Writing through the Tween Years: Supporting Writers, Grades 3-6
Publication Type:Web Article
Year of Publication:2005
WRITING THROUGH THE TWEEN YEARS: SUPPORTING WRITERS, GRADES 3-6
Juli Kendall, a California literacy teacher, reviews this book that “organizes strategies by describing what proficient writers do: determine what is important I the text, draw inferences, use prior knowledge, ask questions, monitor meaning and comprehension,” etc. The book includes humorous anecdotes from the teachers’ own classroom experiences.
Category: Book Reviews, Classroom Practice
Citation: Morgan, B. & Odom, D. (2004). Writing through the tween years: Supporting writers, grades 3-6. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.
Author: Bruce Morgan, Deb Odom
Date of Publication: 2005Link: http://www.teacherleaders.org/old_site/Resources/bkreviews3.html#08
By Bruce Morgan with Deb Odom
2004 (160 pp./paperback)
by Juli Kendall
Long Beach (CA) Unified School District
While I read lots of professional books, Writing Through
the Tween Years was one I could hardly put down. Bruce
Morgan is such an engaging writer that I kept wanting more.
I think he won me over when on page 2 he wrote:
The impetus for writing this book was our state testing program.
My colleagues and I felt we had begun to teach to the
test instead of teaching effectively. The sad part was
that our writing scores weren't going up as a result of
test preparation madness.
We had to take a hard look at our practices and face our
fears that we weren't good enough or didn't know enough
to be teaching writing well. It's not easy having confidence
as a teacher in these times....
What teacher hasn't felt this way?
Bruce and his teaching colleagues drew up new standards for assessing
writing and used what they learned from assessment to shape
their own instruction. They also renewed their focus on
the basics of writers' workshop: student choice, teacher
modeling, revision, and using quality children's literature
as mentor text.
Becoming pro-active renewed Bruce's confidence in his own teaching.
"I can't change the testing," he writes in the
Introduction. "I am not a victim, however, and I can
change the weight and the scope of that testing in my classroom."
Bruce's sense of humor is contagious, and there are wonderful classroom
anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book. My favorite is the
one about "the evil gerbil." He writes:
Our classroom was quite the menagerie. Twenty-nine fifth graders,
one harried teacher, two fish tanks, a litter-box-trained
rabbit named Magic, and our evil, hateful gerbil, Spud.
Spud was a good match for that room. He was nicknamed "Fang"
because there was nobody in the room he hadn't bitten.
When kids yelled after being bitten, you could count on
hearing a low "Another One Bites the Dust" chant from
the corners of the room.
Early in the year, in a futile effort to stop the flow of blood
from her finger, a student had allowed Spud to drop to
the floor. He wouldn't use his leg for the rest of the
day so Jenny, whose mom was a vet, took him home that
night on the bus. After that, watching him run around
with his tiny leg cast was enough to make even me feel
a tinge of sympathy for him.
At the back of Writing Thorugh the Tween Years you'll
find a list of "Strategies Used by Proficient Learners"
developed by Ellin Keene that includes strategies for writing.
It was Mosaic of Thought, the book Keene co-wrote
with Susan Zimmermann, that introduced me to teaching comprehension
in reading. What's different about this list is that it
includes writing. She organizes the strategies by describing
what proficient writers do:
•Determine What is Important in Text
• Draw Inferences
• Use Prior Knowledge (Schema)
• Ask Questions
• Monitor Meaning and Comprehension
• Use Fix-Up Strategies
• Synthesize Information
• Use Sensory Images
So if you agree that it's not easy having confidence as a teacher
of writing in these times, or you just want to read more
about the adventures of Spud the Evil Gerbil, take advantage
of the fact you can currently sample this book online by
reading Chapter 1, Understanding
Tween Writers. I'm betting that you'll be like me —
you'll want a copy for yourself and you'll give to one to