Wednesday, February 15, 2017


You may have heard Rita and I discuss the practice of engaging young readers and writers in Intentional Copywork for strong and meaningful practice in consolidating language skills across all areas (phonics/spelling, grammar, vocabulary/word study, handwriting, deep comprehension).

The process of Intentional Copywork is designed to engage deeply with one literary passage each week, involving pre-teaching on all language areas (phonics/grammar/word study/comprehension) before engaging in copywork, dictation, and editing for consolidation of all skills. See our blog on POSSUM for a list of all skill areas.

The misconception about any copywork--Intentional or otherwise--is that it can only be done once children are able to read longer passages.  Not true! Children should engage in Intentional Copywork from the earliest moment of their reading and writing education! Reading should be taught in conjunction with writing. Therefore, emergent readers can and should engage in Intentional Copywork as their first introduction to the world of words and sentences!

We demonstrate how this can be done on our video: Welcome to the Forest--Copywork and the Emergent Reader. We asked our friend and colleague Tracy Molitors, writer and illustrator, to share one of her early reader stories entitled Rats! Tracy, along with Rita and I, designed simple instructions for parents before the start of the story, to aid in pre-teaching phonics concepts. Additionally, the language of the story introduces text to new readers from a therapeutic perspective, with emphasis on vowel sounds, on a select number consonants, and other language concepts to be explored in intentional copywork (suffix -s, onomatopoeias, etc.). All of the concepts to be practiced are also summarized on the final page of Rats!

A FREE Twiglet (download) of our Rats! Worksheet is available on our website on the Home page - scroll down and click the button that says “Download the Free Monthly Twiglet” and we will send you the worksheet! Be sure to check your Spam and Promotions folders for emails from us! Additionally, you can purchase the book through our website or at

For more information, our Intentional Copywork schedule can be found in Rita’s and Tracy’s book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension, and is discussed in many of our online courses. (Sign-ups available at


Friday, February 3, 2017

Perspectives of a Young Writer

I remember when I was young, I found a high school poetry book on my brother’s bookshelf. I still have the book. It was a small little text explaining poetry elements and types of poems. It gave examples and structural analysis. I loved that little book, using each page as an example for my next poetry attempt. I learned to use poetry as launching pad for my original writing.

I used this same idea with my own children and students. We read poems with an eye for the ones that inspire our own writing. I recently came across the poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens. One young student was inspired to write about a cardinal, taken from various visual perspectives. We began by drawing a picture of the cardinal in a tree, then drew her on a branch above, from a window across, standing below, etc. She used the picture to help her look for images online from the proper visual perspective. (Finding one from above was difficult. Enjoy reading her  perspectives, entitled “Cardinal Poems” (below).

Consider using online images (or your own photographs) to write various ways of looking at nature. When we write from different physical perspectives, we stretch our observational skills. When we write from different emotional perspectives, we stretch our insight. When we write from different character perspectives, we stretch our writing skills.

A bird feeder is a nice setting for perspective poetry. Our perspectives can be based on angle, as in the “Cardinal Poems” by my student. The perspectives may be based on attitude, as in why I despise the squirrels who steal the food and why I love the squirrels that steal the food. The perspectives can be from various creatures who come to the feeder: the cardinal, the yellow finch, the squirrel, the neighbor’s cat, and the home owner.

Let poetry inspire our own poetry!


Front view
The cardinal sits atop a pine tree,
Completely full of glee,
His red crest stands out,
And from my window I look out,
Pointing in my direction is his beak,
He is about to speak.

Side view
I sit beside the glorious cardinal,
Who makes a signal,
A signal of handsomeness,
And also brightness,
It has sharp wings,
And it sings.

Top view
Wings round together,
He is clever,
There I sit on a branch above him,
And below, he sits on his limb,
His crest reaches towards me,
like red fingers leaping at me.

Bottom view
A scarlet breast he has,
And the sharp claws that he has,
The tips of his wings point down at me
He cocks his head, his eyes towards me,
His bright red beak points at me,
Ever ready to sing a song to me.

Close-up view
With a sharp beak,
He seeks,
For seeds,
That he needs,
A gorgeous crest he has,
He is quite a spaz.

The Glorious Cardinal
There sits the glorious cardinal, his feathers a bright array,
He sings glorious songs for many a day,
Flames grow from his bright red head,
Black bleeds into a rich red,
A black crown he wears with pride,
Looking for a wondrous bride,
He has black glinting eyes,
And from a tree he looks from the highs.