Heinemann Digital Campus

Beyond the Notebook

  • To Teach Writing, You Have to Be A Writer

    I, like many people, did not have a love for teaching writing. Not because writing, as a subject, is not interesting, rather writing requires grading/scoring stacks of papers with a wide variation of writing abilities, styles, and attitudes.
  • Playing with Phonemes

    Writers love the sounds of language. Poets in particular pay attention to the basic sounds (phonemes) and how they can be manipulated into musical arrangements (poetic lines). Phonemic awareness, which is a vital stepping stone to the development of reading skills, is therefore important to both the emerging reader and the poet.
  • Planting Seeds for Fiction, One Fact at a Time

    When I visit schools, one of the most frequent questions students ask is where I get ideas. One way is to find a fact and then ask questions. Many of my fiction books began by reading nonfiction. As I’m reading, I’m looking for something I call a “story seed,” a fact that a story can grow from.
  • From Telescope to Microscope: Thinking Big and Small about Civil Rights in the English Language Arts and Social Studies Classrooms

    English teachers—and writers—often talk about point of view. From whose POV is the story students are reading or writing told? Does the POV character change throughout the story? In this lesson, the POV “character” is every one of your students (and you probably have a few characters in your classroom), and it’s their POV that changes—from the big picture of what’s going on in the world to the little picture of how world events affect individuals.
  • Telling Stories with Words AND Pictures

    Kids love comics. I know I did (and still do). I wasn’t much of a reader when I was younger, but once I discovered comics and comic books, I became more engaged and interested in reading. To see the action drawn out helped reinforce what I was reading in the word balloons and narration boxes. I retained the information much more easily. The more I understood, the more confident I became. And the more confident, the more I wanted to read.
  • Beyond the Notebook: Let’s Build a World Together

    Research is a huge part of the writing process, not only for authors of nonfiction but also for those of us who write fiction. Historical novels, for example, involve extensive study of the time period in which the novel is set so that authors can make sure every detail is accurate to that historical period.
  • Sorting out the Details

    A typical problem I see with my ninth graders is differentiating between a specific detail and a general statement. I would imagine a couple grades above and below show similar problems, so this lesson should work for multiple grade levels.
  • Putting Yourself in Your Character’s Shoes (Sneakers, Ballet Flats or Boots!)

    Just because people experience the same situation, it doesn’t mean they have the same responses to it. We know this very well. We’re identical twins (Jennifer’s six minutes older! Julia is an inch taller!) Other than the six minutes Jen was on earth before Julia, we shared the same room, school and life throughout childhood.
  • Beyond the Notebook: Sparking Ideas for Student Stories

    We all have unique lives, experiences, and interests, no matter what age we are. These can be springboards for each of us to create stories that no one else can write. Students who comprehend this may write with more confidence and, perhaps, come to see themselves as authors too.
  • Beyond the Notebook: Studying Semantics with Tim O’Brien

    With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I find myself making a different sort of list than usual. I live by lists—things to do, things to buy—but now I am making a list of things for which I am thankful. I have, of course, listed my children. I love my job and am grateful for my wonderful colleagues. When I think “big picture,” I think I am most thankful to have been graced with the life I have lived. What luck, to be born in America, to have the freedoms I have. And I am overwhelmingly thankful for those who sacrifice to allow me to continue to live this way.
  • Beyond the Notebook: It's Only Natural to Write Nonfiction

    As a writer, I enjoy creating poetry and fictional stories. But I think that writing nonfiction is one of the most exciting genres because it allows me to delve deeply into a subject in which I’m interested. Nonfiction is also one of the first genres children are interested in, well before they can understand a fictional concept.
  • Beyond the Notebook: Writing a la Poe

    I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the bleakness of October than by reveling in it with Edgar Allan Poe. Seriously, is there a better time to teach Poe than October? (Okay, well, maybe in the “bleak December,” but I prefer happier stuff that month.) October is cold and dreary. The days are shorter; it’s darker longer. Classrooms are decorated with bats and ghosts and kids are itching for a good scare.