Writing Every Day in Every Content Area
Reviewed by Linda Biondi
I love to write. Otherwise, I would not be writing book reviews. As literacy teachers, we want our students to inherit a love of writing, but all too often the invitation to write is disregarded or forgotten.
The title of this book intrigued me. Smuggling Writing: Strategies that get students to write every day in every content area. How could I get my students to write more and enjoy it? Will they want to write every day and look forward to continuing the next day? Will they realize that I am “smuggling in” writing?
The authors of this book have thought of everything. Even before you view the lessons and become acquainted with the many strategies and activities they share, a matrix unifies the strategies, literacy strands, samples, lessons, digital applications and Common Core State Standards. The matrix takes the angst out of thinking: “Which strategy should I use? Is there one that I can access right away? What standard will it address?”
Not just for teachers of writing
This book is not just a book for teachers of writing but for all literacy teachers. By that I mean, all teachers. We all integrate literacy into our curriculum: math, science, socials studies. And there are lessons that address these areas of the curriculum.
I have decided that I like the number “32” because 32 is the number of ready-to-use strategies that are provided in the book. Each has a rationale, a description, and corresponding samples. Each strategy follows the format:
- Digital Applications
- Procedures (teacher preparation, prereading, reading and postreadng stages)
- Smuggling Writing
- Sample Lessons (for Traditional and Digital Applications)
- Standards-Based Connections
Section 1 was the answer to one of my dreams. I have to be honest: I love to “snoop” in other classrooms and observe what they are doing. I want to be the best teacher that I can be so I often download videos on the internet that show “Best Practices” in teaching. I am a professional learning junkie!
So when the first chapter began with a scenario playing out inside a middle grades classroom, I was delighted. Thanks to the authors’ clever writing style, I was able to take the persona of students in each of the scenarios in the book.
Finding your inner pirate
The authors have a unique way of writing that makes you feel as if you are part of the chapter and are viewing the scenario as either the teacher or the student. As I read Chapter One’s scenario and accompanying lesson, I learned more about teaching and how to help the students in my class.
Again, the truth! I was jealous of the students in Ms. Miller’s class as they each used the “Prezi Reading Road Map” to connect to a National Geographic website to navigate the desert. I knew that this lesson was worth keeping. Even if I did not teach about the desert, I could adapt the lesson to any geographic region we studied. I loved the “detours” Ms. Miller provided the students as they traveled on their “Reading Road Map.” She had video links for students who had difficulty understanding the material and images for English Language Learners to view to help foster understanding. What a fantastic lesson…and this was just one lesson of many!
The word “smuggled” conjures a picture in my mind of a kindhearted pirate with an eye patch over one eye, searching for gold, diamonds and rubies. I picture myself as the “Lady Pirate” (minus the eye patch) who smuggles in the jewels of writing into every subject area. I am sailing on the “high seas” of teaching going from port to port (subject to subject), sneaking in a passion for writing without my students realizing it!
As you read this book, YOU can be that teacher who inspires students to want to write and not just for the sake of completing an assignment. You can be the teacher who inspires students to break out of their writing comfort zone and take a risk.
Both digital and paper options
Many professional books offer either digital or written plans or activities. This up-to-date book meets all criteria. Students are given choices in each strategy lesson to use either digital or written text. With the trend toward one-to-one computer classrooms, the digital connection is an added bonus.
I just wish I had read this book in September. There are so many ideas and samples that I want to infuse into my classroom teaching, so many strategies that would have positively impacted my students’ learning. Alas, I can’t go back in time. But I did start applying ideas and lessons from the authors’ vast literacy repertoire as soon as I began the book. My students’ reaction? “Is that from the book you are reading? Cool! Can we do it again?” What better recommendation than that?
I loved the authors’ style and purpose so much that I ordered Mining Complex Text, Grades 2-5: Using and Creating Graphic Organizers to Grasp Content and Share New Understandings. I can’t wait!
Linda Biondi is a fourth grade teacher at Sharon Elementary School in Robbinsville, NJ, and a long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She’s also the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel. Linda participates in ECET2 Celebrate Teaching which has posted an interview with her.