TCRWP: Day 4 Writing institute 2015

For the record, “The King and I” deserved even more Tony awards.  it’s an amazing musical and an “Absolutely MUST See” at Lincoln Center.  Incredible use of space in every single scene!

teachers college

Otherwise, Back at Teachers College . . . Thursday is always the Dreaded “Day 4” of any institute where the pace and intensity increases as the end (Friday) is in sight.

Developing a Narrative Writing Toolkit (K-2) Celena Larkey

Today we mined three pieces for “what” we would be ready to teach to our younger readers:

1) text that was picture only

2) pictures with labels

3) simple story line

This work was HARD and was best done in collaborative groups in order to have many voices chime in.  We began with the list of skills that could be taught from both pictures and text and then moved into the strategies that we have been talking about all week when we revise to make the work more readable, structured, and / or developed.  We also looked at student work with a checklist and briefly considered qualities of a checklist more specific to “other writing” at our grade levels.  So one group, for example, looked at creating a checklist for “fairy tales”.  This work is continuing through tomorrow.  I was reminded of the upper grade checklists that I have seen Tara create here.  I am learning during this primary session how to create checklists for a unit from the “If/Then” book.

Using the Best, New Children’s Literature as Mentor Texts:  Support Sky High Writing (3-8)  Shana Frazin


Love work with theme?

Dread work with theme?

How do you teach it?

What if you gave the students a list of just a few common themes and then asked “Which ones apply to the text?  Where do you see evidence that supports it?”  (feels different, doesn’t it?)

common themes in literature

This list of eight would probably be too many for a third or fourth grade class working with theme, but it may be “just right for a seventh or eighth grade classroom that has worked with theme many times.  Shana reminded us that some “tests” boil theme down to one or two words but our goal is to continually ask, “Why does this theme matter?” and with mentor texts, “What craft (including structural moves) did the author use in order to help us understand theme?”

We also worked with crafting a series of mini-lessons on a topic.  I’m still thinking about this and how it would go.  The gist was to be more planful in considering the data and the needs of the students.  The instruction might begin with “inquiry” with a piece of literature and then move into more specific study depending on the desired outcomes.  This feels like the right work to move students more quickly to independence!

Closing Workshop:  Going Digital with Planning Tools and Resources to Make Work (and Life!) More Collaborative  Gerrit Jones-Rooy

This closing session was an “Appy Hour” where we literally explored tools and shared what we found with a partner.  If you like being organized, I can’t say enough about the app “Cam Scanner”.  I installed it on my phone and have been playing with it ever since.  It’s very handy for adding whole documents AND/or partial documents with quick and easy cropping. Doctopus also has many practical uses.  Veteran TCRWP attendees were also excited by a Cornelius Minor sighting at this session!

Apps for Teacher Collaboration

Student app use included the following resources (sorry, not clickable links).  For current newsela users, do note that an elementary version now lives at  Some articles are available for even younger readers than before.  As with any tools, check to make sure they meet your purposes and needs.  The dancing letters may be quite clever, cute and entertaining but the “actual letter sounds” may not be the sounds used by your young students!

Apps for Students

The final keynote was with Naomi Shihbab Nye.  I loved hearing about our oasis and our “spa” at Teachers College. More about Naomi when I “talk” about actual books and new resources!”


What did you read today?

What did you write today?

How are you continuing to GROW as a professional?

9 responses

  1. Thanks, again, Fran for all your Tweets! I love this bit from your session with Shana:
    Shana reminded us that some “tests” boil theme down to one or two words but our goal is to continually ask, “Why does this theme matter?” and with mentor texts, “What craft (including structural moves) did the author use in order to help us understand theme?”

    Theme is so often presented to our kids as a single minilesson – this is what theme is – without any context or sense of why it is the driving force behind an author’s intent in writing the book in the first instance…because he/she has something to say. It’s such a complex thing to grasp as an adult, and yet we often blithely ask our kids to write the dreaded five paragraph essay about the theme of the book. Ugh! What I would have given to be at Shana’s session! Thanks for this vicarious learning, my friend.

    1. Tara,
      Attending “upper” sessions this summer has been so incredibly eye-opening because I was never taught anything about theme, thesis statements, interpretation, etc., etc., etc., etc.! And I ‘m not sure if it’s the “rush” to get things done or the “oversimplification” of how important theme is that causes it to be “blithely” glossed over!

      MAYBE, one must BE a Writer and live a writerly life to truly appreciate theme?

      1. You’ve got it! Plus one needs to read!😉

  2. I have loved reliving each institute day with you.

    1. Thanks, Jessie!
      It is so helpful to have such a dedicated audience!

  3. Once again, thank you Fran! I always learn so much…

    1. You are welcome, Ali. It’s been a great learning week – all the more precious for sharing!

  4. […] For the record, "The King and I" deserved even more Tony awards. it's an amazing musical and an "Absolutely MUST See" at Lincoln Center. Incredible use of space in every single scene! Otherwise, …  […]

  5. […] #TCRWP Writing here, here, here, here, and […]

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