Friday, April 15, 2011

Spreading the Word about Reading Workshop

Over a year ago I began writing my book, Empowering Readers: A Quick Start Guide to Reading Workshop, and I have some exciting news to share. It's now available in digital form, but it will soon be available in print as well! I love the reading workshop approach, and I wrote the book to spread the word and to provide an easy, step-by-step guide to this method. 

I had dreamed of having Empowering Readers published in print to reach a larger audience, and now it looks like that dream is going to come true! I just signed a deal with Raphel Marketing to publish the book in soft cover form, and I know the project is in excellent hands. The publisher wants to reformat the book, update its image, and give it a new cover. The plan includes me adding about 50 pages of brand new content to the existing manuscript. It’s actually going to be like two books in one because the new material is the Literacy Concepts Organizers ebook that I’m writing now. 

The revised print version of Empowering Readers will be organized into two parts. Part I will focus on how to implement the Reading Workshop approach, and Part II will consist of over a dozen graphic organizers and foldables to be used in reading mini-lessons. If you already own Empowering Readers, don’t worry. The Literacy Concept Organizers will be available as a separate ebook and the entire print version of Empowering Readers will be available for half price to those who have already purchased the digital version.

If you’ve followed my blogs and read my newsletters over the last few years, you’ll know that I love to collaborate with other educators as I create new materials. For the next few weeks, I’ll be working with the members of the Empowering Readers Learning Community as I write Literacy Concept Organizers. They will have full access to the new material and the final digital version. I’ll be asking for feedback from this group every step of the way. In fact, within a few days I should have a whole packet of graphic organizers to upload to the member website. If you would like to be a part of this project, take a moment to read about Empowering Readers Learning Community and how you can get involved. (

I’ll keep you informed about any news related to this project. The target date for the release of the book is July 1, just in time for my Summer Workshop Extravaganza! I'm excited to think that my book will now be available in many places online and in book stores, places where it can found by teachers who want to inspire their students with a love for reading.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Writing Poetry From the Inside Out

What month could be more perfect than April for celebrating poetry? There’s something about the warmer weather, emerging new life, and rain-washed world that invites one to wander outside and find a quiet place to write. I can’t remember how or when I first learned to write poetry, but from that moment on, I found it to be a perfect way to express my feelings. I love the way a poem can capture emotions on paper, becoming powerful word-snapshots of everyday life.  Poetry helped me as a teen to deal with my struggles and disappointments, as well as to celebrate my successes and accomplishments. From the trauma of moving to another state in ninth grade to the excitement of my first prom, poetry helped me capture it all on paper.  Later, poetry enabled me to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the Earth, helping to put both my problems and my accomplishments into perspective. 

As a teacher, I quickly discovered how easy it was to teach children and teens to write powerful poetry. Some of my best student poets have been those who previously hated writing! In fact, students with learning disabilities often outshine their peers in this area. They love the freedom to write anything and break all the rules, and after I get them started with a few examples, their words just seem to flow. What they write is almost magical. 

Teaching poetry comes easily to me because I’ve been writing poetry since childhood. But I also realize that others may not be as comfortable with this subject. Last week, in honor of Poetry Month, I decided to write out my strategies for teaching poetry to students. As I worked through the lessons, I created graphic organizers and examples to make the whole process really easy to implement. The result was a 26-page mini pack called Writing Powerful Poetry: Using Imagery to Unlock Creativity. You can find this resource and others on the Poetry Page of my Teaching Resources website. On this page you’ll find links to poetry websites, two multimedia poetry project ideas, and information about great books for teaching poetry. 

If you’ve never taught your students to write free-verse poetry, you’re in for a treat. You’ll be amazed at how powerful their writing can be. Just a few days ago, Merideth Fisher wrote to me that she’s been using similar strategies with her students. In her own words, “By encouraging my students to write from “the inside out" rather from the "outside in," the kids' writing has been AMAZING!!! I'll never go back to teaching formulated poetry again.  I've literally been reduced to tears when hearing some of the children's heart-felt writing.” I agree, Merideth. I couldn’t have said it better myself!