30 Jan It’s Monday! Jennifer Serravallo Has Done it Again!
As teachers, we all have our “go-to” books. These are the professional books that are filled with post-its, highlights, turned-down pages, and notes in the margin. Whenever we plan an upcoming unit, rethink a lesson, or want a new idea for how to teach a specific strategy, we turn to these books. These professional books are the tools that inspire us to experiment and refine our teaching.
Thanks to Jennifer Serravallo, we have a new book to add to our “go-to” stack – The Writing Strategies Book. There is so much to say about this book… where do we begin!! When we think about all the things we love about this book and how it will support teachers, they seem to fall into three categories. This book will help us refine the way we set goals with students, find the “just the right” words to teach strategies, and provide the resources we need.
Setting Goals with Students
Setting writing goals with students is complex work. When we sit alongside a writer, listen to her ideas, and look at her writing, it is difficult to select one learning goal. So often, we see many teaching opportunities and it is difficult to choose a focus. Jennifer Serravallo’s, Writing Strategy Book, makes setting goals with students more manageable. In the introduction, Jennifer outlines a hierarchy of possible writing goals. (i.e. composing with pictures, engagement, generating ideas, focus, structure, elaboration, word choice, spelling, grammar, punctuation, partnerships and clubs) She states, “The ten goals for teaching writing are arranged in a sort of loose hierarchy. Think of it not as a hierarchy of most important to least, or from simplest to most sophisticated. Instead, this is a hierarchy of action”(3).
We love this! By thinking about goals in larger categories, students can focus on a learning goal for several weeks and learn many strategies under one umbrella goal. Now a student’s goal does not need to change when the class moves from one unit of study to the next. The bigger goal helps students see connections across genres and understand how to apply strategies when writing different types of texts.
Language for Strategy Lessons
We know it is critical to craft lessons that help students develop as writers. While we can always see a way to “fix” a student’s writing, we know it is our role to teach students a strategy they can apply anytime they are writing. Finding the right words to explain a strategy so that it is easily accessible can be tricky. We search to say it in a way that makes sense to our young writers so they can understand, remember and use it when they need it. Jennifer’s book is a great resource to show how to explain strategies and craft moves to students. Each lesson in The Writing Strategies Book has a section focused on how to explain the strategy to students. As we read Jennifer’s language and study her anchor charts, we discover new ways to explain writing strategies. Her step-by-step language will help you develop lessons that are clear, focused, and meaningful to students.
In the fast pace of a classroom, it can be a challenge to always have what you need when you need it. Resources are important scaffolds and serve as a “teacher” in the classroom. The right tool at the right time can make all the difference in our teaching. Each lesson in The Writing Strategies Book includes anchor charts, excerpts of student writing, and/or mentor texts. These examples are perfect for us to use or study in order to create our own with our students. When the resources are all in one place, we can focus our energy on what our students need to learn and how we want to teach the lesson. Jennifer’s lessons provide the tools we need without being prescriptive. She offers supports while leaving room for us to bring our passion, voice, and inspiration to the lessons we develop for our students.
The Writing Strategies Book is available on February 6, 2016. This book is already on the top of our stack of “go-to” professional resources and a book we will share with teachers in our partnership schools. It is simply that smart.
To get a sneak peek into this book, go to http://www.heinemann.com/writingstrategiesbook/