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The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom

by M. Colleen Cruz


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The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom

Veteran teacher and author Colleen Cruz has seen it all and done it all in the writing classroom-and she's got something to admit: this is hard work. Real hard. In The Unstoppable Writing Teacher she takes on the common concerns, struggles, and roadblocks that we all face in writing instruction and helps us engage in the process of problem solving each one.

From dealing with writing workshop skeptics to working with students both gifted and challenged, and of course combating that eternal barrier-lack of time-Colleen offers tried-and-true strategies to address and overcome obstacles.

For the struggles unique to you, she includes a "Name Your Monster" section that helps you identify your own individual roadblocks and even offers sustainable support through her blog, "We can't solve all the problems we're faced with in writing instruction," Colleen promises, "but we can choose how to respond to them. And our responses will make all the difference."

What makes you unstoppable, or what's stopping you? Connect with Colleen on her blog at or on Twitter, #unstoppablewritingteacher.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780325062488
Publisher: Heinemann
Publication date: 05/12/2015
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 197,115
Product dimensions: 7.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 8 - 13 Years

About the Author

In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award Finalist. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she is Director of Innovation. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant.

Table of Contents

Foreword Lucy Calkins x

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction: "I Am a Pessimist" xv

1 A Teaching Mindset 1

The Sand Mandate: Teaching Is About Impermanence 3

Go for the Calf 4

Work Smarter, Not Harder 6

You Can't Fix Every Problem, But You Can Respond 7

2 "I don't know what to teach this student. He's a much better writer than I am." 9

What Stops Us: The Stakes Are High 10

Recognizing the Opportunity: Raising Our Teaching and Writing Levels 12

Experiment: Building a Better Toolbox 12

Make independent Writing Projects a Priority 22

Ongoing Work: Plan for Acceleration 22

3 "I can't seem to get my students to stay writing unless I'm sittig beside them." 24

Why It Can Stop Us: When Something We Know Is Wrong Feels Right 25

Recognizing the Opportunity: Our Students Need to Learn Independence While They Still Have a Safety Net 26

Experiment: Mindfully Handing Over the Reins 27

Ongoing Work: Keeping the Student from Slipping Rack into Dependence 29

4 "I'm not sure how to work with students new to English." 31

What Stops US: We Focus on Not Knowing the Student's Language 32

See Opportunity: The Value of More Than One Way of Communicating 34

Experiment Build Off Students' Levels of Language Acquisition 35

Ongoing Work: Finding Authentic Reasons for Language Practice and Mastery 44

5 "I'm finding some student writing repetitive and boring." 46

What Stops Us: We Confuse the Writing with the Writer 47

See Opportunity: Help Students Push for Personal Meaning-Making 48

Experiment: Invite Risk Taking and Believe in the Writer's Intent 49

Ongoing Work: Maintaining the Conditions for Risk Taking 54

6 "I don't feel prepared to-work with a student with such big challenges." 56

What Stops Us: We Might Not Get Students as Far as We Want Them to Go 57

See Opportunity: Value Diversity of Student Assets and Growth 58

Experiment: Become a Collaborative Researcher 61

Ongoing Work: Growth Doesn't Always Show Up When We Want It To 67

7 "I never have enough time." 68

What Stops Us: We Don't Have Time to Reflect 69

See Opportunity: Set Clear Priorities and Boundaries 70

Experiment: Plan and Fire-Test Your Teaching 71

Ongoing Work: When Time Starts Slipping Again, We Must Catch It 74

8 "I need more resources." 75

What Stops Us: It's Hard to Imagine Doing Without 77

See Opportunity: Widen Our Community by Asking and Sharing 78

Experiment: Harvest Materials from Everywhere 79

Ongoing Work: I Feel Like It's a Bottomless Pit 81

9 "I teach grammar but my kids don't learn it." 82

What Stops Us: Everyone Thinks They Know Everything About Something Very Few People Actually Know 83

See Opportunity: Unlock the Connection Between Grammar and Meaning 84

Experiment: Demonstrate, Share Mentor Texts 85

Ongoing Work: Grammar and Conventions Instruction Is Yearlong 96

10 "I feel alone in my work. No one else I know teaches using the writing workshop model." 98

What Stops Us: Most of Us Need Others in Order to Grow 99

See Opportunity: Develop a New Kind of Community 100

Experiment: Develop, Create, or Find Learning Partners 101

Ongoing Work: When Loneliness Rears Its Head Again 105

11 "I have trouble getting families to understand writing workshop." 106

What Stops Us: There Is as Much Diversity in Families as There Is in Our Kids 107

See Opportunity: Families Are Crucial to Student Success 109

Experiment: Proactive Communication 110

Ongoing Work: When They Show Up with the Pitchforks and Torches Anyway 115

12 "I want kids to write about what they care about, but so-much of what they are about feels brainless and superficial to me." 116

What Stops Us: Pop Culture Doesn't Always Reflect Our Strongest Hopes for Our Students 117

See Opportunity: Embrace the Kid by Embracing Kid Culture 118

Experiment: Cultural Inquiry + Instructional Connections = Big Dividends 120

Ongoing Work: When I Still Hate the Things My Kids Love 126

13 Name Your Monster 127

14 Live Shockingly Easy Ways to Constantly Outgrow Yourself as a Teacher of Writing 134

Final Thoughts: An Honor Flight 145

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