Literally Speaking

Summer 2018

Book Spotlight: Mechanically Inclined

Come June, every ILA teacher will receive a copy of Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson. As we all know, grammar is an area of need for our students, and our new curriculum is going to ensure that we incorporate it into our instruction.

Mechanically Inclined focuses on 4 key elements in his teaching:

  • Short daily instruction in grammar and mechanics within writer's workshop
  • Using high quality mentor texts to teach grammar and mechanics in context
  • Visual scaffolds, including wall charts, and visual cues that can be pasted into writer's workshop
  • Regular, short routines, like "express-lane edits," that help students spot and correct errors automatically

Anderson says that the "ten minutes or so of writer's workshop I reserve for grammar and mechanics instruction needs to be filtered through these questions: How in this grammar and mechanics issue also a craft issue, and can I use it to generate some authentic text?"

As we move to 60 minute blocks, it is important that we spend a lot of time thinking about how we are going to fit in the instruction that we know is vital for our students' success. This book will give us a variety of tools to help us integrate grammar lessons into the workshop model.

A study guide for Mechanically Inclined

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Reading Communities

One of the goals that we as Language Arts teachers have is to promote and develop lifelong readers in our students. One way to do that is to show students not only how vital reading is, but also that readers share their reading experiences with other readers Reading is not something that you come to school to do and “get it over with.” Or, read for the prescribed 20 minutes at home and “get it over with.” Readers don’t abruptly stop their reading because the timer dinged. Reading isn’t something that readers do just to “get it over with.” Readers read because it brings joy into their lives. Readers live to read. And, they thrive off of other readers and their experiences.


Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild discusses the idea of pushing the reading community in the school. If we want life long readers, we have to show students that reading is embraced by the entire community--school and home. Miller states, “Society benefits when more people read, but we have to show that our culture values it” (pg 91). To show how much we value reading, Miller suggests several ways to foster a strong reading community in the building. Many of the ideas are simple things that can easily be initiated. One idea is to offer a Student Book of the Month. Students can give a brief commercial for a book they really enjoy over the loudspeaker during morning announcements. Another is to place “I am currently reading…” signs on teacher doors. For example, Mrs. Smith is currently reading The Fault in Our Stars. This idea should include all faculty. Students should see that all teachers in the building read, not just the Language Arts teachers. When children are immersed in a school culture, surrounded by all faculty and other students, who support reading, it sends the message that reading is important. It is valuable. Developing a strong, supportive reading community is meant to build up the reader and bring reading into their lives, not just in school, but, in home as well.


For more information on fostering and building strong reading communities, please regard Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the WIld.


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June Survival Guide

In light of our extended end of year, here are a few ideas that will help us survive June!


  • Have 6th grade students write themselves a letter. Give them some prompts to write about: one thing they are proud of from this year, one thing they would like to do differently next year, one thing they want to remember, and so on. Give them back to kids at the end of 8th grade.

  • Have your current students write letters of advice for the new students you will teach next year. What advice would they give on how to “survive” or do well in your classroom? What are the hardest parts of the course? Note – if you have any special traditions or “surprise” activities you don’t want students to spoil, make sure to tell them ahead of time.

  • Have students work in small groups to come up with a Top Ten List about the year. Students can be as serious or as funny as they wish in presenting their lists to the class. Teachers gain valuable information on what the student found meaningful about the school year.

  • Progressive Writing- Have every student take out a sheet of paper and have them all write the first sentence (or two, or three) of a story. Then have them pass it on and pick up where the last student left off. Keep going until you have a class set of unique stories. One variation of this is to give everyone the exact same sentence to start with, and see how many directions the different stories take.

  • Found Poetry- This is a method of writing poetry where you begin with a text that’s already written, such as a page out of a book the student is reading. By cutting words from that text or marking out everything but a few words (Blackout Poetry), students can uncover some pretty fantastic poetry.

  • Top 10 Favorite End-of-Year Lessons by Laura Randazzo

  • Thumbprint Self Portrait