Margin Notes

Student Self-Assessment, Mentor Texts, and Single Point Rubrics

Jul
11

After meeting with Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson yesterday to continue our conversation regarding making learning visible, we have an idea that comes from Michelle’s classroom that we want to share with you.

Writing teachers are always looking for ways to foster students’ motivation and capacity to self-assess. As Sandra Herbst explains, “Self-assessment teaches students how to self-monitor, especially when it is informed by clear criteria and samples or models. Students who self-monitor are developing and practicing the skills needed to be life-long, independent learners.” (more…)

The Rule of Three (because three becomes a thing)

Apr
18

I have written about Katie Wood Ray’s advice to “read like teachers of writing” and my habit of recording examples of writer’s craft I find in my reading that I want to use as mentors in writing workshops with students and teachers.  I believe this lens also means that we read the world as though it is one big source of mentor texts.  I am always on the look-out for forms of writing or organizing structures that students could try out and when I find a group of at least three similar texts, I think that is the magic number for an inquiry.  Three makes it a “thing.” Three (or more) similar texts allow students to answer the question, “What do you notice about the way these texts are written?” and find commonalities across the samples.  Groupings of texts widen the opportunities for writers to look at the text and ask themselves what elements they might like to incorporate into their own writing.

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Book Spine Poetry

Apr
11

If you’re looking for a fun way to get students creating poetry and at the same time getting new titles into their hands, try using book spine poetry. This is such an easy activity that makes us all poets. Just scan your bookshelf for interesting titles-each title will make up a line of your poem, arrange the titles so that they run together as a poem, stack them in a pile and take a picture!

Here is a link to some 2017 book spine poetry winning poems (with the youngest category being 5 to 8 year-olds!).

Some real-world mentor texts of book spine poetry happened in 2015 when the Toronto Library and the Kansas City Library used spine book poetry to trash talk when their baseball teams were both vying for a spot in the World Series.  Take a look!

We recruited some of our colleagues from around the office and we wrote a few together this afternoon:

Melissa

Jill

Kelly

Derrick Grant-Subject Coordinator for Math (obviously…)

Gina Dunnett-Director of Schools for the Oromocto Ed Centre

Posting these on class Twitter and Instagram accounts are a great way to share the book spine poetry created in your classroom.  If you try it, we would love to see some examples of your students’ poems!

Read Like a Teacher of Writing

Mar
02

The title of this post comes from one of my all-time favorite professional resources, What You Know by Heart by Katie Wood Ray.  It is the title of Chapter 6 where we are reminded:

“Every time we see writing, we are seeing examples of what’s possible in writing, and so we have to read the texts we encounter across our lives differently than other people.  We read these texts like teachers of writing.  We are on the lookout for interesting ways to approach the writing, interesting ways to craft sentences and paragraphs and whole texts, interesting ways to bring characters to life or make time move or get a point across.  When we read, we are always on the lookout—whether we intend to be or not—for interesting things we might teach our students how to do” (Wood Ray, 90).

In September, when I was setting up a new writer’s notebook, I created a space to record mentor text possibilities I find while I’m reading.  I am challenging myself to record them when I discover them so that I am only noticing but also naming the choices I see the writer making.  Plus, when I write them down, I know I can find them later when I am looking for them!  Here are four examples from my recent reading: (more…)

Mentor Text Flip

Feb
07

In my earlier days as an educator, my writing instruction was driven by the form. I assigned writing that fell into very specific categories and, if I am totally honest, this was almost exclusively the kind of writing only found in school. That meant that, since the writing didn’t exist in the real world, the only samples, if any, I had to offer were written by previous students.

Fast-forward and my process has completely flipped. (more…)

Picture Books in Grades 6-12

Feb
06

Although we often think of picture books for younger readers, there are unlimited opportunities to incorporate them into Grades 6-12 classrooms also.  Because they are short, they make excellent mentor texts to use in mini-lessons or to demonstrate writing techniques since you can read them more than once in a short amount of time.  They can be used to develop background knowledge about a concept or topic or for quick writes and writer’s notebook responses.  Picture books can invite dialogue about tough topics and complex ideas. Most importantly, though, they bring students together into a shared experience that invites everyone in the reading community to celebrate beautiful words and images.

It can take time and money to develop an extensive library of picture books, so my advice is to start with one or two titles that you can use in several ways.  Here are four of my recent favorites and some suggestions for using them in your classroom:

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Erin E. Stead

  • Practice describing the author’s style and selecting evidence or examples from the text.
  • Practice describing the illustrator’s style and selecting evidence or examples from the text.
  • Focus on figurative language by inviting students to choose their favorite example, respond to it in their writer’s notebook, and then use it as a model for their own writing.

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