Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The English Companion Ning

    Where English teachers meet to help each other
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood : 7th Grade Humanities

International Blog Collaboration?  
Writing and Publishing on blogs empowers the writing process!

This is James Robinson's class blog. It also hosts blogs from all of his kids.  James teaches literature, humanities and writing at SAS (Shanghai American School).  He's been blogging for about a year and a half.  As you'll see if you visit this great example of classroom blog use. This blog rocks!

James is using Wordpress to create a website/blog presentation.  He's happy to have teachers or students drop in and respond to the personal blogs his students have created. 

If you're looking for a chance at an international student exchange blog connection, give it a look. (Heck, give it a look if you're just curious.)   

James is currently taking my 6-traits online class.  I can tell his classes are great places to learn. So is his blog!

The kids love to get comments on their blogs from folks around the world so don't forget to be interactive! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reading Literacy / Writing Literacy / Great Resources From Cathy Puett Miller

Teachers Are Sparklighters for Literacy Everyday!

Kids and Parents Reading Together:

These blogs are written by Cathy Puett Miller. Cathy is a librarian and reading literacy consultant with a passion for reading and writing.

Until about an hour a go I'd never met Cathy, but she found my 6-Traits Resources blog and posted a thoughtful comment about a blog post generated by a former student in this class.  The article is Modeling Writing With 6-Traits + Podcasting.

I've been reading her work and think you will find Cathy's resources fits the needs and interests of our pre-k through elementary teachers. She has a wealth of book references we can all use.

Here's a Blog Reading Hint:   When you find a blog of interest, especially one with a lot of posts, use the search box at the top of the page to find articles to stir your interests.

One of the things that make blogs an interesting and dynamic publishing platform is the ability to comment on a writer's posts.  I just posted to Cathy Pruett Miller's article called: Combine Writer's Workshop and the 6+1 Traits for Great Results:  

Cathy shares a word choice hot potatoes game that everyone will find useful

"Play a game to emphasize avoidance of the "I don't say anything" word,
"GOT". We use it frequently in our oral language but it is such a lazy
word. Write a simple sentence with "got" as the verb and then have your
students play "hot potato", tossing a ball or other object around.
Whenever a student catches the object, they must give an active verb to
replace "got" in the sentence. Have a brief discussion about levels of
meaning (good word choice) afterwords."

Click through and skim one of Cathy's blogs.  You'll be glad you did!. ~ Dennis

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Modeling Writing with 6-Traits + Podcast Sharing

I love to get email from graduates of my online 6-traits class. I get a glimpse of their classrooms and the fun and excitement of teaching writing with the six traits. Here's news from Karen's 5th grade class!

I've done 3 traits so far this term and have never received such overall great writing from a class. The three or four that really shine have become 17 and 18. I am truly impressed with the improvement and excitement about their writing (and honestly - I'd put a lot of energy into my writing program BEFORE 6 Traits!).

I really think the key changes for me in my teaching were including a lot of modeling of my own work with the students. When they see the time and effort I've put into my samples for sharing (of both good and bad writing!) they know I'm looking at specific features of their own writing very thoroughly. The very methodical coverage of key points for each trait helps students see, in a tangible way, what they need to address when they are writing.

Inspiration diagrams of each trait (simplified) help the children check their work for each of the significant points of the trait. I'm having them color in their own diagram, and I color one as I'm marking. We have a mini conference to compare and discuss our evaluations.

I came up with a rather neat plan. Using GarageBand ( a Mac program that allows one to create a podcast very easily), I had the children each rehearse and make an aural podcast of themselves reading their stories. They put them into our classroom public folder where anyone in the class can listen to them. Not only are they working on their reading fluency and expression, they have a whole class audience. I get to listen to everyone's aural reading at my leisure, and can choose samples of exceptional work to use as examples for the rest of the class.

My next challenge is to figure out how I can get the students to email their file home. How wonderful for a parent to be able to listen to their child reading their own story!

Gotta love this technology!

Karen (Grade 5 teacher, 31 years experience)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Writing fix: Sentence Fluency Homepage

    • The Writing Traits: Sentence Fluency   helping your students "go deep" with sentence variety during classroom writing instruction

    • WritingFix offers a free template of Sentence Fluency Post-It sized notes. These can either be printed on orange colored paper and cut out and stapled to students' drafts, or you can--if you dare--attempt to print them on real 3 x 3 Post-It Notes.

    • The two most common English words that start our sentences? I and The. If you currently have a classroom of students, you know this to be true.

      It's such a simple lesson to ask students to revisit their drafts by circling the first words of their sentences, then asking, "Did you think about starting with a variety of words?" Most of them haven't thought about this, and the question becomes the catalyst for a new way to think about revising writing.

      Here is our current collection of prompts and lessons to challenge students to begin their sentences differently.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Guided Imagery and writing

From the soul food cafe blog: Guided Imagery in Writing: 

The creative benefits of guided imagery and creative visualization have been well documented. I do not intend to do more than facilitate the process and help you access the vast, vale of solitude and light that Zora Cross describes. Enjoy the collection of quirky guided imageries that are based on Greek Mythology and great works of literature. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tired of Being a Red Ink Slave to Corrections?

I'm delighted to announce my latest article is now on The Writing Teacher: Tired of Being a Red Ink Slave to Corrections? This article is based on a lecture from my course, Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits.

As part of this publication, The Writing Teacher is sponsoring a Free Webinar on June 2, 2009 11:00 am PDT. I'll be online live talking about how editing fits in the writing process; thanks to Wimba and Learning Express e-folio.

Here's the teaser:

Are you burning yourself out offering comments that are ignored? Are you a red-ink slave spoon-feeding your students doses of correctness? The Editing Not Correcting Webinar will help you shift the burden of correcting conventions to where it belongs: on the student. Shift your thinking and help them learn to become editors and assessors of their own writing.

I hope to see and hear you online!

~ Dennis

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Effective Communications Month

Resources from Annenburg Media &

In "Teaching Persuasive Writing," Program 4 of Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers, teachers Jenny Beasley and Jack Wilde present their lessons on writing editorials and persuasive writing. Find lesson plans and samples of real student work in PDF format.

An understanding of one's audience is absolutely essential to successful communication. In the program "Different Audiences," high school teachers, educators, authors, and students discuss the importance of the writing process, how to identify the audience, different audiences and how to address them, and related topics. From Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers.

Fifth-grade teacher Laura Alvarez guides her students through techniques of debate and persuasion, plus research and organizational strategies, in "Social Justice and Action," Workshop 7 of Teaching Multicultural Literature: A Workshop for the Middle Grades.

Effective rhetorical strategy depends on a sound understanding of psychology. Learn more about how the human mind works with Discovering Psychology: Updated Edition. In particular, see Program 6, which looks at language development and social communication, and Program 8, which explains factors affecting motivation and emotions.

See how communication fosters an understanding of mathematical ideas and the language of mathematics in the "Communication" programs of Teaching Math: A Video Library, K-4 and Teaching Math: A Video Library, 9-12.

The programs of News Writing cover public relations writing, feature writing styles, and column and editorial writing among other topics. Read the related News Writing Interviews, in which celebrated columnists give their views on writing, news, humor, and more.

Learn ways to help your students communicate more effectively in a foreign language. Watch "Delivering the Message," Workshop 3 of Teaching Foreign Languages K-12 Workshop, which looks at elements of an effective oral or written presentation.

Teachers encourage high school students to communicate genuinely and creatively through dance and visual media in "Fostering Genuine Communication," Workshop 6 of The Art of Teaching the Arts.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wordle: Play with words!

This image was generated by a unique website called Wordle.

I 'fed' Wordle the contents of this blog and it generated a collage of the most frequently used words in the blog.

Think about it; what would you see it you fed Wordle a page from Shakespeare, or the names of all the kids in your class? What we have here, is a way to play with words that will intrigue our students; and let's admit it... this will be fun for us too!

Five Reasons to Use Wordle in the Classroom by Terry Freedman

For a quick tour of how Wordle can be used by educators read this informative post from Terry Freeman. Here are Freedman's ideas on how to use this tool:
  • As a means of summarizing the content of an essay or other piece of work.
  • Wordle is handy for self-reflection.
  • Wordle can be used by the teacher as a means of assessment.
  • Wordle is also good for summonsing survey results where the survey uses free text fields.
  • Wordle is just as good a way as any to break up the text a bit!

I couldn't resist creating another Wordle image based on my new article in the Writing Teacher: Tired of Being a Red Ink Slave to Corrections?

Go ahead... make your day... play with words with Wordle!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Write Guy: Jeff Anderson

Jeff Anderson offers powerful resources for all of us looking for an effective, positive, and thoughtful way to improve student writing conventions with a writing process approach.

I always suggest that teachers leave their red pens behind and shift responsibility to the student by teaching them editing skills. After all, when we do all the correcting, we also get all the practice.

For more on this approach see my latest article on The Writing Teacher: Tired of Being a Red Ink Slave to Corrections? This article is based on a lecture from my course, Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits.

However, the road to great conventions is paved with more than editing lessons... as Jeff Anderson will help us see.

Notable Sentences Blog

Loren Wolter maintains this remarkable resource. "This blog is a resource for teachers who wish to view grammar as something to be explored and not just corrected. Sometimes even teachers who want to set aside tired, old daily language practices have trouble doing so due to the seeming abundance of those deplorable, error-filled sentences and the apparent lack of stimulating, "explore-able" model sentences. As you read adult, young adult, and children's books, please share the noteworthy sentences you find, so that we may build a useful resource together."

Jeff Anderson Resources:

The Write Guy

This is Jeff's personal website and it has resources you need. Well worth exploring. From his site: "Jeff Anderson has taught writing and reading for over 18 years. Over his career, Jeff has worked with writers in grades K-12, focusing in grades 4-8. Jeff’s passion is motivating and developing struggling writers with instructional strategies such as writer’s workshop and process writing, with a particular interest in making editing and grammar in context a meaning-making experience for students and teachers. Sharing strategies to create positive attitudes and confidence in young writers are central goals of his staff development and writing. "

Stenhouse Publishing: Author's Page

Jeff's books are published by Stenhouse. They have a lot of Jeff's work available online. (For Free!)

Everyday Editing: Inviting Students to Develop Skill and Craft in Writer's Workshop

Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's Workshop

Zooming In and Out: Putting Grammar In Context Into Context (PDF)
Copyright 2006 by the National Council of Teachers of English. Reprinted with permission

"Jeff Anderson’s lessons involve shifting focus between writing or reading and speciļ¬c grammar problems inner-city middle school students encounter. Lessons or discussions on a topic are then applied to a larger context so that students see “the story of grammar’s power to communicate meaning and beauty.”

Author's in Action: Jeff Anderson demonstrates an alternative to daily oral language.
A podcast of Jeff working with teachers using an editing activity based on a mentor sentence of writer Maya Angelou

The Craft of Grammar (DVD): Integrated Instruction in Writer's Workshop
(DVD, some online video clips!)


If you've been looking for a new way to improve writing conventions, you've found it! ~ Dennis

Saturday, March 14, 2009

National Writing Project Technology Initiative

Here's a link to a fine National Writing Project resource on how blogging and blogging projects can make writing the real, vital, and motivational experience we seek to foster in our classroom. Blogging can also be a personally transformative experience for teachers. We can all use a source of renewal once in awhile!

From the website:

"Blogging in Place: Writing That Explores New Neighborhoods"

Publication: Edutopia
Date: January 7, 2009

Summary: Teachers with the National Writing Project are combining place-based learning, project learning, and blogging to connect classrooms, provide an authentic audience for student writing, and prompt students to explore the world outside the schoolhouse doors.

Great ideas and great advice!

Also see on the NWP's Technology Initiatives:

I hope this helps!


Friday, January 30, 2009

SAT Word Videos (and a contest too)!

Brainy Fix SAT Video Contest

Contest Rules

* Make a video about any SAT/ACT vocabulary word of your choosing from this list. On that list, we’ll show you how many videos have been submitted for each word. Please choose one without any videos submissions. :)
* 1 video for 1 word, but you can make as many videos as you want.
* Anyone can enter the competition! Just remember that part of the prize money has to go to a U.S. high school or middle school of your choosing.
* All voting will happen at, so make sure your video includes the following text: “Vote for this video at”. And substitute the “xxxxx” with your vocab word.
* Important contest dates:
o Video submission opens: 1/1/2009
o Video submission ends: 3/16/2009
o Voting opens: 3/23/2009
o Voting ends: 4/5/2009
o Winners announced: 4/13/2009

Sample videos for SAT Words on School Tube

Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to Introduce the 6-Traits

"Writing taught once or twice a week is just frequently enough to remind children that they can't write and teachers that they can't teach. They are both like athletes who never get in condition, yet have to play the game before derisive spectators."

-- Donald Graves, Writing: Teachers and Children at Work

I'm happy to report that the The Writing Teacher has just published my article on How to Introduce the 6-Traits. I'll be using this article in my online 6-traits writing class.

Click on over and give it a read!

You'll also discover rich resources for all who love teaching writing.

From The Writing Teacher:

I hope this helps!

~ Dennis

Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits: Still time to join!

Final Call for the Spring Semester at the University of Wisconsin Stout!

Courses are completely online.

EDUC 744 920 Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits - (Elem. (PK-4)
3 graduate credits begins February 16, 2009

EDUC 744 909 Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits - (
Middle School/Adult)
3 graduate credits begins February 16, 2009

Online Writing Resources: Very Cool Tools

  • I've seen the connection between information fluency and writing since my early work researching in the field. Here's a strong blog post chock full of interesting tool recommendations. Just a few are detailed in this post. Click through to ICT in my Classroom for a real treasure trove of online writing resources.

    Tags: web2.0, writing, tools, digital_storytelling

    • On Thursday I finally had some time to sit with our Key Stage 2 (junior) literacy coordinator and talk about how technology can support writing outcomes for the Primary Framework for Literacy.
    • 10 - Myths and Legends Story Creator 2 - a free online version of Kar2ouche that focuses on a specific story type. Classes can have unique logins and they can record audio and build scenes from a set of graphics, their own images can be imported. A great alternative to Kar2ouche and perfect for the Myths and Legends unit.
    • Wordle - I thought this little tool would be great to analyse written stories in the same way Steve Kirkpatrick has done with his class. A Wordle could be a great way to introduce a text - exploring what is emphasised to help understand the type of writing it is taken from. Is it instruction, explanation - how can you tell? Another idea is that the children create a poem as a Wordle, it would certainly be challenging the form of conventional poetry.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of Information Fluency group favorite links are here.