Thursday, January 14, 2010

Latest Contest Winner and New Contest for Teachers and Homeschoolers

Congratulations to our New Year Resolution Contest Winner: 
Irene Latham
Irene's 6-word resolution was:
Celebrate. Create. Inspire. Plot. Enjoy. Finish.

From reading Irene's blog, I see she has much to celebrate this year. Her first children's novel, Leaving Gee's Bend, has just been released by G.P.Putnam. Hurray for you, Irene!

And a big thank you to everyone who posted a resolution. I hope we ALL succeed in following through on them.

Our next contest will be especially for Teachers and Homeschoolers. (If you're not a teacher or homeschooler, please spread the word to someone you know who is.) We'd like you to answer the following question: What is one of the biggest challenges, problems, or questions you have when teaching writing to students in grades 1-12?
If we can, we'd like to suggest solutions to some of those problems on this blog later in the year.

The contest will run in conjunction with a new series of posts on the topic of IDEAS, the first of the Six Traits of Writing. (If you aren't familiar with the Six-Traits approach, you can read more about it here.) As part of our discussion of IDEAS, each TeachingAuthor will talk about the idea that inspired one of her published books. Our contest winner will then be given his or her choice of one of those six books as a prize. (See the addendum below for a list of the six books.)

So here are the contest details:
  1. To enter, you must be a teacher or homeschooler of students in grades 1-12.
  2. You must post a comment answering the following question: What is one of the biggest challenges, problems, or questions you have when teaching writing to your students?
  3. You must specify the grade level of your students and whether you teach in a school or at home.
  4. You must provide your email address or a link to your own blog so that we can contact you. (U.S. residents only, please.)
  5. Entries must be posted by 11 p.m. (Central Standard Time) Friday, January 29, 2010 Saturday, January 30, 2010.
  6. The winner will be announced on Monday, February 1, 2010.
A detailed explanation of our general giveaway guidelines are posted here.

If you have any questions about the contest, you can post them as a comment. Good luck!
Addendum (1/22/10): our contest winner will receive her or his choice of one of the following TeachingAuthor books: 
You can read the posts about the ideas behind these books here. The last will be posted on January 29.


KR said...

Kindergarten teachers teach reading too! :)


Carmela Martino said...

Yes, I realize that. But we want to focus on questions related to teaching writing in grades one and up.

Jaymie said...

I don't know if I "count" for this or not. I volunteer to lead a writing club at my son's school every week. I have students in 2nd through 6th grade. I taught part time last year, but this year I am only subbing. So, I don't know if that fits or not.

My biggest challenge is that we only meet once a week for about 75 minutes. I routinely have 28 to 30 students. It is difficult to conference with each student, to coach on specific story needs, with that many kids, that small of a time frame, and only one me. Also, there is a big difference between a second grade author and a sixth grade author.

I plan my weekly lessons based on things that a large number of students are struggling with, and we do the best we can. (I blog about our work in the club and my lessons at We are working toward two spring events at the school where the kids are going to be able to show off published pieces. I am aware, every week when I clean up the room and head home, that I could do so much more with each one if I had some more time.

Carmela Martino said...

Jaymie, I say you definitely count--you are trying to help train and encourage young authors! Thanks for sharing. By the way, I once taught a summer "young authors' workshop" with students in grades 2-8, so I can definitely relate to some of your challenges.

Mary Jo said...

Like Jaymie, I'm an independent creative writing teacher. I host monthly workshops for free to grades 3-8 on my own. I also teach through a nonprofit enrichment organization (FRoG in Downers Grove,IL) Saturdays in teh fall and winter. And last summer I began a week-long writing studio for the same grades, in my community.

My biggest struggle is keeping the class on track with the little time we have: once the students begin sharing their work, conversations start and off on a tangent they go.

I also struggle with peer feedback. They are all eager to read, but hesitant to offer any feedback to the other readers. I'd love for the students to learn how to give and receive constructive feedback on their writing.
~Mary Jo


Carmela Martino said...

Mary Jo,
Another great question!
And bless you for all you're doing to help young writers.

Sandra Stiles said...

I teach seventh and eigth grade remedial reading and ESOL. Finally I am in a school where they feel that reading and writing go hand in hand. I will also be starting my first creative writing club after school this week, YEA!. I work with a large number of kids who grew up in homes where English was not their first language. Vocabulary has always been a problem. We struggle getting them to use more difficult or expressive words. Most don't know the different parts of speech because they can't cram everything into elementary and figure we will get them when they hit middle school. I have tried the word walls, using all types of graphic organizers, etc. When they write they go back to the simple words. If you have the one child who uses the larger words then when we do classroom critiques no one wants to read their paper because they are not on the same level with vocabluary. That is a large reason they are in my class for reading. No extensive vocabulary so they do poorly on the state test in the area of comprehension. I have most of them reading more now but would like suggestions to get them Expanding their word choice in their writing. My email address and web address are below.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for participating, Sandra.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carmela, I'm not entering the contest. I wanted to say thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog :o) I'm just beginning on my writing journey and to come across your blog is very exciting! I need all the help I can get! haha

Cindy said...

This is my 12th year homeschooling our younger children. My 5th and 7th grade daughters are home with me this year. (7th grade is a first for me.)

While I love to write, and have recently taken some writing classes, I find it very difficult to teach writing to my children. I'm currently using a curriculum that guides us in small steps for each writing project. I definitely need this reining-in because I get a little too enthusiastic. To have a specific plan I can teach is a great help.

My biggest challenge though is, I find myself either ignoring too many grammar errors and structure mishaps, or highlighting too many. Being the Mom/Teacher can be tough when you want to open the wonderful world of writing to a child and yet not completely squash their positive feelings about a piece. I have resolved this somewhat by having them keep a journal, which I do not correct at all, (ah--so hard!) and have them work on projects where we spend more time writing and editing.

Thank you for this opportunity. I am enjoying your 'writing workouts' very much and look forward to any teaching advice you can pass along.

Benita said...

I teach high school (grades 9 -12.)

My greatest challenge is getting students to see writing as a process. We work together to edit and revise. We work is peer pairs, in groups, with an interactive journal. I post their works in progress on the bulletin board, but it is difficult for them to understand that their first draft is not necessarily their finished work. Some don't wish to consider changes or other students' input.


Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for sharing your challenges, Benita and Cindy. And Niki, we hope our blog helps support you in your writing journey.

apple blossom said...

Yes, I'd love to be included in this giveaway.

I'm a certified teacher and a homeschool mom.

I have one still at home we are schooling. She is in 9th grade. The challenge of homeschooling is making sure it gets done. It's so easy to say we can do it tomorrow let's sleep in today.

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Cindy and Benita,
I have the same challenges you describe in teaching at the community college level, so I guess they must be pretty universal. In fact, as a professional writer, I myself still have the problem of distilling constructive feedback and using it wisely. It is so nice to be part of a supportive community of teachers and writers!

Hats to all you homeschoolers and full-time teachers--the hardest and most rewarding work in the world, I'm quite sure.

Ticia said...

I teach 1st. I think my biggest challenge is figuring out at what point to start the critiquing process. When do you start working on the grammar and the details of the story?

Rebekah E. said...

My daughter is in 6th grade and we do home school. I think the biggest challenge is dealing with a frustrated child because when she becomes frustrated sometime I also become frustrated. Making learning fun and not so hard seems to be a challenge with algebra and sometimes grammer.Thanks for the great contest.


Steph said...

I am a certified special needs teacher, and this year I work mostly with 2nd grade students. My biggest challenge is eliminating the fear of writing. So many of my students are afraid they will do it wrong, and their ideas never make it onto paper.

Carmela Martino said...

Thank you, Abi, Ticia, Rebekah, and Steph for sharing your challenges too.

Mandy Yates said...

I used to teach first grade and now I'm a Reading Specialist. When I taught first grade, the biggest problem I had with teaching writing was not leaving enough time to teach math. Because most of my time was dedicated to teaching writing. :-)
But seriously, my problem has always been balance. I write poetry, so naturally I wanted to share my love and sometimes I went a little overboard. I never felt that I exposed my students to a balance of different genres. My kids were good at writing personal narrative, poetry, and nonfiction, but I was always afraid of teaching fiction because it seemed the hardest. So I never did. So I guess my question would be what are some effective minilessons for teaching fiction writing to first graders/ second graders?


Unknown said...

Hi! I don't know if I count as I am a teacher's aide, but my biggest challenge is trying to get my special needs students that I work with to use their individual ideas. They tend to grab any idea anyone else puts out there as opposed to their own. Sometimes they need examples, and no matter how preposterous they are, they want that idea, even if it doesn't have anything to do with the topic.

Urania said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Urania said...

Hi Carmela,

I homeschool a 2nd grader who started this school year in 1st grade reading. He has a speech impediment that has effected his reading and writing. Last school year as a 1st grader his reading skills were slowly emerging, which prompted my decision to homeschool. This year he has caught up to 2nd grade reading, but his writing skills are still lagging behind.
Last trimester the public school gave him a skills assessment, as they do their own students, and I was told that his comprehension skills and vocabulary were well above average.
The biggest problem I have is helping him utilize the strengths he has (specifically in comprehension and vocabulary) to translate his ideas more effectively to paper.
There seems to be a disconnect between his thoughts and what he eventually writes down. He has these grand ideas but they never seem to make it to paper. Sorry, I erased my previous comment I forgot to leave my email address.

Carmela Martino said...

Thank you Mandy, Linda, and Urania for sharing your challenges. We've added your entries to our pool of questions. And Linda, your entry counts. :-)