Friday, March 30, 2018

Be a Teacher Who Writes by Nikki Hansen

I remember sitting in my 10th grade English class. We had just read “A Modest Proposal” and my teacher, Ms. Goodman, had handed out a rubric for an assignment on a creative satire piece. A boy in the back chimed out, "Will you be writing one, too?" By now we all knew the answer. Her reply was, as usual, "No, because I'm not the one being graded."

This wasn't an unfamiliar refrain. Year after year, teacher after teacher reminded us that "they'd done their part" and finished high school. They'd "written enough in college" or "weren't the ones being graded." As students, I don't think we knew why we were asking our teachers to write. Maybe it came from a place of wanting to see them trudge through the same task as the rest of us. Maybe it is because we really wanted see their process. Either way, it never happened and we collectively felt like our teachers were copping out.

Flash forward. I'm standing in front of a group of seventh graders after finishing My Name is not Easy and I'm handing out a rubric for a memoir project. As I head to the front of the class, a boy chimes up from the back. "Are you going to write one, too, Ms. Hansen?"

I stared back at the 30 pairs of eyes watching me. I knew I had to break the cycle of excuse-giving. So, even though I had not previously planned to write alongside my classes that quarter, I made a different decision and said YES.

To this day, it is the single most rewarding unit I have ever taught.

The best part about being a teacher who writes is that it benefits teachers and students equally, and here are my top 3 favorite ways that happen:

Being a teacher who writes allows you to be human in front of your students. It immerses you as a writer in the community, offering a window into your mind, promoting risk-taking, and motivating student writers to share their own stories with less hesitation.

Even if you aren’t writing about something especially personal, it gives students a glimpse into the process of writing and takes the pressure off of creating a perfectly polish piece the first time around. They get to see that even you misspell words, get writer's block, can’t figure out how to phrase an idea, and change your mind about what you’re writing.

It opens up authentic opportunities for feedback. When you’re writing live on the screen or under a projector, it empowers students and gives them a chance to support you as a writer and share their ideas while giving you an opportunity to guide them in that process, preparing them for when they give feedback to their classmates.

You don’t have to plan a new unit to become a teacher who writes. It’s easy to do and you can start tomorrow with things you already have in place including (but obviously not limited to):

  • During writing warm-ups and daily journaling
  • During timed writing
  • Responding to current events
  • Responding to assigned or choice reading

The opportunities are really endless.  If students are writing, you can (and should) be, too. Even if it’s just for a few minutes before you start conferring. It’s time for us to be the change we want to see in our writing classroom, and we can start by simply writing with our students.

Nikki Hansen is a secondary ELA teacher, EdTech advocate, and Write About Rockstar. She is passionate about providing students (and teachers!) with authentic and exciting ways to engage with content. She can be found on Twitter at @MsHansen1213 or contacted at

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Growing Community Through Voice & Choice by Kelsey Corter

“It’s time for writer’s choice!”  I announce, as writers begin buzzing around the room. 

Mason carefully attaches pop up flaps to each page of his “Can you find the animals?”  book for our open-genre mini study, camouflaging the animals from the reader.  Lola scans the word wall, then asks me to add the word “went,” as it’s an important word in her narrative.  Later, she teaches the new word to the class.  Ryer races to meet Gabe, who is writing in the hallway, and they begin rereading the last page of their Pokemon book before starting the next page.  Sienna uses the document camera to share her book with a group of writers at the rug.  She asks the group, “Can you help my writing grow?”   Lovisa offers Amelia support with editing her book to make it more readable.  Violet rehearses each page of her book with Paolo, who listens intently and offers suggestions.   Lauri asks his table, “Does anyone know which letter says ahhh?”  Avigail, determined to finish her book, gets a pair of headphones  to help her concentrate amongst the productive noise. 

Writer’s choice is an added component to writing workshop in our classroom, in which writers make a decision to continue independent writing projects, collaborate with a partner, or share writing and receive feedback.
Writer’s choice was created by my reflective and joyful community of kindergarten writers, who desired daily opportunities to write longer, write together, teach each other, and share work.  The writing community we have grown, in which voice and choice are nurtured, was inspired by my own reflections after joining a writing community last summer.

Growing a Joyful Community of Writers Through Voice and Choice in Writing Workshop

A community of writers talks about writing.
Writing is both a social and private practice.  Headphones and quiet nooks in the classroom or in the hallway offer students silent spaces to write.

A community of writers support each other.
Making student experts and individual goals visible helps students see that mentors live beyond the books in our library. 
A community of writers write together.
Partner writing offers many of the same benefits as shared and interactive writing.  Partners plan, oral rehearse, and share the pen -- naturally modeling skills for each other.
A community of writers shares, listens to, and is inspired by each other’s writing.
There’s no bigger compliment to a writer than when someone asks, “Can I have a copy of that book?” 
A community of writers offers kind and specific feedback.
Lots of guided practice, and visible skills and genre-specific charts are essential to this practice.
Writer’s Choice adds 10-15 minutes to writing workshop each day.  That extra time means more possibilities  to confer, work with small groups, and longer writing time for my eager authors.  What are your writers seeking more of in their writing lives?  What could Writer’s Choice look like in your community?

Kelsey Corter calls K-313 at PS 59 in Manhattan home.  She loves to read, write, and romp in Fort Greene park with her two-legged and four-legged family.  You can read more of Kelsey’s posts at, on Twitter at @kelsey_corter, or on Instagram at @theorganicclassroom

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Where to find a Writing Community? by Georgia Parker

The best way to combat my students’, and my own revision woes, is to form a writing community or group. Writing communities can provide support and constructive criticism for burgeoning writers. Although writing is a solitary task, and often a very personal one, eventually you will need someone else with a discerning eye and kind heart to tell you what is working and what just isn’t.

Finding a trusted writing partner or group is essential in order to grow as a writer. Many writers meet face-to-face on a weekly or monthly basis at the local library or Starbucks, but just as many utilize online writing groups such as Scribophile, The Loft, or Critique Circle. A great resource to find an online, or live group, is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) or through the Association of Writers and Publishers (AWP). Both of these organizations have local, state, and national conferences that connect writers and help them find their people.

There are groups on Twitter such as and NaNoWriMo, and on Facebook there are groups for any specific writing genre you could want. These groups can provide inspiration, support, and even a critique partner or two. Don’t get discouraged! The first group I reached out to was full. Be persistent! A constructive critique of your writing is invaluable. Once you find a partner or small group, remember to provide the kind of feedback you would like to receive - some praise and some suggestions. As writers we want to nurture one another as we hone our craft just as we do with our students.

Georgia Parker has taught English in grades 6-9 at various times in her career. She has spent the last 23 years teaching English at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park, FL. For the last 20 years she has taught English 8, and in the last six years has added YA Lit. Parker is a member of NCTE and ALAN, serves as a state representative for ALAN, and has presented at numerous conferences. She is  also the Co-Director of the Trinity Prep Author Fest and is the current Diane & Michael Mayer Endowed Chair of English at Trinity Preparatory School. Find her on Twitter at @gksparker.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A Tribe of Weirdos by Cristi Julsrud

I graduated high school in 1996. My school experience was forgettable. I was a fair student. I was kind of a weirdo; all of my friends were. We read together, and discussed poetry together, and eventually we decided that we should write poetry together too. Thus the Literary Society of West Iredell High School was born.

That’s yours truly in the back row with the 1970s paisley caftan on. Did I mention I was pretty strange?

The Literary Society quickly became one of my favorite places to be, and some of the friendships I formed there have lasted to this day. It was my first writing community, and in spite of the fact that we were mostly writing terrible rip-offs of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, it was the first time I felt like a writer. We met to share work, write together, and support each other.  And even though we never got around to publishing that book of our writing, we did start participating in open mic poetry night at the coffee house downtown, and some of us got together and self-published a zine called The Mad Hatter, with a poetry section titled Vineyard Psalms (ah, the 90s...when any teen with an ink pen and access to a copier could publish).

I cringe now when I look back at some of the poetry I wrote during those afternoons in Ms. Fox’s classroom. But that first writing community gave me the confidence to read at open mic night, which gave me the confidence to take creative writing in college, which gave me the courage to send in poetry for publication, which gave me the courage to join new writing communities, and so on and so forth until here I am today, finding the courage to share my voice with the good people at the Teach Write community.

Sometimes I am still afraid that I don’t have anything valuable to say. And that’s where writing communities are most valuable, to convince you that your voice does matter. It’s never too late to find one; you only need to find your own tribe of weirdos, and make space for yourselves to share your voices with the world. Students need that too, so when you find a little group of kids who want to stay after school and write bad poetry, let them.

You just might help another writer find her voice.

Cristi Julsrud is a National Board certified Language Arts teacher at East Alexander Middle School in Hiddenite, North Carolina. She has taught at the elementary and middle school level, but loves teaching 8th graders the most, and has been doing so for fifteen years. Her primary goal is to create readers and writers and students who are comfortable speaking out and advocating for themselves. She has piloted and implemented a feedback-only, gradeless classroom over the past three years. If you are interested in learning more about Cristi's teaching life or about implementing a gradeless readers/writers workshop, you can read more at her blog at The Literate Teacher's Manifesto ( You can also find her on Twitter (@Mrs_J_of_EAMS) or on Facebook (Cristi Lackey Julsrud).

Monday, March 26, 2018

“Unconferencing” Our Way to Community by Dana Clark

We all long for community.  The sense of belonging gives us gifts of kinship, acceptance, safety, and comfort.  That’s why we spend so much of our teaching lives searching for ways to build a community in our classrooms. We know that when we have a strong community, we have created a place where kids can be both vulnerable and joyful. 

While we all work hard to create a writing community in our classrooms, I sometimes wonder if we are using our communities to truly lift the level of student writing.  Many teachers plan grand celebrations for each unit, serving snacks and inviting others to experience or read student work.  But is celebration enough?  While honoring and sharing the work are certainly important, I think another important aspect of a writing community is to create a culture of writer-to-writer feedback. 
One fun way to try out this work is to schedule a writer’s unconference in your classroom.  Unconferences are opportunities for learners to gather and explore an idea with people who are interested in the same topic.  Because there is no set leader, everyone contributes by sharing questions, knowledge, and experience.  With four or five groups huddled together discussing their work during a classroom unconference, the room is abuzz with engaged writers. Here’s how you might tap into the power of your student writing community with a writer’s unconference:

Prep work:

  • Choose a date that lands mid-unit so that the students have explored, written quite a bit, and will be ready for some advice.
  • Right before the unconference date, ask your students to reflect on some things that they’d like explore with other writers.  Try questions like, “What do I need help with?” and  “What parts of my writing are strong?” 
  • Create a list of topics. (I like to have two session times slots.) Then, invite kids to think about a session they’d like to attend for advice and a session where they’d be able to offer support.  

Advice for the big day:

  • Try to get a feel for the needs of the room to make sure all of the students aren’t going to one or two spots.  (Some teachers like kids to sign up prior to the sessions.)
  • Have students bring writing tools and resources that you’ve taught into like post-its, mentor texts, checklists, progressions, and revising pens to their sessions.
  • Schedule sessions for 20-30 minutes and be sure that kids have some time to go back and try out some of the new ideas they learned from their peers!

Happy Writing!

Dana Clark is a literacy coach by day, mom by night, and reader in any spare minute she can find.  You can find her on Twitter @dana_dclark or follow her blog

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Teachers Who Inspired My Passion for Writing by Tynea Lewis

My favorite and most memorable years during elementary school are years that I have vivid memories writing.

Honestly, I never thought about that until now. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but maybe it’s much more than that.

I was inspired to write because that flame inside of me was fanned before I even knew the flame existed.

In second grade, one of my friends and I would create a variety of stories. We authored and illustrated them together, and then our teacher bound them (you know, that black spiral binding found in the primary grades).

In fifth grade, I wrote a short story, “The Smallest of Lives,” probably loosely inspired by Honey I Shrunk the Kids. That was the first year I remember typing up writing pieces on computers. Wow, does that make me feel old. My story was so long that my teacher offered to take it home and type it on her computer.

In sixth grade, we wrote historical fiction stories. As the deadline approached, my teacher saw that I had a lot left to complete. I was furiously trying to finish, but she graciously extended the deadline because she didn’t want me to rush. By the end, a one subject notebook had been filled with a story I created about a girl during the Civil War.

In each of those years, I had teachers who encouraged my writing. What they did or the comments they made left a lasting impact. My writing had value. I had value. That’s what their actions told me. They might not even know the impact they had. They were just being encouraging teachers.

We all need someone to encourage us.

We need people who believe in us.

As a teacher, I remember being very intentional about encouraging sparks of writing I saw within my students. Who knows, maybe one of them will touch the world with their words? I know I won’t be the only teacher to have impacted them, but maybe one day they’ll look back on their year with me and smile when they think of how I gave them opportunities to write.

In the end, that’s what we need.

We need to give ourselves opportunities to write. My writing from elementary school wasn’t of publishable quality, but it still mattered because every piece of writing helps us discover who we are and what matters to us.

It’s a chance to unearth something hidden inside our hearts, and that is magical.

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 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

In Search of My Community by Michelle Olson

When I hear the phrase “a community of writers”, I instantly think of the students in the classrooms in which I work. I am always amazed at how quickly this community grows when fostered by the teacher.

When I completed my dissertation work, I saw this first hand. I utilized a Writer’s Workshop format and allowed the students to talk as they wrote. When conducting observations, I noticed several different conversation types including conversations related to idea generation and development, peer feedback, and sometimes even conversations unrelated to their writing. But what I did find, that for the most part, these students had created a community of writers in which they felt comfortable asking for help and receiving feedback.

How amazing is that? As an adult, I still cringe when I think about someone reading my writing and giving me feedback. Maybe I just need a community of writers, people who are there to support me, encourage me, offer me feedback, and help me on my way with my writing. So I am on the search for my community of writers!

Happy writing!

Michelle Olson is a reading specialist by day and wife, mom, and Usborne book lady by night! She recently earned my doctorate and focused on students’ attitudes towards themselves as writers and their own writing. Follow Michelle on Twitter at @molson414.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Much is Possible by Marina Rodriguez

For a writer, a community is crucial. It is a safe place, a place where you are valued, supported, and respected. And for young writers, living and learning within a community is not only important but necessary.

In a rich writing community, we do much more than build upon common beliefs, we build upon hopes, dreams, inspirations, and sacrifice time to help each other celebrate, learn, and grow. We create authentic and meaningful experiences by working together.

Here, we are not alone.
My Community - Let’s Write
I don’t believe it possible to truly understand community until you have had the opportunity to live it. My writing community is impactful to my writing life, and I am grateful for having discovered it. We are an eclectic group of writers, authors, poets, educators, and leaders of literacy. It is humbling to walk among giants. However, here, I am safe to share my work. This is where I learn to grow my writing, and where I learn how to grow young writers.

Classroom Community - Hour of Blog
Building an ideal community in the classroom is challenging. We are confined by schedules and inhaled by forms, documentation, testing, conferences, and record keeping. In my desperation to build an ideal writing community for my students, I created an after-school writing club, Hour of Blog. Here is where we are free to live and work as writers. We write. We blog. We help each other grow. It is magical.

Community is about valuing, supporting, and respecting those with whom you share a passion. It is where we generate strength to persevere, discover our own gifts, and learn to use them to help others grow.

Alone we are limited. In a community, much is possible.
Marina Rodriguez is a fourth-grade dual language teacher in College Station, Texas. She is a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project Teacher Consultant, CSISD Writing Project leader, and LEADS Innovator. Marina focuses her work on the collaboration of writing, technology, and innovation to help guide 21st Century Students to thrive and grow. She shares her journey, as a lifelong learner, at Follow her on Twitter @mrodz308. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I'm Eternally Grateful for My Community by Jean Samuel

Sitting down with students to talk about their writing is one of the highlights of my day. It’s a time to really connect and to learn more about them and how they see the world.

While I strongly advocate peer to peer writing and editing during writing workshop, the process of conferring and coaching can dramatically enhance a young writers skills and confidence. The essential elements of conferring are really about building trust and offering specific feedback related to a particular skill or type of writing through questioning and metacognitive reflection.   This process should not occur in a vacuum, but requires building and nurturing students voice and agency.

Voice and the power of discourse and mentoring can transform interactions with both reading and writing and support risk-taking in both. Risk-taking tasks like sharing writing and working with writing partners move conversations beyond the non-substantive comments students provide their peers with a meaningful discussion that student leaving feeling encouraged.

Adult writing communities also serve similar purposes both online and locally where writers share work and can engage in discussions that promote constructive feedback and support for a variety of tasks associated with writing.

Writing is a lifelong skill and not wholly dependent on one piece of writing, but the building of skill and the ability to use language in creative and meaningful ways. Joining a writing community allowed to make those connections and develop new skill sets to communicate more effectively both in and out of the classroom and for this, I am eternally grateful.

Jean Samuel (@APSSamuelRdg6) is currently a middle school reading specialist in Arlington, VA. She is currently involved in research related to Ethics in Education and working with students of all ages who are diagnosed with dyslexia. She also writes a blog post at can be reached via 

Monday, March 19, 2018

What I'm Willing to Do Myself by Tammy Breitweiser

In order to have a strong classroom writing community, I believe you must intentionally participate in a teacher writing community.

An essential component to creating writers is building trust in a classroom community. Sharing work helps cultivate better-skilled writers. One practice to foster this connection as an instructor and facilitator is to have a teacher writing community as an authentic model.

Teachers must strive to be a better writer themselves to cultivate a community for their thriving writers to learn.

Some reluctant writers need the community to just attempt getting words on the page. I have a mantra that I repeat to all students I work with in professional development or classrooms: “I will never ask you to do anything that I haven't already done or am willing to do myself.”  Writing must be done with intention and modeling as well as the community participation.

A large part of my teacher community is online.  Online groups are perfect for fellow introverts. Critique groups, blog communities, and Twitter are my main support and encouragement. One of the many benefits is the feedback I can get from teachers and writers across the country. Sharing your writing and experiences can be motivating and gives you a place of authenticity when speaking about writing to your students. Although face to face connections with other writers is amazing, I do not have access to that type of community currently.

Books, of course, are also part of the teacher community. I often use books like Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron for writing instruction which are not traditional classroom instruction choices. For me, books written for writers, not for teachers, made the exercise more authentic.

Relationships and a trusting culture are essential for students to write because writing is challenging. Support for everyone is essential for all student success!

Happy writing!

Tammy L. Breitweiser is a curriculum coach in Northwest Indiana where she is currently dedicated to impacting student achievement in grades 7 and 8. With more than 22 years of experience, she is a reading advocate who believes in the reading and writing connection. She is working a collection of short stories and poems and a book about teaching writing.  You can connect with Tammy on Twitter (@tammyzack) or through her blog Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Two Communities Every Writing Teacher Needs by Jen Greene

The writing community is essential to any successful writer: we need a group to which we can belong. We need our tribe of fellow writers to help us grow.  As writing teachers and teacher-writers, the two most important communities we need to belong to are the collegial and the classroom.

These are your people.  Your tribe. These are the friends who get it because they’re doing it too. It’s so important to find them.  They might exist through in-person meetings or through virtual forums. 

My ‘face to face’ community group is the PA Writing and Literature Project (PAWLP):  We meet once a month to share our writing- personal projects, professional pieces, student work.  The community gives each other support and feedback.  There is a sense of safety and comfort in sharing, which every writer needs. 

Look into your local writing project affiliate or join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) to find a critique group in your area.

Online, there are fabulous resources such as TeachWrite and SCBWI Facebook groups that hold you accountable for writing, help keep you on track, and give you endless ideas.  Reach out to people via Twitter.  The feedback and support you can find from all over the globe is inspiring.

The best way to build a community of writers in your classroom is to be one of them. When your kids write, you write.  Share your writing with your students.  Show them your frustrations and struggles with writing so they know they aren’t alone.  Create an environment where students can speak to each other and ask for advice.  Celebrate writing.  I am amazed at the feedback I get from my students, even at seven years old. 

Find the community that will help you achieve your goals and grow your writing. 

Your tribe is out there! 

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.  You can find her on Twitter @GreeneMachine82.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Building of a Writing Community by Alan J. Wright

Teachers possess great potential to influence student attitudes towards writing. Teachers control the very ‘weather’ in the classroom. Words, deeds, and consistency loom large in this scenario.

When teachers reveal themselves as living, breathing writers they become partners in the learning journey. This nurtures a sense of community. This building of community requires certain other factors also be present:

Teachers undertake powerful action when sharing examples of their writing at all stages. Students grow to know all writing goes through this process.

When students know teachers understand the challenges writing presents and how to approach them, they are more likely to engage.

Asking questions rather than telling students what to write is essential to growing trust.

Acceptance of Difference
Without the choice of topic and form, student voice will not flourish. Writers make decisions.

Effort is valued
Celebrate effort, especially that of struggling writers. Students are motivated to write when effort is acknowledged.

Curiosity and Wonder
Creating a genuine sense of curiosity and wonder is central to the exploration of the writing terrain.

Nudging students to make connections between what was known prior to the experience and what was learned stir the meta-cognitive writer.

Writing should not begin and end at the classroom door. Explore around the school. Seek out the world beyond.

Writing can connect kids to their communities. Children benefit when parents are part of the writing loop.

Authentic Purposes
Young writers need to do real writing. Students write best about matters concerning them most -writing close to their hearts.

A palpable energy exists around an established writing community. An energy sustained by mutual trust, acceptance and a willingness to take risks. You sense it the moment you enter the classroom. It embraces you like a hug.

Alan J. Wright is an experienced educational consultant, writer, and poet who has workedextensively in the U.S. and Australia, where he resides. He is the author of‘Igniting Writing- When A Teacher Writes,’ Hawker Brownlow. His latest book is‘I Bet There’s No Broccoli On The Moon’ a poetry anthology for children. You can connect with Alan on Twitter at @alwriting or on his blog.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

I Was Welcomed Home by Deb Day

I am at heart a solitary writer. I started writing as a young girl, inspired by the book Harriet the Spy. I kept diaries and journals. I wrote bad poetry on scraps of paper. Started novels. And it all went unread by anyone but me.

That changed in 2011 when I heard about the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. You had to write a blog post every day in March.

And share it.

Uncharacteristically, I created Coffee With Chloe and wrote my first post. When it came time to share the link, I remember hesitating. Would anyone even read it? And who would respond? This was the scariest thing I had done in a long time.

But I did share.

I kept writing. People actually read my posts and responded. A few here. A few there. We connected. I began following many of the slicers and looked forward to reading their writing. I wrote on Tuesdays following the challenge and kept in contact with the others. These writers became my friends. I counted on them to visit me and have a conversation whenever I wrote.

Ruth and Christy, Linda and Elsie, Michelle, Donna, and Ramona, Jenn M and Terje. These women are the points on my writing compass.

Events happened in my circle that threw that compass out of whack for awhile. I felt lost in the writing world. But each time I began writing again, with a promise I wouldn’t quit, these women welcomed me back. They reminded me again and again that my story mattered. Their unfailing support is just what I need. This community of writers keeps me coming back.
And then, I found this notebook gathering dust in a pile. A gift from Christy a couple of years ago, it became a gentle nudge from an old friend, even though she didn’t know it.

I joined the #TeachWrite Tribe Facebook group in January and found a new tribe of teacher-writers. New compass points to help me find my way. There were old friends like Margaret and Michelle and LeighAnne and some new ones, like Jennifer, Andy and Mark.

So I wrote.
And I shared.
And I was welcomed home.

Deb Day taught many different English classes during her twenty-eight year teaching career. Creative Writing was her favorite class to teach in the last years of her career because she could write and share with her students. She is married, the mother of two and grandmother of six. She is owned by Chloe, seven-year-old Goldendoodle. All of this provides plenty of material for her blog, Coffee With Chloe.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Building Our Writing Community by Angie Debertin

We are all writers. Some of us haven’t found our voice yet. One of our greatest roles as educators is to nurture the writers in our classrooms. This begins on the first day of school. We get to know each other. We share our stories. We build relationships. We learn to value each other.

On that first day, one of our important accomplishments is to create our Writer’s Notebook. Our writing needs a special place. We take the time to craft our notebook to reflect who we are. Then we do what writers do, we write. On the first day of school. Then we share. I share my missteps as a writer. By setting the stage early, we model the classroom culture. Yes, some students are hesitant. Over time, students realize that our classroom is a safe place.

Another priority is to co-construct quality writing criteria. We look at a variety of samples and decide what makes each quality writing. These are the students’ words as seen through their lenses. The student-created bulletin board showcases what we expect in our writing community throughout the year.

A crucial element that builds our writing community is the use of our own writing as mentor texts. Based on Lisa Eickholdt’s work in Learning from Classmates: Using Students’ Writing as Mentor Text, we showcase our work during mini-lessons. Every student has something to offer.

We also publish a lot of books! The ultimate validation as a writer is to see your book tucked into someone’s book box or shared during Author Day celebrations.
Every writer has unique needs. Our classroom recognizes this by encouraging the use of a Writer’s Makerspace, digital writing, audio recording, or writing outside. We meet the writers where they are. 

We are all writers sharing the journey.

Angie Debertin is a Grade 2 teacher in Centreville, New Brunswick in rural Canada. She has spent her career questioning and learning alongside her students, and instilling a belief that anything is possible. She brings projects to her classroom that bridges rural NB to the rest of the world such as Global Read Aloud, World Read Aloud Day, and Tomatosphere. Her passions include inspiring lifelong readers and writers, encouraging a love of science, using meaningful technology, and modeling lifelong learning. She can be found on Twitter @angie_debertin and tweeting with her students from @mrsdebertin

Monday, March 12, 2018

Is Your Writing Off Track? Get an Accountability Buddy by Mary Boone

Without running partners, I’m certain I never would have completed my first marathon. After all, it’s easy to come up with reasons not to run: It’s raining. Work was hard. There’s a new episode of “Scandal” on TV. Knowing that someone else has laced up her shoes and is waiting for you creates a sort of accountability.

Writing is very much the same.

You teach, you attend staff meetings, drive soccer carpool, and grade dozens of not-always-awesome essays. With so many must-do activities, it’s easy for writing to become something that can wait. And when the next day is equally exhausting, writing waits again. And again. And before you know it, you’re writing only as often as you’re changing the batteries in your smoke detector.

That can all change with the help of a writing partner.

A writing partner is a teammate who encourages and supports you through long days, lack of focus, looming deadlines – and you do the same for them. The two of you set writing goals and hold each other accountable. Together, you celebrate victories and compete to get published or set writing streaks.

Writing groups, both in person and virtual, are good places to begin your search for a writing partner. A coworker, neighbor or friend may also fit the bill. The two of you should have mutual respect and feel comfortable sharing your work with each other.

Once you make a connection, you must decide how your partnership will work: How often and by what means will you communicate? Will you simply share goals or will you also critique each other’s work? Your partnership may not operate like anyone else’s. That’s OK, as long as it’s providing the support you need.

Here’s to keeping your writing on track, with a little help from a friend.

Mary Boone is a Tacoma, Wa.,-based writer. She leads writing workshops at local high schools and community colleges. Connect with Mary at or on Twitter at @boonewrites

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Community is a Place Called Home by Andy Schoenborn

Many of my students are working on senior projects as they finish up their last trimester in ELA.  The projects are demonstrations of leadership meant to help kids find what they are passionate about as they learn to give back.  I take a hands-off approach to the project and students fully own what they choose to create.

Yesterday a student shared with me that she was struggling with how to create an annotated bibliography.  A classmate with another question joined us and we had the following conversation:

Aurora: “Mr. Schoenborn, my project of working with kids with special needs is going
well, but I’m not sure how to do the annotated bibliography.”

Me: “Okay, did you look at the examples on the class website?”

Aurora: “I did, but I’m still kind of confused.”

Me: “Where are you struggling?”

Aurora: “I’m just not sure how to start.  I can see there is a paragraph and three bullet
points that follow, but I don’t know where they came up with the information.”

Me: “Let’s look at it together.  Will you show me?”

We found the online example and continued our conversation.

Aurora, pointing to the paragraph: “What do I do there?”

Tim: “Oh, that’s the summary of what you’ve learned through your study.  It’s not hard,
really, but you need to do a little bit of research first.  It confused me too, but once I investigated a bit it was pretty easy.”

Aurora: “So you have to do that part last?”

Tim: “Yeah, that’s what messed me up at first.  Here, I’ll walk you through what I did.”

Aurora looked to me for affirmation: “Is it okay if Tim shows me how to do the
annotated bib?”

Me: “Sure, not a problem with me, if you don’t mind, Tim.”

Tim: “I don’t mind; it won’t take too long.”

Me: “Cool.  Isn’t it nice to have a learning community like this where we help each

Aurora, smiling: “Yeah, it’s not like other classes.  Everybody cares about each other

They both found a spot to confer and Aurora got the help she needed.

It’s true.  We care.

Learning communities begin with a sense of personal ownership that start and end with “we.”  It is a collective of people all interested in moving in the same direction.  In my classroom community grows organically because I have learned to hold loosely onto the reins giving up control by learning with my students.  When we all have a chance to be the lead learner a sense of responsibility for the group forms.

Like the community in my classroom, I could not do it in isolation.  I could not grow by happily accepting the mandatory one-size-fits-all professional development offered by my district. 

I can, however, point to three pivotal communities in my teacher-life that shifted my paradigm and acted as launching pads for growth.  In each instance, there was a community of encouragement, support, and interdependent growth. 

The Michigan Council of Teachers of English and all of the brilliant teacher-learners who shared their work in breakout sessions gave me the confidence to submit speaking proposals.  They encouraged me to invite others into my classroom.

The Chippewa River Writing Project, a National Writing Project affiliate, marked a dramatic shift in my thinking of writing instruction as it introduced me to the workshop model.  They supported me to think beyond my classroom and Michigan. 

Recently, I have found a home with the Teach Write Tribe.  A group of brilliant educators who have transformed the way I think about a personal learners network.  Though we have never met, I know each of them.  They are the ELA department I have always wanted and the friends I always needed.   

#TeachWrite is a collaborative team who find ways to risk, write, and share.  We support each other daily on Facebook, Twitter, and Voxer.  Nothing is better than to watch your friends grow together across vast distances.  In the near future, when we do finally meet face-to-face it will be a wonderful celebration!  I cannot wait! 

When I think of community, I echo Aurora’s sentiment.  These groups are not like other places, “Everybody cares about each other here.”

A community is a place called home.  I have found my home.  It can be yours, too.  Just pull up a seat.  We can’t wait to read what you write. 

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.  As 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 he frequently conducts workshops related to literacy and technology.  Read his thoughts on literacy in the and follow him on Twitter @aschoenborn.

Friday, March 9, 2018

What Community Is and Why It Matters by Fran Haley

When I think of the word community, I envision a neighborhood where people are bound to one another by a sense of civic responsibility. A grouping of people or houses does not a community make; a true community develops from like-mindedness about the good of the whole. Protecting one another, helping one another in times of need, maybe beautifying the area . . . on a deeper level, think of these variations of community: Commune, communion. These words have a spiritual color to them. They imply an even greater like-mindedness and focus. Definitions of the verb commune include a passionate, intense, or intimate discussion, the exchange of thoughts and feelings; to commune, or for there to be communion, people gather together out of a desire to share, tap into, or celebrate something profoundly meaningful to all. Such a rapport implies that partakers are there not just to “get” but to “give.”

So it is for a community of writers. A grouping of people with pencils, papers, and laptops, within the classroom or without, does not a community of writers make. To write is to put pieces of one’s soul on a page; this, in the scheme of human undertakings, is an unparalleled act of courage. A writing community, then, is a gathering of the courageous in a place where it is safe to share the pieces of one’s soul on the collective pages, with the responsibility to hear, value, and honor one another, and even to help each other beautify the arrangement of words for greatest effect. The writing community is vital to the writer, for, ever how old or young, writers sharpen one another, encourage one another, celebrate one another, and grow together in an atmosphere of commitment, accountability, expectancy, sometimes breathless awe, and glorious release. 

Fran Haley is a K-12 English Language Arts educator currently serving as a K-5 literacy coach. Writing is her favorite thing to do and to teach; she loves helping others of all ages grow to love writing. She facilitates writing workshop training for teachers in her district and authors the blog Lit Bits and Pieces: Snippets of Learning and Life. Connect with her on Twitter: @fahaley. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

How the Wyoming Writing Project Saved Me by Wendy Chaulk

Growing up, I loved writing--until a teacher ripped up a paper in front of me and told me I would never be a good writer. I stopped writing anything that wasn’t required, until I joined Wyoming Writing Project (WWP).

I was not prepared for all of the amazing parts of WWP. I was petrified at our first meeting. My inner voice kept telling me, “You’re not a writer! What makes you think you can even pretend to be one?”

Yet, I went. I wrote and eventually shared my writings with our group. These amazing people accepted me as I am. They encouraged me to do more than ever before in writing. They pulled me through the rushing rapids of self-doubt and helped me to the other side where I felt free and accomplished. I was able to play with my writing and never feel like a failure. I wrote poetry, narratives, and historical fiction with some romance thrown in for fun. I wrote about my students and my old dog who left scars on my heart.

I never felt judged or less than a human when I shared my writing. Why? Because these other writers were there with me, in the trenches, shaking the dust. We laughed and cried together. We shared stories that were personal, heart wrenching, and left us wanting more. We grew as a community of writers and became family.

In the end, I learned that I am a writer! I make time most days to write. I love writing! I am updating my blog more. I am teaching classes in my district to help other teachers improve their writing and teaching of writing. I want my students to be able to say they are writers and mean it. Isn’t that a great goal for us all?

This is Wendy Chaulk’s eighteenth year as a teacher. She has taught fourth grade in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; second grade in Jacksonville, NC; K-5 special education in Rio Rancho, NM; 4-6 special education in Gillette, WY; and currently teaches in a fifth and sixth grade looping classroom in Gillette, Wyoming . You can connect with Wendy on Twitter (@wluvs2teach) and on her blog ( Wendy loves being a teacher writer and is proud to be a Teacher Consultant for the National Writing Project.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

E.N.J.O.Y. Writing: Create to Motivate by Jen Greene

Motivation is a challenge.  If you’re like me, you think of a million other things to avoid the task at hand.  The simple reminder to enjoy writing motivates me; perhaps you’ll find it helpful too.

E-  Environment.  Create an environment where ideas feel safe to emerge. My environment includes a hot beverage, fancy pens, and a good notebook. It ranges from a table tucked away in the corner of Starbucks to a park or beach. When your mind is calm and peaceful, inspiration follows.

N- Notebooks.  Never underestimate the motivational powers of a blank notebook begging to be filled! I have notebooks for specific types of writing. Looking back through past entries serves as motivation.
J- Just write.  If I don’t have a specific assignment, I just write.  I let a stream of consciousness move the pen across my paper. It isn’t always profound thoughts. It might start out as a grocery list.  I can always go back and cross out.  I can always go back and add more.  But I cannot do anything to a blank page.  Don’t overthink- just write.

O- One Little Word.  This is a great source of inspiration.  It might be the word of the day suggested by #DWHabit.  Maybe it’s a random one that pops into your head. Go with it and see where it takes you.

Y- Yoda, find yours you must.  If you are stuck in a rut, find your “Yoda-vation”.  He might be a friend, family member, a pet.  Maybe Yoda is your critique group, a blog you follow, a Twitter chat.  My Yoda is often my students.  They motivate me because they constantly want to see my writing.  I can’t very well tell them I’m not writing anything, I’d better have something to share!

ENJOY writing!

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.  You can find her on Twitter @GreeneMachine82 or at a corner table at Starbucks. She’ll be the one with the fancy pens and stack of notebooks. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sharing the Pen by Leigh Anne Eck

Our mission here at #TeachWrite Chat Blog is to build a community for teachers who write. I will admit, when Jennifer, Michelle, Margaret, and I started this endeavor, we had no idea where it would take us. We started out with the idea of a chat.  Our first month was such a success, we knew we were filling a void for teacher-writers.

We then added the blog, in hopes of writing posts on a some-what regular basis. As we continued throwing that idea around, we began wondering if other teachers would be interested in writing for the blog.

Guess what?  We began filling another need - that need to belong to a community of teacher-writers. We know other outlets exist for teachers who want and need ideas to teach writing in their classrooms.  But the #TeachWrite community mission is different. We find that teachers need to talk and share about their own writing lives. Teachers want the support from others who are trying to write blog posts and articles and poems and even books.

Giving teachers the space to explore their writing voice, to find the courage to put their words on a page for others to read, and to belong to a community of like-minded people is the goal of #TeachWrite.

Last week on Twitter, I tweeted out the link to sign up to be a guest writer. Marisol Cantero @bilingual_coach, tweeted this reply.

This is what #TeachWrite is all about.  We are honored to share the pen and this space and to build this community with all of you. We encourage you to share your pen by reading and commenting on the posts from our guest bloggers. It is through these comments and knowing that someone has read our words and has made a connection that builds a true community of writers.

Let us continue to share the pen.

Leigh Anne just started her 11th year of teaching.  She has taught 4th, 5th and currently teaches 6th grade ELA at a middle school in Indiana.  She is currently working on her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Western Governors University with a goal of becoming a literacy coach.  Leigh Anne has a passion for connecting kids with books and helping teachers develop a writing life.  You can connect with her on Twitter @Teachr4 or find her slicing for the month of March on her blog, A Day in the Life

Monday, March 5, 2018

Writing Groups by Margaret Simon

Belonging is a basic human desire. Community is a safe place where one can belong. 

Writing is a solitary act.  A writing group provides a community for a writer, a group where you are honored and supported in your writing life.

A true working writing group is hard to find.  I've been through quite a few in my lifetime.  They don't all fall apart, but when they do, it's usually due to very normal every day things like a move, a new job, or a different direction.  I am one of the lucky ones.  I met with my face-to-face writing group last week, and asked "How long have we been meeting?" We figured it was more than 18 years, but less than 20.  We used to meet more often, but now we meet only once a month, and the place changes periodically.  The reason we meet never changes.  We love each other.  We support each other. We share a love of writing. 

I joined another writing group only 3 years ago.  We met at the Two Writing Teachers yearly dinner at NCTE. Some originals have dropped out and new members have joined in.  We meet by Zoom on the first and third Sunday night of the month.  This group started out as a picture book writing group but has evolved into more of a poetry focus. 

All this to say that I believe that I am a better writer because of my writing groups.  I belong.  We are on a shared journey.  

My writing groups do not follow strict rules, but there are some universal understandings.  We do not criticize without praising first.  We honor each other's unique voices.  We try to be equitable with time.  And we are, above all, kind.  This is not to say that we don't push each other because we absolutely do with gentle nudges into a direction we would likely have discovered ourselves along the way. 

If you are looking for a writing group whether face-to-face or online, be discerning.  Try to find someone whose writing you admire and that closely resembles your style.  And if it doesn't work, don't be discouraged, and don't take it personally.  Writing is an intimate act and we writers are sensitive people.  The just right group evolves with time, careful attention and dedication.  Belonging to a writing group is an important step in nurturing the writer in you.

Margaret Simon is a teacher-writer who lives on the Bayou Teche in New Iberia, LA.  She teaches gifted elementary students in Iberia Parish. With a Master's degree in gifted and National Boards in early childhood literacy, she offers her love of reading and writing to her students.  She writes about her teaching and shares her poetry at Margaret tweets @MargaretGSimon. You can also connect with her on Facebook at Margaret Gibson Simon.

Friday, March 2, 2018

It Is Community That Sustains Us by Jennifer Laffin

When Michelle, Margaret, Leigh Anne and I started the #TeachWrite chat, a chat focused on the life of a teacher-writer, in August of 2017, we had no idea that we were tapping into something so needed.

Our monthly chat took off like a rocket, getting better and better every month.

We are excited to have so many voices come together the first Monday of every month to talk about our lives as teacher-writers.

But what we treasure the most -- and continues to thrill us every day -- are the new voices that continue to join in the conversation every month. Voices that are quieter and are doing their own thing. Voices that are being brave and adding to the conversation in their own unique ways.

Voices we need to hear from.

Out of the monthly #TeachWrite chat grew the Teach Write Tribe Facebook group.  This group, which is exclusively for educators who are writers, celebrates and supports each teacher-writer and their writing goals. It is in this group that members ask questions, offer ideas, and provide the push we sometimes need to move forward. It is a true community that exemplifies the awesomeness of teachers -- supportive, encouraging, connecting.

Teaching can be a lonely profession. Too often, we are confined to the islands of our classroom. Writing by its very nature is a solitary act too.

Being a part of the #Teach Write Chat and the Teach Write Tribe changes this.

We realize we do not have to be alone. It is the community that sustains us.


If you are a teacher-writer (or would like to become one) and are looking for your community, please join us!

Our March #TeachWrite Twitter Chat is Monday, March 5th at 7:30 pm ET. You can sign up for a text reminder here.

The Teach Write Tribe Facebook Group can be found here.

Jennifer Laffin is a teacher of teachers, the owner of Teach Write LLC, and a co-moderator of the #TeachWrite Twitter Chat. She is committed to helping teachers and their students grow as writers because she has seen how writing can transform you both personally and professionally. You can find her learning with others on Twitter at @laffinteach and @TeachWriteEDU or at

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Writers Need Community by Michelle Haseltine

Community gives me a place to belong. It’s where I feel comfortable to be myself and take risks and make mistakes. As a writer, a strong community strengthens my resolve and makes me better. On the days when I feel like giving up, my community is there to nudge me along with encouragement. On the days when I find success, they cheer me on and lift me up. Writing is a solitary act until you find your community.

For the longest time, I resisted community. I kept my writing secret and didn’t share it with many people. Somehow, it felt safer. I remember the first community I ever felt comfortable sharing my writing group at the Northern Virginia Writing Project. While I was part of the summer institute we all participated in writing groups that met every other day. I was scared. At first, I didn’t trust them. As I look back, I realize that I held them at arm’s length only sharing writing that I’d already shared. Their reactions were genuine, helpful and encouraging.  Soon they earned my trust and I dove in head first. That’s when things changed.

I will never forget the first time I received effective and powerful feedback from that group. There was a piece that I wanted to publish in our anthology, so it had to be good. My friend, Christine, worked together with me and shared her brilliant revision and editing suggestions. She listened. She heard what I was trying to write and she was able to help me find my way there. If I am a good writer today, I credit so much of that to Christine and her guidance. She gave me the confidence to stretch and grow as a writer.

Writing is solitary. Yes, that’s true. Writers must find their own voice in the silence. Writers must develop their own identity and as we say in my class, “writers are the boss of their own writing”. I believe writers and their writing grow stronger in a community. Writers flourish with the nourishment of their soul and that’s something only other writers can do for them.

Today, my communities include the NVWP, our TeachWrite Tribe, and my student writers. Each of these communities has helped me grow as a writer.

Michelle Haseltine spends her days with middle schoolers in Loudoun County, VA. Together they write, read, think, and create every single day. Michelle is a co-facilitator of our #TeachWrite twitter chat and a Teacher Consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project. She owns Selah Writing and blogs regularly at One Grateful Teacher and Your Story Matters. Michelle tweets regularly at @Mhaseltine and instagrams at @Mhaselti

Write for Us!

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 who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.