Write Now! Empowering Writers in Today's K-6 Classroom

The Engaging Classroom

    • Teaching Tips

    Using Video Conferencing for Oral Language Learning

    My class and I talk a lot. We ask questions, and we answer them. We share stories with one another. We listen, contribute, and learn. For my students this is just a way to interact with one another, but as their teacher I’ve set up these opportunities specifically to help them improve their oral language skills. For my students this is just a way to interact with one another, but as their teacher I’ve set up these opportunities specifically to help them improve their oral language skills. This past year we’ve taken all this talking and listening a step further by using video conferencing tools such as Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and FaceTime in our classroom.
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress

    Free Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow

    Recently, I have been inundated by blog posts and articles about super innovative teachers who are accomplishing all sorts of bananas goals with their children as a result of their out-of-the-box teaching methods. My first thought is, “What a rock star! I totally want to hang out in their classroom and see them in action.” My second thought is, “How did they get to be so brave?” My third thought is, “Why are most of us so paralyzed with fear?”
    • Teaching Tips

    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.
    • In Other Words

    Practice What You Preach: Spend the Summer Reading

    It is important for us as educators to read—to experience firsthand not only the reading strategies we teach our students, but most importantly the joy of lifelong reading for pleasure.
    • Teaching Tips

    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.
    • In Other Words

    Let’s Stop the Pendulum from Swinging

    • Teaching Tips

    (Re)Introducing Lyrics to the Classroom

    From the time of Gregorian Chants to the origination of the blues, lyrics have spread messages and served as oral language foundations for cultures for thousands of years, across the globe. Music from “Horace the Camel” to “Hey Mr. Tally Man” have been staples of music class in primary grades. By the intermediate grades, lyrics and music seem to start vanishing from instruction.
    • In Other Words

    Bringing History to Life: Introducing Teens to History through YA Literature

    I know how reluctant teens can be to immerse themselves in history because I was one of them (perhaps surprising to admit for an author of historical fiction!). In the Scottish education system, at around 13 years old you’re given the choice of studying either geography or history. I chose geography. Why? Because history seemed irrelevant and stuffy—date-laden text illustrated with grainy photographs.
    • Teaching Tips

    Think Outside the Trash: Global Recycling Project-Based Learning

    Every year around Earth Day, my third grade students typically do the same thing, focusing on the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. As third graders, I noticed students were simply going through the motion, reciting the same things they learned in kindergarten through second grade. What new things were they learning? Absolutely nothing!
    • In Other Words

    Adventures in Growing Up

    Recently, I joined seven other authors—Jeffrey Salane, Tui T. Sutherland, Kari H. Sutherland, Sarah Mlynowski, Josanne La Valley, Geoff Rodkey, and Rita Garcia-Williams—on a panel at New York’s excellent Books of Wonder. The title of the panel was “Middle-Grade Adventures.” Within the group, there were some pulse-quickening stories of dragons and renegades, heroes and refugees, mermaids and magic mirrors. These were adventures in the classic sense of the word.
    • Quiet! Teacher in Progress

    June Days: At the End, A New Beginning

    So June is finally here. FINALLY. Or maybe you’re feeling like it sneaked up on you in the dark and shouted, “Boo! I’m here sucker!” scaring the you-know-what out of you as you frantically tried to organize piles and deal with typical end of the year nonsense (read: paperwork). Regardless, June is here and that means so is the end.
    • Teaching Tips

    Complex Texts, Higher-Level Thinking: Developing Enduring Literacy Habits

    When I read the Common Core State Standards, it is clear to me that we have to transform our teaching to better prepare students to achieve the standards. Transform our teaching? That sounds a bit overwhelming! But, really, it’s not. By simply making a few instructional shifts, those of us who teach in K-2 classrooms can guide learners in developing the habits of mind necessary to independently read, write, think, and converse about complex texts.
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