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Monday, August 22

3 Reasons Graphic Organizers for Writing are the Secret Sauce to Writing Block Bliss


What is the one sound that you do not want to hear during your writers’ workshop? The sound of nothing. During a writers’ workshop, we want to hear our students' pencils dashing back and forth to fill their pages with their ideas. At writers’ workshop time we want to hear students flipping another page to continue writing and sharing their thoughts on paper. What we teachers do not want to hear during a writers’ workshop block, is the sound of nothing. If no pencils are moving and no pages are flipping, then no writing is happening. So why does this happen so often during our writers’ workshop blocks? There are many reasons that students may not be writing at writing time. From reluctant writers to good old fashion writer's block, there are many reasons our students can struggle to put pencil to paper during writers’ workshops. However, these reasons can all be resolved with one teaching strategy that saved my writers’ workshop many years ago, using graphic organizers for writing. The year I started using graphic organizers for writing was the year that everything changed in my writers’ workshop. Room 204 went from a silent writers’ workshop to one filled with the sounds of scribbling pencils and pages turning to add more ideas. Want to learn how I implemented graphic organizers for writing with my students? Read more to learn my top three reasons why graphic organizers for writing are the secret sauce to writing block bliss!



The thinking in my school community during my first few years of teaching was that graphic organizers for writing were used only as a differentiation tool for below-benchmark students. This is a fine idea, however, I am in the camp of providing differentiation tools and support to all the learners in my classroom. So, I began using graphic organizers for writing in my writers’ workshop mini-lessons and independent practice times. The difference was amazing! Students at all benchmark levels were producing higher-quality writing pieces and moving through the writing process with more ease! Let’s explore why providing all students with graphic organizers for writing was and continues to be such a game changer. Want to learn more about setting up your best writers workshop ever? CLICK HERE to read my blog post now!

Tip #1 in my 3 Reasons Graphic Organizers for Writing are the Secret Sauce to Writing Block Bliss: Organizational Skills


Many elementary students struggle with organizational skills. We see this in the crumpled papers spilling out of the backpacks and the missing assignment hiding in the deep trenches of their desks. So it’s easy to imagine that their organizational struggles would carry over into their academic work as well. Crafting and producing a well-organized piece of writing is a challenging skill. Graphic organizers for writing help students organize their thinking. Learners at all levels benefit from the support that graphic organizers for writing provide because it helps to clarify their ideas and where those ideas belong in their story. Once students have clarity in the organization of their writing piece, they feel successful and want to elaborate and expand their writing. This one simple change of teaching with and providing graphic organizers for writing to all students helps them stay organized and produce clear higher quality work. Looking for more tips on how to help your students have organizational success in writing this year? CLICK HERE to read my blog post about the best way to set up your writer's notebooks now. 

Tip #2 in my 3 Reasons Graphic Organizers for Writing are the Secret Sauce to Writing Block Bliss: Helping Reluctant Writers


One of the main reasons that students become reluctant writers is because the task of writing is completely overwhelming. Staring at a blank piece of paper is intimidating to many learners. Graphic organizers for writing take the intimidation factor down and the engagement factor up. Our students are children, after all, they should be excited to share their thoughts and ideas, and having visually appealing writing paper (graphic organizers for writing) is just the ticket! When students see the task of writing a conclusion broken down into small boxes or doodles with explanations the giant task is suddenly more manageable. The overwhelming expectation is suddenly doable and students will rise to the occasion now that they have the proper tools. For this reason, graphic organizers for writing will always be my go-to writing tool to help reluctant writers.

Tip #3 in my 3 Reasons Graphic Organizers for Writing are the Secret Sauce to Writing Block Bliss: Dive Deep and Improve Those Skills!


A common misconception is that graphic organizers for writing should only be used for reluctant writers and below-benchmark students. Graphic organizers for writing should be used for all levels of learners! Graphic organizers for writing provide amazing opportunities for students to dive deep and improve their skills. For example, you may have students who are capable of writing a story introduction, however, those skills can always be improved. Why not take our students from good writers to great writers? Take that skill of writing an introduction and break it down into bite-sized pieces. Use your graphic organizers for writing to hone in on each component of a strong introduction and make those components the best they can be. When we use graphic organizers for writing with all of our students, we have the tools to break down the writing process into smaller chunks and writing skills. This allows us to deep dive into specific writing skills and vastly improve the quality of our students' writing. Looking to explore the graphic organizers for writing that I use in my writers’ workshop? Click HERE to explore them now!

Are you ready to get rocking, rolling, and writing with your own writers’ workshop? Then be sure to download my writing workshop checklist and launch your best writers’ workshop now! CLICK HERE to download.


Monday, August 1

How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Readers Response Journals Right Now


How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Reader's Response Journals Right Now: What is Reading Comprehension?

Before we can answer the question of how to improve reading comprehension: let’s first discuss what reading comprehension is. Reading comprehension is the ability of the reader to understand and interpret the text that they are reading. In order to comprehend a text, our students must be having intentional interactions with the text. Simply put, in order for our students to understand (comprehend) what they are reading we must make sure they are reading a level-appropriate text and taking their time to read with purpose and meaning.


How to Improve Reading Comprehension with Reader's Response Journals Right Now: Use Reader's Response Journals

Now that we have established that intentional interactions with stories are crucial for answering our question, of how to improve reading comprehension, we have a new question to answer. How can we teach our students to read with purpose and intention? The answer is actually simpler than you might think, reader's response journals. Reader's response journals and notebooks are a place where students will reflect and respond to what they are reading in their text. This can happen in the form of prompted questions about character traits or graphic organizers about the story plot. There are many ways to set up and create reader's response notebooks (you can read my top tips for creating reader's response entries by CLICKING HERE NOW). Whether you use prompts or graphic organizers, the result is the same, reader's response journals cause our students to pause and think about their reading. When we ask our learners to stop and reflect on what they have been reading, it gives their minds a moment to digest the text and aids their understanding and reading comprehension. 


Another reason that I love using reader's response journals to boost reading comprehension is to deepen character understanding. When we ask students to write and respond to questions about the characters in their texts, we promote deep thinking and pondering about our characters. Why do they do what they do? Why do they dress the way that they dress or behave the way that they do? When students have to write a reading response entry on a character in their story, they have to get to know them better to clearly develop, write, and share their thoughts about the character. This leads to increased student reading comprehension!

The final answer to our question, how to improve reading comprehension with reading response journals is increased memory. One reason that many students struggle with reading comprehension is that they are unable to remember events and important tidbits that previously happened in their text. If you don’t remember where you were, how can you understand where you are now? Let's look at an example. My text briefly discussed the childhood importance of my character's locket necklace and the events that unfolded around her receiving that necklace. If I did not pause to mentally log the importance of this as I was reading, how can I develop a deep understanding of my character's changes and transformations throughout the storyline? 


We can all agree that pausing and reading with purpose is crucial for increasing student reading comprehension, but how can we be sure our students are slowing down to remember important events from their text? With reader's response journals. The key here is having our students write about their reading. The act of physically writing something down increases the sensory information that is sent to the brain. This increased sensory information gives our hippocampus an increased likelihood of storing the information for a longer period of time. Technical talk aside friends, if we want to increase our students' reading comprehension skills, we have got to get them to write about their reading in a reading response notebook. 


Are you ready to start using reader’s response journals with your students? CLICK HERE to explore my favorite reader’s response journals now!