Friday, December 29, 2017

Rising Through Writing: A Manifesto by Lois Letchford

The scene: More than fifty years ago. Sixth grade.

The teacher hunches over me, her beady eyes staring down at my open composition notebook. My head bows as my chin rests on a clenched fist. I blink back tears as my cheeks flush with maroon embarrassment. The lined paper: filled with words and covered in red marks.

It’s not good enough!” she barks over my shoulder.

Her harsh words still sting, lingering in my memory.

This incident, along with many other similar ones, defined my life as a writer. Painful would be a nice way to describe it.

So, how and why did I even think to write a 300-page book?

Well, I blame a school diagnostician. She was the lady who called my then-seven-year-old son, Nicholas, “The worst child I’ve seen in twenty years of teaching.” From one test and her narrow-minded point of view, I was told Nicholas had a low IQ and no strengths.

The label, however, didn’t limit his achievement—unlike my sixth-grade teacher from long ago. This year, in 2017, Nicholas completed his Ph.D. (D.Phil) from Oxford University. His unexpected, inspiring learning journey drove me to challenge my fears and put his story—and mine—to paper.

Writing our story began by simply retelling. I knew it was a good story, but my writing was dull. I needed to make it great.

I joined a few writing groups, and then took some classes at the local arts center. That’s where I met another writer and young editor. After she thoughtfully workshopped my assignments in class, we connected.

“Let me know if I can help,” she suggested one day after class, overhearing me discuss my book.
Like that, we became a team. The young and the old. I wrote and she edited, believing in both me and my writing.

“Show, don’t tell,” she told me over and over again. And I did. I wrote and re-wrote. She crossed out paragraphs, emphasized thematic elements, reworked characters. All was done in a positive, encouraging manner—something I had never experienced before. And, for the first time, it made me excited to write.

Writing is like making bread. Yeast needs to rest in order to rise. Writing takes time to mull over an idea, set the scene, and use powerful words to display emotion.

Most importantly, being an author changed the way I read. I questioned, What makes this writing so exciting? Why did the author do this? What words has this author used that make me want to re-read? How can I do that? Every book became a mentor text.

Writing is a lifelong skill, but I feel like I’m only beginning.

So, fellow writers and teachers, I leave you with this advice:

For students: Write, write, write. Read, read, read.

For teachers: Write alongside students. Read, read, read. Encourage and praise students’ writing. Use mentor texts. Find the “beauty and brilliance” in a student’s piece, as praise enhances writing. Our children are all beginner writers. Harsh criticism destroys the joy of even the desire to write.

As for my sixth-grade teacher, I’ve relegated her to the trash and replaced her with my young editor’s voice, “Yes, Lois, you can write!”  My book, Reversed: A Memoir, is due out in March 2018.

Lois Letchford specializes in teaching children who have struggled to learn to read through numerous commercial programs.  She enjoys traveling, bike riding, and skiing. Her book Reversed: A Memoir is due out in March 2018. You can connect with Lois on Twitter and Facebook at @LetchfordLois and on her website at

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is proud to feature the writing of our educator community. Would you like to write for us? We are in need of guest bloggers for January to share their thoughts about our January theme, Writing Goals (What are your writing goals? How do you stay on track? What are your favorite writing words of wisdom that inspire you? etc.) More information can be found here.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Writing is a Journey, Not a Destination: A Manifesto by Stephanie Affinito

While I have been a writer for my entire life, it is only recently that I can say with confidence that I am a writer. Regardless of the countless K-12 school essays, the writing projects for my Master's degree and even my doctoral dissertation, I did not feel like I was a writer. In fact, every formal writing experience made me continuously doubt my writing abilities instead of celebrating them. I wrote, but I was not a writer. Until now.

The decision to join #cyberPD, a summer book study that connects teachers together through collaborative conversation, was one of the most unknowingly important decisions I made in my life as a writer. I joined the online summer book study and spent the summer reading, writing and discussing a professional text with hundreds of other teachers from around the world. Some of us blogged our responses and reactions, some of us used audio and other digital tools and others wrote their thoughts on the Google+ discussion board. We came together as a community of learners, teachers and writers with powerful stories to share. At the end of that first summer, I realized the power that their writing had on my own ideas of literacy teaching and learning and finally, I realized the power that my own writing had on some of them as well. In that moment, I finally felt like a writer.

That summer, my original intent wasn’t to become a writer. It was to share in a learning experience with other teachers, something that was only possible through virtual discussion and writing. For so long, I believed that writing was the end result of something, something never quite within my grasp. But that summer, I finally realized that writing is actually a journey of learning, not the product of it. That revelation changed the way I think about writing, teaching and learning and has propelled me forward to new connections and collaborations with other teachers and teacher-writers.

For those of you just waiting to take a leap of faith into your own writing life, consider taking a leap into your own learning as a start and join a professional learning community around a topic you want to explore further. Connect with other teachers, share ideas through writing and reflect on your continual learning. As you learn, write and grow together, you will slowly realize the power of teachers writing together to continue learning for their sake of their students.

Wondering where to start? Try joining a professional learning community, such as #cyberPD, become more involved in this #TeachWrite community and start writing to enhance your own reading and learning. Connect with other like-minded teacher-writers on Twitter and Facebook and be open to the possibilities that await when we trust writing as a process, not a product. I invite you join us on the journey!

Stephanie Affinito is a faculty member in the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning at the University at Albany in New York. Her professional work focuses on transforming literacy coaching through technology, strengthening elementary literacy instruction and working with students experiencing difficulty learning literacy. You can connect with Stephanie on Twitter at @AffinitoLit, on Facebook at @StephanieAffinito or on her blog at 

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers for January who would like to blog on topics related to our January theme -- GOALS.  Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

This Is What I Do: A Writing Manifesto by Dawn Sheriff

My writing life is one of constant composing in my mind, on paper - in words, drawings, and sketching.  For me, it all comes down to one word - OBSERVE.

Art, pictures, sketching, taught me to be a writer.  Growing up, I wrote, I was not a writer.  When I started teaching, I was blessed to work with a visionary, a forward thinking, risk taking, researcher of a teacher - Dr Karen Ernst daSilva.  It was thanks to her leadership and collaboration that I began to play with pictures alongside my second graders, I attended teacher research groups and wrote about my practice.  I found ideas in those pictures and I found stories in my classroom.  I slowly began to uncover my writer.
I took the next big step in attending a Summer Writing Institute at the University of New Hampshire.  Blessed again to work with Maureen Barbieri who was open to my using pictures and sketches to find an idea and gently encouraged me to play with my writing, to find the possibilities within the idea and write.

Then, I went out on my own.  I started my own poetry anthology.  In my own free time, I was choosing to write, sketch, and draw.  I began to think, “I am a writer.”

Believing those four words, “I am a writer”, opened doors.  I taught summer institutes on Visual Literacy at the Yale Center for British Arts, I wrote memos to our staff after teacher research meetings, I had an audience.  Not only was I a writer for myself, I was developing relationships around art and writing.

As I prepared for my work in classrooms this week, I found myself making a list of what writers do:

Writers read for ideas
Writers copy
Writers revise
Writers capture slices from life
Writers play with words, ideas, genre
Writers discover
Writers reread
Writers remember
Writers share
Writers talk
Writers listen
Writers stop
Writers observe

This is what I do. This is what I believe.

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers for January who would like to blog on topics related to our January theme -- GOALS.  Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Finding Yourself In The Words You Write: A Manifesto by Lisa Corbett

I believe people lose themselves in the words they read and find themselves in the words they write.  Writing is where we find our truth.  It’s how we take our opinions and ideas and form them into coherent thoughts.  We write what we think, we revise our thinking, we make it clear, we ask ourselves if it is what we really think and what we really believe. We write a new life for ourselves when we write fiction.  We think about how something could have gone differently, or how it could have been better. 

I believe that writing is active, reading is passive, and everything kids write helps them become better readers.  When we ask kids to read what they have written, they realize that their writing needs to make sense.  It needs to sound right.  It needs to communicate what we really mean.  It’s important to be able to attempt to guess another author’s purpose - but it’s a different experience to know your own purpose, and then figure out how to share that with others. 

I believe teachers of writers should be writers. I’m certainly not the first person to say this. But I have lived this life. I honed my personal writer’s craft so I could be a better teacher of writers.  It has improved my whole life, not just my teaching life. 

I believe that making my own writing public has been a vital part of that journey.

I believe everyone can become a writer. It will take effort! But it’s time well spent. When I was in my 4th year of teaching, I taught 5th grade on a rotary team.  The teaching team was discussing our common students.  One of the teachers said, “I think some kids are just born writers. The words flow out of them so smoothly!  But other kids can work really hard on a piece and it just won’t sound great. They just weren’t born to write.”  This bothered me for years!  I felt she was wrong, that writing was something we could teach and that the right teacher could turn anyone into a writer.  This became a driving force behind my teaching - to prove her wrong. If I could share student writing samples here, I think you’d see I have succeeded. 

Lisa Corbett has been teaching for 18 years. She has mostly taught grades 2, 3, and 4.  She lives in Ontario, Canada, and is a graduate of Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.  On days when it’s -25 degrees (celsius), all she can think is, “Life is better at the Jersey Shore!” She doesn't write nearly as much as she used to before she became a mom. Lisa blogs about her life at and about her math teaching at  You can find Lisa on Twitter more often than she cares to admit at  @LisaCorbett0261.

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on our blog?  Do you have another writing-related topic you'd like to share? Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.

Friday, December 22, 2017

My Writing Grows: A Manifesto by Tynea Lewis

Writing is a part of who I am. Ever since I was little, I’ve written. In first grade, I filled the pages of a purple journal every day at school. In second grade, I wrote little booklets with a friend. In third grade, I wrote a rendition of The Bears that Saved Christmas after being home sick from school one winter day.

As I grew, so did my passion for writing. In high school and college, I filled the pages of journals to capture and make sense of experiences. I also started writing novels. Now I write poetry and devotions for teens and blog to encourage young moms.

Writing has always been a part of who I am. When something is natural, sometimes you don’t think much about why you do it or how you do it. You just do it.

With writing being extremely important to me, it’s time to think about why.

I believe…

~We all have words to share.

~Writing can bring healing to others and ourselves.

~Writing is a way to process life’s events.

~It’s okay to write something just for fun.

~Your passions as a writer will evolve over time. Explore them.

~Inspiration will strike at any time. Be prepared with something to capture the thought (but it’s okay to expand on it later).

~If writing is important to you, you’ll be able to make time for it.

~We should never be afraid to share ourselves through our writing. Someone else will be able to relate to it and realize they are not alone.

~Not everyone will love what you write, but that doesn’t matter. Write what you love.

I love that I learn more about myself, others, and the world through simple words. Even if it feels like an uphill battle sometimes, it's worth it.

Be true to yourself and your writing. Your words matter. Your words will make a difference in someone's life. Don't be afraid to capture what’s in your heart.

Tynea Lewis is a former Title I teacher from Pennsylvania. She was named a 30 Under 30 honoree by the International Literacy Association in 2016 for her work with LitPick Student Book Reviews, an online reading and writing program. When she’s not busy overseeing the program, she loves to spend time with her husband and young daughters, write for a variety of audiences, and escape to the quietness of the mountains. You can connect with her on Twitter and Instagram at @TyneaLewis or on her blog at 

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on our blog?  Do you have another writing-related topic you'd like to share? Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I Write: A Manifesto by Jen Vincent

Writing is a lovely, horribly, messy process.
Writing is a process. It’s got steps and every writer goes through them. But it’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3. Sometimes I get stuck brainstorming, sometimes I get stuck revising. Sometimes I can write fast. Sometimes it takes me forever. Sometimes I make sense, sometimes I really have to work at getting my message across. Sometimes I want to give up, but knowing that there are going to be ups and downs and that’s it’s a process helps me keep going. 

Writing gets harder everyday in different ways.
Just when I learn something about myself as a writer, I realize there’s more I don’t know. Sometimes it feels like I’m Harry Potter in the Sorcerer's Stone when he’s trying to get through all the different challenges and just as he gets past one, there’s another one waiting. 

There are no better words than THE and END.
I love drafting. I love love love drafting so much, the freedom of writing words and not having to worry about whether they are good or bad is exhilarating. But to finish a first draft. To write these two words: THE and END is an amazing blissful feeling of accomplishment.

There are no better cheerleaders than family and friends.
Honestly, I could never write without the amazing support network I have. Whether they’re telling me to keep going, giving me helpful feedback, or just asking how I’m doing, they are the best.
My writing counts. And my words matter. So,
I write. 

I believe my words are important. Only I can write my words and my stories are important. More than important, they are necessary.
Whenever I can. Wherever I am.

I find minutes, sneak writing into any spare moment that I can. Whether I’m at home, at Starbucks (my favorite), or out and about, I am a writer gathering ideas, putting pen to paper, or getting my fingers on the keys.

I write:
what I love, what I know, what moves me, what intrigues me, what is real and raw, what begs to be written.

It doesn’t matter what I write as long as I write. From fun, playful stories to honest, personal stories, I write whatever tugs at my heart. 

I write to:
love myself, connect with others, make the world better.

I found myself through writing, I learned to love myself through writing. I can share my stories with others and help them see how we might be different but also how we are the same. And along the way, I hope to make the world better with my words. 

I write.

I am here. 

Jen Vincent is a writer, blogger, and educator. Growing up, books and stories made her feel whole, helped her fit in, and gave her an escape but also propelled her forward. Jen shares her love of writing at her blogs Teach Mentor Texts and Story Exploratory. She hosts Sunday Check-Ins for Teachers Write, a virtual summer writing camp for educators, and co-hosts the kidlit It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (#IMWAYR). Jen is currently an Instructional Coach for a K-8 school district in a northern suburb of Chicago. She writes picture books and young adult novels and is represented by Danielle Smith of Lupine Grove Creative. For more information, visit
This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Through My Pen: A Writing Manifesto by Sarah Cordova

As I sat down to write out my very own “writing manifesto”, I thought about how each and every day I talk with students and teachers across the country about what I believe about writing.  Through Google Slides presentations, demonstration lessons in labsite classrooms, and discussions with administrators, I share my views about writing. And yet, in 17 years of teaching, I don’t know if I have ever written it down and shared it in a formal way.

As a former fourth grader teacher from New York and a current literacy consultant who works with teachers and students spanning kindergarten centers to middle school English classrooms, I have many wants and wishes for both student writers and writing teachers.   After jotting down notes, rereading flagged portions of some of my favorite professional texts, and thinking about my own journey as a writer, the following “writing manifesto” started to take shape:

Writing is a process and therefore, writing takes time.
Writing is powerful and therefore, writing needs to be treated delicately and with care
Writing is difficult and therefore, can be frustrating at times.
Writing is risky and therefore, it can be scary.
Writing is about a reader, and therefore, intention is everything.
Writing is carefully crafted and therefore, the more beautiful texts we read, the closer we come to crafting our own beautiful pieces.

I believe that all writers, from the most reluctant five year old to the most jaded eighth grader, should have the opportunity to play with and experience the power and purpose of writing. All writers should be asked to consider their audience, the features of genres, and the purpose for which they’re writing each time they set pencil to paper. I want all teachers of writing to read as much as they can to discover the greatest models from which our students can learn.  And lastly, I believe that in order to convince our students of all of the above, we need to ensure that writing is a real, consistent, and non-negotiable part of our daily lives; the more attention we give to writing, the more our students will believe that writing matters.

As I started to wrap up my own “ writing manifesto”, I realized that crafting this writing:

took time,
had to be written (and rewritten) carefully,
was frustrating at times,
created some anxiety/fear (I would be sharing this with a very large audience!),
was intentionally crafted thinking about my audience, genre, and purpose,
was written after reading other manifestos from the #TeachWrite Chat blog

This is what I believe about writing, in my head, in my heart, and now, through my pen.

Sarah Cordova works as the Director of The Distinctive Educator’s Institute, a literacy consulting firm who works in elementary and middle school classrooms across the country supporting administrators, literacy coaches, and classroom teachers in developing and implementing the most effective and engaging reading and writing practices.  She received a Master of Arts Degree in Education from New York University, and worked as a classroom teacher for many years in the Smithtown School District on Long Island, New York.  You can connect with Sarah by following her on Facebook by searching for "D.E.I." or on Twitter @sarahdcordova.

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time?
More information is available here. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Seven Things I Believe About Writing by Jen Greene

1. I believe writing is cathartic.
As an adolescent, I always kept a journal, more so to write things that were important to me at the time.   Later, as an adult watching my father battle brain cancer for seven long years before losing the fight in 2016, writing became my sanity-saving grace.  I wrote down our happy memories, angry letters to the powers that be, all the feelings associated with parenting your parent, and a haunting account of watching those final breaths.  Writing served as a way to process my feelings and help me heal.  When my emotions are running high or low, I pick up a pen and get to work.

2. I believe everyone has a writer hiding inside, waiting for the right environment to come out and play.
The incomparable Donald Graves showed us that children WANT to write. We have a tremendous responsibility as educators, parents, and humans to create a safe space where writers can blossom.  That student in the second row, reluctant to raise her hand, might have a powerful voice waiting to be heard. The kid who seems to have it all together on the outside, might let his guard down on paper.  Providing the opportunity to develop a love of writing paves the way for students to experience a transformative form of communication. They might have something to say that they didn’t even know was inside them, waiting to come out.

3. I believe writing is an invitation to play with language and create lyrical jigsaw puzzles through experimentation and revision.
You can’t edit a blank page.  Take a risk and try out different sentence structures, vocabulary, and syntax.  Make mistakes.  If the piece doesn’t fit in one spot, move it somewhere else.   There are so many words just waiting to be used. So many forgotten words to bring out of retirement.  Nancy Drew doesn’t have to be the only girl solving mysteries in a modest frock and sensible shoes.  When searching for the perfect word to describe current political leaders, dust off snollygoster.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a list of favorite words in her book Read, Read, Read!  What an excellent way to keep those hunky-dory words at the ready.  Language holds so many playful possibilities. 

4. I believe in the power of teachers as writers.
Mentor texts are crucial. They are amazing models for students. Yet, there is an underrated mentor text that sometimes gets forgotten: you, the teacher. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay to be afraid.  Dig deep and allow yourself to be vulnerable- your students will respond in ways you never imagined. They appreciate when teachers are honest and show how human they really are. 😊 How can you expect your class to develop their craft without you modeling the process a writer goes through? Share your writing; show your students your struggles and triumphs. I love to share my writing with my students and ask for suggestions. They provide great feedback (which shows they maybe are listening to those minilessons!). I truly believe that the best way to strengthen your community of writers is to be an active part of it.   

5. I believe writing should be used for good, not evil.
In this age of social media, where mean tweets and hateful comments dominate news coverage, we have a responsibility as writers to use our gift for the greater good. If positive thoughts and empathetic posts begin to dominate news feeds, maybe the cruel words will be buried under a pile of kindness.  I don’t believe the old adage that ‘sticks and stones may break our bones’, because words can hurt. A lot. They can deflate confidence, attack self-esteem, and reduce us to tears.  Our words should positively impact, heal, change, and comfort those who read them- especially if the readers are our students! 

6. I believe in writing at least a little bit every day.
Some days I might have a lot to say and fill page after page.  Others, I might lack motivation.  I try to write something- whether it’s a Tweet, an academic paper, or a grocery list- every day. When writing is a part of my daily routine, it makes it easier for me to have options to share with my students.   It also leads to honest conversations during conferences- “I understand your struggle with finding an idea, I’ve been there too.” 

7. I believe in always having a notebook and pen at the ready.
Ralph Fletcher, personal idol and inspirational spirit guide, often mentions the importance of carrying a notebook with him.  I love to sit and write in a bookstore or coffee shop and just observe. I never know when an idea will form, so it’s always best to be prepared. Some people might prefer to record ideas on their phone or laptop, but I’m a notebook kind of girl.  There is something so delightful about a new notebook with deliciously blank pages begging to be filled.  Throw in a rainbow of Staedtler TriplusⓇ Fineliner pens and I am a happy camper.  Add a cup of chai and forget about it- I’m staying put for a while. 

Jen Greene is an elementary school teacher in the West Chester Area School District in West Chester, PA.  She is a fellow with the PA Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP) and a doctoral student at Widener University.  When not teaching, reading, or writing, Jen enjoys ballet and tap dancing and taking photographs of her adorable Dalmatian, Murphy. You can find her on Twitter @GreeneMachine82. 

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Manifesto to Shield Me From My Writing Gremlins by Andy Schoenborn

The thought of writing usually scares me and, yet, it is a place I long to be.  At it’s best, writing is an unveiling of thought - a comfort with vulnerability.  And to teach writing is to publicly embrace imperfection - to pull the curtain back on the process.  Writing is revealing.  It is a place in which you learn what you really think about a subject (for now).

When I write my mind echos the thoughts Don Murray who wrote in a column for The Boston Globe, “Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it. The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can.”  The best writers need encouragement and they too battle the same gremlins who dryly whisper, “give up.”

Don’t listen to them.  Write on!

To keep personal gremlins at bay my shield is my manifesto:

Just begin.  The writer and the artist are one in the same - we need material.  A freely flowing rough draft with no judgement is the clay I need to work out my thoughts.

Set a goal and write everyday.  Some days I reach 1600 words.  Most days I manage 200, but I have written - and that is enough.  A steady drip, however slow, still fills a bucket.

Read.  Writing and reading are interdependent.  They inform each other and spark moments of insight.

Take the risk to share; and celebrate those who do.  The best writers I know were rejected many times before they were accepted as writers.  Go for the rejection letter and celebrate those who have crossed the publishing threshold.  You will too, in time.

Do not write to an audience; your audience will find you.  It is good advice to keep your audience in mind, but do not try to guess what your audience wants to hear.  Most likely they want to hear your authentic voice.  They want to hear you!

Encourage other writers.  There is no competition - only celebratory moments.

Revision is a re-envisioning.  After finishing a piece, put it away for awhile and read it with fresh eyes.  The piece will reveal itself in surprising ways - let it guide you.

Trust the process.  ‘Nuff said.

This is my manifesto.

I write to reflect.  I write to learn.

I write to understand my truth.

I write to let others know they are not alone.

Andy Schoenborn is a high school English teacher in Michigan at Mt. Pleasant Public Schools.  He focuses his work on progressive literacy methods including student-centered critical thinking, digital collaboration, and professional development.  Andy is a past-president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English and National Writing Project teacher consultant for Central Michigan University’s Chippewa River Writing Project and frequently conducts workshops related to literacy and technology.  Read his thoughts on literacy in the and follow him on Twitter @aschoenborn.

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Many Modes of Writing: A Manifesto by Emily Zuccaro

I’ve been thinking about what I believe about writing lately, in the middle of writing my dissertation proposal and teaching an undergraduate elementary course on writing methods. Lately, all I can think about is writing.

My research focuses on English Language Learners and their literacy and language. I taught second and third grade in Texas and in Monterrey, Mexico and most of my students have been language learners. In my work with pre-service elementary teachers, I think about how I can teach writing as well as elevate awareness to the linguistic needs of students in their classrooms. As a result, I have ALWAYS thought about language and learning and I continue to explore what it means for our students and their teachers. 

But funny enough, after all this thinking about language, I believe literacy, writing, and meaning-making opportunities for the increasing number of multilingual students in our classrooms needs to be MORE than JUST language!  Writing is a powerful tool in making and representing the thoughts in our heads and making sense of our world- but written language cannot be the only mode we use in our classroom.

I talk to my university students about how important it is to let their future students talk and draw in the writing workshop. As we explore our own writerly lives, I encourage them to perform or sing their own writing- to step away from traditional essay, narrative writing to experiment with visual, audio, and other elements of representing their ideas. Most students are uncomfortable with this and to be honest, most students rely on written language to express their ideas and it’s absolutely okay. (I’ve turned some students to poetry recently, which feels like a small victory).

What I really believe about teaching writing and being a writer is that written language is just ONE of the modes we use- and to reject other modes is a disservice to any student, and especially for students who are learning a new language. Using other modes (visual, audio, spatial, gestural) helps multilingual students make and represent meaning while they take on the challenging linguistic demands of learning in a new country and school. 

Emily Zuccaro is a doctoral candidate at the University of Louisville studying elementary literacy education and language learning. She loves coffee shops and libraries and walking the Big Four Bridge. She is supported by her boyfriend, Tyler, their son, Brinley, and their two cats and dog. You can follow her on Twitter @miss_zuccaro.

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Expanding Possibility: A Writing Manifesto by Katie Stover Kelly

The scratching of pencil on paper.
The tapping of the keyboard.
Voice memos on the phone.
Technology allows us to craft our writing in new ways.
Combining modalities and expanding our possibilities.

I believe choice is fundamental to writing. Not only choice of topics but choice of genres, formats, and tools are essential.

I believe our role as educators is to help all writers find their voices and their identities.

I believe we must create spaces in our classroom communities that value authentic meaningful writing experiences.

I believe that as teachers of writing, we must be writers ourselves.

I believe anyone can be a writer.
Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.
Just do it.
Why you might ask?

I believe writing allows us to find ourselves.
I believe writing expands our thinking.
I believe writing deepens our understanding.
I believe writing opens the world of possibility.
I believe writing helps us process, ponder, and be present.
I believe writing is a way to share our joys, sorrows, and journeys.

Writing is a unique and personal process.
Tinker on the page.
Tap on the keyboard.
Speak into your voice memo.
Breathe life to your own canvas and enjoy the journey.

Katie Stover Kelly is a former elementary teacher and literacy coach. She is currently an Associate Professor of Education at Furman University in Greenville, SC. She has written numerous articles and published two coauthored books: Smuggling Writing through Corwin Press, and From Pencils to Podcasts with Solution Tree. Katie is writing a new (yet unnamed) book with Lester Laminack which is due out in 2018. You can connect with Katie on Twitter @ktkelly14. 

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Give Yourself Permission to be a Writer by Margaret Simon

I’ve travelled a long road to becoming a writer, to feeling like writing is an integral part of who I am.  Early in my teaching career, I went through a summer institute for the National Writing Project.  I began to see that my jottings and my stories and my poems could make me a better thinker, a better teacher, and a better person.

Through the writing project, I met many mentors.  One mentor told us that the best writers were the ones who gave themselves the most permissions.  I have thought of this quote often.  What does it mean to give yourself permission?  When I was contemplating my manifesto,  I asked myself, “What permissions do you give yourself as a writer?”

  • I give myself permission to be vulnerable.  I never know how something I write will resonate with a reader.  Will it be rejected? embraced? understood? or misunderstood?  Communication is a tricky thing.  To write, one has to let go of expectations for the reader and let it be.  
  • I give myself permission to revise, rethink, reimagine. One of the most satisfying parts of the writing process is revision.  It’s reworking the clay that brings about magic.  
  • I give myself permission to be myself. If you are a reader, you know what it’s like to long to write like one of your favorite authors.  But we can’t all be the same.  And who would want us to be?  We must be our truest selves in our writing. 
  • I give myself permission to write anywhere.  I learned this one through NWP writing marathons.  Each marathon began with us teacher-writers turning to each other and saying, “I am a writer.”  There is a sense of pride in that statement, but there is also permission to be a writer wherever you are.  Writing out in the world helps me capture those seeds of ideas and voices that speak to me. 
  • I give myself permission not to write.  In our #TeachWrite Twitter chat for December, Jess Keating said that non-writing time is just as important.  Many mornings, I leave my computer and go for a walk with my dog, Charlie.  It feeds my soul and refreshes my mind.  

  • I give myself permission to share my writing.  On my blog, Reflections on the Teche (pronounced “tesh” for the bayou that runs behind my house.), I publish regularly.  I write for round ups like Slice of Life and Poetry Friday and Celebration Saturday.  This regular posting pushes me to be a brave releaser of my words into the world. The responses feed me as a writer as well as connect me to other writers.  
In what way do you need to give yourself permission to be a writer?  No one but yourself is going to give you that reassurance.  Put on your bravest self and put your words out into the world.  You may be surprised at what you receive in return.  

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Road to Writer: A Manifesto by Dr. Mary Howard

I am a writer with a rich and joyful writing life!
There I said it and it feels so good considering my status as “writer” has been hard earned.

My journey led me down a painful writerly road to recovery of childhood memories riddled with metaphorical and literal red marks that distorted my view. For too long, I allowed past voices in my head to decry my role as writer so I use that word proudly these days. As a result, I take labeling any child as a writing failure seriously because I know that children are still being dubbed as writer haves and have nots.
So what does the writing life of a recovered “failure” look like?

After a long journey of unexpected twists and turns, my writing life is as unique as I am - a lovely, messy, exhilarating, painfully glorious unexpected blessing with meandering detours to all destinations in between. I am grateful for each stopping point along the way, even those that sometimes derail me.
For far too many years, I felt a sense of shame that I didn’t have an easily defined writing persona wrapped up in a neat little bow since I assumed that hard and fast rules were a writer’s membership fee. I likely defy what one might imagine when pulling forth visions of a “writer” since my writing life is much like my day-to-day life: one big fast-paced frenzied celebratory blur of never-ending motion. I don’t keep a writing journal; opting to jot messy disorganized scribbles on scraps of paper (which I often lose). I don’t have a sacred writing space since I write in airplanes, airports, coffee shops, restaurants, indoors, outdoors, in my office, or wherever I land for the day. I write sitting down, standing up, on the floor and laying down with a computer perched on my belly. I write where it’s noisy and I write where it’s quiet and all levels in between. I write with a pencil in my hands more than my fingers on a keyboard. I don’t have a set schedule and I prefer Twitter and Facebook over a formal blog.
I’m well aware that I don’t look or act much like a writer but my writing life is uniquely me. But after all these years I celebrate that uniqueness because I have come to believe that being a writer is about honoring what works for that writer.

I believe that we must let go of our perception that there is one way to write and accept that whatever works is good enough. I am living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all view for what it means to be a writer. I am forever grateful for this messy, exhilarating, painfully glorious unexpected blessing that has taken me on a meandering detour to all destinations in between. I have at last come to know that I deserve to call myself a writer and I am filled with joy anew every time I use that word.
The truth is that I don’t write to publish, although that has been an exciting side effect of my later than usual launch into the writing world. I prefer writing that happens when my love for teaching beckons me. I write when teaching taps me on the shoulder and compels me to give what is inside an outer voice so I can share it with the world. I go to bed at night wondering what writing will beckon me the next day and wake up excited to know what writing awaits me.

I write when I have a professional itch I need to scratch. I write when I can’t hold the thoughts in my head any longer.

I write when I don’t even know what I’m going to write about.

I write because I trust the voices in my head and hold on for dear life to see where they might lead me.

I write in 280 characters on Twitter and long ‘passionate rants’ on Facebook.

I write to understand.

I write to reflect.

I write to make sense of this beautiful work I have loved for more than four and a half decades.

I write because I love being a teacher….
And I write because I must.

Mary Howard is a powerhouse literacy consultant and author. She has been described as a “teachers’ teacher” with insight into the realities of schools and a unique ability to translate research into practice. An educator for over four decades, Mary combines extensive experience as a special education, Title 1 and Reading RecoveryTM teacher and continues to provide in-school support as a literacy consultant and coach. She is the author of three books from Heinemann including RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know (2009) and Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (2012). 

Mary also co-moderates #G2Great Twitter chat every Thursday night @DrMaryHoward with Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan and can be found on Facebook at Mary C Howard.

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? More information is available here.

Monday, December 11, 2017

My Writer's Manifesto by John Hayward

I believe the first skill developing writers need is confidence. What good will advanced levels of technique do for a writer who doesn’t believe?

I believe the act of writing, like reading, needs a sacred time, place and pose.

Composing happens best in isolation; proofreading happens best in community.

No work of art worth showing the public was ever completed in its first draft.

I believe a student’s voice is the most precious gift and the most profound self-discovery. Have you seen those videos where a deaf child, after surgery, hears his mother’s voice for the first time? Yeah, like that.

I believe the worst editing occurs in the head; the best, of course, occurs on the page. We are our own worst critics when we prevent ideas from leaving the incubator to mature. (See the first note about confidence!)

I believe that when thoughts fly faster than fingers, they should make their way into print through audio. Record a stream of unfiltered, disorganized thoughts and reassemble them into order later. Step one: get the ideas out.

I believe writer’s block is as easily solved as a driver changing lanes. If what’s ahead of you is not flowing, either transition to a different path or get out of the car.

I believe teaching punctuation without instant application in a piece of writing is like teaching an apprentice carpenter about nails and screws while swimming.

Oh yes, and similes and metaphors are like spices to a fine dish but too many spoils the meal.

I believe writing involves a lot of sitting, so if an author complains that the writing process is a pain in the butt, this may be partially true.

I believe in the muses named Chocolate and Moscato.

John Hayward is a teacher-librarian at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois where he formerly taught English. He didn't leave the classroom entirely, though; John also teaches English methods and writing courses at two local colleges. When not assisting students or teachers, John is likely writing something education-related or enjoying time with family. Connect with John on Twitter @jhaywardtwit or visit

This month, the #TeachWrite Chat Blog will be sharing the Writing Manifestos of our community. What do you believe about being a writer?  Would you like your Writing Manifesto featured on this blog?  Are you interested in writing for us at another time? Fill out this Google form and we will be in touch with a date for you to submit your post.

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