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Shawna Coppola’s unique voice and passion for engaging students in authentic, inquiry-based learning make her a sought-after consultant, writer, and speaker.
An educator for almost two decades, Shawna has worked both as a middle school language arts teacher (6-8) as well as a literacy specialist/coach (K-8). For the majority of that time, she has taught in multiage classrooms and is effective at engaging learners of all ages in reading, writing, speaking, viewing, and listening experiences. Shawna is a fierce advocate for all students—in particular, for those who may not fit the profile of a “typical” learner. In addition to working with students, Shawna has offered both courses and workshops for educators through The Educator Collaborative as well as through the University of New Hampshire’sNH Literacy Institutesas well as theirProfessional Development and Trainingprogram.
Shawna is the author ofRenew! Become a Better—and More Authentic—Writing Teacheras well as a number of pieces that have been featured in Voices from the Middle, Literacy Today, The Reading Teacher, Education Week, The Nerdy Book Club blog, and others. You can hear her speak on a number of literacy topics onThe Dr. Will Show, OCTELA’sSpeaking and Listening Podcast,and Stenhouse Publisher’sMentoring New Teacherspodcast series. She has also presented at a number of national and regional education conferences, including ILA, NCTE, ASCD, and The Educator Collaborative’s #EdCollabGathering.
Shawna is devoted to helping all learners experience the joy that literacy can offer. When she is not teaching, she can be found dabbling with watercolors, writing comics, or exploring the beauty of her natural surroundings alongside her family.
What does it mean to write or to be a writer? In Shawn Coppola’s book Writing, Redefined: Broadening Our Ideas of What It Means to Compose, she challenges the reader to expand beyond standard alphabetic writing and consider alternative forms of composition when assigning writing to students. This book empowers teachers to change what “counts” as writing in schools and classrooms, opening the door to students who may not consider themselves to be writers, but should and can.
Inside you'll find alternative, engaging writing assignments that are visual, aural, or multimodal that will involve all students, specifically those:
Who prefer to compose using a wider array of forms and modes
For whom “standard” English is not the norm
Who have been identified as dyslexic
Whose cultural traditions lean heavily towards more aural forms of composition
Who are considered “struggling” writers
By finding ways to accommodate all styles of writers, students are free to unleash their creativity and share their story with others. While there is no question composition in written form is important and worth of study, broadening our definition of writing expands an enormous range of possibilities for composing for all students.
When was the last time you shook up your writing instruction? In Renew!: Become a Better and More Authentic Writing Teacher, author Shawna Coppola builds on the premise that our students are ever-changing, and so is our collective knowledge base. Instructional strategies that have worked in the past may need to evolve accordingly. Coppola guides K-8 writing teachers with a three-part framework for Rethinking, Revising, and Renewing their approach—and finding new energy along the way.
Using the framework, Renew! examines the most pervasive educational practices in writing instruction and poses questions that guide teachers to revise those practices to ensure they are effective for all students. Coppola believes the work is challenging, yet critical, referencing R. Buckminster Fuller’s “Knowledge Doubling Curve:” According to Fuller's paradigm, the amount of time it takes for us to increase our collective knowledge base by 100 percent will continue to shrink the older we get. If this is true—or even close to being true—how can we, as educators, ever feel satisfied with teaching our students the same concepts, using the same methodologies and practices, that we have in the past?
The book offers a road map for renewing key aspects of our practice, including:
How we teach the writing process: Over time and frequent usage, some of our favorite teaching strategies can become rigid. Coppola gives a candid account of how her enthusiasm for “the writing process” as an undergraduate led her to teach writing for years as a set of pre-determined steps. Now she teaches that there are many variations of the writing process, and many twists and turns along the path. One foundational strategy used is opening up her own process as a writer—and her writer’s notebook—to students and encouraging them to think and talk about their process with classmates.
What we mean by “Writing:” Coppola argues that drawing isn’t an accompaniment to writing; it is writing. Its another form of composition through which students can tell stories, convey ideas, and engage readers. The book is full of visual compositions by students as well as Shawna’s wonderfully simple and evocative sketches from her writer’s notebook.
The tools we use to teach writing: The most ubiquitous tools used to teach writing—from anchor charts to graphic organizers to sentence starters etc.—tend to be teacher-centric rather than student-centric. Renew! invites students into the process of constructing tools that are meaningful and helpful to them. The book includes a range of examples of tools built collaboratively with students.
How we assess and evaluate student writing: Coppola draws a distinction between assessment—which should be an interactive conversation with students—and evaluation, which is about judging and categorizing what students know and can do. Renew! offers a range of examples and resources that illustrate effective feedback for student writers, including online videos of teacher-student and peer-to-peer conferences.
Renew! also offers ideas for how teachers can nurture their own writing lives and thus reinvigorate their instructional practice. Through rethinking, revising, and renewing their practice, teachers can not only strengthen students’ skills as writers, but also nurture students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, and risk takers in the classroom and in our rapidly-changing world.
Mathematizing Children’s Literature
Sparking Connections, Joy, and Wonder Through Read-Alouds and Discussion