I write, the blank page is scary. Just getting started takes so much courage. Then, once there are lines on the pages, they invite me back in, beckoning me to continue the work, to talk back to the work. I’ve gotten much better at purposefully leaving space on pages, so that I can return to a piece I’ve written, reacting, expanding, responding, reflecting, or even using it as a place to jump off into another whole somewhat related topic.

3. The practice, the same position, looks different on different days.
Lisa pointed out to one of the men in the class that he experiments with slightly different variations of the same pose, depending on the day. I loved this statement as a writer, thinking about it in terms of writing and not just yoga. Writing is a practice, and the craft moves, genres, exercises, prompts, struggles, and celebrations are all part of the correlating poses.

4. Be brave and push yourself right to the edge of your comfort zone.
Isn’t that the equivalent of the Zone of Proximal Development? When I practice yoga, I can do it safely; I can adjust my poses so that they are comfortable, and even take child’s pose when high plank lasts too long. But, it’s when I push myself to push up into wheel--even for a few seconds--or arch into camel despite the dizziness, that’s when I feel stronger, braver, and prouder. This statement leads right into the next one...

5. Be aware of when a pose makes you panic and when it bores you. The optimal place to be is right in the middle.
Isn’t that also the equivalent of our Zones of Proximal Development? What if we substitute the concept of new learning? Be aware of when the learning/teaching panics and when it bores, and be sure to be in the balancing spot between those two places. IT sounds a little crazy, but the one of the most exciting parts of yoga is doing a pose that has been hard, even though the wobbling and shakiness is a little scary. When I mentioned this to my sister-in-law who I go with, she made the connection between academic risks and yoga risks right away. “It just has to be exactly the right amount of scary, and then it’s incredibly exciting,” she commented.

So, there are some of my post-yoga reflections. I’m sure that there are more of them! Feel free to add on.

Happy Slicing,


It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Each year, I attend the Book Expo when it is in NYC and am always so excited to read upcoming new titles! I was especially excited to get my hands on a copy of Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate and knew that would be my first read from the stack of books because she is an amazing author.

Crenshaw was an amazing read and full of imagination, social issues, relationships, and important life lessons. The main character, Jackson, is going into 5th grade and he has been faced with tough family situations including his dad being diagnosed with MS, his parents losing their full time jobs, living in a mini-van, being evicted from homes, and being faced with the unknown at such a young age.  He has the help of his imaginary friend, Crenshaw the cat, to help him through some of these challenging life situations.  Crenshaw appears when he senses he is needed and even though Jackson might not think he needs him, he does.

 This story would be an amazing read aloud, book club book, or just a great book to put in the hands of your students in grades 4 and up.  It will be available on September 22nd, but if I were you, I would pre-order it so you don't have to wait one day longer to read it! :)

Enjoy and Happy Reading! :)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I read A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord in one sitting, and another round of thanks to Tara Smith who wrote about this book at her blog,  A Teaching Life. (I had my last week's book from Tara, as well.) I am now reading it a second time out loud to my daughter  and picking up on details and craft moves that I hadn't noticed when I was whipping through to see what would happen. Cynthia Lord's text structure and plot development is simple, but her messages and the snippets of information she tucks into her words are complex and great opportunities for close reading. Cecily and I had a great discussion about the importance of using the word "that" instead of "the". Not every book is a springboard for that type of discussion. In many ways, Cynthia Lord reminds me of Patricia MacLachlan in the ways that she delves into tough situations for children, and creates meaningful changes that we can all learn from. 

Inspired by Fran McVeigh who wrote about her experiences at Teachers College last week on her blog, Resource-Full, I have been re-reading and re-reading Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat by Cynthia Rylant. (If you didn't read Fran's posts throughout the week, I highly recommend heading over to her blog with a cup of coffee, as she has shared some amaxing learning.) Really, there are so many craft moves tucked into this small book that can benefit writers across the elementary grades and beyond. As a writer, this book is a seminar for me on the power of threes. Read it and pay attention to how many times Cynthia Rylant uses three in her text. There is also clear and focused plot development, character development, conflict, and closure which again, will help all writers develop their own story arc. I have marked up this book, covering pages with color-coded sticky notes, as described by Fran.

In the near future, I will write a detailed blog post about The Unstoppable Writing Teacher by M. Colleen Cruz. I have been reading, re-reading, and marking up this inspiring book. There are parts where I feel like Colleen Cruz is having a conversation with me, and is speaking directly to some of my hopes and dreams, and anguish and concerns about writing instruction. She includes helpful resources throughout the book including letters to families, charts for observations, surveys for students, and lists of mentor texts. (Those are only the tip of the iceberg of resources in this book.) It's easy to read, even though it's packed with information, and the resounding message for me throughout this text? Write. Be a teacher of writing who struggles, understands, and celebrates the process. If you are debating this book in your cart, hit the order button. You'll love it. 

Happy reading,



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Thinking About Balanced Assessment


On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world!

I have been participating in a district think tank about assessment over the last couple of months. Today, we had a six hour meeting to try to develop a brochure that communicates, articulates, and condenses our beliefs about balanced assessment. Integrating the work of other institutions and districts, I love the concept of balancing growth and achievement, and the other elementary educators and I developed bullets to support this concept, crafting statements about balanced assessment.

Our bullets align to my beliefs about assessment--that we assess for three basic reasons: to make instructional decisions, to determine whether students have learned the objectives, and to hold ourselves (and be held) accountable for student achievement.

And yet, the experience that I had with my own daughters who are high school students are gnawing at me as I reflect on the work and the thinking that we did today. Conceptually, I believe that assessment is a cornerstone to education, right there along with curriculum and instruction in a rock solid triangle. And, I believe that great assessment leads to great learning, driving instructional decisions and curriculum development/revision.

But what about college? Assessment also creates GPAs. At any college admission information presentation, the presenter talks about the rigor and the overall performance as important factors in potential acceptance. How do we get around the fact that assessments create GPAs, and in competitive high schools, GPAs are important components of college applications? Do we count formative assessments into GPAs? Within our conference room of teacher leaders, we did not have consensus. Some teachers do count formative assessment, while others use it only to provide information to students about how they are doing. If they don't average formative assessment into reported grades, should students who reach targets more quickly receive higher grades? Do high quality assessment practices lend themselves to 100 point grading scales, or should we be thinking about reporting meeting and not meeting standards? But then, how would that serve students as they apply to highly selective colleges and universities?

I was so proud of the work we accomplished this morning--of the clarity of our bullets that explain balanced assessment. However, the complexities and questions that surround assessment overwhelm me as I think about communicating these ideas and visions to the rest of the community. The more I think about it, the more questions I have. Oh dear.

Happy Slicing,



Monday, June 22, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I am grateful to Tara Smith for sharing the amazing story of Caitlin Aliferenka and Martin Ganda as written in I Will Always Write Back by the two of them with the assistance of Liz Welch. When Caitlin was in middle school, she had a teacher encourage students to form pen pal relationships with other students around the world. Caitlin and Martin began writing to each other, Caitlin from Pennsylvania and Martin from Zimbabwe. The book documents the letters and adventures over the next several years, chronicling historical events and unfolding the events that led to incredible life changes for both of them. Caitlin and the readers of this book learn what a difference the money we spend on a cup of coffee can make in the lives of other people in the world, and the realizations are especially powerful because the perspectives shift from Caitlin to Martin in alternating chapters. 

Sometimes books touch your heart in ways that you don't expect, and I found myself tearing up in many sections of I Will Always Write Back. The messages of empathy, empowerment, humanity, and kindness overwhelmed me throughout the pages, as Caitlin was so profoundly generous and wise beyond her years, while Martin was so determined, grateful, and disciplined beyond his years. Middle school students will be inspired to reach out to other cultures in meaningful ways after reading this--I can't wait to share it with my sixth-grade teachers and hear about ways they can envision sharing this story with their students. But additionally, they will have a powerful springboard to discuss the meaning of grit, growth mindset, and goal-setting, as well as privilege and responsibility.

Thank you, Tara, and for the rest of you--don't miss I Will Always Write Back.

Happy Reading!





Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?



Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Over the summer, I will be working on our first-grade nonfiction writing unit. One of the requests from teachers was to have some titles of mentor texts with interesting introductions and conclusions. I spent time in the library and with our media specialist collecting some titles with a variety of beginnings and endings. 


Tooth and Claw by Jim Arnosky is a book that could me a mentor text in upper grades. It is full of linguistic craft moves--images, figurative language, varied sentence structure, comparisons--but the introduction is an example of an anecdote. Jim Arnosky tells the story of how a tiger let a little boy pass by, giving him luck.

An easier way for students to begin information books, especially when they are writing about animals is with a chronological beginning. Tale of a Tadpole by Karen Wallace is an excellent example of this strategy. Written at a low enough lexile level for many first-graders, this book begins with "The tale of a tadpole begins in the pond." Predictably, it ends when the tadpole becomes a frog.






Frogs: Nature's Friends by Ann Heinrich would be a great pairing with the Tale of a Tadpole, and it begins with a frog noise and a splash into the pond. This is a great mentor text for beginning with a sound hook.




I have to say that even the cover of Snakes by Melissa Stewart could lead to some interesting observations. At first glance, I thought the cover was scary and that the mouth of the snake was wide open, but then I realized that it was a picture of the snake's skin shedding. As a mentor text for interesting beginnings, this book hooks readers with a series of questions written in rhyme.





Owls by Aaron Carr begins with the simple sentence "Meet the owl." It then goes on to talk to readers hypothetically throughout the text, as if they might meet an owl.  I could see young information writers being able to emulate this style, developing their voice and sentence structure.



I love prowling low lexile nonfiction texts for examples of unusual beginnings and endings. An earlier post that I wrote when I was working with third-grade teachers is linked here, featuring a collection of books and creative ways to end information books. If you have any favorite mentors for nonfiction beginnings and endings, please share!

Happy reading,


Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Gingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch is a fabulous picture book that tells the story of a German baker's experience during the years that led up to the Revolutionary War. While it teaches about the war through a different perspective, it could inspire students to ask questions about different cultures in early America. Because Christopher Ludwick was a real person, some students may also be inspired to research more about him, as he was a generous beneficiary to many people who couldn't afford an education, in addition to a being a great baker. 



New York's Bravest by Mary Pope Osbourne and Steve Johnson reads like a legend, as it tells the story of Mose Humphreys, a New York firefighter in the nineteenth century. Dedicated to the firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attack, this book is a wonderful example of text written to celebrate someone. It would also lead to great discussions about what is real and what is exaggerated and what is realistic fiction and how exaggerations move it into the realm of legend.


Happy reading!



Monday, May 18, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.


I was in the library this afternoon looking for some books that would inspire students during our summer writing academy when I got distracted by the Woodson books on the shelves. I love Brown Girl Dreaming, and Each Kindness, but I had never read some of Jacqueline Woodson's other books. I sat down and read one of them right on the spot. Honestly, Our Gracie Aunt took my breath away. I knew that Jacqueline Woodson writes emotional books, but I wasn't ready for the power of this picture book. I found myself welling up right there on the library floor. This is a book that I would use to teach turning points to young readers and writers, as the emotional arc in the story is intense. 

 I brought some of Jacqueline Woodson's other books home with me, so that I could cry in a less public setting. 

What a beautiful book Coming on Home Soon is! While it would be a wonderful addition to a text set about African American's roles in wars, it is also an amazing book for teaching craft moves in narrative writing. For example, there are shifts in time, as the book is written in the present tense with memories and flashbacks woven in throughout the text. Also, Jacqueline Woodson is a master at using fragments effectively. On the first page, she writes:
Mama's hands are warm and soft. When she put her Sunday dress into the satchel, I held my breath. Tried hard not to cry.
I would love to talk to students about how that last sentence is so powerful, not only for the meaning, but also because of the use of a fragment. E.B. Lewis illustrated this book, and did an amazing job at capturing the story and suggesting what might be happening with the artwork. I could envision powerful conversations emerging from the secondary storyline that exists in the illustrations.

If you are trying to teach students how to capture dialogue and details of a place, We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past has fabulous examples and mentor passages. I loved the line "Grandma says Martha should be in any room but the kitchen." What an amazing job of holding on to the funny things people say and then re-creating them in a book Jacqueline Woodson does.

And then Show Way is a book that I will return to again and again. I'm planning to sit down with a pile of post-its and mark it up for the power of images--, the power of listing things in a series--stars and moons and roads--, the power of repetition--Loved that baby up so. Yes, she loved that baby up...If you have never read Show Way, I highly recommend it for both the incredible prose and the beautiful artwork by Hudson Talbott. Just have tissues close by.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 4, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Each summer, we offer a Summer Writing Academy for students who love to write. We organize and plan the academy with specific themes in mind, and this year, we are planning to emphasize the power of story in relaying opinions and messages. Additionally, we will study mentor texts that celebrate people and places, and I am predicting that many of our students will write some wonderful pieces along the lines of When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant, one of my all time books and one that celebrates the magic of a place. 

Today, I spent some time in the library looking for and rereading books that contain opinions, as well as books that celebrate people or places. 

I'm guessing that most of you have read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, but it was wonderful to read it and think about it as a book with a strong opinion that so many children share. We should all treat each other with kindness is a popular claim for elementary opinion writing, but Each Kindness is a beautiful example of how narrative writing can express that claim.

Along similar lines is Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee. We usually use this book as a mentor text for teaching students about the power of small moment stories, but this book also has an opinion about trying new things that is embedded within the story. I forgot about The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting as a book we could since it is such a beautiful narrative about never being too old to learn something new. 

Sometimes opinion writers can write essay-like pieces to celebrate people and places, but we can also express those opinions with narrative pieces. Sweet, Sweet Memory by Jacqueline Woodson, My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, What You Know First by Patricia MacLachlan, and Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox are all books that I am looking forward to using as mentor texts for celebrating places and people. (And don't forget When I Was Young in the Mountains!)

Dr. Seuss is an author who embeds strong opinions, and his work will definitely find a place in our Summer Academy. If you have some other favorites or suggestions, please share!

Happy reading!



Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading


Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

Good news: This post is not going to be an expensive one to read...

Last week, I was involved in a professional discussion with teachers about the challenge of finding mentor tests for opinion writing. We came up with a few picture books that demonstrate some craft moves-- I Wanna New Room by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by David Catrow,  Dear Mrs. LaRue by Mark Teague, Earrings by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Nola Langner Malone... However, as much as I love these books for their humor, voice, and structure, they don't provide the mentoring that would really help fourth-grade and up students see what they need to do in order to write high impact opinion/argument texts.

I spent some time reading on-line pieces, and I was really excited to find change.org. I HIGHLY recommend this website for appropriate, engaging, relevant letters that can be analyzed for craft moves, structure, and elaboration. For example, there is a letter petitioning McDonalds to offer healthier alternatives, and I am including just one paragraph of the letter:

Adding plant-based protein options at McDonald's will appeal to workers out for a quick lunch, families with health-conscious members out to dinner, children on field trips, and anyone looking for something different than the current menu at McDonald’s where even the french fries contain beef flavoring (they don't in Europe, incidentally)! According to a recent survey, more than one-third of Americans already buy meat substitutes for reasons that range from health to ethics! So why not make a meatless option available at one of America’s favorite restaurant chains for everyone to enjoy? Healthy living should be about progress, not perfection, and this is an easy step that McDonald’s could be taking. 
(https://www.change.org/p/mcdonald-s-it-s-time-for-a-healthy-meatless-option)


 This passage could be used as a demonstration text to inspire students to:

  • use punctuation deliberately for voice and reader engagement
  • include statistics and facts to strengthen an opinion/argument
  • state a clear claim that aligns with reasons and evidence
Change.org has TONS of letters and petitions ranging from G/PG rated ones to more provocative, controversial issues. I am sure that you will find examples of opinion writing that will strengthen your workshop instruction across elementary grades and into middle school, as well!

Happy reading,





Monday, April 20, 2015

Grand Conversations Following a Read Aloud




Tuesdays are Slice of Life day hosted by the writing community at Two Writing Teachers. Everyone is welcome to join in!

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the read aloud work that our Staff Developer, Christine Holley, did for some of our first and second-grade teachers. I wrote in that post that I would share more about the "Grand Conversations" that followed a read aloud in a later post, and here it is. 

After reading her book, and it could be any picture book, or even a chapter book for older students, Christine had the first-grade students sit in a circle. Because they did not have much practice with having a full-class conversation about a book, at first she encouraged them to raise hands, but after a few minutes, as they got going, she made a BIG deal out of telling them that they could try not raising hands. "Just talk to each other," she said. "Try it out."

When several students were talking at the same time (yes, that happened...), she stopped the class. "What are we going to do if four people want to talk at the same time?" she asked. One of the students suggested that they decide who would talk first, and then the others would automatically get to go next. The other students nodded in agreement. 

While the initial conversation was mostly around retells, Christine prodded the students with questions that required some deeper reflection. More importantly, she taught students some prodding lines that they could use to keep the conversation going, such as:

  • Why do you think that?
  • Can you say more about that?
  • What do you think?
Within five minutes, the students were engaged in a conversation and Christine sat back from the circle as they analyzed why Leonardo did not want to be a monster any more in Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems. 

I loved that Christine invited students to participate, but did not pressure them. At one point, she interrupted the conversation and said, "If you haven't spoken, then you can go ahead and start us off," after she gave the class an open-ended question about the book. This question made many students reflect, thinking in a seven year-old way about whether they were talking too much or too little. When she ended the whole class conversation, she finished with, "If you didn't speak in today's conversation, that's okay because there will be lots of other chances to do it."


I really do hope that there will be lots more chances for students to engage in this speaking and listening work! It was so powerful to watch them get the hang of participating in a meaningful conversation.

Happy reading, speaking and listening! (As well as writing!)