Monthly Archives: June, 2014

#TCRWP: Reading Institute Day 2

I can’t say enough about how nice the weather has been the last ten days in New York City.  I am saying it quietly as I know it is going to change, but it has been such a contrast to last year’s triple digit, steaming hot days!  Why does the temperature outside matter?  Well sometimes, in buildings gently aging, the temperature really varies and boiling temperatures do make it more difficult to stay focused and continue learning.  But enough with the weather and on with the show, . . . er the review!


What is Social Studies?

Do you view social studies through this lens?

SS 1

Or does this lens match your view of Social Studies?



Are you now thinking Social Studies is “kinda, sorta” both of those?


The minute I heard about the content area work done around centers last year at TCRWP (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project), I was interested.  The use of Social Studies content to increase reading and writing has always been intriguing to me.  I love social studies.  Stories in the past?  Who doesn’t like stories?  And what a fun way to learn about the past – from stories.  And I am not just talking about school-aged children here either.  Now that pediatricians are recommending parents read to infants, I will also be consciously connecting more early literature contexts when available like this NAEYC list of recommended social studies books for youngsters age three and above.


This week I have daily sessions with Kathleen Tolan (@KathleenMTolan) during the Advanced Reading sessions at the July Reading Institute.  Today was day two at the institute and we spent more than half our time working at centers.  We are the students.  We are doing the work.  We are not teaching (YET).  We are learning by being the students.

I am at the Compare and Contrast Center with 4 other adults.  Our task card says,

“Welcome to the compare and contrast center!

In this center you will be reading, talking, note taking, and comparing and contrasting the colonies.  Talk with your group about what you are learning: use text evidence.

After reading and taking notes, look back at your notes to develop idea.  You can go back and add on to your notes or start a new page of wonderings and ideas.”


If you were to restate that task, or turn and tell the gist to your partner, what would you say?

Does this task feel like an assignment?

Does it feel like there is only one answer?

How do we know what to do?


We have had some instruction in the form of lessons and demonstrations.  We have a page of thinking prompts for making comparisons and explaining differences that was included in the center packet. But we do not have  a suggested “product” for this “reading” task.

We know that we need evidence so we are jotting notes and using quotes as a part of our evidence.  We have five books about different colonies.  Not all books are from the same publisher so not all have the same exact Table of Contents.  The good news is that when we “perused” the books, one of our group members noted the similarity of four of the books and asked everyone else if the Table of Contents was similar.  We were happy to find that common ground to begin our compare/contrast work.

Do you have content area centers for reading (input of information)?  If yes, do the task cards sound open-ended like these?  If not, why don’t you have centers?  What are you waiting for?

Day 2 was Monday!

Advanced AM session with Brooke Geller

Show and Teach:  We walked around the room and played / shared our video, song, poem, or text.  These included:  Finding Nemo, Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchel and also by Counting Crows, Adidas ad for world soccer, McDonald’s ad for World Soccer, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go for starters!

Then we did a close reading of “Mr. Entwhistle” where there is a lot of envisioning to do because the characters actions and words are contradictory.  This was also part of a longer discussion explanation of how to use Read Aloud Jots to raise the level of jots for reading response about theories of characters.

We worked with strands of nonfiction in terms of:

  • size of text chunks
  • explicitness of main ideas
  • new vocabulary  and
  • scaffolding provided by the text features.


Closing Workshop

Stacey Fell   8th grade

Using Readers’ Notebooks to Drive Your Middle School Reading Instruction

This session repeats on Tuesday afternoon – consider attending!

Does your reader’s notebook need some serious attention.  Are you wondering what you should really be having the students “do” with their readers’ notebooks.  Then you should definitely attend Stacey’s session on Tuesday.  It will be packed full of ideas that you can use in your classroom and for your readers’ notebooks!

You will see examples of:

  • reading histories
  • publishable reading entries
  • signposts from ‘Notice and Note”
  • Best of Jots
  • long writes from book clubs
  • emotional time lines
  • pressure charts and above all,
  • the care taken with written pages by 8th grade students!


Closing Keynote with Mary Ehrenworth

There is this aura of effortless beauty that surrounds Mary Ehrenworth’s presentation style and today’s closing in Cowin Auditorium was not an exception.  She presented information about reading workshop efforts that have been transformative and have grown out of Think Tank work.


Goals for Evidence-based Argument and Reading Workshop:
  • Supporting ideas with evidence
  • Depening logic
  • Using the technical language of argument
  • Constructing and defending positions with fluency and grace
  • Acknowledge counterarguments

You really needed to be there to hear about possible implications, conscious decisions in schools, and to develop the skill and passion for both.  It boils down to, “Do you want students to be obedient or be capable of “holding their own in an argument?”  Eve Bunting’s “Fly Away Home” was the read aloud that we mined for evidence for three mini-flash debates with a neighbor that focused on:

character / setting – A. The airport is not a good place for this boy to live.
B. Actually, the airport is a good place to live

theme – A.  Overall the most important thing to remember, when times are tough, is that all you need is love!
B.  Overall the most important thing to remember, when times are rough, is that all you need is hope!

author’s craft –  A. Overall, in developing the airport setting in this story, images are more important.
B. Overall, in developing the airport  setting in this story, words are more important.


Could you defend either viewpoints in one minute, organizing your thoughts, AND including claim, evidence and reasons?  Which of those things do you want to do in your classroom

This keynote FLEW and yet we had come so far!  The point was/ is not about winning the argument.  Instead the point is to be able to think, sort and sift through information quickly.  More information about debate and Mary’s Closing Workshop during reading last week is here.


A second amazing day of learning . . .

What did you learn today?


ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


#TCRWP Day One: Reading Institute

It was a Sunday and 5:03 am.

Just like a kid getting ready for an adventure, I couldn’t sleep any longer.  What to do?

The registration doors don’t open until 7:30.  That would be 147 minutes of “me” time. My choice. My decision.

How do I decide? These are my “turn the page choices” but I have others on my Kindle that I can also choose from.


Here are just a few snapshots from Sunday, June 29, 2014.

New York City

Teachers College

The July 2014 Reading Institute began today with registration at 7:30 and then Lucy Calkins’ kickoff keynote.  Who are we?  The 1300 of us represent 41 countries and 46 states as Teachers, professors, editors, authors, superintendents, and coaches.  Lucy quickly had us reading two coming of age works, a poem and a song, before she began to talk about how to lift the level of our teaching.

According to Lucy, we need to:  1) work on our reading and our teaching in order to “outgrow” our reading selves, 2) own our content, and 3) teach within a community of practice.  The explanations, data, support, and stories were included in today’s #TCRWP twitter feed multiple times.  Check it our online.  Just know that Lucy’s final words were classic Lucy, “As you make your way back to the college, turn and talk and walk!”


Advanced Morning Section:  

Accelerating Students’ Progress Along Levels of Text Difficulty: Guided Reading, Assessment Based Teaching, and Scaffolds for Complex Texts (3-8) Brooke Geller (@Brooke_Geller)

I have followed Brooke for quite awhile; however, on Twitter I had missed how funny she is.  “Just add children” was one of the first quotes that I loved.  The learning from this section is going to be helpful for me in multiple buildings this year.  It was comforting to hear many of my beliefs affirmed, but it was also great to be working with song and video to “do close reading.” We worked as a group of three teachers to read through lenses, use lenses to find patterns, and used patterns to develop a new understanding of the text including authorial intent.

More details are available in the Twitter stream and note that my tweets from this session included both #tcrwp and @brooke_geller.  If you are not following Brooke on Twitter, please do so.    @brooke_geller


Twitter Meet Up Over Lunch

Over lunch Julieanne (@jarhartz) and I hung out in Everett Lounge for the Twitter Meet Up.  Thanks, new followers and previous followers as well.  It is always fun to meet Twitter friends in real life (f2f).  Today was the only day that K-8 attendees had the same lunch so Rebecca Cronin was working on signing up more Twitter peeps.

Do note that the Trail Guide  lists a session for Twitter newbies on Monday, June 30 in Millbank Chapel (1st floor, Zankel) entitled “Twitter is Your PD Friend:  Ways to Use Social Media to Enhance Your Learning” with Amanda Hartman and Rebecca Cronin.

Advanced PM Section:

Social Studies Centers Can Lift the Level of Content Knowledge and Reading Instruction (3-8) Kathleen Tolan (@KathleenMTolan)

Kathleen covered a great deal of information about why and how to use centers during social studies (or science) as another way for students to read more across the day and access text chosen carefully for its content AND the reading skills included.  My biggest “aha” was that reading workshop DURING social studies could provide a second time for reading workshop during the day.  Keeping it simple and manageable would be one goal so you as a teacher would begin only with the number of centers that matched the number of teachers teaching the content.

Math Alert:  So if only two teachers are working together, you would each be creating one center for two total.  (Tricky part)  But then you could have multiple copies of the same center so that ALL students are using those centers.  This might be a way to consider beginning your center work.

What would this look like?  My example:  24 students in the class.  Put students in groups of 4.  There are 6 groups total.  (Knowing that some center work is done independently, other as partners, and still other as a small group.)  The two centers are:  “Life in the Colonies” and “Where Did They Come From?”  Three groups would work on the “Life in the Colonies” centers and three groups would work on the “Where Did They Come From?” centers.  So if I made the “Life in the Colonies” center, I would need to have 3 different sets of the same center.  If Suzie made the 3 different “Where Did They Come From?” centers, Suzie would make 3 different copies of the exact same center.

What a great use of time!  Reading, learning content material, and completing tasks while talking and writing a wee bit as well!


Closing Workshop

It was truly a pleasure to hear Amanda Hartman on the topic of, “A Session for Literacy Coaches:  Staff Development Methods that Are As Essential to Professional Development as Mini-lessons and Conferring Are to Classroom Teachers.”   Amanda shared many tips that were also tweeted out earlier today about the value of “voice over” and lenses or inquiry that might be considered for study.  This is hard work but it is the right work and must be done by Teachers in order to set up a community of practice that will be successful. Not perfect.

Theme for today:  A community of practice will help you make the changes you need as a reader and as a teacher of readers; don’t delay, begin NOW!


What did you learn about reading today?  
Who will you share your learning with?  
What will you do differently as a result of your learning?


And circling back around, what did I read this morning?

My favorite quote:

This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said.  Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.


Check out Jacqueline Woodson’s site here for additional information about this book and others.


#TCRWP and A Teacher’s Toolkit for Teaching Writing

How many notebooks can a person have?  Readers notebook .  .  .  writers notebook .  .  .  conferring notebook  . . .  toolkit?  The name is not the most important thing . . . but in the interest of full disclosure, this blog is about the “toolkit” that the teacher would consider using during writing conferences with students OR in small group instruction.

If you want to learn more about toolkits, check out Anna’s post this week – “A Writing Teacher’s Summer Project Building a Teaching Toolkit” or Stacey’s “A Master’s Writing Notebook in Evernote” for some great ideas about “Why?” and “Should I plan to use tech?”

I began a teacher’s toolkit last year and have many of my favorite charts from #tcrwp and #chartchums drawn on the pages.   It has four sections:  the writing process, argument/opinion, informational/explanatory, and narrative.   The toolkit garnered some “oohs and aahs” from teachers and was a great first draft but it is now ready for an upgrade.  I’m mulling over my process (paper as in artist sketchbook or 3-ring binder or to bravely and boldly go electronic) as well as purpose (demonstrations for teachers in PD as well as classrooms) and I am at a crossroads.

And then I attended Katie Clements’ (@clemenkat) session at #tcrwp entitled, “Don’t Teach Empty Handed:  Toolkits that Can Help You Teach Explicitly, to Scaffold, and To Keep Track” and I knew that I would have even more questions before I could begin to assemble my toolkit.

Katie said . . .  “we can create a writing toolkit to take into our classrooms that has one replicable process that will LIVE in our writing.”  She quoted Brian Cambourne and how we need to make sure that learning from our demonstrations sticks.  That means that we need to check for high levels of engagement.  We often demonstrate writing as well as revision.  But sometimes the demonstrations seem to live only in the mini-lesson of our workshop.  Many writers would benefit from demonstrations on their own level so the purpose of a toolkit is to help students and provide additional demonstrations at their level.  (Clements, 06.24.14, Teachers College Writing Instittute)

So how do we do this?  Here was the process that Katie demonstrated.

Four Steps to Creating a Writing Toolkit

Step 1:  Study Student Writing and Determine Predictable Needs
Step 2  Create a Demonstration Text by Mirroring Student Writing
Step 3: Name the strategy that will move the writer and design the page
Step 4:  Use the toolkit to teach

Three predictable needs for narrative writing are:

  • Draft is swamped with dialogue
  • No tension (nothing changes between events)
  • Telling instead of showing (reporting)

Where would this list of predictable needs come from?  Conversation with your teaching peers, reviewing your conferencing data, and considering the needs of your students in previous years.  And then the key is to develop the resources in your toolkit for these predictable needs.  Consider setting up multiple demonstrations at different levels so that you have the just right example to move the student forward with the appropriate amount of scaffolding!

So what do you do with those predictable problems?  Here are examples of Katie’s toolkit pages.


This page includes demonstration text, chart, and place to practice strategies to move from repetitious ping – pong dialogue!



Paragraphing – always someone who needs a bit more practice.



Again, demonstration text, chart, and paper for immediate repeated practice,

Are you considering a toolkit for teaching writing?  How are you planning to use it?

(PS. Information writing predictable patterns were included in Monday’s post here. )


August 8, 2014  – A great new blog about teacher toolkits by Ericka Perry is available here.  Check it out!

#TCRWP and Day 4 – Role of Debate

Mary Ehrenworth’s (@MaryEhrenworth) Closing Workshop on Day 4 of June 2014 Writing Institute was named, “Role of Debate  in Your School and Across the Curriculum” in the Trail Guide and it totally lived up to its name!  From the opening, Mary encouraged participants to stagger the study of debate across the curriculum so that students would have enough opportunities for repeated oral practice to be successful later in writing.

What is the Progression of a Debate?

What should this look like?

  • Argue to prove a point
  • Argue to come to a richer, more nuanced understanding
  • Arguing to increase coalition and advocacy on ethical issues
What are Some Different Kinds of Debate Topics?
  • Social topics
  • Literary argument
  • Science disputes – implications not just following a procedure
  • Social Studies critical moments
  • Current events

Application:  Which of these are you currently using?  Which ones would you consider adding next?


What is the Role of Debate?
  • Strengthen kids’ logic
  • Increase transference across the curriculum
  • Develop critical thinking
  • Broaden perspectives
  • Support opinion and argument writing
  • Introduce ethical stances   (Should we take care of our water?  Choices in Life?)

 Application:  Of all of these, which will you take back to your colleagues?


What Debate Tips Will Help You?

Introduce protocol and use it often

  • State a clear claim
  • Support with evidence
  • Consider counterclaim
  • Acknowledge points of counterclaim
  • Rebut with conditions, nuance or shift in thinking

“Flash debate” for short chunks of time

Coach into kids logic and language – in talk before in writing (less to fix)

Be alert for authentic issues/topics/arguments


How does this vision of the role of debate match your reality?
Where will you begin?

#TCRWP: Day 3 Information Mentor Texts

This week I have been studying Information Writing at Teachers College June 2014 Advanced Writing institute.  It’s something I like but sometimes my own informational writing works and other times it seems to fall into the completely boring column. I believe that many teachers need help to increase both the quality and the volume of information writing across the curriculum and the day for ALL students.


I was quite pleased to attend Alexis Czeterko’s (@AlexisCzeterko ) Closing Workshop “Five Mentor Texts for Information Writing  – and Ways to Use Them with Power” on Wednesday afternoon.  Alexis began with several personal stories including cookbooks and her mother-in-law and a writing elective when she was ten, but you’ll have to check the twitter feed for further details.  (This is not a complete recap of the closing but it will give you the general flavor.)

When we study mentor text, we look for . . .

  • Ideas
  • Structure
  • Elaboration
  • Craft moves
  • Language conventions
 Do you have some favorite informational mentor texts?

The five books that Alexis featured were: 

1.  National Geographic – Great Migrations:  Amazing Animal Journeys


2. Surprising Sharks  by  Nicola Davies and illustrated by James Croft


3. No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young


4. The Split History of the American Revolution 


5. Elephants  by Steve Bloom


Are you currently using any of these books as mentor informational texts?
What are your top five?


TCRWP and Twitter!

“Tell the theme of your lives,” said Lucy Calkins yesterday (Monday, june 23, 2014) during her opening keynote at Riverside Church.

One theme of June 2014 Writing Institute is the people you meet both face to face and on Twitter.  Why use Twitter?  I am so impressed with the collegiality of the people that I know professionally, on-line, that I have also met in person.

Let’s start with Allison Jackson (@azajacks).  We met face to face last year during the Writing Institute and our friendship has flourished especially after multiple on-line book chats.  We’re enjoying seeing the sights of New York City and our conversations about both personal and professional lives – especially books!

Because of Twitter, I know Stacey Shubitz (@raisealithuman), of Two Writing Teachers fame.  Because of Twitter conversations, we saved her a seat at Riverside Church and visited before the keynote.  We met up with Stacey and Lisa Keeler (@rdgtchr13) for lunch today.  Lisa was also just one pew behind us in Riverside Church yesterday.  It was so easy to connect because “we already knew each other on Twitter.”

Because I know Stephanie Hardinger (@mshardinger) who is not attending, I also know her teaching partner Jake (@jakeban18) who is here at TCRWP and in both of my advanced sections. It just seems like there is less awkwardness when you already “know” the person through Twitter!

Another great Tweep, who I have followed on-line that is in my morning session, is Christina Nosek (@ChristinaNosek) who is at TCRWP with a group of teachers.  She is already blogging about her writing assignments here.

Last year I met Ryan Scala (@rscalateach) and Sandy Brumbaum (@sbrumbaum). Ryan’s school is still in session but he will be at the Reading Institute next week and we hope to meet up with him later this week. Sandy is also in my second advanced session.

Tara Smith (@TaraSmith5), also of Two Writing Teachers, is currently at Boothbay but plans to meet up with us later this week to share our learning experiences.  Ericka Perry (@perrer1) who learned Twitter alongside me last year at the Institute is also back again this summer.

Mollie Welsh Kruger (@molliewk) and I met this afternoon.  Mollie is on the faculty at Bank Street College just down the street.  It was such fun discussing both YA and professional literature as well as talking about classes taught as adjunct faculty member.

I am sure that I have left many folks out – and for that I apologize – but this quick post invites you to follow and learn from all folks at #tcrwp.  It’s a great community of learners.

And the @TCRWP staff:  Lucy joked that we would add 5 million Tweets in her keynote!  I’ve met Amanda Hartman (@amandalah), the Associate Director for TCRWP, and she retweets my tweets and encourages others to follow me.  She’s a rockstar herself.  This year I’ve also met Emily Smith (@emilyjbsmith), Katie Clements (@Clemenkat), and Rebecca Cronin (@RebeccaCronin2).  When added to last year’s Mary Ehrenworth (@maryehrenworth), Kathleen Tolan (@KathleenMTolan), and Colleen Cruz (@Colleen_Cruz ), the #TCRWP community is incredibly supportive.

Check it out yourself!  Continue to learn after you leave the 2014 June Summer Writing Institute!

June 24: Day 1 of #TCRWP Writing Institute

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


In the old days, some folks working with movies would say that Day 1 is in the can, but I don’t know the correct terminology for digital videography.  I do know that Day 1 of the 2014 June Writing Institute is complete – as far as sessions go.  Is the homework complete?  I doubt it.  Many tasks are facing me:  organizing my materials for tomorrow, assignment for the morning session with Mary, choosing closing sessions tomorrow, assignment for the small group session with Emily.  HOLY COW, that’s a lot of work!  (Not to be confused with this morning’s mention of  a chicken in a post here.)

 In the beginning . . .  Chapter 1

Today began with a one hour keynote by Lucy Calkins in Riverside Church.  Articulate, passionate, and enthusiastic about the role of writing in thousands of years dating back to the cavemen, Lucy’s speech was titled “Achieving a Re-set”.  If you are on Twitter, you can scroll through the tweets from #TCRWP for any that mention “Lucy, LC, or LCalkins” to see the quotes that were most often retweeted!  In typical Lucy fashion, she exhorted the 1200 strong participants  from 34 countries and 44 states to remember their own life themes as they shape the future of schools across the world.  Student writing and conversation dominated the keynote as both written words and video from student conferences were shared.  Writing, Students, Instruction – Who should have a voice?  A speech that began with ” I am blown away by the sheer miracle of your presence.  You are willing to give your life to it!” provided much to think about!  What a wonderful world it is!

Chapter 2 . . .

My Advanced session with Mary Ehrenworth is entitled “Reports, Nonfiction Books, Journals, Feature Articles, Information Writing and ELA Across The Day” and has already exceeded my expectations for the week.  We will be crafting our own progression in information writing this week.

Why do we write informational text?

  • Makes meaning of the world and deepens your own knowledge – really learn stuff & hold on to it forever!
  • Being a producer/creator/co-creator of text
  • Making a topic clear, and being able to make it understandable and authentic/engaging
  • Being able to teach something you know to others!
  • Being able to explain research / content
  • You might discover you’re good at it!

And then in the spirit of inquiry, Mary read openings from the following books so we could consider how they began.  What are moves that writers make, that we’d love to try? was the question that we were trying to answer.

Text Set

The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and turbulent Future of Water – Charles Fishman
The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes and Why – Amanda Ripley
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – Laurence Gonzales
Outliers : The Story of Success– Malcolm Gladwell
Smartest Kids in the World and How they Got that Way – Amanda Ripley

What would you say those texts have in common?  How are they different?

Chapter 3 . . . 

Social Butterfly Media Cafe 

Rebecca Cronin hosted an optional lunchtime workshop for Tweeters and Bloggers.  Meeting face to face is always a pleasure and showing “columned” tweeting aids like “Tweetdeck” were useful to the crowd gathered to eat lunch and tweet a bit.

Chapter 4 . . .

My small group session session with Emily Smith is “Seeing Patterns in Student Work, Then Teaching Small Groups (and More) to Build New Habits and Skills.”  We have already begun to improve our coaching skills as we use a “Research, Decide, Teach” model to respond to our partner’s writing from our writing sessions.

Not only should we be noticing patterns in writing, but we should also be looking for disruptions in writing.  Where does the writing fall apart?  Being able to generate questions and possibilities will help our students make growth!

Two key questions for conferencing are:

What are you doing?
What are you going to do next?

 Chapter 5 . . .

And then the choices for closing sessions were daunting.  Limiting oneself to one presentation was difficult but I ended up going to Katie Clements’ “Don’t Teach Empty Handed:  Toolkits that Can Help You Teach Explicitly, to Scaffold and to Keep Track.”  Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, organized and so talented, Katie led us through a discussion of WHY we needed a toolkit, HOW to create one, and how BEST to use one.  Citing a personal favorite of mine, Brian Cambourne, Katie shared that often in writing, demonstrations live in mini-lessons, so  students only see them on on one level.  Many writers would benefit from demonstations on their own level. The solution is to create a writing toolkit to help students!

What are some predictable writing problems or needs for students?

Information Writing often seems:

  • Disorganized
  • Only a tiny bit about each part
  • Jumps right in without setting up expectations

What are some other common writing difficulties for your students?  What conference is repeated the most?  Having your toolkit ready now (not waiting for it to be PERFECT is the key according to Katie!) will help you get the year off to a good start!  Practical, doable, and so engaging for working on writing revision for students!


What were your “Take Aways” from Day 1 of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Writing Institute?


P.S. (And is your homework all done?)


New York City: A Bit of Brooklyn

Another day of playing tourist in New York City involved visiting Brooklyn. Why Brooklyn?   Well, my name came from the character “Francie” in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith according to my mother.  Belief in a Tree of Heaven helped the Nolans through a variety of unfortunate circumstances.



It was interesting to think about the “Brooklyn” portrayed in the book and the Brooklyn of today.  As a tourist I saw:  nice homes, great food in a restaurant named “AlMar”, a long walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan and another totally different view of the New York City skyline!

What do you know about the Brooklyn Bridge?

The DOT has information about it here.  Keep in mind that it is 1.8 kilometers or 1.1 miles long and has a specific path for walkers and bicyclists as evidenced in this picture. 


With construction, folks stopping to take pictures and/or rest, the lanes were never that wide today.  This is also the beginning portion of the bridge.  My new learning for the day included the fact that this suspension bridge has some concrete flooring and some wooden flooring.  (Wooden suspension bridges remind me of the Royal Gorge – very bouncy and wide holes between each board.)  Heights are not my favorite thing so today was another exercise in perseverance and the fact that there is always something good in every event – today’s blessing was in the gorgeous weather, the company and the fabulous view of Manhattan.


Enjoying NYC – #TCRWP Writing Institute tomorrow!

What is your favorite view of Manhattan?

Iowa Tourist in New York City: Oh, My!

Perfect Saturday weather in New York City with a beautiful blue sky and temperature in the 70s.  Add in gracious tour guide, @azajacks, (AKA Allison Jackson) and it was a wonderful day.  If you haven’t played tourist in NYC lately, this post may be the cause of a craving for a day or two or a week in the Big Apple.


Remember that the first word in the title was “Iowa” and to make sure that you are not confused with Ohio or Idaho, I have given you the map with Iowa as the “red state”.  Last Wednesday I had the privilege of hearing @tguskey (AKA Tom Guskey) in a superb day sponsored by Drake University’s Education Leadership faculty.  (Take advantage of ANY opportunity to see Dr. Guskey!  He is a great storyteller who makes you think!)  Anyway (to keep this as a micro story), my Wednesday started and ended with deer in my driveway.  When I left at 6:00 am there were three does in the driveway – all just standing there looking at me as IF they owned the rock!  And when I returned home at 7:00 pm there were two fawns in the driveway for a grand total of five different deer on our property, highly visible to begin and end my day.  Deer on our property, whether on the roof, in the yard or driveway is “normal” as there is state forest timber on three sides of us.  We live in a VERY rural area!

Fast forward to Saturday, my first full day in NYC with a trip planned to the 9/11 Museum (including a guided tour) scheduled for 10:30 am.  Travel included the subway ride that began at 8:10 this morning and ended with the walk home from the subway about 8 pm.  Not a normal day in Iowa!

Where were we?
    • 9/11 Memorial
    • 9/11 Memorial Museum
    • 9/11 Memorial Museum Guided Tour
    • Wandering and Revisiting Exhibits in the 9/11 Memorial Museum
    • St. Paul’s Chapel
    • Time Square
    • Visiting the Lions at the New York City Public Library (and the gift shop)
    • Rockefeller Square
    • Bank Street Books

Google photos has many pictures available from the 9/11 Memorial or you can actually go to their site at 911memorial.orgImage


There is no admission fee on the outside grounds of the memorial.  You can visit the “Survivor Tree” or the “South and North Reflecting Pool Memorials” without tickets.  If you desire to view a specific name on the wall, you will want to visit the electronic search kiosk to locate the panel letter and number for that individual.  I looked for my sister’s friend and only a few seconds of search were required when searching with a first and last name.  

You will have to see the museum to believe it.  There is an admission charge with an additional charge for a guided tour.  Our tour leader was Eduardo, who was very good at putting us at ease so that we felt comfortable asking questions.  He is a master storyteller.  At the end we did ask for advice as we were thinking our time might be limited.  Eduardo shared that the guides had written their own scripts after studying the artifacts that were assembled on “Ground Zero” – studying and writing for months for a polished script!  Wow! His depth of knowledge was unbelievable.

You need to see:


1) The “Slurry Wall” inside Foundation Hall and hear its original purpose and what has been done to reinforce it after 9/11


2) This quote from Virgil on Memorial Hall.  Each “blue” page represents a person murdered at the Trade Center or because of the Al Qaeda plots.  Each blue page is also a different color – ALL 2,977 of them are uniquely different.

3) An artifact added after a stunning victory in the war against the Terrorists. (Hint – related to May 2, 2011 but not shown in a picture)



4) Many heart wrenching and tear jerker stories complete with personal artifacts to view.





5) Memorial Hall complete with photos for each person murdered by the terrorists.

And that is just a Very, Very small sampling of the artifacts.

After the guided tour, we went back to carefully reread the posted notes and view the tons of steel and concrete that remain a part of the Twin Towers and the existing “reflecting pools”.  It was a day of wonderment as well as a day of tears.  So many lives cut short.  Many unborn children who perished as well.  The museum truly honors and cherishes the victims.  The design was well executed! The layout maximizes space.  The subdued lighting adds to the somber and reverent tone!

What an amazing day!  Thanks, Allison!

Have you been to visit the 9/11 Museum Memorial?  What touristy plans do you have while participating in #tcrwp Writing Institute?



Writing: Planning, Revising, Editing, Rewriting, or Trying a New Approach (CCR. W.5)

If you are in a Common Core state, you may already have digested this standard:

“CCR. W.5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.”


If you are still trying to figure out what it means for you as the teacher (instruction) or for the students (learning) or even to real-life authors, you need to check out Kate Messner’s book:  Real Revision –  Authors’ Strategies to Share with Student Writers.


It’s written by a REAL teacher who is also a REAL author who has REAL practical, crystal clear examples.  You can preview parts of the book online here at Stenhouse!

Not convinced?

Here is the Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: Real Revision: Where Stories Start to Sing
Chapter 2: Creating a Revision-Friendly Classroom
Chapter 3: The Elephant in the Room (And It’s Ticking Away the Minutes!)
Chapter 4: Back to Brainstorming
Chapter 5: Real Authors Don’t Plan . . . Or Do They?
Chapter 6: Big-Picture Revision
Chapter 7: Returning to Research
Chapter 8: Magic in the Details
Chapter 9: Are the People Real?
Chapter 10: Whose Voice Is It Anyway?
Chapter 11: The Words We Choose
Chapter 12: Cut! Cut! Cut!
Chapter 13: Talking It Out
Chapter 14: Clean Up: The Copyediting Process
Chapter 15: What If the Writing Is Already Good?
Chapter 16: Technology Tools of the Trade
Chapter 17: The Revision Classroom, Revisited

What grade levels would benefit from this text?

This book is listed for grades 3-9, but it could work at any grade with some thoughtful planning by the teacher. The copyright is 2011 but the strategies will withstand time!

Check it out!
“When you’re done, you’ve just begun!”   – Lucy Calkins

Preview here.



Chapter 6 “Big Picture Revision”

“Revise for:

    • theme – What is this piece really about?
    • seeing the forest instead of the trees  – Create a “to-do” list
    • reading to revise – listen to the piece; how does it sound?”


And then how is this supported by what this first grader revises here in “Austin’s Butterfly”

and what Lucy Calkins says here in “Being a Good Writer”?


Have you read this?  What did you think?
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