The Beginning

Welcome to the first post of what I hope will be a weekly (?) blog.  My intent here is to share literacy practices both in school and around the world. It’s not required reading… but I hope you find it useful.

Up and Down the Stairs

Handwriting.  It’s not exactly everyone’s (anyone’s?) favorite subject to teach.  But this year in KA and in Kindergarten, the teachers are learning and experimenting with a new approach to teaching handwriting- at least new to our building.  Handwriting Without Tears features activities and materials that are developmentally appropriate for 4 and 5 year old children.  There are not pages and pages of letters to copy.  Rather, children learn body awareness, gross and fine motor skills through the use of songs, actions, and manipulatives.  Kids are learning foundational handwriting skills at a time in their young lives when habits are not fully formed while having fun at the same time!  You may hear some of our KA and K teachers humming the extremely catchy tunes from time to time- tunes such as “Where Do You Start Your Letters” and “Alphabet Boogie”.  These songs are so catchy that they will stick in your head for days on end.  So beware!


I had coffee on Saturday morning with our visiting storyteller, Marc Levitt and I think we are in for a treat this week!

Marc has traveled extensively around the world speaking in schools like ours.  He just finished a week working at 5 different international schools in Tokyo and will go on to HKIS next week. 

I shared with Marc some of the classroom practices we are using the lower school including teaching in the reading and writing workshop model.  He was particularly interested in our goal focusing on oral language development and using Accountable Talk strategies in the classroom.  Marc is very familiar with Lauren Resnick’s research in this area and has worked with schools that use Accountable Talk strategies.  He believes in the importance of getting children to be in charge of their own learning and wants to share some of his experiences in using Accountable Talk Strategies with us while he is here.  To that end, he agreed to have an extra session added to his schedule for interested parties on Thursday afternoon. 

“Creating a Culture of Conversation in the Classroom” will be held from 2:45-4:00 pm on Thursday after school, place TBA.  Refreshments will be served.  Please take advantage of this great opportunity to grow your thinking around this important topic!

Food For Thought

Using Your Own Writing With Students

Last year when teachers reflected on their teaching practice in writer’s workshop, one of the things people seem reluctant to try was writing using their own writing in their teaching. “I’m not a writer,” is the gut response many of us have. I could also say I am not a mathematician or a scientist, because I am not. But I do use math and science in my regular everyday life, just like I use writing. We are all writers. We communicate in writing all the time.

Sometimes when I visit a class, I start by showing them my writer’s notebooks.

Writer's Notebooks

Here’s the secret about all those notebooks… they are mainly full of notes from conferences and meetings, with some ‘real’ writing sprinkled in between.  The ‘real’ writing is almost all entries I write in preparation for teaching lessons. Basically, I try to write whatever I am asking the kids to try so I can demonstrate it for them. For me, the best preparation for teaching writing is to try out the strategies and techniques you are teaching. By doing so, I can better predict where problems will arise and plan for them ahead of time. I also use my own writing when conferring with students. Rather than referencing their work, I can show them where I tried whatever I am aiming to teach them. It helps me keep my hands off their writing and makes them more responsible for the thinking work. Using my own writing has the added benefit of helping the students get to know me as a person. I believe any time we can bring ourselves as people to our work, the relationships improve and so does the teaching.

Love. The. Web.

What caught my eye this week…

  • Read the article that stirred up a hornets’ nest about using the Reading Workshop model in Middle School– the comments after the article were what got the buzz going.
  • Then, Nancie Atwell (of In the Middle and The Reading Zone fame) chimed in with her rebuttal. View it and read more responses from the gurus!
  • Here’s a really short and sweet introduction to Accountable Talk and using it during your read aloud.
  • I love how this teacher writes about what she has learned about conferring with writers.
  • You set up the routines, but now that the 6th week of school is here, the honeymoon is over.  Read what The Sisters have to say about keeping independent work time workable. Even though they are linking their ideas to their own class set up (The Daily 5), the ideas apply to any classroom.

So, what do you think?  Useful?  Have ideas to share?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading!


One response to “The Beginning

  1. The NYT article – or more like the massive reaction to it – is really interesting. I wonder if it would be encouraging or illuminating for the parent community to see Nancie Atwell’s rebuttal video? It might also be interesting to share with the middle school humanities teachers, since Atwell teaches middle school readers.

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