Tuesday 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.
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:
- 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?)