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Friday, August 14, 2015

Teaching Writing: the 4-1-1 (video post!)

So, you have to teach writing, huh? Or maybe you already teach writing and you're looking for some fresh insight? Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is the blog post for you!



I've compiled a video post all about how I teach writing in my middle school classroom. This video was a beast, but it's finally finished!

I've had so many emails and questions about how I teach writing, that I thought I'd compile it all into a video. It's loooong, but I had so much to say!

I'd love to hear your thoughts:



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Links to stuff featured in this video:




Or... get everything in one place:




38 comments:

  1. Thanks for the video! Very helpful! :)

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  2. The video was great! I really appreciated hearing what another middle school teacher does during Writing. I've struggled with it for many years and you have put together what makes sense, and what I've wanted to do after reading about mentor texts, writer's notebooks, etc. So, thank you! One question, off the top of my head, with your point system on the rubric, I'm assuming that you total up the columns (like a 3, 2, 3, 1) and get a score of 9. Divided by 4, it's 2.25. How do you work with those totals. Also, do your students know how the scores work out to grades before you hand them the rubric, meaning, do they know they won't fail? Thanks again for the input! :)

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    1. Hi Renee! Thanks for watching and posting :) So, I tend to always round up. A 2.25 would become a 2.5. And, yes, my students do understand the rubric before hand. We spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be a writer in September. We discuss how it takes a lot of guts to pour your heart onto a page and then have your work not be well received. When this happens, it doesn't mean that you "failed," but rather learned a lesson that you can take with you when you brush yourself off and try again! Students know that all they need to do is give it their best shot! If they do that, then they'll be okay :)

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    2. Jenna- I need some advice with your products. I'm trying to decide if I should get the Narrative Writing (grades 4-6) pack or the Narrative Writing Vol. 1, 2, 3. I teach 5th. I'm going to be using Writer's notebooks much the way you do. I'm just not sure which will benefit me more. So other than stealing (borrowing) your lesson plans, can you give me some suggestions? Thanks!

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    3. Hi Renee, so for 5th grade, I'd go with the Narrative Writing: A Writer's Workshop for Common Core. I think that you will find the mini-lessons in the others a bit too much for your kids, as they cover standards in grades 6-8. Also, the Narrative Writing: A Writer's Workshop for Common Core is a bit slower paced and more broken down, which I think would be more appropriate for 5th graders :) Hope that helps!

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  3. I really enjoyed your video, and I would love to see the rubric you use. Is that available?

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    1. Hi Rachel! Thank so much for watching :) The rubric that I reference in the video is available in the following products:

      Narrative Writing (Vol. 1): Writing About Lessons Learned
      Narrative Writing (Vol. 2): Writing About Memorable Places
      Narrative Writing (Vol. 3): Writing About Special Treasures

      Writing to Inform/Explain (Vol. 1): "And the Winner Is..."

      Again, thanks so much for watching :)

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  4. Sincèrement j'aime votre style, votre manière d'écrire

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  5. Je vous souhaite un joli Dimanche d'écriture, avec la danse des mots dans l'âme
    didier
    site : http;//www.latentationdecrire.wordpress.com

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  6. The writer's notebook sounds fabulous. The close reading of the mentor text will certainly benefit my ESOL middle schoolers. Also, modeling a writing session so that they can see the process in action. Thank you for sharing your ideas and experience.

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    1. Writer's Notebook is the BEST!! I think you will be hooked if you give it a try :) Thanks for reading!

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  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Wendy! I accidentally deleted your comment and I don't know how to get it back!! I do have quite a few bundles on my site, so be sure to check them out!! Again, sorry I deleted your comment!! ~Jenna

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  8. Do you have a sample of your rubric?

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    1. Hi! Thank so much for watching :) The rubric that I reference in the video is available in the following products:

      Narrative Writing (Vol. 1): Writing About Lessons Learned
      Narrative Writing (Vol. 2): Writing About Memorable Places
      Narrative Writing (Vol. 3): Writing About Special Treasures

      Writing to Inform/Explain (Vol. 1): "And the Winner Is..."
      Writing to Inform/Explain (Vol. 2): "How to Survive..."
      Writing to Inform/Explain (Vol. 3): "On the Other Hand..."

      Again, thanks so much for watching :)

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  9. Hi there, I loved watching your video! Right now I'm in teacher's college (in Canada) and your video was so helpful in providing me ideas for how to set up my literacy time. It would be helpful though if you used slides that don't zoom, sometimes I couldn't read sentences or paragraphs in your video. Also you spend a lot of time saying "if you want to do it another way that's fine", which of course is important to state one or two times, but remember that if people are still watching your video, they want to hear your opinion and ideas! Overall I'm very happy I found this video and I'm sure I'll come back to it many times in the years to come. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. I was so glad I found your page on pinterest. I homeschool my son who is in the 6th grade and he detests writing. Maybe with your tips he will begin to love writing .

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  11. I was so glad I found your page on pinterest. I homeschool my son who is in the 6th grade and he detests writing. Maybe with your tips he will begin to love writing .

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  12. From Australia...love your video. I love teaching writing to my EAL kids. Fluency and developing identity in a second language is difficult but so rewarding when the kids 'get it'. I agree that kids need the freedom to be creative but parameters help them to get started. Structure is important! Can't wait to set up writing notebooks in the way you have described. Thank-you!

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    1. Great to hear from you! Thanks so much :)

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  13. This looks amazing! I'm a second year teacher, going into my third year this fall. I taught 6th grade (elementary) my first year and I've been teaching 5th this year (I LOVE it!). I'm really excited about teaching 5th again, but I haven't fallen into stride with teaching writing yet. I am currently taking notes on your video and can't wait to try the writer's notebook out next year!!!

    My question is: do you ever run out of space in your writer's notebooks? Do you have the kids go through the whole setting up process again with a new notebook? Do you keep the old notebook for reference?

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    1. Hi! So, yes, most of my kids will go into a second notebook before the end of the year. I have them keep their old notebook with their new one to refer back to when necessary. Setting up the notebooks don't take too long... they just number the pages and will set up a new index in the back. It's never been too much of an issue. And, honestly, I LOVE that so many kids write so much that they need TWO notebooks! It makes my heart happy!

      Hope that helps!!

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  14. Hello! I've watched your video three times, I love it that much! In PA, we are responsible for teaching Narrative, Argumentative and Expository writing as well as teaching students how to write a Text Dependent piece (19% of the writing score on standardized tests...wait, what?!) For 5th grade, what products do you recommend for at least the first three writing genres? I was thinking the Part 1/Part 2 bundles, but maybe that is all too much for 5th.

    Part 2 of my questions...we are utilizing 3 inch binders for Language Arts and tabbing them for different areas, I also ordered composition books. Do you think the binder could be utilized for the writing notebook (or at least a section) or do you feel more strongly that a separate bound notebook would be better? Thanks!

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    1. Hi!

      So, for fifth grade, I do think you might find a few pieces of the Part 1 and Part 2 too much.

      But, I think you'd do great with The ULTIMATE Writer's Workshop Collection for Common Core (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-ULTIMATE-Writers-Workshop-Collection-for-Common-Core-1752674) and I'd add Literary Analysis Writing: A Writer's Workshop for Common Core (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-ULTIMATE-Writers-Workshop-Collection-for-Common-Core-1752674). This will cover your requirements.

      Also, fifth graders would do great with Writing from Lists: Bundle (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writing-from-Lists-Bundle-2159904). This is my FAVORITE way to start in September. These activities will build fluency and stamina and really get them hooked into writing!

      As far as binders go... I have used them in the past and they can work. But, I do find that kids lose a lot of work from a binder. The paper rips at the holes, stuff falls out, and then rarely gets returned to the right spot! I really prefer the composition books.

      Hope that helps!! Let me know if there is more I can do. Thanks for reading :)

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  15. Hi Jenna!
    So many great tips in your video- thanks for sharing! I have a few questions... First, do you have kids write their rough drafts in their notebooks and then type their final drafts? Second, do they skip lines in their notebooks? Finally, I teach three periods of ELA to 5th graders. I will have about 60- 75 min blocks per day. How would you suggest blocking my time in a week for both reading and writing? Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you!

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    1. Hi!

      Yes, all rough drafts are in the notebook; they do not skip lines :)

      If I had 75 minute blocks, I'd do reading and writing each for 30 minutes and then free reading/writing/conference time for 15. With only 60 minutes, you might just have to to skip the free reading/writing/conferencing time. If I only had 60 minutes each day, every day, I'd do reading/writing on four days and then on the fifth day, I dedicate the full hour to free reading/writing/conferencing time. Does that make sense?!?

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    2. Yes, that makes sense. I also have library time on Fridays and I'm looking forward to implementing your scavenger hunt idea. Thanks so much!!

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  16. Hi! Jenna
    I loved your video really helped and clarified some concerns I had as a writing teacher. I started working for the first time as a 7 th grade writing teacher in January I had no experience and it was difficult semester for me since the Texas STAAR test was in March so I had a hard time preparing the students for the exam. I hope this coming year I have a better year and your video really helped clarify some concerns. If you have any advice or tips on expository writing please feel free on getting back to me that's the only writing Texas focuses on since that's what comes out in the exam.

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  17. Thank you, I really enjoyed watching your video. I am about to start my last semester of college before student teaching and love looking at the many ways of teaching. Your thought process and philosophies are close to what I believe as well, thank you for the helpful tips for Writer's Notebooks.

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  18. Love your video! You mention a revising and editing checklist and mini anchor charts in your video. Do you make these available to purchase?

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    1. Yup! Everything is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store :)

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  19. So grateful for your video. I am a Special Ed Middle school teacher who just inherited teaching two modified English classes. I bought your wear of writing (knowing it'll likely take me 2 years to get through it!) and have copied, thought, planned, and prepped but the video cemented some ideas for me! I wish I had longer periods since i have to teach reading as well as writing but the lessons and thoughts you put into the video give me a great jumping off spot.

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  20. Wonderful and encouraging video. As I begin to home school again (traditionally this time), I find myself browsing blogs of middle school teachers, especially for writing, as my confidence is in elementary education and not in writing at all. :-D Wish I had you as a writing teacher when I was in school! Before my children and I are going to have true success, I must change my thinking of how writing "SHOULD" be done. Thanks again for taking the time to create and post that video!

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  21. Hi! I stumbled across your video. I loved it and agree with everything you said. If I taught middle school I would love to have you as my mentor. I teach 1st grade and I've found that many other teachers including myself struggle with teaching writing. We follow the Lucy Caulkins writing workshop. It has its good points but I don't believe that it should be the only way to teach writing. I found many of my students were frustrated because they felt they didn't have enough structure. I would teach the mini lesson and model a piece of writing and then give them time to write. They could choose any type of paper they wanted. They would write for a few minutes and then all the kids would need help. I would be conferencing with a student and would tell them to read it to their partner and ask them what they thought. Like you, I could only get to a few kids each day. I felt like the program was having the kids teach themselves when at that age they are still very needy and need lots of structure. Any thoughts, videos, books, or ideas on how I can teach writing in the younger grades?

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  22. Hi Jenna- I am glad that I found your blog. I will be teaching 7th grade ELA this coming school year, and I know that kids really need to be motivated to write. I love the notebook concept, and look forward to trying it. You made this a little less scary!

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  23. I teach grade 4 in Canada, do you think this product is too advanced for my students?

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