Teacher Tips

  • Tip # 1: Student ownership of the project is key.

    "Provide your students with many opportunities to give their ideas and suggestions for the project so they truly feel they were part of both the framework of the publication as well as the writing featured."

    Erin Quigley, SPI Curriculum Consultant & high school teacher, Institute for Media & Writing
  • Tip # 2: Use other student publications to motivate writers.

    "In my classroom library, I have a book bin titled, "Books by Kids." This bin is a collection of SPI books by student writers. Early in the school year I introduce my students to these books by using them as read aloud or mentor texts. Interest inevitably grows, and by October, my students are picking up SPI books on their own. By mid-year it is not uncommon for an SPI author's name to come up in discussion with names like Sharon Creech or Walter D. Myers. By the time my kids are ready to write for publication they are so excited to have their own writing not only read, but also used as teaching texts in other classrooms. Knowing that their writing will have a future purpose generates enthusiasm and motivation to do their best work."

    Susan D'Elia, Language Arts teacher, George Washington Middle School, Ridgewood, NJ
  • Tip # 3: Giving feedback to a student writer's piece is often about getting to the heart of the story.

    "It requires patience, questions to clarify and develop the piece, and a heavy dose of encouragement."

    Nita Noveno, SPI Curriculum Consultant
  • Tip # 4: Always anticipate that the revision process will take longer than expected.

    "Try to be flexible with deadlines. If your students need more time to make their writing stronger, it's worth it to make time for that in your curriculum. They will feel a greater sense of accomplishment if they know that their pieces are the best they can be."

    Kerry McKibbin, SPI, Director of Programs
  • Tip # 5: Create opportunities for students to share with their audience in authentic ways.

    "Going public with an audience outside the confines of the classroom raises the stakes even higher than sharing with peers. When my students wrote profiles, they had to choose a subject beyond their peers and move into the community. After they wrote their profiles and shared them with their classmates, we organized a more formal reading, after school, during which the profile subjects and other invited guests were present. This motivated students to carefully craft their pieces, eager to faithfully represent their subjects. Through a public sharing, all were touched by the performed readings: the subjects, the invited guests, and the writers themselves."

    Lauren Jensen, English Teacher, Robert E. Lee HS, Fairfax County, VA
  • Tip # 6: Students gain more from frequent, thoughtful and structured peer feedback than their teachers.

    "Rather than sitting with stacks of student work to respond to, build time into your classes to teach students methods of responding to one another and discussing their strengths and struggles as writers."

    Tom Lynch, high school teacher, NYC Lab School
  • Tip # 7: Choose a genre with which you feel your students will best connect.

    "If they really have a stake in, it will keep their interest and the end result will be amazing."

    Kate Kezmarsky, high school teacher, Hoboken/ A.J. Demarest high School
  • Tip # 8: Invite your students into the realm of book production as much as possible.

    "Lessons on creative titling, book cover design, and advertising public readings create a strong sense of ownership and encourage students to reflect on their work."

    Christopher Fazio, ELA teacher, Brooklyn Lab School
  • Tip # 9: Provide students with many options and examples of what to do and why!

    "have you read a paper that starts like this? 'hi, my name is _____ and I'm going to be writing about... " No matter how many times we tell students NOT to start their essays this way, they still do. What's the problem? Students often begin their writing in this way because they don't know how else to start. In teaching about writing, it's important for us to provide our students with many options and examples of what to do (instead of what NOT to do), and why!"

    Roberta Lenger Kang, SPI Curriculum Consultant
  • Tip # 10: Determine what skills your students are actually learning during the publication process and tie them into your course curriculum.

    "For example, if you need to teach your students to ask strong questions, have them develop an interview of one the characters they're studying in class."

    Christina Shon, former high school ELA teacher, Optimist high School, Los Angeles, CA
  • Tip # 11: Do the publication project yourself as your students are doing it.

    "You'll always have a model for every step along the way; you'll identify the areas needing extra scaffolding in time to make adjustments; your students will also appreciate seeing you so deeply involved."

    Jaime Quackenbush, 6th Grade humanities Teacher, NYC Lab School & former SPI Curriculum Consultant
  • Tip # 12: Give students control through a publication company.

    "I have found that the more responsibility students have, the more ownership they take of the work as a whole. Originally intended to take some of the pressures of compiling 125 class publications by myself at the end of each quarter, I created a "publication company" in each of my classes. Their responsibilities included collecting written pieces from each student, nominating and voting on titles for each publication, selecting a designer for the cover, and on the designated "printing day" becoming my photocopy assistants and book binders. Once students were hired for these jobs, they were more prideful in their work and their peers were more motivated to avoid disappointing their "publishers.""

    Lauren Jensen, English Teacher, Robert E. Lee HS, Fairfax County, VA
  • Tip # 13: Show students models.

    "Then encourage them to think outside the box."

    Uzma Akhand, SPI Curriculum Consultant