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The Best-Kept Teaching Secret


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Table of Contents

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

About the Author

The author or coauthor of 18 books for teachers, Harvey Daniels, also known as "Smokey," has been a professor, researcher, consultant, and teacher coach over his 43-year career. These days, he serves as a conference speaker, school district consultant, and demonstration teacher in schools around the U.S. and Canada. In 2012, Smokey was presented with the NCTE Exemplary Leader Award. See Smokey reveal his best-kept secret to Ellin Keene. Elaine Daniels has been a reading and writing teacher and teacher literacy educator throughout her career. A former high school English teacher, she graduated to teaching in college and graduate programs, first at National-Louis University in the Master of Arts in Teaching program, then at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she taught literacy education courses. Elaine now teaches in the Developmental Reading and Writing Programs at Santa Fe Community College, where her students teach her new ideas, old ways of being, and places on the map she's never heard of.


"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

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