Ed Blogs & Newsletters

Escaping the Revision Trap

The kids in my upper-elementary writing workshops all hate revision. In fact, they seem to have blocked the word out of their Mindcrafty minds. Whenever I mention “revising,” I get blank stares. If I press the kids to jostle their memories, some might offer up explanations like, “That’s where you fix the red underlines.”

When I remind them that Grammarly is not going to save them here, that revision is something actual humans still need to do by hand and brain, that it’s way more about making m

Room 2 News

DonorsChoose Comes through for Room 2! A big thank you to our DonorsChoose donors, Nancy Benson and Claudia Cruz, for their generous gift of printer cartridges. The ink infusion will do wonders for our writing program! For kids in the upper elementary grades, the “final product” takes on real significance as they work their way through the writing process. Visualizing their names on the cover of a beautifully written and illustrated book keeps their eyes on the prize and the creative juices flowing.

8 Mentor Texts that Shine a Light on Tone & Setting —

Writing Sense of Sight? Let There Be Light!

A scene’s light (or its absence) shapes both tone and setting, builds tension and adds dimension to character.

What does a scene’s light expose? What does it hide? What glimmers? What fades?

For a quick background on chiaroscuro - the role of light and darkness - as a literary device, check out this post by screenwriter and novelist Tom Avitabile. Without darkness, he reminds us, there cannot be light.

But how do we distill something this shadowy w

Unlock Authentic Learning in Your Writing Workshop with this Revision Checklist Edit —

Over the years, my upper elementary writing workshop has featured dozens of revision checklists, and with each new iteration, I was sure I’d found the right chemistry. Ultimately, though, none of them ever amounted to more than a series of boxes to check. They were just too abstract for my young writers to grasp. Typical checklist questions like, “Does my writing make sense?” or “Are my words interesting?” don’t offer much guidance to kids who lack experience translating directions like these in

Sound Revision Strategies: Adjusting the Volume in Your Writing Workshop —

Is your teacher-quest for sensory details buried under an avalanche of adjectives? If this sounds like your writing workshop, read on for a sonic-powered escape plan. With an ear to honing sense of sound descriptions, this post will share strategies for guiding upper elementary & middle school writers through the revision process. Plus links to resources you can use in your class right away.

In this scene, we know there must be noise because there is an explosion, but explosions can sound lots

The Google Docs Table Feature: A Teacher's Swiss Army Knife

Here’s what the table actually looks like with borders showing so you can visualize (it’s actually only the left box that’s empty):

Once the table is set up, ask students to click their names and write responses in comments boxes, like this:

Workshopping student drafts--presenting works in progress for peer critique--is a key component of writing workshop, but it is also the most easily derailed. When I first started teaching, workshopping student writing meant an oral class discussion, often

The STEAM-Powered Writing Workshop

The writing workshop has been at the heart of my upper-elementary classroom since I began teaching years ago, but the tech tools my students use to publish their work have evolved with the times. In recent years, Plasq’s ComicLife has become an indispensable digital addition to my students’ writing toolkit. What, at first glance, may look like a few motivating bells and whistles has, for me, become essential and transformative. ComicLife is ideal for the differentiated classroom. I rely on it

A Concrete Approach to Teaching Revision: “Sensory Mapping” with Google Docs

After a writing conference with me about his opening, Daniel added the table below to map out the moment where his hero first acquires his superpowers. He began with boxes for each of the five senses, then zoomed in further on the sense of touch, adding a smaller table inside the sense of touch box where he wrote about how four of his hero’s individual body parts felt or reacted.

After adding details to his sensory map, Daniel then copied and pasted key sentences from his table into a unified p