March 27, 2008

Crafting Writers, K–6 (Full text online)

Crafting Writers K-6
Elizabeth Hale

Year: 2008
Media: 272 pp/paper
ISBN: 978-157110-739-8
Grade Range: K-6

Here's another online full text preview from Stenhouse Publishing.

The book is available via PDF download, a chapter at a time.

Here is the table of contents:


Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Specific Craft
Chapter 3: Gathering Craft
Chapter 4: Categories of Specific Craft
Chapter 5: Crafting with Punctuation
Chapter 6: Primary Writing
Chapter 7: Teaching Craft Lessons
Chapter 8: Researching Strengths in a Conference
Chapter 9: Researching Next Steps in a Conference
Chapter 10: Teaching the Conference
Chapter 11: Group Conferring and Other Management Techniques
Chapter 12: Assessment
Final Thoughts
Appendix A: Additional Mini-Lessons on Craft
Appendix B: Mini-Lessons for Independence in Memoir Writing
Appendix C: Mini-Lessons for Independence in Nonfiction Writing
Appendix D: Mini-Lessons for Independence in Poetry Writing
Appendix E: Forms for Researching Craft
Appendix F: Guided Practice in Researching Craft
Appendix G: List of Specific Craft Presented in Chapters 4, 5, and 6

If you use it, buy it! Reward a writer and teacher's hard work!

March 22, 2008

Free Tools for Thinking, Researching, Writing

Intel is creating great tools for educators. You'll find real treasures on their education website.

Here's a link to Intel's Thinking Tools:

Here is the Education Site Map that provides access to all of their resources:

Bookmark these pages if nothing else. This is an amazing free resource.

I recently reviewed Intel's Technology Literacy Curriculum for alignment to ISTE NETS-S standards.

If you're looking for a carefully designed curriculum to teach research and writing skills, this is it. Again this is a free resource. In my opinion it is more than detailed enough to work at the college level. These could be the basis for a very strong semester of instruction.

The curriculum was written for kids 11 -15 years old. Don't let the Technology Literacy title throw you. This is about how to research and write using online and traditional sources.


Melody's Real World Editing Lessons

Melody Brennan was my co-facilitator in the Spring 2008 edition of the 6-Traits online writing class. She did a terrific job! Here's bit of advice she offered during our module on conventions. ~ Dennis

Thinking in terms of modeling and practicing, technology spell checking, and just plain teaching how to edit.....

While in the classroom I used our weekly classroom newsletters rather than DOL.

Here's how:

Each week I would type our newsletter that would be sent home to update the parents about what happened that week and what was hopefully going to happen the next week (one can never be 100% sure...even though we plan!) I would add errors, especially ones that spell check would not change or highlight. Students would look it over (peer editing), work together after looking individually, and then we would all come together to create our "final" draft. I would make the revisions and hand-out the final draft for copying. I would then ask a co-worker to come in so that I could ask them in front of the class if they could find some time to edit my work. I know what I want my newsletter to say, but sometimes that is the biggest brain is thinking one thing and my paper or newsletter is really saying something different. The students saw me asking another peer to look it over one more time before submitting the newsletter as the final draft.

This worked great! Life lessons in the making! I had parents searching to see if they could still find an error with their students at home. Of course, they were not always perfect and I would sometimes be greeted on Monday morning with a big circle around something. However, they all appreciated the learning that went behind the weekly newsletter.

March 3, 2008

South Aftrican Poetry Slam

This just in from Jayne in Jo-berg!

We had a poetry slam last Friday. It was awesome.

My class and I had invited parents, the librarian, the elementary
principal, and the school counselor. There were about 30 people for this
event. I moved all the tables and desks out of my classroom, and we put
the chairs, the couch, and a few pillows in a big circle. I called it
"Poetry in the Round." In the middle of our circle I setup a small table
with candles, flowers, and a big hat for names. In our invitation we
encouraged our guests to bring poems they would like to share.

Round One: Memorized Poems

Anyone who had memorized a poem could put their name in the hat.
I had all of my students and one parent participate in round one. To
start I picked the first name out of the hat. When I read the name out
loud, everyone had to say "YES" enthusiastically. The reader would
stand up and say their poem. Instead of applause, one girl had suggested
we snap our fingers a bunch of times. It worked great. Then person who
had just said their poem would pick the next name out of a hat, and we'd
all say "YES" enthusiastically and so on till all the names were picked
and poems said. I would make a big deal out of finishing each round and
we'd have a minute or two break and then dive into the next round.

Round Two: Poems You Wrote

Anyone who had written a poem they wanted to share could put
their name in the hat. My students had recently put all their poems
into a book so they had lots to choose from. It was fun to have a few
parents join in this round too as well as all of my students and my
student teacher.

Round Three: Anything Goes

Besides all the students, I had lots of parents and
administrators participate in round three. The kids loved it when their
parent's name was chosen. Many of the parents put their heart and soul
into reading their poems. A highlight for my class was my student
teacher's contributions. He not only shared a number of his creations,
but as a farewell to the class, he shared a beautiful poem he wrote
called "Recipe for a Great Class." The piece included every student's
name and a bit of their personality. It was beautiful. This was his
last day with our class and so the poetry slam was also his farewell
party. After beginning teaching the poetry unit 6 weeks before, I had
asked him if he wanted to teach some of the poetry classes. He said
writing was not his thing especially poetry. I decided that every poem
the kids worked on, he would do as well. After a hesitant start, he
really got into it. He began sharing more and more of his work with the
class every day and it gave them confidence to share too. His honesty
about his feeling that he wasn't a good writer made the students
encourage him and each other more and more. It was one of those magical units that everyone can't help but grow, learn and feel good about their writing and themselves.

Jayne from Jo-burg

March 1, 2008

Where writing and music connect...

I wanted to share some ideas about the relationship between writing music and writing prose. This was written by Michael McHugh, a muscian, composer and educator currently working in Japan. Mike is also currently taking my online 6-traits class. (Thank you Mike for letting me post this for everyone!) ~ Dennis


It continues to amaze me, as we progress through this course, how many techniques for crafting a great paper can be related to similar techniques for writing interesting pieces of music. The lead, or even the title, of a narrative or essay can make a reader hungry for the story or message that will follow, just as a beginning melody will "hook" a listener within the first few measures of a piece. What follows, of course, will determine whether or not the reader or listener STAYS engaged.

I always tell my IB students not to attempt to title their music compositions--even if they already have a pretty comprehensive idea of where it's going to go--until the piece is at least near completion. They sometimes surprise themselves with where they actually end up in their impressions, and how they finally choose to encapsulate the piece with those few words at the top. And when their peers go to listen to the pieces, there seems to be a sense of intense curiosity about how the title applies--what's going to happen here?

What kills me is that I have never asked any of my students writing their experiential papers on their outside musical activities to attempt to do the same. There is a huge amount of character--"voice"--in much of their work, yet there in the top corner of all of the papers is the same stale "name, due date, assignment name" that I told them to put there, absent any kind of focus or hook to give the reader (which is only me at this stage) that initial jolt of anticipation. I dare say that some students might actually produce more engaging works if they believed they had the choice of giving their papers a more narrative flare (another revelation that I need to make sure to employ this semester).

Roundaboutedly related to the above, I do have a question about leads. Can they be like titles, in that sometimes a student really can't come up with a good one until they have a clearer idea about the direction of their paper? Or should a lead be a part of the student's organizational process from the beginning, as a focusing tool? Is there necessarily a right or a wrong?

Thanks much,

Mike@Kobe, Japan