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Writing

How writers write

Lately I've been spending lots of time in my car. This week while driving around I was fortunate enough to hear two children's authors talk about their craft and what writing means to them. I love to discover how authors write, what inspires them, and how hard they work at their craft.

'Tis the season, again!

Was it really a year ago that I wrote this post about feeling frenzied and guilty about the lack of quality reading and writing time at our house? Because it's happening again! And once again I realize that my girls ARE engaged in reading and writing. It just looks different this time of year.

Here what we're doing, language arts style, to get ready for the holidays:

How young is too young for cursive?

My friend Cathy called to talk about her daughter's first grade teacher. Lilly, her six year old, started complaining about school a few weeks ago, and over the past two weeks the situation has gotten steadily worse. Cathy finally coaxed it out of Lilly that the problem is all about handwriting. Lilly's teacher requires that all school assignments, including spelling tests, be written in cursive. In cursive! In first grade! Lilly's handwriting is apparently not up to par, and she's had to do lots of extra practice sheets to work on her cursive writing.

No more Friday spelling tests!

I think I'll open a can of worms this week and declare that teachers should abandon the age-old practice of Friday spelling tests. You know the routine (because you went to elementary school, and it hasn't changed): students get new words on Monday, "practice" them during the week using various drills; they take a test on Friday, and then on Monday, misspell the words and all the other words that share that spelling feature.

Using volunteers in the classroom

Sometimes parent volunteers require a lot of extra work for a teacher. Other times, parents work as a second set of hands but don't really work one-on-one with kids. Somewhere in the middle is a setting in which the time flies by with both the volunteer and the students benefitting from spending time together.

Pen pals, old school style

On the last day of school, Anna came home with a stamped envelope from her kindergarten teacher. Mrs. Z had offered to be pen pals over the summer with kids from her class. By 4:00 that day (the last day of school, after getting home at 3:00), Anna had written her first pen pal letter.

In case I forgot…

…how to make Anna's favorite lunch, she left me these directions, taped to the oven door handle. I particularly like step number 7: Serve and enjoy.

As a parent, I love finding writing samples around the house. They're everywhere! We've got notes taped to the guest room door, over the hooks for their backpacks, and on one particularly industrious Saturday morning the girls labeled the playroom bins with "Polly Pockets," "train tracks," and "other small stuff."

Dyslexia: A primer

I love the Florida Center for Reading Research. The center is directed by Barbara Foorman and Joe Torgesen. And no one that works there must need sleep! They're always cranking out really good reports and publications. It's one of the first places I go when researching something.

Can Santa read this?

We're still reading and writing around our house, with Anna adding to her list each day. Because of this, I'll be busy right up until the last minute trying to figure out what a few of these things might be!

Happy holidays to you — thanks for reading Sound It Out this year, and I look forward to next year! We'll have lots to talk about, including infusing technology into literacy instruction, analyzing student spelling, using text sets to motivate reluctant readers, summer reading, and writing instruction for all students. See you then!

'Tis the season to read and write

Like everyone, we're in for a busy couple of weeks. Our homework and storytime routines sometimes get pushed aside, and at first I was feeling guilty about that. But when I think about how the girls are spending their time, there's plenty of reading, writing, and math going on...it just looks different! Here's how Anna spent her afternoon yesterday on the computer:

Dear Santa,

Pages

"You may have tangible wealth untold. Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me." — Strickland Gillilan