Literally Speaking

Winter 2017-2018

New Ideas for Celebrations

It's important to let students celebrate their hard work at the end of a unit, but you don't want to do the same type of celebration every time. Here are some ideas to spice up your writing celebrations:

Suggestions from Teacher's College Summer Institute:
Celebrate the work that was done throughout the unit and not just the final piece. One suggestion for a writing celebration was to have students mingle to music while holding their finished piece. When the music stopped, they were to find the person nearest to them and do as instructed by the teachers. Here are some examples:

  • Share a favorite part. Read it aloud.
  • Share a place where you did a lot of revision. What was this part like before? After?
  • Share a challenge you experienced with this piece. How did you handle it?
  • Complete this sentence: “I used to be the kind of writer who… I now am the kind of writer who…"
  • Other ways to celebrate:
  • Class sits together and each student reads out a favorite line, ending, etc. (Lifting a Line)
  • Pick a line from your partner’s piece and you read it
  • Send it out in the world to someone you wrote about or who might be interested in the piece
  • Pair up with a school or class, put pieces online and blog about thoughts
  • Write an author blurb about your partner
  • Conduct author interviews


MIddletown Township Schools has their own young published author. Sarah Jessica Curtis is currently a junior at High School North. The seed for her novel was planted way back in 8th grade. Her 8th grade Language Arts teacher at Thorne Middle School assigned a project for the students to develop their own myth or legend. As time went by, the story never left her. Over the next few years, she kept thinking about it, and developed it into a full novel. WIth a lot of hard work and dedication, Ms. Curtis pursued a dream of becoming a published author.

Ms. Curtis’s Silent Silhouettes is YA horror/paranormal. It can be purchased through Amazon and Barnes and Noble in Holmdel.

For more information on Ms. Curtis and her Silent Silhouettes, please click on her website.

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Reading Nonfiction

In A Guide to the Reading Workshop by Lucy Calkins and Mary Ehrenworth, there is a chapter titled “What Does Research Say Adolescent Readers Need?” In this chapter, a study by Goodwin and Miller (2012/13) found that the average child in the United States spends just four minutes a day reading nonfiction.

In another study, Allington (2002) reported that “most kids by this age read nonfiction two levels below the level they read in fiction.” It is critical for students to increase the time spent reading nonfiction in order to strengthen their general knowledge. This general knowledge has a close relationship to the students’ ability to comprehend complex nonfiction texts. Students who read a great deal of nonfiction gain knowledge about the world as well as about vocabulary.

One activity to try is to pair fiction and nonfiction with similar topics from the same author. Students can compare and contrast them by asking: What does fiction offer? What does nonfiction offer? What are the benefits or drawbacks to each genre? Is one more effective than the other and why?

Another way to infuse nonfiction into your classroom is to utilize Kelly Gallagher’s Article of the Week (AoW) into your plans. This doc explains the process.

Before the Next i-Ready Assessment

The second window for i-Ready is January 8 through February 2. Remember, motivation and engagement play a vital role in the results of the diagnostic. Consider a friendly competition among you classes. The class that shows the most growth wins bragging rights!

There are a few items we can all go over before the next i-Ready assessment in order to help students to do their best. Aside from the big-ticket items such as theme, central idea, text evidence, and evaluating argument, here are a few items the students often encounter on i-Ready:

  • Synonyms and antonyms

  • Common roots and affixes

  • Using context to find word meaning

  • Multiple-meaning words

  • Metaphor, simile, personification, and hyperbole

  • Mood vs. tone

  • Fact vs. opinion