Tag Archives: Reading Writing Workshop

Pull Up a Chair!


Reading conferences begin today. We’ve been in school for two weeks, and I’m anxious to start. A handful of my students have already read two books, some have completed one, and others are plodding through that first one.

I’m using Remind and trying out the new Chat feature. I was skeptical because I didn’t want students abusing that, but, so far, it’s been amazing! On Monday evening of this week, from a self-professed non-reader, I received this message:

“Non-reader”: I’m just finished my book.

Me: Are you serious, _____? I’m so proud of you!

“Non-reader”: Thank you

I talked to him the next day. He’s a student I had in 8th grade, and he’s now a junior repeating his sophomore English. I knew he’d read that book in 8th grade, but I also knew he had not read a book in three years. I stopped him in the hall on Tuesday and asked him, “Well, what did you think of the book?”

He replied, “It was great!”

“You read it in 8th grade, right?”

“Yes, but I really understood it this time,” he replied.

You see, it’s ok to read a book more than once. They remember that reading “rule” from my eighth grade classroom. Granted, this book, The Barrio Kings, by William Kowalski was a mere 138 pages, but for, this “non-reader”, he finished a book before most of his peers who claim to be readers. What a boost to his morale! He’s already on his second book. I can’t wait to talk to him today about how it’s going.

I had another student message me last night. She’s in my Honors English III class, but guess what I’m finding? These students who elected to be in Honors English don’t consider themselves readers anymore either. This particular student is new to me. I didn’t have her in my 8th grade class, but I’ve already grown to love her renewed reader spirit. Here’s pieces of her message to me after finishing We Were Liars by E. Lockhart:


Me: And?! On a scale of 1-5…

M: Definitely a 5!

She goes on to tell how she couldn’t believe how the book turned out and what she was actually reading wasn’t what she thought she was reading. All the while, I’m nodding and saying, “YES!” because I read the book and know how she felt. And then….

Me: I’m so glad you stuck with it. I think it’s brilliant!

M: Wow! I’m so glad I picked this book as my first. I, M_____, (who hated reading), want to read a lot more.

Me: Awww! Really? I would have no idea you hated reading.

M: I used to, yes. I am guilty. BUT, only because I didn’t like the books I was reading. But now, it’s getting easier for me and I really love it!

So, with the help of Remind, I have figuratively pulled up that conferencing chair with two of my students already. Today, after they finish their Membean quizzes, I will literally pull up my chair and ask questions like “What’s going on in your book?” “On a scale of 1-5, what would you rate the book right now?” “You’re close to being finished. It’s a long weekend. What do you have on your ‘To Be Read’ list?” “Have you noticed any of the Notice and Note Signposts?”

I love this part of my job. It’s really the icing on the cake. It’s a time to connect with a student and find out more about how I can motivate him or her. It’s somewhat magical.

I do like magic, especially the magic that exists when that reluctant reader finds that “just right” book.

Individual reading record sheet 3rd week 2014-15


To everything – turn, turn, turn…


To everything – turn, turn, turn
There is a season – turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

I remember hearing this song by The Byrds on my mom’s little transistor radio. Snuggled up next to her in bed with her cool fingers stroking my forehead, my six-year old self somehow knew that these words were timeless. As timeless as the Bible verses in Ecclesiastes on which the lyrics were  based. Because Mama loved the song, so did I, which seemed to be the pattern 95% of the time.

Speaking of time, I let my blog languish for too long. Several reminders have hit me recently, and I realize that I cannot let any more time slip away. Recently, during the summer, I’ve conducted some professional development sessions for various districts and schools. At three of these, someone asked me to talk about my blog. Yeah, I had the whole “deer in the headlights” look. Each time this happened, I did a bit of self-talk and vowed to post….tomorrow…and, then, the tomorrow after that… and… Well, you get the picture.

writing meme

All it took for me to get off my butt and write (wait…I’m sitting while writing, so…) was a pint-sized, giant-hearted, word-loving, passion-inspiring girl named Jessica. You see, Jessica was my student last year in my English II Pre-AP class. While she was all of those hyphenated adjectives I used above, she came to me without a lot of self-confidence when it came to reading and writing. As a matter of fact, she might have even been a little whiny when I set out my expectations. Scratch that…she was whiny! Little and whiny, much like a gnat, but so much cuter.

Eventually, Jessica came into her “own” as far as believing in her abilities to read deeply and voluminously and to write beautiful and profound pieces. When the switch turned on, she no longer whined about reading; she juggled her busy schedule (powerlifting, cheer-leading, Spanish Club, and more) to meet the weekly goal of pages she set for herself. With her confidence growing, she found ways that she could use her writing to change the world, culminating in a school-wide fundraiser to raise money for veterans.

As teachers these types of transformations push us to give everything we’ve got to love yet one more student through their doubts and struggles. Sometimes, like today, it’s those very students who push us out of inaction into action.

Yes, I got an email from Jessica today. While she titled it, “You’re gonna need a tissue”, I was reading it on my phone and did not see the “warning”.

Her opening words:

Let’s be real, I was so upset and being completely selfish when I heard the news. You were truly one of my most favorite teachers and I really didn’t like the fact that you wouldn’t be coming back next year… Now that I have my head on straight, I’m so incredibly excited for you and the path you’ve chosen to take. You’ve taught me so much and now you get to teach many others right in your own “backyard.” I think the word to describe that would be “giddy.” Thank you Membean for inspiring my new taste in words, but also thank you Mrs Gonzo for introducing me to Membean.
And, for my blog readers, I am moving back to Eldorado after my year in Sonora. What the Sonora High School students taught me about high school reminds me of what Carlos and his classmates taught me about teaching in regular education (When a trashed turntable transforms (…or seeing a former student on Jimmy Fallon). Their lessons will never leave me, and, because of them, what I have to offer my upcoming high school students will be even better!
Suffice it to say, when I read those first words of Jessica’s letter, I was already feeling the ol’ tug on my teacher heart. Then, she hit me with this:
You’ve encouraged me to continue the following: my writing, reading, and blogging!! Yes, I have my very own blog. I love it! If you’re interested, give it a read!  Jessica’s Blog 
[Go to her blog—it’s wonderful!]
As you can well imagine, I felt a bit ashamed. I’ve let myself down by not posting on my blog since January, and I’ve let those who follow me (for whatever crazy reason! Ha!) down as well. Heading straight to Jessica’s blog, I read and read and was inspired to dedicate myself back to this blog.
It’s time. It’s the perfect time.
Thank you, Jessica and the Byrds for reminding me of that!
A time to plant, a time to reap

Reading Writing Workshop


Students talking about individual book choices, an important component of Reading Writing Workshop.


After talking to each other about books, students often choose to put their classmate’s book on their own “To Be Read” list.

Yes, I am posting on a Sunday again, but, no, this post was not “on time.” What? you might be wondering. I didn’t realize there WAS an “on time.” Doing anything routinely goes against my nature, but I have pushed myself to try and publish my posting on this blog in a routine manner.

For four Sundays, I found myself engaged and at my computer, pushing out yet another blog post inspired by something that occurred in my classroom. I felt like I had dashed my disorder. Driven my disorganization to its depths no longer to plague me. And, then, something called “the end of the six weeks” and “grading” happened. That was last weekend. I was defined by grading, not by creating.

I realize as I type these words, I’m sounding as if I’m making excuses. I suppose I am. But, unless you are a teacher, you have no idea all of the baggage you carry around when you have a pile of papers to grade. I’m not talking about my beautiful new Sonora Broncos messenger bag filled with papers. I’m talking about students anxiously awaiting my comment on their freshly crafted poem. I’m talking about parents who, with good reason, expect their child to have more than one grade in the gradebook. And I’m talking about the sweet lady downstairs who reminds us daily of the deadline for posting our grades.

Sometimes, it is all a bit overwhelming.

I was overwhelmed last Sunday, and I did not post. Just like I tell my students, though, there are times we have to make up for a particularly busy week. I’m proud to say that I am here tonight working on that post that will make up for a particularly busy week.

A little over a week ago, I got a phone call from my daughter, Alana. With three girls of her own, homeschooling, and the many church activities she involves herself with, we often go several days without having time to visit. I was excited to hear from her and waited for the first story she’d tell about my crazy, beautiful granddaughters. That wasn’t what she was calling about, though. She was calling about my blog. She had read it, and she wanted to give me some advice. Well, here it goes, I thought. She’s going to tell me that, unless the blog reader is me, the whole thing makes no sense. She’s going to try to be nice about, but I know Alana. She won’t lead me astray. I took a deep breath, and said, “OK.”

Alana proceeded to tell me that she loved it, that she thought it would be helpful to others, that she loved my last post which had a procedure for introducing poetry, but…. Yeah, there was that “but”… She pointed out that many readers would not understand Reading Writing Workshop. TRUTH! While many teachers do, in fact use workshop in their classrooms, the majority don’t, particularly at the middle school and high school level.

Since our conversation, I read a recent post on “Two Writing Teachers” blog. While it doesn’t encompass all of the terminology I use in workshop, the post does begin to unpack the components of Reading Writing Workshop. In the coming weeks and months, I plan to flesh out what Reading Writing Workshop looks like in my classroom, but, for now, I’m going to leave this post with a link to their blog.

Link to  http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/a-quick-guide-to-workshop-lingo/

Enjoy your week, and continue to Mine the Magic within your own classroom!