Promoting Student Writing

I recently learned about an interesting website called This site is a community of writers for students from all over the world.  Here teachers will find writing prompt ideas, competitions, join writing groups and participate in other great activities where students can feather their writing and improve thorough feedback and support.  Teachers will find a range of tools and resources to help create a lively writing community in your classroom. As an author, I love this site and would have loved to have been part of a great community like this when I was in school.  Be sure to check it out and see if it might benefit your students and enhance their writing skills!

Teaching Listening

As we move into the application of the Common Core literacy listening standards, our students must be able to listen to oral presentations, take notes and and then use that information to construct logical informational and argumentative writing pieces. For example, on one of the Smarter Balanced listening assessment items, students are asked to listen to an oral presentation and then identify the “central idea” of the passage.  Many teachers have asked me how to find high quality videos and audios for supporting text-based units for their students.  Some great sources of high quality video and audio can be found on the following websites:



National Geographic

Gilder Lehman



If you know of other outstanding resources for locating high quality video and audio resources, please be sure to let us all know.

How to Teach Argumentation to Meet Common Core Standards

One of the requirements of the new Common Core standards for secondary grades is teaching students how to write an argument paper. Many teachers think that persuasive writing is the same as argumentative writing however, there are differences – albeit subtle ones. In persuasive writing, the writer’s goal is to persuade the reader to agree with him and his point of view on the topic. In argumentative writing, the author acknowledges that the “other” side of the argument has some merit and objectively presents the other point of view. In persuasive writing, the author attempts to convince the reader that his viewpoint is the “right” one and may include a heavy reliance on the author’s own opinions.  In argumentative writing, the writer offers credible facts and perspectives to show that there is “sufficient evidence” for his perspective. In persuasive writing, the author identifies a topic and the point of view from which he will argue.  In argumentative writing, the author researches the topic and then aligns with one side while still honoring the valid claims of the opposing viewpoint. Persuasive writing is more personal, passionate and often more emotionally laden. Argumentation presents an idea and a sound rationale for conclusions regardless of whether or not the reader ends up agreeing at the end. The writer is merely stating his position and logic behind his conclusions and perspective.

Publishing Student Writing and Generating Reading Excitement

Research shows that writing reinforces and builds reading skills so the more we get students writing, the more improvements they make in their reading. A great way to get students excited about writing is to get their works published on the internet. Reading Rockets and has recently established a monthly challenge that gives students writing prompts that they can address. The prompts are inspired by the Exquisite Corpse Adventure serial saga being presented on the Library of Congress website. Each month, there is a new prompt for students in grades K-12 that correlates with the ongoing Adventure saga. Be sure to check out the prompts and the Adventure. The ongoing adventure is fun and will get students excited and thinking! Your kids will love the writing challenge and may just get their best writing published! There is also a great literacy resource “treasure chest” at the Library of Congress site for both parents and teachers. Be sure to check both of these great resources out!

Encouraging Reluctant Writers with SPAWN

Struggling with how to get reluctant writers to revise and/or strengthen their work?  A technique called SPAWN, developed by Martin, Martin, and O’Brian in 1984 and recently reintroduced by Grozo (2003) may be just what you need. The 5 writing options you can present to your students  include the following:

S – Special Powers.  The student can change some aspect of the text or topic. Their writing then explains what was changed, why it was changed and the effect of the change.

P – Problem Solving. Students are asked to write possible solutions to problems that have been proposed in the book being read or the material being studied.

A – Alternative Point of View.  The students writes about a topic or retells a story from a different character’s point of view or relates it from a different perspective.

W – What If?  Students are given the opportunity to respond to a change they have made in some aspect of the topic or the story or to a change the teacher suggests. They write about the results of the change.

N – Next. After reading a portion of the text, students describe what they think the author will discuss next, explain or have happen next and provide evidence to support their predictions.