Do Your Student’s Need to Improve Their Speaking Skills?  Then Don’t Miss Erik Palmer at WTL!

Our conference theme this year is “Voice and Choice,” and Erik Palmer is perhaps the country’s number one expert when it comes to teaching students how to speak and share their voices with others.

Erik, who started his professional life as a commodities broker before becoming a teacher and finally an educational consultant and author, learned from his varied experiences that, while we expect students to become good speakers, the vast majority of teachers don’t actually know how to teach speaking skills.  This realization led Erik to write Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students.

More recently, Erik has broadened his focus to include argument, persuasion, and reasoning, and this broader focus led him to write his recent Stenhouse book, Good Thinking.

To give you a sense of Erik’s ideas about the teaching of speaking skills, check out this video, a mixture of clips from some of his talks and his answers to interview questions.  In the interview, he also lays out his framework for good speaking, P V LEGS, an acronym for Poise, Voice, Life, Eye Contact, Gestures, and Speed.  You can read about how Erik came up with this acronym, and how he uses it to teach great speaking, here, or if you prefer to watch a short video explanation of the acronym, take a look at this YouTube clip.

Erik will present two breakout sessions and a secondary post-conference session at this year’s conference.  From 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 2nd, he will present “Well Spoken: Teaching All Students to be Effective Speakers” for K-5 teachers.  From 11:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., he will present on the same topic (same title), but for grades 6-12 teachers.

But if you’re a secondary teacher who wants to learn how to teach your students to be better in all aspects of speaking and rhetoric, I highly recommend that you sign up for Erik’s post-conference session, “Winning Arguments: Teaching Students How to Argue, Persuade, and Use Evidence Well,” where you can dig deeply into the topic.  So, if you haven’t yet registered for the conference, go to the Register page and make sure to choose Erik’s post-con session when you sign up.  If you’ve already signed up, you can contact the MU Conference Office at 573-882-9551 and tell them that you’d like to add Erik’s post-con session onto your registration.  They’ll let you know how to do this.

See you in about a month!

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

Your Opportunity to Learn from One of the World’s Top Graphic Novelists–Gareth Hinds!

Many language arts teachers would like to add more quality visual texts to their curriculum, whether those texts be picture books, comic books, or graphic novels.  But many of those same teachers are afraid to make the leap.

Why?  Two reasons, mainly: (1) many teachers feel like they don’t know enough about the intricacies of storytelling through pictures and visual text structures (and therefore fear that they won’t do a good job of teaching visual texts), and (2) they fear that, if they have students who want to create visual texts of their own, they won’t know how to help them become proficient.

Does this sound like you?  Well, if so, your prayers have just been answered, because one of the world’s best graphic artists, Gareth Hinds, will be speaking at this year’s Write to Learn Conference.  Gareth, the illustrator of graphic novel versions of some of the world’s great classics–Beowulf, Romeo and Juliet, the Iliad and the Odyssey, to name a few–will go in depth with you on all of these issues in his full-day session, “Graphic Novel Creation,” on Thursday, February 28, and will also present two breakout sessions on Friday, March 1.

To give you just a taste of what Gareth and his work are all about, check out these short videos:

If you haven’t signed up for the conference yet, and if you’re interested in learning how to add more visual texts into your curriculum, head on over to the Register page to sign up, and make sure that you select Gareth’s full-day session on Thursday.  I’ve seen him present, and believe me, you won’t regret it.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

One of the Country’s Most Respected Writing Teachers, Gretchen Bernabei, To Speak at WTL

Gretchen Bernabei is an award-winning writing teacher, and if you’re a teacher of grades 3-8 students, you have the opportunity to spend a full day with her on Thursday, February 28.  Gretchen, who has taught middle school and high school for 32 years, has devoted her professional life to learning, developing, and sharing best practices, particularly through the National Writing Projects.

She is also the author of many professional books for educators, including Why We Must Run with Scissors: Voice Lessons in Persuasive Writing with Barry Lane, (2001); Reviving the Essay: How to Teach Structure Without Formula (2005); Sparklers: High Scoring Test Essays and What We Learn from Them (2007); Fun-Size Academic Writing for Serious Learning: 101 Lessons & Mentor Texts–Narrative, Opinion/Argument, & Informative/Explanatory, Grades 4-9 (2013); Grammar Keepers: Lessons That Tackle Students’ Most Persistent Problems Once and for All, Grades 4-12 (2014); Text Structures From the Masters: 50 Lessons and Nonfiction Mentor Texts to Help Students Write Their Way In and Read Their Way Out of Every Single Imaginable Genre, Grades 6-10 with Jennifer Koppe, (2016); and Text Structures From Nursery Rhymes: Teaching Reading and Writing to Young Children with Kayla Shook and Jayne Hover, (2017).

For her work, NCTE honored her with the James Moffett Award in 2010.

For a “sneak peek” at the kind of specific, actionable writing strategies you’ll learn from Gretchen, check out this short video where Gretchen teaches “pitchforking” to add details to writing.  Enjoy!

See you at the conference.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

Come and Hear Writing Guru Barry Lane at WTL 2019

If you attended last year’s Write to Learn Conference, you already know how multi-talented Barry Lane is.  Barry is a writer, a musician, a singer/songwriter, and a comedian, and he put all those talents on display last year when he stepped in and performed his Literacy Cabaret show as a keynote when our scheduled keynoter couldn’t make it.  And if you didn’t get to see Barry do his thing last year, you’re in for a real treat…because he’s back!

At this year’s conference, Barry will present our Saturday morning keynote, “Laugheracy: 5 Techniques of Humor Writing to Grow Student Voices and Encourage Critical Thinking,” as well as a K-6 breakout session, “Force Field for Good: Nurturing Kinder Voices through Song and Story” and an elementary level post-conference session, “Wackipedia: Putting Voice and Choice and Chuckles into Informational Writing.”

No matter which of Barry’s sessions you attend, you’ll receive concrete, specific, actionable writing strategies that you can put to work in your classroom right away.  Don’t believe me?  Then listen to what writing guru Lucy Calkins had to say after she attended a full-day training with Barry: “Barry Lane is one of the finest speakers on the teaching of writing. His combination of warmth, insight, and energy is magical. My colleagues and I left our day with Barry with full hearts and high spirits, ready to bring new strategies and new energy into our writing workshops.”

To get you ready for your time with Barry, I thought I’d steer you toward a few resources.  First, take a look at this short video clip, where Barry talks about using writers’ notebooks across subject areas and creating a “question culture” (instead of an answer culture) through writing.

In addition, you might want to poke around on Barry’s website,, to get a better sense of what this modern-day Renaissance Man has to offer.  I liked his Lesson Links page, especially the “Interview with Stephen King as a Teacher” that can be found if you click on the “Revision Workshop Padlet” link.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

WTL Announces Volume Discounts…Bring Your Friends and Save!

Write to Learn is always a party, but you can make it even more of a party by attending with a group of your teaching friends.

Here’s the deal: If you sign up for the conference as a group of 5 or more from the same school or district, each person in the group will receive $20 off their full conference registration fee.  That’s 5 (or more) X $20, for a savings of $100 or more.

There are just a couple of qualifications:

  • As stated above, each person in the group must register for the full conference (Thursday through Saturday) in order to count.  Of the various options, the full conference fee is already your best value, and this deal makes it an even greater value.
  • All the people in the group must sign up at the same time.  This way, we know that you are a group and are wanting to take advantage of the deal.

That’s all there is to it.  So, if three or four people from your school were already planning to attend, reach out and get another person or two to add to the group and save big.  See you at the conference.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

YA Author Laurie Halse Anderson Speaks Out About #MeToo and the Power of Voice

At this year’s Write to Learn Conference, many of our speakers will be addressing the conference theme of “Voice and Choice,” and no one is more qualified to do so than Laurie Halse Anderson, whose 1999 YA novel, Speak, about a teenage girl traumatized by rape, has achieved canonical status in English classrooms and high school libraries across the country.

Recently, with the #MeToo movement continuing to pick up steam, the level of awareness surrounding sexual assault has risen, and more and more English teachers and librarians are using YA literature to bring these issues out into the open for discussion. Recently, Julia Jacobs wrote an article about this topic in the New York Times, featuring Laurie Halse Anderson, as well as authors Kami Garcia, Amy Reed, and Isaberl Quintero. You can read the full article here.

Laurie, who was raped at the age of 13, has recently returned to the topic of sexual assault in her newest book, Shout, which is a raw, emotional, free verse memoir about her own rape. Shout is scheduled for release in March, 2019, shortly after Write to Learn.  You can read more about Shout here.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

Jeff “The Write Guy” Anderson Presents a Keynote and Workshop at WTL 2019

Most language arts teachers know at least a little bit about Jeff Anderson, who will be presenting the after-lunch keynote address and a workshop on Friday, March 1 at Write to Learn.  Jeff is best known as a prolific author of professional books for language arts educators–especially in the areas of mechanics, editing, revising, and the use of mentor texts in teaching writing.  Some of his books–especially Everyday Editing (2007), 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know (2011), and Revision Decisions (2014) have achieved almost canonical status among English teachers.

For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of reading Jeff’s books or hearing him speak, you might want to check out this short video of Jeff talking about some of the topics covered in 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know–topics ranging from how to teach form without teaching formula to how to prepare students to do well on standardized writing tests without succumbing to the pressure to teach to the test.

And if you’re an elementary teacher, you definitely want to take a look at Jeff’s newest professional book, Patterns of Power: Inviting Young Writers into the Conventions of Language, Grades 1-5.  This massive book gives you everything you need to teach young writers how to not only use conventions correctly, but to use them as “special effects” to make their writing more interesting and powerful.

And that’s not all Jeff’s been up to.  In the past few years, he has branched out into writing humorous fiction for intermediate and middle grades kids.  He published his first fiction title, Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth, in 2015, then followed it up with a sequel, Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck, in 2016.  His most recent book in the series, Zack Delacruz: Upstaged, was published in 2018.  To get a sense of the tone and content of the series, check out this trailer for Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck.

So don’t delay.  Reserve your spot at this year’s conference to ensure that you don’t miss what Jeff has to say.  Just go to the Register page and sign up.  We’ll see you in February!

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

Meet 2015 National Teacher of the Year (and Write to Learn Keynoter) Shanna Peeples

At Write to Learn, we like to kick things off with a bang, and boy, do we have a speaker this year who will provide a huge emotional bang to kick off our day on Friday, March 1: Shanna Peeples!

Shanna will share her story with you in her powerful keynote address, “Storytelling as a Political Act.”  And what a story it is–from her humble beginnings in an oil town in the middle of the Texas panhandle to newspaper reporter to Texas Teacher of the Year to National Teacher of the Year in 2015 to Harvard Graduate School.  Along the way, you’ll learn how and why she got into teaching, you’ll hear about some of her struggles and successes as first a middle school teacher and then a high school English teacher, and you’ll pick up many ideas for effective lessons along the way.

We sometimes throw around the term “a teacher’s teacher,” but with Shanna, the term really applies.  She has faced some of the biggest challenges a teacher can face–large class sizes, high levels of student poverty, and the low levels of self-confidence students often have in these conditions–and she has found ways to help her students rise above those challenges and learn to contribute their own unique voices to the conversations in their community and beyond.

But you don’t have to wait till March to start learning from Shanna.  To get a little taste of what Shanna’s all about, check out the article, “The Questions Kids Carry” on her website, or even better, if you have 30 free minutes, listen to Episode #88 of Brian Sztabnik’s Talks With Teachers podcast, where he interviews Shanna.  Believe me, it’s a great investment of 30 minutes.

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator

Registration for the 2019 Write to Learn Conference is Open!

The holidays are always a time to celebrate.  We have Thanksgiving in late November, and then we have Christmas in late December.  But let’s not forget your other reason to celebrate this time of year…the opening of registration for Write to Learn!

That’s right, registration for the 2019 Write to Learn Conference is now open, and whether you look at it as a late blessing to be thankful for or an early Christmas present, we hope you enjoy what we have in store for you this year.

You can take a look at the bios for this year’s main speakers on the Featured Speakers page, you can see the descriptions of this year’s full-day workshops on the Thursday sessions page, or you can check out all the amazing breakout sessions on the Friday and Saturday pages. And once you’re done browsing, hop on over to the Register page to get signed up.

We have a great conference in store for you this year, and we hope you’re as excited about coming as we are about bringing it to you.

We’ll see you in late February and early March!

Willy Wood
Write to Learn Conference Coordinator