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The Best-Kept Teaching Secret
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The Best-Kept Teaching Secret
How Written Conversations Engage Kids, Activate Learning, Grow Fluent Writers . . . K-12



October 2013 | 248 pages | Corwin
Your fast-track to student engagement

Everywhere Smokey Daniels speaks, there's one teaching strategy that teachers embrace above all others. That single method for transforming students from passive spectators into active learners . . . for evoking curiosity, inspiring critical thinking, and building powerful writers along the way. Now, that best-kept teaching secret is revealed: Written Conversations. Smokey and coauthor Elaine Daniels describe how to leverage these "silent writing-to-learn discussions" structure by structure

- Mini-memos

- Dialogue journals

- Write-arounds

- Digital discussions

. . . with detailed descriptions, lessons, and annotated student samples—making this the most practical teaching book in recent memory.


 
Acknowledgments
 
Chapter 1. Letters Leverage Learning
A New Old Idea

 
Those Letters Are Cute, But . . .

 
Kid-to-Kid Letters About the Curriculum

 
Meeting the Common Core State Standards With Letters

 
Engagement, Best Practice, and Written Conversations

 
How the Book Is Organized

 
Let the Student Samples Teach You

 
 
Chapter 2. A Community of Correspondents
We've Got Mail

 
Back-to-School Letters

 
Parent and Kid Letters

 
Message Boards

 
Classroom Stationery

 
Shields

 
Topic Journals

 
Classroom and School Mail Systems

 
Teacher-Student Friendly Letters

 
Student-Student Friendly Letters

 
Kid-to-Kid Friendly Letters

 
Multi-Age Friendly Letters

 
 
INTERCHAPTER: Prompts and Stems for Written Conversations
 
Chapter 3. Mini Memos
Definition

 
Variations

 
Origins

 
Quick Look: Exit Notes

 
Launching Lesson: Admit Notes

 
Morning Message

 
General Instructions for Mini Memos

 
Start-Up Notes

 
Admit Notes

 
Writing Breaks

 
Exit Notes

 
 
INTERCHAPTER: Is There Time for This?
 
Chapter 4. Dialogue Journals
Definition

 
Variations

 
Origins

 
Quick Look

 
Launching Lesson

 
General Instructions for "Live" Dialogue Journals

 
Adjustments for "Takeaway" Dialogue Journals

 
Teacher-Student Dialogues

 
Student-Student Dialogues

 
Dialogue Journals Across the Curriculum

 
Feedback Loops

 
Teacher Response to Student Writing

 
Multi-Age Dialogue Journals

 
Management Tips for Dialogue Journals

 
 
INTERCHAPTER: The Assessment of Written Conversations
 
Chapter 5. Write-Arounds
Definition

 
Variations

 
Origins

 
Quick Look

 
Launching Lesson

 
Drawn Conversations

 
General Instructions for a Write-Around

 
Silent Literature Circles

 
Content-Area Write-Arounds

 
Text on Text

 
Management Tips for Write-Arounds

 
 
Chapter 6. Digital Discussions
Definition

 
Variations

 
Origins

 
Quick Look: Texted Discussions

 
Launching Lesson: Photo Journals

 
General Instructions for Digital Discussions

 
Lab Letters

 
Blogs

 
Online Partnerships

 
Email and Farewell

 
Management Tips for Digital Discussions

 
 
Works Cited
 
Index

“Engaging, enchanting, elegant, and totally practical. This little book is a gift to any teacher or school who wants students to write and think and communicate more--instantly. The tweaks to the written conversation strategies are fresh, stimulating, and easy to implement. Open it and start the conversation.”

Jeff Anderson, Author of Ten Things Every Author Needs to Know and Mechanically Inclined

“Smokey and Elaine pave the way to increasingly sophisticated communication and thinking by cracking open their secrets for successful written conversations. This book is loaded with fabulous student writing samples, tips for instructional success, and so many great ideas that you won’t be able to resist making written conversations an integral component of every learning day.”

Linda Hoyt, Author of Revisit, Reflect, Retell and Coauthor of Nonfiction Writing

“Smokey and Elaine Daniels let the secret out: when students participate in written conversations, they generate new and deeper thinking. The easy-to-implement strategies found in this book place writing where it belongs— in the forefront of the classroom— and in doing so ensure your students will be involved in active, engaged learning. Better yet, your students will actually look forward to writing. And reading, too! I recommend this book for all teachers looking for ways to deepen their students' thinking through writing."

Kelly Gallagher, Author of Write Like This and Deeper Reading

“Simple and brilliant! Smokey and Elaine invite us to capitalize on kids’ natural urge to write to each other.  The tactics they describe in this book are easy to implement and will have a huge impact the minute you deploy them. The book is brimming with examples from preschoolers to college English classes. You will laugh out loud when Marco writes ‘Am I a plant?’ and covet comments like ‘I would be excited if we did more things like this’ from a high schooler!”

Ellin Keene, Author of To Understand and Coauthor of Mosaic of Thought

"Written in a light conversational style, The Best-Kept Teaching Secret brims with jottings written by children and with an armful of ways you can use letter writing to revitalize your teaching. Readers who have come to trust Smokey's grounding in classrooms will find that once again, he draws upon a rich repertoire of stories and methods drawn from the hurly burl of classrooms."

Lucy Calkins, Author of Units of Study for Teaching Writing and Coauthor of Pathways to the Common Core

The Best-Kept Teaching Secret is brimming with the energy and heart of good teaching. . . . Smokey and Elaine anticipate your questions and answer every one. There are connections to the Common Core State Standards and student samples that range from handwritten notes to collaborative online conversations. There is vision here and plenty of smart thinking. Such a useful book. I can't wait to share it.”

Penny Kittle, Author of Write Beside Them and Book Love

"Written Conversations stand the test of time, and Smokey and Elaine prove it here. So bring on the new standards and ever-changing technology! The more things change, the more best teaching practices stay the same."

Tanny McGregor, Author of Comprehension Connections and Genre Connections

“The real gift of The Best-Kept Teaching Secret is it offers teachers a principled and powerful teaching tool adaptable in myriad different ways across all content areas. With the tool of written conversation in hand, teachers at any grade level are ready to engage students with increasingly rigorous content standards. All this, and the book itself is such a pleasure to read with its conversational tone and beautiful design and layout.”

Katie Wood Ray, Author of Wondrous Words and About the Authors

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1. Letters Leverage Learning

Chapter 4. Dialogue Journals


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ISBN: 9781452268637
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