Your fast-track to student engagement Everywhere Smokey Daniels goes—every school he visits, every workshop he leads, every keynote he gives—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, with Elaine Daniels as Smokey's coauthor, that best-kept teaching secret is revealed to teachers at large: Written Conversations. Just what make Written Conversations so potent? An ongoing, thoughtful correspondence between students, and between students and their teachers, Written Conversations, above all else, catch and ride the wave of social interaction, which in turn makes school matter to kids. It's that simple. Structure by structure, from beginning to end, Smokey and Elaine describe four variations of these “silent writing-to-learn discussions,” during which all students in a classroom think and “talk” at once in writing, instead of one at a time out loud. How Written Conversations Work 1. It all starts with mini-memos, short student letters that teachers use to introduce, extend, and assess class work. 2. Then come dialogue journals, where pairs dive deeply into academic subjects. 3. Next, groups of three or four students join in extended written discussions called write-arounds. 4. Finally, kids take their thinking online, where they enjoy digital discussions with partners from their own classroom—and with kids from around the world…. all the while, you are supported by detailed descriptions of each structure, lessons, and annotated student samples—making this the most practical teaching book in recent memory. What kid wouldn't want to refine written argument skills, clarify a point, or defend another's viewpoint, when the “audience” is people who matter? And Yes, Written Conversations align with the Common Core Standards for writing, reading, language, and speaking and listening, taking students well beyond the standards themselves. See Smokey reveal his best-kept secret to Ellin Keene.
Chapter 3: Mini Memos
At some point, many of us have used super-short writing activities like “exit slips” or “admit slips” to stimulate or capture kids' thinking, right? These quick-writes are often implicitly letters from student to teacher, but we don't usually exploit their full, interactive potential—or their curricular range. In this chapter, we reframe these mini memos as a family of letters that can provide you with an “extreme classroom makeover,” two minutes at a time.
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DEFINITION: Mini memos are super-short letters that help transfer thinking and responsibility to students. Imagine a note that fits on a 3 × 5 index card—a tool we very often use for these communiques. Typically, these notes get passed around from student to student, ...