Category Archives: Books

TQ Review: Write Like This

Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts
Kelly Gallagher
Stenhouse Publishers 2011
ISBN 978-1-57110-896-8

“Writing has become foundational to finding meaningful employment across much of the workforce.” pg 3

7 out of 10 students leave school

“…without the necessary skills to actively participate in either civic life or in the global economy” pg 5

Why I Chose to Read this Book

I read Readicide two summers ago, in the midst of a teaching identity crisis and was working to figure out how to get non-readers to read again. When I received an email from Stenhouse Publishers announcing the release of Write Like This, I knew it would be well worth the read, because I have adopted many of Gallagher’s ideas from Readicide into my classroom.

A Brief Summary

In Write Like This, Gallagher argues two basic premises for teaching students to write:

  1. Why students should write (real-world discourse), and
  2. for teachers to step out of their comfort zone and start writing before, in front of, and with their students, as well as find and use mentor texts to help students learn how to write for authentic audiences.

He argues this thesis by providing research based evidence, as well as, anecdotal observations.

He provides explanations of six pairs of authentic discourses, while stating there are many more than he could possibly mention. The six pairs he chose to focus on as part of what should be in any writing teacher’s classroom are:

  1. Express and Reflect
  2. Inform and Explain
  3. Evaluate and Judge
  4. Inquire and Explore
  5. Analyze and Interpret
  6. Take a Stand/Propose a Solution

He also briefly covers editing and revising, explaining how and why the two of these are very different steps in a writer’s process.

My Take Aways

Gallagher offers up so many examples—both of his own writing, mentor texts, and student writing—you can pick up the book and immediately have ideas to use in your own classroom.

I was already a big fan of “I do, we do, you do” in a classroom and Gallagher makes an even better argument in regards to writing instruction. My favorite (already tried—with varying levels of success) activities include:

  • Six Word Memoirs leading to longer Expressive and Reflexive writing
  • A Mistake that Should Last a Lifetime
  • “So What” Paper
  • Congrats Newly Minted _____ (Inform and Explain, great to teach/reinforce satire)
  • Sometimes You Can Judge a Book by Its Cover
  • the many ideas offered up about college and career writing
  • using mentor texts like written book reviews, columns from major publications, and many more
  • how to take this writing with real world applications and use it for literature (as so many of us teach reading and writing together)—I particularly like his use of the rating scale activity he uses for consumer products and transfers to literature like Animal Farm

Persuasive techniques, expository, narrative, and persuasive forms of writing are all covered, but in a way to encourage real world applications of such writing. His method of teaching grammar is also one I am hoping to incorporate into my classroom this year. I am always looking for ways to incorporate grammar into my classes and his method may be more effective than some I have tried.

Overall

I will read anything of Kelly Gallagher’s. He has not disappointed me yet. He includes real life “combat zone” examples and explanations, which are often more meaningful to me than research based data in the form of numbers and letters. He also writes in an easy to read style, with many metaphors and analogies to help make his ideas make sense. For me, this means he acknowledges, as we should as teachers to our students, his readers are as varied in understanding and knowledge and may need things presented in different ways.

Overall, I give this one a 5 star—any writing teacher, language arts teachers, or teacher in general who wants to incorporate MORE writing into their classroom should pick up this book and find some useful strategies.

Readers are Created, Not Born

We are all born without knowing how to read. It is a skill we must learn. And how do we learn most skills? We see others doing and we emulate. We make mistakes and we grow. As soon as we can hold a book, we begin imitating those who have read to us. We pretend to know how to read before we can read. We “fake it ’til we make it.”

Very few kindergartners will say they dislike reading. But, at the other end of the educational spectrum, high schoolers are quick to admit a deep dislike for reading and anything associated with reading. How do we go from being ready to try it before we can actually do it, to fearing it to the point of shutting down as soon as a book is placed in front of us?

To emulate, we must see it happen. Sadly, I have known some houses that do not have a single book inside of it. There are children being raised without knowing what a library is, let alone where it might be located. There are children who’s parents can’t read them to sleep, because they struggled with reading to the point of shutting down and calling it a “stupid waste of time.”

I often wonder how many parents end up regretting not being able to read their children to sleep. I think back to when my two girls, both in their teens now, were little and how much I enjoyed our story times. I would drop almost anything to read to my girls. I would cringe when MiniQ would ask me to re-read Cinderella Skeleton AGAIN, for what seemed like the millionth time, but I would never forgo it, because it was a book she loved.

I write this, because I know the power of books and reading. I was reminded of it again today. It is day two of school, the first full day on a regular schedule, and I always start my year off running. I don’t spend days one and two going over an endless list of rules or a syllabus. It’s ineffective, the kids tune out, and frankly, it never ends up doing much in the way of making things work more effectively or efficiently in my room. So, I get the kids busy on day one.

Today, I did a Book Browse. There are cooler names for this activity, but for the life of me I could NOT remember any of them today, so Book Browse it was titled. I had placed 4-5 books on each student table, which seats two students. With no direction except–1 book, 3 minutes, silent reading–I told the kids to pick a book and read it. After three minutes they wrote about their first impressions–did they like it, did they not like it, what sparked their interest, what stood out to them–and always, always, always EXPLAIN why! We did this for three different books.

Today’s class is almost exclusively boys and most are self proclaimed NON-readers.

The outcome:

  1. Every student had read at least ONE book that sparked their interest enough to possibly want to read it.
  2. Every student had read at least ONE book that they had STRONG opinions about.
  3. Every student read, silently, for three minutes each time.
  4. Every student took the time to write reflectively about their reactions to what they read.
  5. Every student eagerly spoke about something they had read to someone else in the class. Normally, when teenagers have a moment to write and not have to listen to the teacher, they begin the off topic chatter. Not this group. They wanted to talk books.

A few comments overheard:

Nope, I can’t do it. I cannot read another sentence of this book.

When I walked over to the young man in question, I asked him to show me the book. It was the second book and I assumed he just didn’t want to read anymore. Never assume! It was The Road to Oz and I told him how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of my all time favorite books. So, I asked what he meant by “Nope, I can’t read another sentence.” His reply,

The narrator knows too much. There’s no figuring out what the characters feel or think, because the narrator is telling us. It’s no fun.

Holy Buckets Batman! This is exactly the kind of thinking and discussing I long for teenagers to do and here this young man goes, doing it BEFORE I even require him to do it. Be still my heart!

And, normally this would be an oddity, but today’s class was FULL of this kind of thinking and discussing. Another young man pointed out how he got lost in the first paragraph of the second sentence. When I asked why he read it to me, it was from a Greg Iles book. The sentence in question used the word car, for an elevator. Because he had no experience of hearing or using the word car to describe an elevator, he was lost. And he knew it! The importance of vocabulary, anyone? He has provided me an authentic entry point to why vocabulary is important and what to do when we are tripped up by it.

So many more conversations took place and the kids are engaged and reading and discussing. I ended a very stressful (for other reasons) day in a moment of joy and happiness, because I have them hooked. Many have already requested one of the books they read today as their first independent reading. We did so much more during this full day and every minute counted!

I plan to do the same thing tomorrow and can’t wait to see the results.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday Salon (13)

Weather today…The hundred+ degree streak has been broken! It has been a seasonable mid-nineties summer day.

Summer Happenings: End of summer for me is today :-(!

I’m reading: 

I’m listening to: I don’t listen to audio books, usually. When I do, it’s always a book I have read before. I have to see the words myself to make complete sense of a text the first time. So, instead of audiobooks, I will share my iPod shuffled playlist for the week 🙂 ! I have been listening to Spotify a bit this week and have had the following running through my playlist:

Xx

Bruce Springsteen

Iron & Wine

Books finished this week:

None–I failed the Summer Reading Challenge miserably. I did NOT finish any book in the last two weeks :-(. In fact, I have not picked up a book for several days :-O.

Abandoned book: None this week

Scripture lesson: Today’s guiding verse:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30

I’m praying for: God to guide me in the new endeavors I am undertaking this year.

Around the house: Organizing for MiniQ’s attempts at online/homeschooling.

From the kitchen: Not much but a mish mash of leftovers and whatever’s in the fridge.

Fun event of the week: Perseid Meteor Shower last night!

A favorite quote this week:

Sunday Salon (13)

Weather today…When 97 degrees is a cool down…for a day…in between weeks worth of 100s…it’s not really a cool down!

Summer Happenings: Have started putting together some great stuff for my classroom this fall! Check out the new hall passes MiniQ designed and made for me!

I am spending quite a bit of time working on lesson plans for fall. I am also working (part time) for K12 online schools.

I’m reading: 

I’m listening to: I don’t listen to audio books, usually. When I do, it’s always a book I have read before. I have to see the words myself to make complete sense of a text the first time. So, instead of audiobooks, I will share my iPod shuffled playlist for the week 🙂 ! I have been listening to Spotify a bit this week and have had the following running through my playlist:

The Killers

Bruce Springsteen–my go to to pump up, slow down, or just be in the moment.

90s alternative

Books finished this week:

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

Abandoned book: None this week

Scripture lesson: We all know there is only one winner in a race. However, we all should approach the preparation and the race itself as if we were the winner. Today’s guiding verse:

I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. I Corinthians 9:23-24

I’m praying for: Everyone

Around the house: Much crafting going on getting ready for the new school year.

From the kitchen: Roasted Sticky Chicken, Baked Potatoes, & Asparagus

Fun event of the week: Spending time with a friend who will be leaving soon.

A favorite quote this week:

Sunday Salon (12)

Weather today…The heat is pervasive. The wind from earlier this week, which made it a bit more bearable, has left. 😦

Summer Happenings: Just a bit of relaxation. Not much of anything going on, just having fun.

I am spending quite a bit of time working on lesson plans for fall. I am also working (part time) for K12 online schools.

I’m reading: 

I’m listening to: I don’t listen to audio books, usually. When I do, it’s always a book I have read before. I have to see the words myself to make complete sense of a text the first time. So, instead of audiobooks, I will share my iPod shuffled playlist for the week 🙂 ! I have been listening to Spotify a bit this week and have had the following running through my playlist:

The Puppini Sisters Radio on Pandora! LOVE IT!

Books finished this week:

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith – Review coming soon!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente – Review coming soon!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Review coming soon!

Abandoned book: This one I will come back to, but I am just not in the mood to finish it right now.

  • Kate Remembered by A. Scott Berg (I really want to finish this one, BUT I might let it go if I don’t finish it by next week)

Scripture lesson: God wants YOU to be YOU. Why pretend? Why try to fit into a mold in our minds or the mind’s of others? Today’s guiding verse:

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10 NIV)

I’m praying for: The friends and family affected by the tragedy in Aurora, CO this week.

Around the house: MiniQ washed the car. I fixed our leaky toilet!

From the kitchen: BBQ Ribs, jasmine rice pilaf, asparagus

Fun event of the week: Spending time with a friend who will be leaving soon.

A favorite quote this week:

Currently Reading

I am currently reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I picked it up @ the bookstore last weekend. I love circuses. I love love stories. I love black and white and red color schemes. I am on page 354. And if one of them dies, or has to die, I am going to be majorily pissed!

#justsayin’

image

RC: Once Upon a Read-a-Thon (3)

Sponsored by Reading Angel.

Goals Met:

I finished Unholy Night and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which means I finished 2 of the 4 I had intended.

I did not get as much finished because my part time teaching job was a bit more busy than originally planned. So, if you count all the essays I read…LOL

RC: Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Update (2)

I signed up for this challenge over at Reading Angel.

Books Completed: 1

Mini-Challenges Completed: 3

Here are my Goals & Updates:

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

Finished this morning! I stayed up past midnight, but wanted to wait to read the last 20ish pages this morning. Right when Balthazar and the man who turned him in the Antioch Ghost meet up for the first time in 9 years. I will be posting a review soon!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

Beginning this one now. My first impressions, just from the title–I really want to know what the ship of her own making was, what spurred her to travel around fairyland, and to begin with-what is SHE doing in fairyland. I can’t wait! This one is on my TTT list for this week as well–All about Fairy Tales & Retellings!

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
Cane River by Lalita Tademy

I may add one or two more after I hit the library tomorrow.

Check out today’s mini challenges @ Kindle Fever & Stiletto Storytime (will update when SS updates their mini-challenge):

Kindle Fever Bookish Fight Mini-Challenge Answer:

It’s a fight between Bridget Jones (totally lacking any real feminist qualities) and Lizzie Bennet (not completely a feminist, but definitely not moonstruck lovey dovey as BJ is). The fight takes place primarily through a letter writing/instant messaging campaign:

EB: One ought consider the outward appearance of one’s actions towards gentlemen, if such a word can be used to describe YOUR Mr. Darcy. Such outright brash behavior will only encourage trouble to follow.

BJ (does anyone else see what I see in those initials???): Yeah, well, we can’t all be as uptight and stuck up as you. Some of us don’t have the beauty you have to even get the men, including YOUR Mr. Darcy, to look at us.

TBC…

Top Ten Tuesday (15) – All Things Fairy Tales!

This week is a FREEBIE topic. Yay! Because of a recent trip to the library and one to the movies, I have decided to do a TTT post on retellings/fractured fairy tales.

Don’t forget to participate in the Top Ten Tuesday post from The Broke and the Bookish. They always have such great post ideas.

Photo Credit: Camaryn

Having read such retellings as Ella Enchanted and Wicked, I am always on the lookout for new fairy tales and retellings. The books below are my top ten to be read.

1. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

The story of Wicked drew me into reading adult fairy tales/retellings like no other. I fell in love with Elphaba and felt shame at the way she had been treated. Of course I want to read the story of Cinderella’s misunderstood stepsister!

2. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Wonderland Exists!
Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, was forced to flee through the Pool of Tears after a bloody palace coup staged by the murderous Redd.

I am all about Alice–and who wouldn’t want to read this one! It is a series and I plan on getting the first one on my next visit to the library.

3. The Fairy Godmother (Five Hundred Kingdoms #1) by Mercedes Lackey

My foray into the world of science fiction/fantasy reading is recent and spurred on by a friend. I received many recommendations and Mercedes Lackey was one of the most frequent recommendations for fantasy and her Five Hundred Kingdom series sounds like just the ticket.

4. The Storyteller’s Daughter: A Retelling of The Arabian Nights by Cameron Dokey

I saw Winter’s Child: A Retelling of The Snow Queen in Barnes and Noble a few months ago and thought I should check out the series. I picked The Storyteller’s Daughter because I love the story of The Arabian Nights and can’t wait to read a retelling!

5. Impossible by Nancy Werlin

A modern fairy tale using the song Scarborough Fair as a curse. Very interesting indeed!

6. Sweetly: Fairytale Retellings #2 by Jackson Pearce

I haven’t read Sisters Red, which I also want to read, but this one–a Hansel/Gretel retelling sounds too good to put off.

7. Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

This is all over the book blog world right now. I have seen many reviews and can no longer put it off. I saw it at my library and almost grabbed it last week, but a young girl beat me too it. Soon!

8. Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst

Julie’s mom, Zel, told stories about the fairy tale creatures “in the wild.” What happens when she discovers them for real? I can’t wait to read this one!

9. Wicked Lovely #1 by Melissa Marr

Faerie intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr’s stunning 21 st century faery tale.

10. Cloaked by Alex Flinn

A curse. A frognapping. A “hot” princess. And a boy who just wants to repair shoes. Yep, definitely on my to be read list.
I could keep going forever with the list of fairy tales–modern, classic, and retellings. They are one of my favorite reads!

Leave me a comment with:

  1. A recommendation for a book I DON’T have listed,
  2. A link to a review for one of the books I have listed, and/or
  3. Your favorite retellings/modern tales.

RC: Once Upon a Read-a-Thon (1)

It’s time for my first short challenge. I signed up for this challenge over at Reading Angel.

I have decided to tackle the following books during this 3 day read-a-thon:

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

Currently on page 91 now on page 163 and will be up for awhile : Haven’t read as much as possible today because 1) I had to do work for my part time online teaching job, 2) had an appointment I inadvertently scheduled today, and 3) created this post…

I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

I may add one or two more after I hit the library tomorrow.

Check out today’s mini challenges @ Between the Pages & IBBookBlogging.

The IBBookBlogging Mini-Challenge Answers:

Question 1:

What is your favorite cover that has been revealed this summer and why? Post a link or picture of the cover if you want.

I have yet to read Cinder. It was checked out of the library right before I could grab it. But, it’s on my TBR list and when I saw the cover for this one, I knew it would be on my TBR too! They did such a great job with the cover of Cinder and this one is just as good. The simplicity and boldness makes it stand out.

Question 2:

Do you rely on the cover to help you choose whether you want to read a book or not?

I try not to judge books by their covers, but it is the first thing that draws me in if I have never heard of the book and/or author before. Also, a recent trend I have seen and am not fond of–using real models for covers–often turn me off of a book. I don’t like having models on the cover, because it does not allow me to build the character as fully in my own mind. And, sometimes, the models look NOTHING like what the characters should look like.