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Writing

Writing is, hands down, my subject!! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE teaching writing. But, it hasn't always been this way. I actually hated it when I first started teaching. And, I was terrible at it!!

Over the years, I've invested a ridiculous amount of time, money, and energy learning to become a better writing teacher. I've read books, taken classes, attended lectures and workshops, tried ideas out, failed miserably, tried again, felt some successes, tried something else, face-planted again... and on, and on, and on!

I finally feel (after 10 years) that at least I'm not damaging students anymore in writing class, and that maybe, just maybe, I am actually leading them in the direction of being a writer. I certainly don't know it all, and I'm sure I never will (but I won't stop trying!!), but I'm going to share with you all I can.

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Again, I'll start with Professional Development:
And again, in no particular order, here are the books that fundamentally changed the way I teach writing:

1. Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher. I've never come across a more "Aha!" producing book on teaching writing. This guy gets it! Practical, use-them-tomorrow lesson ideas and advice for upper elementary/middle/high school students.

2. Lessons That Change Writers by Nancie Atwell. This book is the bomb, especially if you are a new teacher. Step-by-step lesson plans and materials. You will want to get the "binder" that comes with the book. It's pricey, but worth it!!

3. The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins. When I win the lottery, I'm packing my family up and moving to NYC. Once there, I will pay Columbia University all my money to let me take classes with this amazing woman! Lucy so gets it! A true master teacher.

4. Writing Essentials by Regie Routman. Again, Regie ROCKS! Just read her!

5. A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher. True story... I once had a student ask if Ralph Fletcher was my boyfriend because I talk about him all.the.time in class. Seriously, it's like he is there with me, co-teaching all the way! You will see he makes my list THREE times, but that's code for READ ALL HIS BOOKS! You will never teach writing the same!

6. What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher.  I'm linking you to the new edition, but I admit that I've only read the first edition. It doesn't matter. Everything he says is right, so you can't go wrong with whatever edition you read.

7. Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner. If I had my way, I'd ONLY teach writing through writer's notebook all day long! By far, writer's notebook is my most powerful teaching tool and I've watched it work magic on writing-resistant kids. This book is fun and practical. Get it!!

8. A Fresh Look at Writing by Donald Graves. If we could all approach teaching the way that Donald Graves does, the world would be a better place. He is like the Mr. Rogers of writing instruction.

9. Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson. You will never teach grammar and mechanics again in a way that can be likened to watching paint dry or linoleum peel. This guys so gets writing and so gets kids!

10. Craft Lessons by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi. I can't think of a more practical book!

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Writing: The Video

Here's my video. It's sorta long, sorta amateur, BUT it covers a lot of the essentials on how writing works in my classroom:




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Writer's Workshop:

This is the only model that I use. Though there are a million tiny differences that can make this look different in every single classroom, the basic idea is:
        1. Teach a mini-lesson (ideally with a mentor text).
        2. Give students ample time to practice writing.
        3. Share, give feedback, revise.
For me, the Writer's Notebook is an integral part of this process. It is where students do all of their practicing. Now, WN purists believe that all the material generated in the notebook is solely determined by the student. I'd LOVE to be able to teach this way, but because of the constraints of standards and state testing, I find that I have to have a bit more control in what goes into our notebooks, so I deviate a bit from the WN purist model.

Like most middle school teachers working in a Common Core State, I teach three main types of writing: narrative, inform/explain, and argument.  My big units look like this:

Narrative Writing Workshop

Writing to Inform/Explain Workshop

Argument Writing Workshop

But, I have been feverishly working to update my writing curriculum to be more 7th grade-friendly. I also wanted to find a way to integrate Writer's Notebook even more into my workshops, especially when teaching writing to inform/explain, which doesn't always lend itself well to WN... at least in ways that I've found in practice!

The results of this effort are several, short (2 weeks), quick-paced workshop units that are designed to get students writing several pieces in our studied genres, but using some of the choice and freedom found in WN. I like to think of it as "guided choice." I give students the genre and a broad topic, but they get to explore and choose the more specific details of their piece.







My plan is to teach several of these quick units, along with the longer, more in-depth units, sprinkled with some writing fun in between!!


If you'd like to save a BUNDLE, you can purchase these two BUNDLES and get my whole year of writing instruction:




So, this is one of my static pages and I will be updating as things change, so be sure to check back every now and again to see what's new!

Happy Teaching!!




58 comments:

  1. I always struggle with teaching writing. I have been thinking about using Writer's Notebooks this year. I'm not sure where to start though. Do you have any tips or posts that gives guidance on the best way to start? Thanks

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    1. I am actually working on a video about how I teach writing and use Writer's Notebooks, so stay tuned :)

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  2. I need help! I am new to teaching middle school and I have to teach ELA in 43 minutes a day. That's reading, writing, spelling, grammar, etc. ALL in 45 minutes. Any ideas on how to do this using your tools effectively?

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    1. Oh my!! That is a huge undertaking!!

      Well, when our ELA block was only 45 minutes, we used to teach reading for three weeks (which included writing for literary analysis) and then do a writer's workshop unit for one week. It wasn't perfect, but it did work. So, for three week, we would cover, say, plot and conflict. We'd read a ton of stories, analyze their plots/conflicts, and write about them. When writing about them, we'd incorporate some grammar and vocabulary lessons. Then, we'd do a week of writer's workshop, working on one territory, such as narrative. During that week, we would do a ton of writing and we could teach more grammar, spelling, and mechanics lessons.

      It wasn't ideal, and there was often lots of homework, but you could make it work. I'm going to post your question to my Facebook page and see if anyone has some other suggestions :) https://www.facebook.com/musingsfromthemiddleschool

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    2. you both just saved me!!!! This is really guiding me to be successful in my first year teaching 7th ELA Thanks a ton!! Your effort is greatly appreciated

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  3. You have become my middle school educator to follow. I am buying up everything of yours I can find on TPT. I had always taught high school ELA and for the second year now, I am teaching middle school. Every year my classes change, I have no duplicate preps (very small, rural school), and I just can't seem to keep my head above water. I found a few of your resources on TPT and have become your biggest fan. I now follow your blog, as well, and love that we have similar ideologies as to how to teach ELA. Thank you for being the light at the end of a very dark, late-night, labor intensive tunnel for me.

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    1. Awe! Thank you so much Kristin! You just made my whole day :) I am so glad to hear that I've been a help to you. Teaching is SUCH a tough job and I know how helpful it can be when someone makes it a little easier for you! Thanks again!!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your writing approach. I am a writing teacher (work in progress). I so appreciate your philosophy on grading. It pains me to put a no pass on a piece of work that is a best effort. I will be approaching my Admin. and trying to sell this idea. Do you mind if I paraphrase your "blurb" that goes along with your rubric, or is it on your TpT? I'm so glad I found your blog- and on a Saturday before a week off I am excited to go back to school!

    Best,

    Nicolette

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    1. Hi Nicolette,

      Thanks for writing! If you purchase any of my two-week writer's workshop products, you will find a copy of the rubric that use, along with a statement that I share with students and parents. Also included is a one-page statement for teachers/administrators (where I go into much more detail than I share with students and parents) about why I grade the way I do.

      Sharing my philosophy with your building is more than fine with me. And if you'd like to share the rubric or any of my other products, you would be able to distribute to multiple teachers in your school by purchasing the multiple licenses option. Just click on the green "Buy Licenses to Share" button under the red "Add one to Cart" on the product page.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love that you share my thinking that "failing" a student for their best effort is a shame. It just takes so much time, patience, and confidence for students to become real writers. I hate anything that frightens them off before they even get started.

      Have a great break from school!!

      ~Jenna

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  5. Hi Jenna,

    First off, thank you for posting all of your ideas and ventures in teaching. As a 6th grade ELA teacher, I truly appreciate someone having the time (and energy) to share everything they do! Can you elaborate more on what your ELA block looks like? Specifically, the structure, time, and unit plan. I've been teaching 6th grade ELA for three years now, and every year our schedule changed. We have gone from 45 minutes to 1 hour blocks, and I know it will change again next year. Any advice would be well appreciated.

    Also, how many students do you typically have in a class? Do you have more than one section? One are I struggle with is getting through writing assignments (and then grading them) with typically 80-90 students.

    Thanks so much!

    Kaitlyn

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    1. Hi Kaitlyn!

      Okay... I teach two periods of reading (25-30 kids per period), and three periods of writing (25-30 kids per period).

      My writing period looks like this:
      Free writing (this is my "Do Now") for 10 minutes
      Mini-Lesson for 10-15 minutes
      Student Writing Time (during this time I conference, conduct small groups, or write my own piece to share with students): 20 minutes
      Sharing: 5-10 minutes

      Reading period:
      Silent Reading (or whole-class novel or lit circles): 15-20 minutes
      Reading Lesson (this comes from our anthology and usually includes an entry in our interactive student notebooks): 35-40 minutes

      Grading can be tough! But, I've been using my rubric for some time now and have graded a lot of papers! I'm at a point where I can grade a paper pretty quickly (no more than a few minutes for paper).

      Hope that helps! Thanks for reading :)

      Jenna

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  6. Jenna,

    How do you adapt the lessons you have created if you teach more than one grade level of writing? It is becoming a chore to do this as every year my schedule changes. One year I teach 6th, but the next I might teach 7th and 8th or possibly only 8th. Do you have any advice as to how I can not feel like a gerbil on a treadmill..???
    Thanks for sharing all of your hard work.
    Cheryl

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    1. Hi Cheryl,

      Well, I'll be honest and say that I haven't moved around much. This year was the first time in a loooong time that I changed grade levels (I had been teaching 6th grade for years and moved to 7th this year). I'll be honest with you: I am teaching my 7th graders may of the same lessons that I've used with 6th graders in the past! What I find with ELA is that the skills and standards are blurred between grade levels, so many lessons that work in 6th grade can also work in 7th and 8th grade. What I find changes is my expectations for their writing. So, I'd expect a bit more from 7th graders than 6th graders.

      Also, I find that pretty much all middle schoolers (and many grown-ups I might add!) make many grammar/mechanical/conventional errors that are expected to be mastered (at least from a standards perspective) at a much younger age. For example, regardless of age, I always find myself teaching kids lessons on punctuating dialogue and using commas. When I first started teaching, I was in third grade and taught those lessons then. When I moved to 6th grade, I still needed to teach those lessons. Now that I'm in 7th grade, I AM STILL teaching those lessons! It takes people a long time to master those skills even though the standards might expect it at a much younger age!

      So. long story short, I think you can put together a loose guide of lessons that you want to teach, and use that guide in any of the middle school years.

      Hope that helps!

      Jenna

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  7. Hi Jenna! have you ever run out of pages in your writer's notebook? If so, what would you do? Start another one? Kids would use two instead of one? Does having multiple notebooks make it confusing for the kiddos?

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    1. Hi! So, yes, most of my kids will go into a second notebook. Since they will have quite a few of the mini-lesson anchor posters in the back of the original, along with all that great writing that they did, I do make them keep the first one, too.

      It's never been a problem. But, I also keep all their notebooks in the classroom, so it's easy to keep track of them :)

      Hope that helps!

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  8. Hi Jenna! Thanks for the video- so many great ideas! I have a couple questions. Do you have them write their rough draft in the notebooks and type finals? Also, do you have them skip lines? Finally, I teach only ELA to 5th graders, 3 periods of approx. 75 min/ per day. Do you have any suggestions on how I should block my time for reading and writing?
    Thank you! Teena

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    1. Hi Teena,

      So... yes, kids write rough drafts in their notebooks and they either type or nicely write their final drafts. I do not have them skip lines :)

      Now, your next question... just want to make sure I understand: you teach three, 75-minute long periods of ELA to fifth graders, right? So you need to structure a 75 minute ELA period that includes both reading and writing.

      Well, I would probably do 30 minutes of writing, followed by 15 minutes of reading workshop/silent reading/free writing (I'd do my conferencing here), and then 30 minutes of reading. Does that sound doable?

      Let me know if you need more info and I'll be happy to help any way I can!!
      ~Jenna

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  9. Jenna,
    I have just purchased your Writing Bundle for the first half of the year and I cannot to try it out next year. Earlier I had purchased the argumentative writing bundle and absolutely loved it. It was so organized and easy to follow.

    My question to you is when do you fit in the grammar/language components to your lessons. Do you have a separate class for that or do you teach it in this bundle (I obviously haven't looked through the whole thing yet!). Thanks!

    Carrie McCarville

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  10. Hi Carrie,

    I don't teach grammar on its own, rather I try to incorporate it organically in the mentor texts that we study. In many (not all, but many) of my writing units, you will see how work in grammar mini-lessons. Have you ever read any Jeff Anderson? I try to take his approach to grammar!

    Hope that helps :)

    ~Jenna

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  11. I just finished my first year of teaching 7th grade Language Arts. I loved watching both your reading and writing videos for your interactive and writing notebooks. I am excited to start an interactive notebook in my class! Thank you!

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  12. Hi Jenna,
    Pheww!!! Where do I start...so many questions! First of all, thank you for sharing so much of the hard work and knowledge that you have acquired. I have been teaching for about 20 years in various roles, and am embarking on my first middle school experience - yikes! I'm super excited to be transitioning from the primary world (2nd grade for the past 9 years) to middle school (5th/6th grade ELA). I have read everything you have posted and bought a bazzilion (is that really a word?) things from your store, and can't wait to get started using them! First question: Looking at your suggested professional development reading - top ten for reading and writing; Where should I start? There are so many good books, but I won't be able to get through them all prior to the onset of the school year. If you could just pick 1 or 2 from each reading and writing, what would you suggest? Next, I've purchased both of your writing curriculum bundles and the reading & writing interactive notebooks. Do you have any kind of framework or curriculum map that you use that would correlate with these (Ahhh! I have no idea where to start!!) Do you have a list of mentor texts that correlate with your curriculum (It may be in the packets that I purchased. I haven't gotten through everything yet)? What books are musts for my student library for 5th/6th grade students? I left my elementary library to the teacher taking my 2nd grade position, so I'm rebuilding.

    Thanks in advance for sharing and guiding me as I embark on this new and exciting adventure!
    Sherry

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    1. Hi Sherry! Congratulations on your new position! I think you will just love working with the bigger kids :)

      Okay... here is what I'm thinking:

      1. Read any professional development books by Ralph Fletcher or Regie Routman first... they are easy to read and have lots of implement-tomorrow strategies.
      2. If you bought the two writing bundles that are my full "Year" of writing instruction, then take a look at the preview for those products... it contains my scope and sequence for writing :) As for reading, we use the Holt Literature series. I follow that scope and sequence. But, many of the short stories from that book are available online or in other anthologies. My hope is to put up a scope and sequence for reading, along with lesson plans later in the summer, so stay tuned!
      3. Student library: Diary of a Wimpy kid series; Harry Potter series; Lightning Thief series; anything by Christopher Paul Curtis, Sharon Creech, Mike Lupica, Kate DiCamillo, Roald Dahl, Jerry Spinelli, Lois Lowery... agh! I could go on and on!!

      Hope some of that helps!
      Jenna

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    2. Thanks so much Jenna! I so appreciate your feedback. I also love, love, love the free lessons you've been posting. Thanks so much for sharing!

      Sherry

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  13. Hi Jenna,
    I just graduated college specializing in Special Education and couldn't find a job in my field, so I accepted a job as an ELA teacher for 6th and 7th graders. I am completely lost! I have found your writing bundles that are basically my lifesaver in that department, but my question is how do I teach grammar? I haven't had a chance to look on your bundle so I don't know if this is also included. I could really appreciate all the advice and help.

    Thank you so much in advance!!

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  14. Hi! Congrats on your new position :) So, I do not teach grammar on its own (it is not required in my district). Instead, I'll teach a mini-lesson on a skill that I want them to know through the mentor texts that we use for our writing pieces (or sometimes I'll even do this in reading class with the story that we are doing). If you bought the Full Year of writing bundles, you see how I do this with several of the units (the lessons are included!).

    Best of luck!
    Jenna

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  15. Thank you so much for the videos! I teach 3rd and have really struggled with teaching writing. What I liked best was the way you set up your notebook. I plan to adapt your suggestions to my situation, but I do have a few questions--
    1. In the back of the notebook you put all anchor charts and mini lessons. Do the lists, top 10, and mentor pieces go back there as well? Any graphic organizers?
    2. Do the kids do any journaling in this notebook or is it strictly various styles of writing? To me they would need to be in separate places.
    3. Do you count editing and revising as one thing?
    4.Are the kids able to redo a piece and turn it in for a better grade?
    Again, thanks for the videos. I know we don't teach the same grade, but I feel better about setting up my notebooks for next year.

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    1. Hi there!

      Okay...

      1.) Yes, all anchor charts and mini-lessons go in the back. Mentor texts, too. Lists usually go up front. I pretty much never use graphic organizers.
      2.) The kids don't "journal" necessarily. If students were to journal, I'd have a separate notebook for that.
      3.) Revising is something we do from the moment we begin to draft. Editing is done last.
      4.) Kids can ALWAYS redo a piece and I will change their grade.

      Hope that helps! I taught third grade, too, for a few years :)

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  16. After eight years of teaching 7th grade Language Arts in a 100 minute block (3 grammar/writing and 2 Lit. classes), I'm excited to change things up with your writing bundles and interactive reading notebooks. I was wondering about your classroom organization. Previously, my students kept two-inch binders in my classroom, which contained their grammar workbook, vocabulary workbook, plus notes. My students will still have the workbooks for additional practice this year. I was planning on starting each grammar/writing class with a mini-lesson on grammar in a notebook that can be kept in the binder in addition to your grammar mini-lessons in the bundles. My main concern is how to keep two composition books (the writing and reading) in their binder for convenience or if they should be stored somewhere else in my room. Maybe spiral notebooks would work better for me since they can keep all of them in the binder? Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks for your blog and activities - it has me inspired for the new school year:)

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    1. Hi!

      My kids rarely take their notebooks out of the classroom (the only exception is if they need to study). We store ours in magazine bins and I color code the notebooks with duck tape. You can see a picture here: http://musingsfromthemiddleschool.blogspot.com/2016/02/practicing-what-you-pin-duck-tape.html

      Hope that helps!

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  17. Any tips on how I might modify your amazing resources that I LOVE into a 50 minute ELA class? I assume that you teach reading and writing seperately, correct?

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    1. Hi! I've answered a question similar to this before and here was my response:

      "Well, when our ELA block was only 45 minutes, we used to teach reading for three weeks (which included writing for literary analysis) and then do a writer's workshop unit for one week. It wasn't perfect, but it did work. So, for three week, we would cover, say, plot and conflict. We'd read a ton of stories, analyze their plots/conflicts, and write about them. When writing about them, we'd incorporate some grammar and vocabulary lessons. Then, we'd do a week of writer's workshop, working on one territory, such as narrative. During that week, we would do a ton of writing and we could teach more grammar, spelling, and mechanics lessons."

      Hope that helps!

      Delete
  18. Thank you for this video. I did watch the whole thing!! Great stuff! I used interactive student notebooks for about 4 years, and then my district opted away from paper and went 1:1 with Surface notebooks. Do you have any suggestions or references for digital notebooks? Thanks!

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    1. Hmm... I know that Danielle Knight has some in digit ISNs in her TpT store. You could check her out!

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    2. We are a 1:1 school, too, and at first, I thought using the computer for writing would be best practice - it would help to keep the kids engaged in their work. BUT... after a couple years, I've found that most of the kids prefer to WRITE, not type their writing assignments. I still incorporate their MacBooks, though - they can take a photo of their work and submit it to me in CANVAS (our Learning Management System). That way, they get the best of BOTH worlds, AND I don't have to take home a stack of papers... just my computer!

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  19. Hi, I love all your stuff. I had read a post that I can't find now about your suggestions for 5th grade curriculum from your store. Do you have any recommendations as to which would suit 5th grade best for the year?
    Also, for reading, do you do any full read-aloud novel stories during the year?

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    1. Hi!

      So, I'd say that most of my writing materials would work for 5th grade (I have many 5th grade teacher friends that have tried and liked my lessons), but you may need to change up a few of the mini-lessons to make them more appropriate. Also, do you teach argument writing? Here in NJ, we don't teach that till 6th grade, so you may want to avoid that one.

      And yes, I do read a few whole class novels throughout the year. I change them up a lot, but for the past few years I've done Maniac Magee, Ungifted, Tuck Everlasting, The Ranger's Apprentice, and Bud, Not Buddy.

      Hope that helps!
      Jenna

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  20. I just LOVE your program and advice on writing! I've been teaching middle school for 20 years, and of course I started out with Atwell's Writers' Workshop. I SO appreciate how you've made your program work for you and adapted it to your needs. I'm not a WW purist either, but I've always struggled with developing the BEST way to implement this framework. Now, I feel like I have the knowledge and tools that will TRULY help me help my kids develop a love of writing. Thank you for putting this together and offering it at a VERY affordable price!

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle!

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  21. Enjoyed the video very much. Thanks for taking time to post that. One of my biggest struggles is having "enough" grades for our 12 week grading period. We give separate Reading and English grades like many, I'm sure. Since it takes several weeks to produce one published piece of writing that has gone through the writing process, I often feel the need to teach quick grammar units (basically just to get another grade.) Terrible, horrible, I know! Don't tell Jeff Anderson! So, how are you able to get 5 writing grades, AND is that it for a grading period or do you have more from other assignments?

    I would love your input. Thanks.

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  22. Hi Jenna! I have used several of your units in the past, so I decided to "splurge" and buy the Sept- Dec. writing bundle. Is there an overall lesson plan that I am missing? I see each bundle within this bundle, but I don't see the overall guidelines in implementing all of them. I tried to copy and print your "Year of Writing Instruction" outline with pictures on it--but it doesn't come out clear enough when I print it. This timeline would be enough for me to work with but I need a clear version to print. Any chance you can help me with this? Thanks for all your hard work Jenna!

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    1. I am not sure I'm being clear in what I'm asking for. You have an awesome scope and sequence of all your writing units for the whole year. When I try to print it, it doesn't come out clear enough because it is so small. I'm wondering if that scope and sequence is in another place that is printable? I LOVE your work- thank you so much!

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    2. Hi Amy!

      Go to the TpT site (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/A-Year-of-Writing-Instruction-Part-One-September-December-2280136) and click on the "Preview" for A Year of Writing Instruction. It will open a window with a PDF of the scope and sequence that I follow (it's a few pages long) that you can download!

      I wanted to put this in the preview for the product so that people know exactly what they are getting. Hope that helps! Let me know if you can't download from TpT and I'll email it to you :)

      Jenna

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    3. Thank you so much! I found it! I teach 4th grade, but it's a accelerated curriculum (college prep) school. So i'm thinking I can still use this. Agree?

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    4. Jenna, One more question. Are your grammar and mechanics benchmarks and standards blended into this curriculum? Or do you do something separately?

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    5. I think you can definitely still use it :)

      There are some grammar and mechanics mini-lessons found throughout the unit. Our reading program, though, does a lot with that, so that is where I tend to put those lessons.

      Thanks so much!

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  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  24. Just a quick question on your thoughts since you use a reader's notebook and a writer's notebook, do you think you could combine these. I will have a title class of Freshmen this next year and I want to keep things as simple as possible, but like the ideas you have in the reader's and writer's notebook. Any thoughts or ideas on trying to combine the notebooks? Thanks for your input. My email is lannenj@sgchs.com

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  25. Where did I see the cheat way to make posters? (the puzzle directions) I need it!

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    1. Here: http://musingsfromthemiddleschool.blogspot.com/2014/10/printing-poster-cheapskate-way.html

      Jenna :)

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  26. Jenna,
    I have been using your units and I love them. One of my benchmarks is for my students (4th graders) to write a narrative piece. Within you 2 week narrative units (Lessons learned, memorable places, special treasures) do you have the students create one major narrative? If so, do you have them type it so they have a "finished" piece? Or are they always just moving between different ideas on their list? Any help or guidance you could give would be great. I want to use these units, but I have to have a final piece from the students, so I'm trying to figure out how to work it out. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Amy!

      Actually, my kids turn in a "finished" piece for each of the three narratives (Lessons Learned, Special Treasures, and Memorable Places). Sometime we type them (if a computer lab or cart is available) and other times we had write them nicely on lined paper.

      So if you use those units, you should have three final narratives. Hope that helps!!

      Jenna

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    2. Thank you Jenna! Another question: Where do you get your mentor texts that you are using? I want to do the Lessons Learned, but don't love the mentor text for 4th graders...they don't deal with a lot of the "middle school issues" yet. Any suggestions? Thank you so much for your help!!1

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  27. Your video was very helpful! I am new to teaching, and this video gave me some great insight and ideas! Thanks!

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  28. You are a rock star Jenna! I feel like I've won the lottery! I'm new to teaching academically talented middle school reading & writing. Thank you for all the resources!! By chance is there anywhere to view your curriculum maps? You truly have a gift & it shows!!

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  29. I teach 7th grade writing and reading, this is my first year doing the classes separate. I was wondering for writing do you only grade final papers? I know my administration wants lots of opportunities to enter grades in the grade book and our quarters are 9 weeks, so that does not allow for many opportunities to enter grades if I'm only grading final drafts. Does this make sense? I'm just trying to figure out my year. Thanks for all your amazing resources!

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  30. Okay, It's 12:20 am, today is our second day back from Summer vacation, our school is going through multiple moves and transitions--all good things for the most part, but for the next 15 months I won't have my own classroom, and will be shuffling around across three different rooms, without a room to call home-base. I apologize for the litany of complaints, but the aforementioned is the least of it. I also learned today that my schedule has changed, and rather than teaching two sections of 7th grade ELA/and guided reading to the same sections, I will be teaching Writing all of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade sections (that is 10 sections of reading in total, each section meeting two time per week), plus I have an 8th grade Section of ELA, which meets in a double block every day, and a guided reading class....plus AIS scheduling. Needless to say I am just about frantic. I have used some of you materials before, but I am really seeking guidance. Do you have any suggestions form multiple, multiple, multiple PREPS. and in general any advice for how I could handle the writing with a similar pace and similar lessons but with modifications for the grades. By the way, the writing curriculum is Teachers College, so anything that you sell that can help my cause, I would purchase. Thank you so much, sorry for the rambling, I just can't help but feel like I am set up to fail no matter what.

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    1. There is no stress more intense than school stress, am I right?!?

      Okay... I'm trying to make sense of what your saying. You will be teaching WRITING to grades 6, 7, and 8 correct? And you are looking to streamline all those preps so that the lessons are similar enough that you won't need 25 hours per day just to PREPARE, yes?

      So, if it were me, I'd teach all the same writing lessons to all three grade levels and let the STUDENTS guide your differentiation. When I designed most of the writing lessons that you see in my TpT store (you can find all of them in my "Year of Writing Instruction: Parts 1 and 2"), I was teaching 6th grade. I created those lessons with 6th graders in mind. Three years ago, I moved to 7th grade. And guess what? I used every single lesson all over again... and I even had some of my 6th graders as 7th graders!!

      See, it didn't matter. A great writing lesson can be taught to 3rd graders, and 5th graders, and 8th graders. The lesson doesn't change. Rather, the amount of scaffolding, modeling, and the expectations change. The lesson itself never changes, but the kids and their performance will create the differentiation.

      For example, say you start with one of my Writing from Lists activities. The introduction and list creating will be exactly the same for grades 6-8. Then, you do the five minute fast write. Well, maybe the 6th graders only have enough stamina to complete 3 of those, while the 8th graders can easily complete five of them. There is the differentiation. The activity was exactly the same, you just accommodated the needs of the kids.

      Does that make sense?

      In my opinion, writing is the BEST subject to teach across multiple grade levels because the standards are so ambiguous. You easily teach the same lesson to a variety of grades and the only thing that needs to be different is the amount of support you give and the expected outcome. You can't away with that in other subjects.

      I hope that helps! Best of luck to you and this tricky situation!!

      Jenna

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  31. Hi Jenna!

    I have purchased your first part of the entire school year writing unit and am using it in my split 6th/7th/8th grade classroom right now! My questions is this, how much do you expect 6th and 7th graders to write? I have one 6th and one 8th grader who can write me pages but most of my other students are only getting about a a paragraph with the first two mini units were doing (I Can't Imagine My Life Without... and Things I Can't Stand...)

    I was just curious as to how you get them to write more or if you expect them to write more. This class has some great writers, they just don't write a lot.

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