by Elizabeth Dobler

I have recently arrived home from the International Literacy Association annual conference, which was held in Boston earlier this month. I enjoyed delicious seafood, a tour of the Boston Public Library, and a great conference. I attended one session on writing instruction in which presenters Harvey Daniels and Sara Ahmed spoke about the power of the quick write as an instructional activity. The Common Core State Standards have brought about a renewed interest in writing instruction and practice in the classroom, but the standards appear to promote longer, more-research-focused types of writing. Ahmed and Daniels emphasized the need for shorter writing activities to build writing stamina and lead up to the longer, more involved pieces that integrate the revising, editing, and publishing phases of the writing process. Daniels’ words really stuck with me: “Students need to write two, three, . . . seven, eight times a day.”

Quick writes are short bursts of writing that can be a brief self-contained piece or one that leads to a longer piece of writing. The focus of a quick write is to get words on paper (or screen) quickly. While the author may reread and make minor changes when writing, perfecting the piece of writing is not the goal of the activity. A quick write may be a good opening activity during a writing workshop, to get students into the writing mindset; it can be used as a transition activity between lessons in two different content areas; or it may be a method for activating prior knowledge at the beginning of a lesson or reflecting on learning at the end of a lesson.

The great thing about quick writes is their unintimidating nature—asking students to write for three (or however many) minutes straight allows writers to feel successful with their writing. Letting them know that this piece of writing will not be graded and does not always lead to a longer piece of writing (which, for the student, may imply more work) frees up young writers and lets them experience the joy of investing a part of themselves into writing. These small successes can build confidence and yield long-term payoffs.

I have used quick writes with the teacher education students in my courses. At first, some find it difficult to just sit and write. They may feel that what we are doing isn’t important, so they don’t really need to participate and instead feel the pull of their cell phone or tablet to fill down time. However, when they see that I am writing, also, many will take up a pen or turn to their keyboard. I begin to see students “activate their writing selves.” They turn inward, become quiet, look down and write—sometimes two, three, . . . seven, eight times a day.

What does it mean to have a “lazy classroom?” On Literacy Beat, Thomas DeVere Wolsey discusses the Lazy User Model, the implications it can have on learning, and how to support students as new concepts or new technology is introduced. See the full article here.

by Elizabeth Dobler


When I was a new teacher, thirty years ago, I joined the local reading association. We met monthly to plan literacy activities for schools and the community. Many of those in my group also joined the state and international reading association, now called the International Literacy Association, which has 70,000 members worldwide. Membership in local, state, national, and international associations provided the sources for most of my professional development as an early-career educator.

Today I still belong to these associations, but attendance has decreased dramatically. Our local meetings typically have 5 to 7 people, and our state conference attendance is down from about 800 to 100 or so. What has changed? Where are educators making connections to others, learning about their field, joining together to promote literacy?

It’s not difficult to answer this question – the Internet provides educators with opportunities to network online through webinars, podcasts, blog posts, social media, video-chat, e-newsletters, and other resources, all from the comfort of a cushy chair, in bunny slippers.

Some of my favorite online resources include:

  • offers many free webinars; I often sign up for them and view the webcast when I have time.

I love being able to find information online to match my learning interests and style.

As those who help to prepare teachers, it’s important we share our own personal learning network, or collection of resources that support our growth as educators. Whether we make use of online or face-to-face resources, our students will benefit from hearing where we turn to continue learning.

Talk about your favorite resources or organizations and explain why you made these choices. If you are a member of a local, state, or national/international association, share your story of joining and participating in the organization and what you gain from it. Display some of the digital resources you use to continue learning and provide information for finding a certain blog or signing up for a newsletter. By describing your choices and inviting new teachers to consider their own, you are encouraging the transition from student to teacher and emphasizing the fact that, for teachers, learning is a process, rather than a destination.

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey and HHP

pinterestOne of the exciting features of Teaching the Language Arts: Forward Thinking in Today’s Classrooms is its interactive, digital content. The authors are excited to add a new community feature by introducing boards on the Pinterest page hosted by our publisher, Holcomb Hathaway.

As you know, the authors of Teaching the Language Arts are proponents of visual literacies, and Pinterest boards make use of images to enhance learning. Resources and ideas are saved by picking an image to “pin” to a virtual bulletin board. You can choose to organize topics for your own virtual bulletin boards, and then view and save your own pins. We hope you will join us by following our boards and repinning what you find helpful to your own boards. This is an effective way to organize resources for use in your classroom. Three boards that will be of particular interest to readers of Teaching the Language Arts are:

Literacy Education

Technology for the Classroom

Literacy in the Disciplines

The Holcomb Hathaway Pinterest site also offers a Literacy Assessment board.

Pinterest is easy to use, especially if you login with your Facebook or Twitter account. If you aren’t already productively pinning ideas, it’s easy to start:

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