Blogging Hiatus – Find Me Elsewhere!

You may have noticed I haven’t updated this blog in quite some time.  I’m still blogging over at Two Writing Teachers, of course.  I also write a Slice of Life Story on my other blog, Murphy’s Law.  For now, I am saving all my coaching and leadership articles for Lead Literacy, where I am a contributing author.  You can find out more about Lead Literacy by clicking here.


A Casework Book for Coaches & A Giveaway

Casework CoverCasework in K-6 Writing Instruction, edited by Jenifer Jasinski Schneider, is a great book for any literacy coach’s bookshelf. The book describes nineteen different classroom vignettes, all centered around writing instruction.  For example, one case describes the launching of a kindergarten writing workshop, while another case describes a one-on-one conference with a struggling writer.  Here is a sampling of some of the other case titles:

  • “Not Your Grandmother’s Writing Lesson: Teaching Concepts and Conventions through Digital Interactive Writing (First Grade)”
  • “‘This isn’t what we normally do:’ Test Preparation and the Teaching of Writing (Fourth Grade)”
  • “Hot and Spicy Words: Motivating Writing and Vocabulary Development (Fifth Grade)”

Some, but not all, of the topics covered in the cases are balanced literacy, prompted writing, digital writing, word study, student choice, conferring with writers and mentor texts.  Each case includes a narrative account of the classroom, as well as direct transcripts of both student and teacher language.  Following each case is a set of discussion questions.  For example, “What strategies could you use to prevent revision from becoming punishment for your students?” or “In this lesson, how are the Common Core Standards addressed?”  Finally, each case is concluded with a section titled Reflection, which highlights some of the key concepts of writing instruction which are featured in the case.  This Reflection section connects the cases to current writing research and theory.  The cases included are very realistic and often imperfect.  The book also contains a “Common Core Crosswalk” which highlights the relevant CCSS for each case.  I especially appreciated this feature, making the book very user friendly for any literacy leader looking to use the book for staff development around the CCSS.

Literacy coaches or administrators could use this book in a number of ways:

  • Cases could be read and discussed at weekly staff meetings as a jumping off point for larger issues in the field of writing.
  • PLNs could use this book to discuss effective (or ineffective) writing instruction.  The cases could be dissected and debated in study groups.
  • Certain cases could be used to illustrate the application of the CCSS in any school still working to implement the CCSS.
  • Grade-level teams could read and discuss the cases relevant to their grades.
  • A review of a case along with a “What would you have done differently?” discussion among teacher teams.

The book is very easy to navigate and will be great fodder for discussion in any learning community.


  • This giveaway is for a copy of Casework in K-6 Writing Instruction.  Many thanks to Jenifer Jasinski Schneider for donating a copy for one reader.
  • For a chance to win this copy of Casework in K-6 Writing Instruction, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, January 26 at 11:59 p.m. CST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Wednesday, January 28th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, Jenifer Schneider will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of COACHING CORNER BLOG – (Casework in K-6 Writing Instruction). Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Comments are closed.

Congratulations to the winner of Casework in K-6 Writing Instruction, Kristina Sacks.  Her comment was:

The digital interactive writing in 1st grade sounds amazing. I can’t wait!

Off to a Good Start

I came back from Winter Break with a clean slate and a blank schedule.  I am ready to begin my third round of coaching cycles.  I had an initial coaching meeting with a self-contained special education teacher this morning. Our meeting had two objectives.  First, I wanted to get to know this teacher a bit, break the ice.  Second, we needed to talk through some logistics.

Part 1 – Getting to Know You

This is my first time using a ‘getting to know you’ portion in my initial coaching meetings.  I asked the teacher, “What would you like for me to know about you as a teacher and a learner?”  She told me she is laid back and easy-going.  Her kids do most of their work in class with little homework assigned.  She has been reading them short stories aloud in preparation for our unit.

Then I asked her, “What concerns, if any, do you have about coaching?”  She confided that she is always second-guessing herself and is concerned whether or not she is “doing it right.”  This was a perfect transition into the norms I recently developed for our coaching relationship.  We discussed:

  • honesty – We agreed to be honest with each other about our opinions and feelings.
  • confidentiality – We agreed not to discuss the particulars of our coaching cycle with other teachers or administrators.  Any concerns will be brought to each other first.
  • humility – Neither one of us is a perfect teacher, and we do not expect perfect lessons from one another.
  • responsibility – We will be on time and prepared for meetings and lessons.

Part 2 – Scheduling and Logistics

Finally, we discussed our schedule for next week.  We plan on immersing the kids in short stories and charting our noticings all week.  I will teach on Tuesday and Wednesday, and she will teach on Thursday and Friday.  She is going to collect a baseline writing sample this week, and we will use the checklist which accompanies our writing unit to pre-assess the students’ writing.  We are meeting Tuesday morning to discuss this baseline piece of writing.

Here is a link to the document I used to record our meeting notes:


Reading Logs

I decided at the start of the new year to track my reading on Goodreads.  I’ve tried unsuccessfully to log my reading before, but I never stuck with it.  One reason I want to track my reading is to see exactly how many books I read in a year.  I’m just curious.  Since I’m thinking about reading logs, I decided to create my next installment of PD for the Potty using my favorite designing tool, Canva.  I’m hanging these posters in the staff bathrooms this afternoon.

Created using Canva.  Click on image to enlarge.

Created using Canva. Click on image to enlarge.


My Winner's Badge

My Winner’s Badge

I did it!  I participated in my first Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), and I ended the month of November with 30 different ideas for a picture book.  Some are really lame, some are just okay, and a few are really, really good.  I can’t wait to get started on my first manuscript.  Plus, I learned some really valuable lessons to share with kids about generating ideas!  Winner, winner!

Participation in Coaching Cycles

I recently received the following comment:

Thank you! I visited your blog and have started following you as I found your coaching entries interesting! We are trying to figure out what our coaching model will look like and after listening to Jim Knight last week, your post makes a lot of sense. How does your district, or department, decide who will be in your coaching cycle? We are attempting to solidify our own priority pool and would love to hear how others are making it work! Thank you!

The short answer is coaching cycles are voluntary and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Here is a longer answer:

Early in the year at a staff meeting, I always re-introduce the concept of coaching.  I briefly discuss the purpose of a coach and how coaching typically looks in the classroom.  Our school has had a literacy coach in the building for at least eight years, so coaching is not a new concept to most of our staff.  After a brief review, I offer each literacy teacher a sign-up slip.  They must complete the slip right there at the staff meeting, either volunteering for a coaching cycle or respectfully declining at this time.  I ask them to make their choice and hand me the sheet on their way out the door.  This adds a small amount of pressure and insures 100% completion.  This year, the slip looked like this:

Coaching Cycle Sign-Up Slip

Coaching Cycle Sign-Up Slip

This usually provides me with at least enough participants to begin a first round of coaching cycles.  Since coaching is offered first come, first serve, I save the “yes” slips which don’t get chosen.  These will eventually become my second (or third) round participants.

In the past, I have left flyers in staff mailboxes when I know I’m coming up to another round of cycles:

Top Ten


I also keep an ongoing list on my Google Drive of every coaching opportunity that arises during the year.  At a staff meeting, during a study group, or even in the copy room…if a teacher approaches me with a question or a comment about anything literacy related, I add it to my list.  If I am ever looking for coaching opportunities, I will use this list as a conversation-starter and to get my foot in the door.

Although I am always encouraging participation, sign-up itself is completely voluntary.


Starting ANew (And Some Secrets)

I just started my second round of coaching cycles.  This first week is about getting to know the kids and getting comfortable in each classroom.  To start on solid ground, I want to make sure I have the following established with each teacher:

  • our focus for the cycle
  • data to pre-assess
  • understanding of how we will interact together

Cycle #1: 2nd grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: A Writing Fiction Unit
Pre-Assessment: We will use their first attempt at a fictional book along with the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: We will decide each week during our weekly planning time.  Right now, I am teaching.

A secret: This teacher is hard for me to read.  She does not show disappointment or excitement about our work.  This is making me anxious in her room.

Cycle #2: 4th grade (veteran teacher)

Focus: To hone her conferring skills
Pre-Assessment: Her own observations and self-reflection.  She “already feels better” after 3 lessons.
Working Together: We are conferring side-by-side.  So far, she has been starting the conference, and I’ve been coaching her through.  We are sort of co-conferring.

A secret: This teacher is a DREAM to work with.  She is so dedicated to her job, so smart, and so self-reflective.  If I could coach in her room all day, every day, I would.

Cycle #3: Primary Special Ed Self-Contained (veteran teacher but new to our district)

Focus: To move her beginning writers forward
Pre-Assessment: We are using this handy chart to identify where each writer is and what the next steps might be for each child.
Working Together: Co-teaching

A secret: These kids worry me.  Their behaviors interfere with the teaching of writing, and I am not really sure how to handle them.  I worry that I do not have the knowledge necessary to coach this teacher.

Cycle #4: Kindergarten (veteran teacher)

Focus: A True Stories Writing Unit
Pre-Assessment: A prior writing sample and the rubric attached to the writing unit.
Working Together: I am teaching.

A secret: A secondary goal (unbeknownst to the teacher) is to convince her to release some control and give the kids some freedom during writing workshop.

We are just ending our first week together.  I will need to spend some time this weekend reflecting and planning for next week in each of these classrooms.  Although it sure is getting hard to concentrate with NCTE 2014 approaching!

EdCamp Tidbits

I attended the EdCamp Chicago “unconference” this past weekend.  It was my first time going to an EdCamp, and I am so glad I went.  The last session I participated in was for instructional coaches, and I wanted to share two quick and easy tidbits for coaches.

First, we discussed the importance of coaches being visible in their schools.  One of the participants noted that even when coaches are out of the office and working in classrooms, they are technically still not visible.  Very often, the only person who sees the coach during those times is the classroom teacher.  I’ve always posted my weekly schedule outside my office door:


Click image to enlarge.

However, one of the coaches at EdCamp suggested hanging a white board on the office door with a message stating your whereabouts.   This is one way to increase your “visibility” as a coach:


The second tidbit straight from EdCamp (and this is really exciting!) is that we created a new Twitter hashtag for coaches to use.  It is#IlEdCoach.  Add this hashtag to your TweetDeck to stay up to date on coaching conversations!


Will Coach for Food



Is it just me… or does signing people up for new coaching cycles sometimes feel like begging?

Book Chats

We just completed our first round of PLCs/Study Groups.   Teachers could choose which Study Group to participate in:

Study Groups

Each group is reading a professional book and meeting as a team to discuss the reading.  Since we know that learners need time and opportunity to practice new learning, we are also incorporating classroom visits and “try it our self” time into each Study Group.

One of the groups is reading Igniting a Passion for Reading by Steven L. Layne.  We read and discussed the first four chapters last week.  In Chapter 3, Steven writes about teachers giving book chats in their classrooms.  I had asked teachers to bring their favorite book with them to the Study Group, and we practiced writing Book Chats.  Here is our Intermediate Special Ed teacher practicing the beginning of her Book Chat on us:

Can’t you just imagine her students – especially the boys – clamoring for that book?  Here is another teacher (4th grade) practicing her Book Chat:

Well, I want to know what really happened!

Aren’t they great?  I really admire teachers who are willing to jump in, give it a go, and try something new.  Well done, teachers.  Bravo.

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