Tag Archives: Kelly Gallagher

Help For Writing Workshop

It seems for some time every school year brings (for me) a new subject (s) and ways to teach it. I am working with an 8th grade ELA block this year that has expanded by twenty minutes. My first thought was – more time to have a writing workshop. And that has been the case but how to go about it?

I decided to consult the experts: Jeff Anderson and Kelly Gallagher. Not in person of course but through these books: Everyday Editing (Stenhouse Publishers, $20.00) and Mechanically Inclined (Stenhouse Publishers, $22.50) by Jeff, his latest – 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know (Stenhouse Publishers, $24.00) and Kelly’s Write Like This, Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts. (Stenhouse Publishers, $23.00) No, I do not own stock in Stenhouse; it is just coincidental that I use these publications.

I became aware of Jeff Anderson several years ago through a colleague, beginning with “Everyday Editing.” I was thrilled with the plethora of mentor sentences and Jeff’s concept of “inviting” students to notice and work with the embedded grammar skills.

When conducting mini-lessons on writing, I begin with these mentor sentences but model as well so the students see experts and their teacher trying to make sense of grammar and sentence structure. Although “Mechanically Inclined” was written first, I found it after I began using “Everyday Editing.” It includes concepts not covered in the other. In addition to the mentor sentences, Anderson discusses the rules of these devices and students’ misconceptions, offering ideas for visualization of abstract concepts, as well as scaffolding. Occasionally there are suggestions for extensions, writing a new piece, but when there isn’t I find he has left me feeling secure enough to come up with an idea on my own.

“10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know” is just that! Ideas like motivation, narrowing a topic, organization – all part of writer’s craft, are covered in one word topics: Motion, Models, and Focus are listed as the first three. One of Anderson’s strength’s in all of his books is dispelling the notion that students learn grammar and writing through rigid instruction and the use of workbooks, thus students are taught to view the writing process as a scientist would field explorations.

That concept is part of Gallagher’s “Write Like This, Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts.” Beginning with an enlightening discussion of the writing expected of potential California police officers, Gallagher stresses the importance of students realizing that writing is a real-world skill and should be presented in that light. Real world writing can be categorized into six ways: Express and Reflect, Inform and Explain, Evaluate and Judge, Inquire and Explore, Analyze and Interpret, and Take a Stand/Propose a Position. He demonstrates how to take a topic of interest and create potential writing prompts for these types of writing. It was quite easy for me to personalize it and create a model for the students. They in turn created their own organizer filled with a year’s worth of writing ideas on things that are motivating to them. Furthering the scientist analogy, Gallagher includes a table comparing the scientific method and how it looks in writing.

I have asked students to treat their writer’s notebooks in this way. They are places for the recording of observations, making inferences on grammar rules and application, or playing with words or sentence structure. Hopefully you can tell that my students are generating quite a bit of writing – this in addition to any writing done during standard’s based explicit instruction. It becomes easy for me to ask them to take a section of the writing to work with on any day.

While I have been doing some sort of writing workshop for over twenty years, I still feel like a newbie. I change “the how” and “the what” often but these two gentlemen have offered me resources to keep my students motivated and writing. I thank both of you!




Rita Williams-Garcia, Angela Johnson, Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Grimes, Sharon Flake

NCTE, November 2011

Friday: November 18, 2011

Reading Old Stories and Writing New Stories: Ideas for the Classroom (Deborah Hopkinson, Kirby Larsen, Jim Murphy)

  • The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. ~L.P. Hartley
  • Deborah Hopkinson: Use primary photos and encourage students to ask questions. Use clues in the images to figure out what is going on. Good for visual learners.
  • Writing to a Person From the Past – write a letter, begin by introducing yourself, What is familiar or the same about your life (you and I both…We both… Like you, I also…) what is unfamiliar, different about his or her life? (Nowadays, It might seem odd to you. In my day, we no longer…) End letter tell about some the person could never have seen (cell phone, computer, car, etc.) You never saw _______in your time. Let me tell you about it. If you came to visit me in my time we would… A cell phone is a ____ that _____. Let me explain what ______ is.
  • Kirby Larsen: Creating New Stories of Old – mining family history-using primary sources to create new stories. Censored letters – show and have students put back in the missing pieces. Library of Congress (loc.gov), Genealogy sites (USGenWeb.com) can buy letters on eBay.
  • www.merkki.com/letters_from_home.htm – use the letters to ask questions and look for items, which may not have changed (towns, businesses, etc.) Historical parks, sites have diaries of not so famous. Use websites with “memories, family stories, etc. to understand a particular time periods or events.) Locate post cards from the past, copy and have students write what would have been on them. Kirby@kirbylarson.com
  • Jim Murphy: can find artifacts to encourage writing at auctions.
  • Deanna Day: Quick write on a personal memory and then change it to fit a particular time period. What would change? Language, Food, Clothing, Transportation? Use life experiences and put in a different time period.

Narrating Lives: Using Graphic Novels The Power and Possibilities of Literature (Sid Jacobson, Josh Neufeld, G.B. Tran)

  • Resource: Scott McLeod – Understanding Comics

Learning With Nonfiction, Writing It, Reading It, Loving It (David L. Harrison, Peggy Harkins, Mary Jo Fresch)

  • Peggy Harkins: Reasons why children do not choose nonfiction: Nonfiction is not traditionally used for pleasure reading, Children associate nonfiction with school assignments, Many people think nonfiction is boring. (Tunnel, M.O. and Jacobs, J.S., 2008)
  • Most people do not read or use fiction at their work (real life).
  • Types of Biographies: Authentic, Fictionalized, Biographical Fiction
  • Advantages of using Biographies: role models, historical insights, solutions to problems, writing models, fit across the curriculum
  • Use a selection of biographies: to create a readers theater script, as storytelling in first person, or eyewitness third person, internal/external – use outline of body of a person and write things you observe on the outside of the body, inferences on the inside of the body. Templates can be found at http://www.harkinsbooks.com
  • Mary Jo Fresch: Leveling the Playing Field, Using Nonfiction Picture Books: they explore complex topics suited for older readers, extend and enhance the content through the images, provide more accurate information due to their expertise, engage reluctant, resistant, or ELL reader.
  • Middle School Physical Science Resource Center: reviewed middle school science textbooks and noted numerous errors in facts and none were scientifically accurate. http://www.science-house.org/middleschool/reviews/index.html.
  • Support readers with an anticipation guide (might include statements of misconceptions), Vocabulary match-up game- divide students into three groups and give one group a word, one the definition, and the last one the origin. Then they have to find their partners and match up. Need to see a word 3-17 times to own it (use in your writing.) Text sets that appeal to multi-leveled readers to do further research.


Writing With Mentor Texts to Imagine the Possibilities (Lynne Dorfman, Rose Cappelli, Mark Overmeyer)

  • Lynne Dorfman: Establishing a Writing Identify: The Personal Dimension, Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. ~Henry Miller
  • Important to know who we are as writers.
  • Begin with the topics you want to write about, i.e. Heart Map, Fingerprint the Author -color code the items that are in the writing, i.e. yellow alliteration, blue proper nouns. Hand Map – put emotions/character traits on the fingers of an outline of a hand and then add one line that goes with that emotion.
  • Need a target audience to find your voice.
  • Rose Cappelli – Using a Mentor Text to Move Students Forward in Narrative Writing: Use of Mentor Texts – pieces of literature that you can return to and reread for different purposes, are to be studies and imitated, help students make powerful connections to own lives, help students take risks and try to new strategies, should be books that students can relate to and can read independently or with support.
  • When students are taught to see how writing is done, this way opens up to them the possibilities for how to make their writing good writing ~Katy Wood Ray, Wondrous Words.
  • Mark Overmeyer: Using Mentor Texts to Move Students Forward as Writers of Informational Texts – Expert books – students write on a subject in which, they believe they are experts, no research needed. Personal narratives are driven by ideas not events (i.e. Rollercoasters made me brave not the day I rode a roller coaster.) Good mentor text for Middle School – Charles R. Smith (multiple genre in the book.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Getting Reluctant Readers to Turn the Page (Liz Carr)

  • Liz Carr: I ___ solemnly promise, when reading a book for fun that it will be for fun. If I read the first page and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. If I read the first paragraph and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. If I read half the book and don’t like it, I will put the book down and walk away. Life is too short for books I don’t like.
  • When I ___ HAVE to read a book for class, I will look for what my brain can do with it. I will look for flaws. I will look for connections, I will look for stuff that is just plain weird, I will get out of my own way! I like it and I hate it are equally insulting if I can’t show why. I will back up my opinions.
  • As teachers, read, read, read, have books talks/recommendations, connections, introduce students to authors.
  • Places for book recommendations: Daria Plumb-http://www.getmereading.com, ALAN, YALSA, VOYA
  • Book Talks: Make connections to known books/author, leave them hanging, 2-3 minutes MAX, Shelfari or Goodreads
  • Connection Questions: What is the last book that wasn’t painful for you? What do you do when you’re not in school? What is your favorite thing in the world? What’s your biggest pet peeve?
  • Tell anecdotes about the authors of the books, you have in your class.
  • John Coy: writer of the 4 for 4 series aimed toward intermediate/middle school boys, “reluctant readers is a synonym for boys,” boys today are reading more than ever before because of social networking, gaming, etc. Don’t relate this to reading. Don’t like to read what adults say they should be reading. Jane Yolen: “We don’t have enough books that represent the genuine interest of boys.” Men need to step up and serve as leaders of readers, so perception of read changes. 5th Grade students helped revise “Eyes on the Goal” by helping author with what was authentic for kids. Students won’t choose books; need an adult to recommend or steer them toward books they might like. “ATV Racing”
  • Tommy Greenwald: author, “Charlie Joe Jackson” Have students create a title and the first sentence of a book they would like to read.
  • Janet Tashjian: author, “My Life as a Book,” “My Life as a Stuntboy,”  “The Gospel According to Larry,” Recommends “Calvin and Hobbes” for reluctant readers, After reading a book, have reader pitch it as a movie project and cast the characters defending why. “Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking”

Teaching The Hero’s Journey: Understanding Our Past (Dana Huff, Glenda Funk, Ami Szerencse)

  • Dana Huff: “A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” “The Power of Myth” by Joseph Campbell, an interview with Bill Moyers
  • How is the pattern of the monomyth demonstrated by various cultures around the world in various time periods? How do archetypes inform our understanding of literature and the world? How are the hero, his/her quest, and his/her ideals still valid and useful in today’s world? How has the monomyth been influential in shaping subsequent literature and film?
  • Goals: Students will become well versed in literary theories of the monomyth and the heroic quest, Students will interpret and apply the monomyth to the various works of literature and film.
  • Student activities: http://www.huffenglish.com/webquests/campbell.html – scavenger hunt, do presentations on Departure/Separation, Initiation, Return, Video with types/examples of the Hero’s Journey on website and Slideshare, (Use clips from Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games/The Theseus Myth, The Matrix), Create your own monomyth as a picture book, Analyze a new text that has not been studied, Create a game
  • Glenda Funk and Ami Szerencse: Class Lines: Writing Beyond the Borders (Prezi) Collaborated on a Hero’s Journey project through Ning, “Story of Stuff: How Things Work” –Youtube (http://classlines.ning.com) http://www.evolvingenglishteacher.blogspot.com

Beyond Race: The Universality of Story (Sharon Draper, Sharon Flake, Nikki Grimes, Angela Johnson, Rita Williams-Garcia, Jacqueline Woodson)

  • Sharon Draper: Books are for all children not just a particular subgroup; her audience is the students who “show up” in your classroom. It’s the issues that make the difference, color of the character not important. Being different means many things (new student in the classroom, only one who wears glasses, mother in jail, etc.) unsure in your world, which is particular to adolescence. Don’t limit yourself, open door for all of us
  • Sharon Flake: Bang and Red Badge of Courage have similar themes: marching into manhood, death, and dialect despite different races, time periods, and conflicts. Accept the character’s way of speaking as it represents who they are rather than be concerned about “proper English.”
  • Nikki Grimes: Planet Middle School – new book, writers write about human topics NOT a black, white or Latino topic. Shouldn’t worry about students not relating to a character because they are of a different race. Students connect to a book because they like to read, like poetry, like to laugh, like drama, love a good read, and are all kinds of kids. May look different on the outside but we are all pretty much the same on the inside.
  • Angela Johnson: Transcendence – began with her grandmother (an 80lb farm woman who threw a horse down and read Shakespeare) represented beyond the perceptions of what a grandmother should be, writes for people v. specific groups,
  • Rita Williams-Garcia: “Make me no boxes.” ~George Balanchine, When I am myself, I am my natural self not an “other.” Characters are whoever they might be. Self and identify not limited to race.
  • Jacqueline Woodson: Whiteness is assumed unless otherwise qualified. Barrier needs to be broken. We are trying to make the world safe for all kids. Literature shares “the other stories, a place for all of us.”


Let’s Read: Literacy Approaches in These Early Days of Common Core Standards (Lindsay Oakes, Hilleary Drake, Liz Hollingsworth)

  • Any assessment can be criterion based or norm referenced as well as formal or summative.
  • Pizza parties and pep rallies don’t raise test scores, student reading scores go up when students KNOW how to read, don’t need luck when you’ve got skill.
  • Teaching testing as a genre, rather than teaching to a test (how to take, read, manage time)
  • Great Genre Race – use ten genres in different colors, challenged students to read 1000 books in a year. Make a paper chain. Encourage book discussion and served as tangible evidence of the student as a reader.


Practicing What We Preach, Improving Student Writing by Modeling Our Own (Jim Burke, Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle)

  • Penny Kittle: need a place to collect thinking (notebooks, index cards, etc.), gather ideas and images – place to discover ideas, try things and sometimes fails, and place to show students where thinking begins. Tom Romano – the Rude Truth, A Relationship With Literature (English Journal), the writing process is filled with distractions, write and then go back and reread to find places to work with (highlighting/colored markers)
  • Kelly Gallagher: need teachers to model the writing process, no such things a writing process – these are steps in writing that change from writer to writer. Students need two kinds of models: 1) a teacher who revises (write, allow students to ask questions, write down and then revise in a different color to highlight the revisions. 2) Mentor texts: look at how it is said not what is said. “NPR: This I Believe” as a source of mentor texts, Move past the “one and done” writing mentality. What you do when you revise: replace, add, delete and reorder. (RADAR) Read, analyze, emulate.
  • Jim Burke: writing is the most public performance of our intelligence, “If there are not tears for the writer, then there will be none for the reader.” ~Robert Frost Focus line – kind of like a thesis statement (Donald Murray) Give students lists of words to choose for their writing increases the quality of vocabulary use, Use different colors for parts of the writing.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Who Would Ever Think An Ant Could Be So Important? Teaching for Social Responsibility Through Literature and Inquiry (Leslie Rector, Steven Wolk)

  • Shared texts that are inaccessible accessible (can do books above children’s reading level, models fluency, releases students from focusing on decoding, teachers can model think-alouds, helps get through texts faster)
  • Need an inquiry question to guide the anchor book. What is my responsibility to the environment around me? (City of Ember) Supporting book, One Well, How Much Water is Around Us – Rochelle Strauss – students recorded how much water they used. “Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird” op ed NY Times
  • Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose – allegory on abuse of power


Inquiry Circles: Combining Comprehension, Collaboration, and Inquiry (Debbie King, Michele Timble, Sara Ahmed Katie Muhtaris, Kristin Ziemke)

  • Debbie King: Principles of Inquiry Circles: choice of topics, digging deeply, heterogeneous/interest based groups, student led, use of comprehension/research strategies, multiple resources, active use of knowledge- sharing, publication, products, or taking action.
  • Types of Inquiry: mini-inquiries, curricular inquiries, literature circle inquiries, open inquiries
  • Stages of Inquiry: Immerse – invites curiosity, Investigate-searching for info, Coalesce- synthesize info, Go Public -share learning
  • Types of Lessons: Comprehension – read with a question in mind, Collaboration – using a work plan, Inquiry – choosing topics
  • Michele Timble: Leading a Curious Life: live like a researcher, ask questions, capture and track questions, seek answers
  • Modeling our inquiry – i.e.What happened to the workers in Japan’s nuclear power plant? Researchable questions – Now. Later. A Lifetime of Wondering.Research Notebooks: a borrowed tool from writer’s workshop, a place to jot questions and make plans, kids leave tracks from the mini lessons, validation for all questions big and small.
  • Sara Ahmed: Choosing materials – print materials, web materials, videos, and images -New York Times Up Front, Brainpo
  • Interviewing as a resource: home to school connection – builds accountable talk, lets them in the loop about what is going on at school, builds a culturally responsible classwork, builds active listening skills, authentic reliable research
  • Modeling: grab a colleague or expert, show students you’re prepared, and simulate an interview.
  • Interviewer – listens carefully and ask if they can record the interview, uses prepped question list, take jots, ask follow up questions for digging deeper, thanks the interviewee before or after when it over, writes as much as they can
  • Interviewee – agrees to the interview and understand the topic, feels safe and comfortable, does most of the talking, has a comfort item like drink, candy, or food
  • Kristin Ziemke: Strategies for active reading – monitor comprehension, activate and connect background knowledge, ask questions, infer and visualize meaning, determine importance, comprehension continuum – http://stephanieharvey.com/content/comprehension-continuum
  • Modeling/Think-alouds/Coding – Leave tracks of your thinking
  • Katie Muhtaris: Literature Circle Inquiry – generate questions, enhance/extend experience, inquire topics of choice, research with an authentic purpose, explore artistic and technological tools, build foundations that last