In Summary, #TCRWP 2015 Institutes


There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

There is always more to be learned.

Which emphasis matches the meaning you are thinking about/envisioning?

(And, yes, repeated reading is not just for fluency instruction or narratives!)

ruby slippers  NYC

 What do ruby slippers, the yellow brick road and NYC have in common?

There is no place like home (Teachers College) for learning!

The TCRWP Writing and Reading Institutes have fueled my mind and my soul the last three years. I understand why teachers keep coming back again and again. There’s new learning, there’s an increased depth of learning as new layers are built upon a solid foundation, and then there’s also that “esprit de corps” from spending time with like-minded individuals.

My blog posts for the last two weeks have covered the content of many of my sessions. Three closings have deliberately been left as I plan to use them in professional development: Maggie’s Technology work, Shana’s revision work, and Alexis’ Video Read Aloud in Content Areas. I promise that you will see and hear about them in the future.

What were the key takeaways?


1:  Literacy is important.

Reading and Writing support each other. Let them live together. Monitor their time. Don’t let either one become the “weed” that chokes the other out. Reading and Writing should be seamless across many parts of the day.


2:  The #TCRWP “way” is one way (not the only way)!

A huge body of research and work with students supports the Units of Study in Writing and also now in Reading. Continue to study the work that you do and that your students do.  When you introduce a tool or a scaffold, make sure that you have a plan in place to remove the scaffold and promote independence and transfer for students!  (It’s not about the tools!  It’s all about the books!)  Don’t be “slaves” to the “scripts” but instead use your data to be planful about how to best meet the needs of your students!


3:  Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening; the work that students need to be doing.

Not worksheets.

Not ‘cute activities”.

Not graphic organizers.

 Every day, reading, writing, speaking and listening,

Across every content area.


Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening on topics that students choose so they are engaged and their learning will transfer!


4:  Light your own fire; build your own community!

Teaching is hard. Teaching requires a steel backbone to meet the needs of students without giving in to the demands of politicians and test authors! Well-intentioned folks have pledged allegiance to some really awful products. Find strength from a community of like-minded individuals (or join in the #TCRWP Wednesday 7:30 EST Twitter chats). Have fun and enjoy your community!


5:  Read and Write Yourself in order to “Know” the trouble students will encounter!

Spy on yourself as a reader so that you know what skills and strategies you use when reading. Make sure you read both literature and informational text. Talk about your reading with your learning community.  Spy on yourself as a writer. What do you find easy?  What do you avoid?  Make sure your write stories, poems, informational and arguments so you can have a plan ready for when trouble hits. “It will,” says Lucy Calkins. “Be public about how you handle trouble, because that’s what students will remember!”

What themes did you hear at the 2015 TCRWP Writing and/or Reading Institutes?  

What keys would you add?

TagCrowd from this post (began after the repeated sentences!)

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.22.24 AM


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


28 responses

  1. Powerful learning and sharing with us Fran. So glad you are taking so much away with you. This is what the NWP/HVWP means to me.

    1. Any intense immersion in a major topic is worth sharing! 🙂

  2. sallydonnelly11 | Reply

    What a clear reminder of the big ideas shared at the institute!! You are a master at synthesis. Iowa and this writing community are both lucky that you are a learner who shares so generously. So glad I got to meet you in person.

    1. Sally,
      It was so great to meet you and talk about our learning together as well! So many big ideas to remember! Sharing is a long-time habit that should transfer for most adults!

  3. Your experience is rich and I am glad you share some of it. You are so right when you say that there is always more to learn. I like how you played with the bold to shift emphasis.

    1. Thanks so much! A bit of a “pun” when thinking of the prosody that we hope/teach for all students that definitely should have some transfer value. TCRWP institutes are truly growing experiences!

  4. What a treasure trove of great takeaways you have provided. Number 3 really resonated with me because I know some teachers who would spend an entire period in the copy room running off worksheets and graphic organizers. How sad.

    1. That’s a tough one because I would be rich if I had a penny for every time someone said, “But those worksheets work for my kids…” “But those graphic organizers work for my kids…” because they stifle thinking and create a false impression of the work to be done. Completing the “task” becomes the chore in a “cookie cutter way” that ensures that NO thinking is required!

      More reading and writing for real purposes is so needed at all levels of education!

  5. I can totally connect to what you’ve written. I continue to return to the summer institutes year after year feeling intellectually stimulated in a way that doesn’t exist anywhere else! Sorry we never ran into each other at the reading institute.

    1. Mona,
      There’s an atmosphere of challenging thinking/ growing minds prevalent at TCRWP that literally cannot be packaged! So TRUE!

      We will have to make a plan to meet next time!

  6. Hi Fran! I didn’t get into tcrwp this year so I am so grateful for your sharing. I use reading and writing workshop with my Special Ed students in DC and I feel as thought the workshop is what inspires me at the beginning g of each year. Thank you so much for this awesome contribution! Ann

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. You are welcome, Ann! #TCRWP was faulous this year! So much excitement around the new Units of Study in Reading. The hard work of reading and writing continues to be a major concern. Reading and Writing workshop provide powerful opportunities for REAL reading and writing for ALL students!

  7. I’ve said it before, and I will continue to say it: You are the BEST at sharing your learning! Thank you many times over! I will be giving an overview of balanced literacy to teachers new to the district in August and a key theme I will be presenting is your #3. My message to teachers is There is ALWAYS more to be learned. It makes me cringe when teachers don’t believe that.

    1. Teaching and Learning – so critical for both to be balanced. i believe that a person who is not continuing to learn . . . should not be teaching! Life changes so quickly and student learning as well that a competent teacher MUST be learning, revising, and thinking all the time!

      THANKS! Learning is best done in communities and this is one of the greatest!

  8. I smiled throughout this post. Thank you, thank you for articulating what matters and being a part of that community that knows there is always more to be learned AND is excited about it!

    1. Julieanne,
      It was an easy post to write after a bit of rainy drive time yesterday. However, I’m sure that the list could have gone on and on!

      I love “leading the charge” for more learning . . . just such a fun place to be!

  9. Love this Fran – you truly write mentor texts for sharing what you experience at a PD session — it is a gift. You share key points, synthesize and craft it to add layers of meaning. Thank you Thank you – we are going to share this post for the teachers we collaborate with.
    Clare and Tammy

    1. You are welcome! I was thinking of these as coaching texts – but I love your idea of mentor texts for PD experiences.

      Can’t wait to see you at ILA!

  10. Thank you, Fran! I completely agree that the institutes were fabulous this year! The TCRWP staff push my thinking each time I am there and I LOVE it! I hope that our ruby slippers will take us back to those “front and center” Cowin seats again next year. 🙂

    1. You are welcome, Phyllis!

      There’s something about the view and the learning from “front and center” Cowin seats! 🙂

  11. THERE IS ALWAYS MORE TO BE LEARNED! Hooray! Isn’t that the best?!

    1. Beth,
      YES, ALWAYS MORE! That is the best! So exciting to see your name as author last week on the new primary materials! YAY! YOU!

  12. I wrote a comment but hit the button too quickly so I will try again(oops):

    Thank you for being my daily Christmas present this summer! You have made me feel a part of the journey. I looked forward to your post each day. I love that this community encourages my love of learning and pushes me in new ways. I have seen the difference surrounding yourself with positive, engaged intellectuals can make on my personal attitude and teaching. Thank you for inspiring me!

    1. Marie,
      You are so welcome! The positive support in this community keeps me writing as well! That also makes it easy to focus on my own growth as a reader and a writer! ❤

  13. Your summary hits the nail on the head: Always more to be learned. Looking forward to my week at the Reading Institute to keep learning! Thanks for sharing your thinking, Fran!

    1. You are so welcome, Catherine!

      So much YET to be learned! You will love the Reading Institute. So helpful to HEAR the authors as they demonstrate their work and the new ideas present in the Reading UoS!

  14. Fran, the way you synthesize is truly a gift to our community. You have a way of breaking down this very difficult work into manageable parts and pieces – categories that make so much sense. Thank you thank you thank you!

    1. Dayna, you are welcome!

      It’s that solid IOWA background that is handy when it’s time to “cut to the chase”!!!!

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