Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers by Kate Messner

Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers by Kate Messner is a must-have book for any teacher of writing, regardless of grade level. I can not recommend this book enough!

First of all, Kate gets it.  She is a full-time author, full-time seventh grade teacher, and full-time mom.  She teaches and actually uses the strategies she shares.  And as a writer, she is a revision expert. She knows that revision is hard work and she understand the difficulty of giving revision enough time in age of timed tests and standardized writing. I am thrilled that she decided to write this book and share her wisdom with us!  (And the wisdom of many of her author friends).  Kate understands the current climate of testing, she gets middle school minds, and she knows how much pressure teachers feel in this day and age.  Yet she still manages to make the book accessible, practical, and conversational.  You can read Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers straight through or a few pages at a time and you will learn something every time you sit down with it.  My copy is flagged and I know I will be pulling it out constantly this year.

I read a lot of professional books about reading, writing, and general literacy.  Kate’s Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers by Kate Messner  is the first book in a long time to grab me and make me want to continue reading long after I should have put the book down.  She doesn’t just share her own classroom experiences, but also includes interviews and essays from various children’s and YA authors.  The authors share their own methods of “real” revision and ways teachers can apply those methods in their own classrooms.

And teachers will love, love, love the “try it” sheets that are included throughout the book and in the Appendix.  Many of the “try it” sheets are invitations for students to try a revision strategy shared by an author in the book. Because these are authors thats students are familiar with, I imagine they will love having the chance to “try” what their favorite author suggests.They can actually learn about the real revision work done for the books in our classroom libraries.   How awesome is that?!

Highly, highly recommended for teachers of grades 2-12.  There is something in here for teachers at all grade levels!  Pick up a copy before the school year starts!

My Professional Reading Goals

Every summer I try to read a few new professional books.  I add books to my Goodreads list all year, knowing that I will finally have time to read them in July and August.  This year has been an especially good year for some of my favorite professional authors, and I am looking forward to digging into their books this summer, annotating them and flagging my favorite passages.

Here are some of the books I can’t wait to read!

Real Revision: Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers by Kate Messner- I love Kate’s middle grade fiction. I also simply love Kate. She is a 7th grade teacher and an author, which makes her my idol. I can’t wait to read her first professional book from Stenhouse!

How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche- Not really a professional resource, so to speak, but I read Romeo and Juliet with my freshman and I think this will be a great go-to book to up the ante in my Shakespeare unit.

Teaching Teens and Reaping Results in a Wi-Fi, Hip-Hop,Where-Has-All-the-Sanity-Gone World: Stories, Strategies, Tools, and Tips from a Three-Time Teacher of the Year Award Winner by Alan Sitomer- Come on, how could I not read it with a title like that?

How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out) by Cal Newport- I think this sounds like a great match for my current students.

Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms by Randy Bomer- I can’t wait to read this one. It looks perfect for this high school English teacher.

Fresh Takes on Teaching Literary Elements: How to Teach What Really Matters About Character, Setting, Point of View, and Theme by Jeffrey Wilhelm- This has been recommended to me by so many people, so I am going to sit down with it this summer. Finally!

Obviously, this list is subject to change, of course. :) What are you planning to read this summer?

Shakespeare Set Free

How on earth did I know know about Teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth before this month?! I know, I know….I did not teach Shakespeare in sixth grade. But still, I try to stay up-to-date on the newest and best resources. Thanks to Dana Huff

Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers by Steven Layne

If you are a teacher, a librarian, a parent- anyone who wants to get kids reading more- then you need to get your hand on Steven Layne’s Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers.  I knew I would like the book as soon as I saw the title, but I had no idea how important it would be.  It has earned itself a place of honor on my professional book shelf.

Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers says so eloquently what I strive for everyday in my classroom-  we need to teach our students to read for the love of reading and not for results on a standardized test.  We need less test prep and more independent reading.  We need teachers who are passionate about books sharing that passion with their students.

Layne focuses on how to teach reading as an art and a love, rather then a set of skills that can be drilled and killed.  The book is packed with ways to inspire readers at any grade level, I could not put this down (which is rare for a professional book)!  While many of his suggestions were things I already do in my classroom it felt great to be validated.  But he also gave me some new, fresh ideas that I have already put into practice in my classes.  And throughout the book Layne calls on authors like Jordan Sonnenblick, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Neal Shusterman, and many others to share the teachers and experiences that shaped them as writers.  I loved these little glimpses into their lives and even gleaned some more ideas from them.

Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers is a must-have for any teacher who wants to ignite a passion for pleasure reading in their students.

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

A Place for Wonder by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough

I rarely read books, especially professional books, aimed at the primary grades.  I often read those aimed at grades 3-5, but kindergarten is a good ways away from my 6th graders (even though there are days when they don’t feel that far apart in age!)

However, I absolutely love Georgia Heard so I knew I wanted to read A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades as soon as it was published. I use many of Heard’s ideas and resources in my poetry unit, so I knew her nonfiction ideas would be stellar. I was not wrong- this is a great book for any teacher interested in growing his/her students’s knowledge about writing nonfiction.

A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades discusses how to create a “landscape of wonder” in your classroom by sharing activities and anecdotes from Heard and McDonough (a 1st grade teacher). While the activities are aimed at the primary grades I was thrilled by how much I found I could use with my 6th graders with minimal tweaking. Students of all ages need to be infected with passion and wonder! Specifically, I foresee using a lot of the activities as introduction and immersion activities when we begin our research unit. Students are always more enthusiastic when they are writing about something they feel passionate about and McDonough and Heard have developed some amazing ways of drawing those passions out of them!

 

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Assessing Student Writing

One theme that rose to the top of my “What Do You Want to Know?” series was assessing students. In reading and writing workshop, assessment can be a struggle for those who are tied to a standard grading scale of A-F. However, Mark Overmeyer has a new book coming out in July, What Student Writing Teaches Us, that focuses on using assessment to empower and improve student writing.

“Assessment, when used correctly in a formative way, can empower students and teachers to not only improve, but better yet, to believe in themselves as writers and teachers of writing. And once you believe you are a writer, and a teacher of writing, any barrier, no matter how imposing, begins to crumble.”
—Mark Overmeyer

Right now, you can read What Student Writing Teaches Us on the Stenhouse website for FREE! What a fantastic way to start the summer.    Even better?  Mark Overmeyer will be answering your questions here in June 25th!  So get reading and come back to this post to ask Mark your questions about formative assessment.

And seeing as this is my birthday giveaway month, there is a contest you can enter, too!

 Contest details from the Stenhouse website:


In his new book Mark discusses how a writing prompt that might seem limiting actually helps students focus their writing. He talks about a second-grade classroom where students were excited to write about the following topic: “Your baby brother is inside the house and you are locked out and need to figure out a way to get back in.”

Your challenge is to write a quick, piece in 500 words or less for that prompt. Mark will select the winner, who will receive a free, signed copy of What Student Writing Teaches Us. Submit your entries by July 15 to zmcmullin@stenhouse.com. The best entries will be posted on the Stenhouse blog and website.

 

How awesome is that?  I’m about halfway through the book and I’ve already taken copious notes- it’s a great book for teachers of writing!

New from Aimee Buckner!

Be sure to check out Aimee Buckner’s contribution to the Share a Story – Shape a Future blog tour.  It’s a great read!

Aimee is the author of one of my favorite writing workshop books, Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer’s Notebook. I use it everywhere during our first unit of study. I am especially excited because she is coming out with a new book, Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader’s Notebook. I can’t wait to get my hands on it! And if you check out Aimee’s post above, there is a link to a sneak peek of the book!

Writing to Persuade by Karen Caine

At last month’s TC Saturday Reunion, I noticed that one of the TC staff developers listed in the schedule packet had a new book, Writing to Persuade: Minilessons to Help Students Plan, Draft, and Revise, Grades 3-8. I am always looking to improve my persuasive writing unit of study, because it is tested on the state test in sixth grade.  And really, anything written by TC staff developers immediately goes on my wishlist because I have had such a great experience with all the books I have read by them!

I came home that day and placed an order for Karen Caine’s book.  Of course, Amazon did delay it a few days from it’s initial publication, but I got my copy last week and it is wonderful!  Anyone who teaches persuasive writing NEEDS this book.  It is full of mini-lessons and mini-lesson ideas for persuasive writing at all levels and in different genres.  You can use the book to supplement your own unit of study or to help you create a persuasive unit for the firs time.  The mini-lessons are easy to implement and perfect for grades 3-8.  I am already planning to use some of them this week in reading, to introduce my students to good persuasive writing.  Oh, and the best part?  It comes with an appendix chock full of resources!  Finding good real-life examples of persuasive writing can be difficult, but Karen Caine has swooped in to the rescue.

If you teach persuasive writing or want to teach it in any way, get your hands on this book!

Teaching with Intention by Debbie Miller

I just finished a fantastic professional book and it’s really inspired me to get moving on my plans for this year. (Well, that and the fact that school starts in 2 weeks!). Debbie Miller’s Teaching with Intention: Defining Beliefs, Aligning Practice, Taking Action, K-5 is a must-read for ALL teachers.

This easy read will motivate you to reflect deeply on your teaching practices. More than once I found myself nodding and saying, “Yes!” while reading this book. The workshops that Debbie observes and writes about are the workshops we all want for our classrooms. Instead of basals and scripted programs, Debbie walks us through figuring out our own core beliefs and how to make sure they guide our teaching and interaction with students. The first chapter is called “Picture Perfect: How Does Your Ideal Classroom Look, Sound, and Feel”. Debbie shares with us that by determining our vision of what we want for our kids/classroom at the en of the school year we can set up a classroom that allows that to happen from the beginning. She stresses that the right environment is critical to student learning and achievement.

She continues on with ideas for aligning (best) practices, assessment, and setting up lessons that are in line with our beliefs. And all of this is done in a small, easy to read book! Also, a color insert of classroom pictures is included, and I am still drooling over those rooms! Needless to say, my ideas for classroom decor this year have changed since finishing this book. Definitely get your hands on this before school starts (or even if it already has!) You will not regret it. In fact, I can imagine rereading this every summer just to get recharged and energized for the coming school year

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