Review: THE WRITE THING by Kwame Alexander

Leave a comment

Have you ever wanted to start a writing workshop in your classroom? Do you run a writing workshop that needs some…tweaking? THIS is your answer! Kwame Alexander’s The Write Thing: Kwame Alexander Engages Students in Writing Workshop and You Can Too is THE how-to guide to get started (or to change your boring routine). Kwame leads you personally through the steps to write, publish, and present student writing in a new way – with poetry. Why poetry? Kwame explains that question in chapter one of this fabulous new professional development book.

In The Write Thing, Kwame is right there with you all the way. As I read, I could hear his voice talking to me. Kwame’s Book-in-a-Day approach (2006) inspires new and veteran teachers alike to start and continue a student-led writing workshop and publishing “house” in the classroom. The book is organized into three essential parts, with features called “Kwame QuickTips”, “Solo Acts” (voices from other writers and teachers), “Lessons in Action” (plans), “KwameTime” videos, “You Can Too!” (reflection questions), and “Questions for Kwame.” You are never left alone in this writing PD. It’s like your own teacher preparation class, with Kwame as your teacher.

When I watched the “KwameTime” videos, he was in the room, guiding and encouraging me to use poetry to teach writing. In each chapter of The Write Thing, we read poetry, looked at possible mentor texts lists (organized by grade level), and used the writing workshop approach to help students learn to tell their own stories through writing, publishing, and presenting their work.

Kylene Beers wrote the foreword for The Write Thing, where she nudges the reader consider poetry as “the neglected genre” and to adopt a new vision for teaching – she asks teachers to use poetry at all times of the school year, not just during the designated month in the spring. I found myself reading this book straight through, but I will also take Kylene’s advice to slow down and “linger, muse, reread, mark…” I look forward to seeing students succeed as writers because of this book.

As a bonus, The Write Thing includes Appendices (A-D) that will make your teaching life easier. (What teacher doesn’t want that?) It’s ALL “write” there. Kwame Alexander is the “life force” (say Greg David and Priya Sitaraman) – “a captivating authentic leader who connected easily and deeply with (our) students during our writing workshops…”

If you’re a writing teacher, buy The Write Thing by Kwame Alexander. Start your school year with a fresh, new, exciting approach to writing class. Encourage your students to write and present their stories. And don’t forget, have fun!

 

Slice of Life Tuesday: Summertime!

3 Comments

Summertime!

Reading and writing, replaced with writing and reading.

Planning time at school, replaced with planning time at home.

“30 Minute” lunch, replaced by never-ending fun.

Ah, it’s summertime!

 

IMWAYR: Breakout by Kate Messner

Leave a comment

I’m so lucky to have met many awesome authors in the last few years, and Kate Messner is one author I’ve followed closely. Her newest book, Breakout, released on June 5th, and I finally got my pre-ordered book in the mail today. I haven’t finished yet, but I wanted to share this post immediately so you can add this book to your “To Be Read” list.

Breakout is written as a collection of newspaper clippings, letters from the characters (mainly Nora Tucker, a middle school student journalist and Elidee, a new student at the school), poems, text messages, and other documents. This design choice is the main reason I think middle school students through adults are going to love this unusual story. The setting is summer vacation in the mountain town of Wolf Creek, and Nora wants to enjoy her break. But two inmates from the town’s prison break out (hence, the title) and the town and its residents are forever changed.

One of the main reasons I love this book so far is that I can see myself using it in my middle school — the story starts with a writing assignment for the students at Wolf Creek Middle School — and beyond. “How I See My Community” is the premise that is already changing as the story unfolds in the letters, texts, and transcripts of “recorded conversations.” I believe (as Kate Messner does) that all humans have stories to tell, and the author certainly weaves these characters’ stories together in an interesting way.

I have to get back to reading now (I won’t put this book down, I’m sure, until the last page). By the way, the end of the book provides book lists for further “thinking” texts, separated into age-appropriate categories for readers. Thank you, Kate! That’s a nice idea! If you want to read more about how Kate Messner created this book and her writing process, please visit her website. The Breakout section of her blog is interesting, informative, and inspiring for teachers, students, writers, and everyone else. Check it out here.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

 

A giveaway opportunity to start the summer…

Leave a comment

I’m writing again! Can you believe it? It’s been a long time, but here we go!

My fellow middle-grade-crazy friend, Dr. Jagger, told me about this FABULOUS giveaway from Mixed-Up Files (MUF) of Middle Grade Writers, and I thought I share.

Happy Summer Reading and Writing!

Heres the link to the giveaway…

https://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/2018/06/muf-i-versary-giveaways-continue/

Summer PD Planning — Exciting Year Ahead for Reading Teacher Writes

Leave a comment

It’s been an interesting year here at Reading Teacher Writes. I got to live my dream of serving students and spreading book love as a school librarian in my fabulous middle school. The highlights of the year included

  • Kwame Alexander, poet and writer extraordinaire, visited our city and surprised one of our students (and his teachers) during the Rebound Bus Tour. Amazing! I cannot thank him enough — reading DOES change lives, and Kwame made it happen here!
  • Josh Funk gave his time for another wonderful, fun-filled Google Hangout. I always appreciate Josh’s friendship and willingness to entertain and inform our students.
  • Jess Keating sent us “The Curious Creative” magazine (online) each month, with articles, interviews, and activities for the curious science students (and teachers!).
  • I bought the books kids wanted, and I extended my knowledge and support of #WNDB (We Need Diverse Books).
  • I presented my PD series, “Picture Books are Perfect…” (my current passion) and led a PD/Book study at school using Jeff Anderson and Whitney La Rocca’s book, Patterns of Power.
  • I wrote, and stopped writing, and started writing, many times over this year. It’s a daily struggle, but I’m planning to write much more in the near future.
  • My personal professional development is awesome– I am reading, reflecting, learning each day with my online/social PLN (Professional Learning Network)! My friends at #G2Great and #NCTE continue to inspire me to be the best teacher I can be.
  • Ralph Fletcher asked for our students’ contributions to his current writing project (our 6th graders have some great stories!). I thank him for the opportunity.

With just 4 days left of school, I planned my summer. Wow! I have a LOT to do. Number 1: Relax and enjoy my time. Number 2: Attend the most awesome PD ever! Number 3: Present PD more often and extend my offerings to a wider audience. Here are some of this summer’s plans (Who will join me?):

  • The Lead Learners (formerly All Write), Warsaw, IN
  • NErDCampMI, Parma, MI
  • Teachers Write – writing with the Facebook group, led by Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, and Jennifer Vincent
  • Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club – led by Penny Kittle and others

When I looked at my fall calendar, I found that filling up, too! The best year ever is coming! I look forward to many new opportunities:

  • NCTE Annual Convention, Houston, TX in November — I’m a Presenter! I’ll be at the round tables with many other amazing colleagues during the #whymiddlematters session,  “Writing From the Middle Level Classroom: Overcoming the Fear and the Seemingly Impossible.”
  • RSAC (Raising Student Achievement Conference), St. Charles, IL in December — I will spread the book love with a “Picture Books are Perfect” session.

YES, it’s been an interesting year here at Reading Teacher Writes. Thank you for joining me. If you haven’t joined me yet, please consider your upcoming year and include http://www.readingteacherwrites.com. Have a Fantastic Summer!

IMWAYR: Albie Newton, by Josh Funk

Leave a comment

This picture book in verse is from Josh Funk, one of our family’s favorite authors. Albie Newton is a boy genius-inventor-classmate who is always thinking and creating, much to the dismay of his peers. When Albie moves to a new school in the middle of the year, he wants to make new friends, so he spends his time inventing something amazing (instead of playing with the others).

Well, after Albie dumps the garbage can and steals the wheel from the hamster cage, the class notices that he’s tearing up the room. “But Albie didn’t notice all the problems he was causing. Focused on important things, he never thought of pausing.” When the kids form an “angry mob” to confront the pest, Shirley (a girl who sees Albie differently) comes to Albie’s defense.

Maybe it takes effort to make friends, and what IS acceptable effort? Albie’s actions may get him into trouble, but at the end of the day, do his actions lead to friendships? Read Albie Newton and find out. Make sure you look carefully at all the illustrations by Ester Garay, too. There are secrets, clues, and references to popular culture hidden throughout the book.

Josh Funk is a genius-rhymer-children’s-book author who knows what it’s like to focus on a task. Albie Newton is the sixth book (out of 9) for the author since 2015!

 

 

IMWAYR: In Sight of Stars

1 Comment

It’s Monday, and I’m reading this masterpiece again. In Sight of Stars, by Gae Polisner, touched me and I needed to reread tonight.

In Sight of Stars is the story of Klee (pronounced Clay: long-a sound, after the Swiss painter, Paul Klee), an artist and high school senior who suddenly finds his world turned upside-down. He lived in New York City, which was perfect for this budding artist — his father took him to all the great museums and led Klee to study the great artists — until his father’s death.

Klee’s mother moves him to the suburbs. He is lost, until he finds Sarah, the perfect girl in his art class. Well, not perfect. Klee discovers his life is out of control, and he spins right into the “Ape Can” — a psychiatric hospital for teens. As Klee struggles to find out what in his life is real and what is imaginary, he holds tight to the artwork on the wall in the therapist’s office, and remembers his home in the city with his dad. Will he ever be able to overcome the dark nights? Maybe if he can set his sights on the stars…

This book moved me. Many times I related to Klee as a mother, as a teacher, as a possible friend. I felt his experiences as he did, and I struggled with him until the end of the book. The art discussions between the characters led me to research artists on my own — Klee, Van Gogh, and more. The twists and turns of the plot events swirled in my head and my heart. One intriguing move Polisner made in this story is using alternating timelines. The flashbacks and present time frames made the twists even more realistic — my own head was spinning out of control with Klee’s memories vs. current actions throughout the story. The ending then dramatically, and yet gently, allowed me to breathe again with the main character. Since I read the book the first time, I find myself outside at night quite a bit, looking at the stars. The cover of the book notes, “To find the stars, you have to face the dark.” Perfect.

 

Older Entries