#TCRWP Writing: Takeaways Day 1

It’s majestic even when under construction (yes, still) when the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project keynote begins at  Riverside Church.

There was a “comfortable-ness” in the air in both the words and in Lucy’s delivery as she spoke of TCRWP days past, present and future.


We’ve come from 48 countries and 43 states.  Leaders of state-wide reform, scores of principals and literacy coaches. And teachers by the hundreds.”

We heard that the teaching of writing matters.   Lucy said she was blown away by the sheer miracle of our presence.  The teacher’s job is not to teach information but to teach how to access – writing is the best tool that we have for that work –  doing something with that information at our fingertips!  Writing comes from within us.

On day one of registration for this institute, 8,000 applied.

Writing Matters!

We, the 1600 seated in Riverside Church, heard stories of Donald Murray, Donald Graves, riding on the Patagonia interspersed with quotes and excerpts of writing.

Lucy 2

And then, “Artistry in the Teaching of Writing”.  Lucy spoke of teachers who know the Writing Units of Study forward and backwards and who can quote the bends  – and the work therein.  These same teachers, however, aren’t all writers and therefore don’t have the deep understanding of “the heart of writing”.


Lucy 3

Writing has been written about, talked about and studied at great length!  More time needs to be spent on the envisioning because our students will only be able to meet our expectations.  Our expectations will truly be their ceiling of learning.

Lucy spent time talking about these three stages of the writing process:

” * Rehearse

   * Draft

    * Revise and Edit”

The stories were many.  Sometimes Lucy raced through quotes and parts.  And yet at other times she lingered.


  1. Revision is not just prettying up the page, adding detail, a new beginning or ending. It’s all about growing insights or realizations! LC
  2. Units of Study:  “I don’t know if they really highlight the depth that I know is necessary for rehearsal and revision.  After you write a draft (in a WHOOSH), cycle back to rehearsal.  That’s the cycle of life in the process.  Is that the push in the UoS?” LC
  3. “If you need to rethink your teaching, how does that make you feel? To embrace the writing life and outgrow yourself over time – there’s more I could have done, you want to have a glad feeling of possibility of a place to outgrow yourself to.” LC
  4. “How can we see beyond our best work?  If you embrace revision, if you embrace writerly life, you will need to learn from your writing!  Grow an image of what is essential!” LC
  5. “If you want to support a person’s growth, treat them as if they are already the person you want them to be.” LC

Which idea do you want to consider to ponder?

Session 1. “Ratchet Up the Level of Your Students’ Writing by Teaching Them Revision: Tapping into the Power of Mentor Texts and Checklists (K-2)”  

Celena Larkey

Revision needs to happen A LOT across the day.  One place to add revision and allow practice at the primary grades is during Shared Writing.  With the teacher holding the pen and children dictating the possibilities, students can have A LOT of practice that increases their understanding!

literacy components

How do we revise?  Revision comes after every step of the writing process.  It may look different as in “Revise in the air – rehearsal all the time!!! EVERY part of workshop even in K, 1, 2. Get idea, revise, plan, revise. . . Revision is NOT one special day on the unit plan calendar! It’s every day!” CL

revision Celena

We had adult writer’s workshop in this session.  More to come on that in later days.  So nice to see and hear writing conferences as well.  Second time to write on the first morning of #TCRWP June 2016 Writing Institute!

Celena talked about turning points in memoirs.  “One little event, one little action that sets you up for change. Sketch those moments.   Rehearse. Revise in the air. Tell the story in the air! Talk to and/with a partner about those moments. Iron out that turning point.  It won’t sound like a story YET!  It won’t sound like writing YET!  It won’t sound like a memoir yet!”


  1. Revision is not a checklist. CL
  2. Revision occurs during and after each and every step of the writing process. CL
  3. As a writer, it is important to know HOW you define revision.  How do you revise?  Is it easy?  Is it difficult? CL
  4. If your story is “my kids don’t like to revise or my kids don’t want to revise”, you have to change that story line as Don Graves said, “If writing is 100%, revision is 85%.” Your expectations as Lucy said do matter!  CL
  5. In the beginning, you will want to see evidence of physical re-writing (flaps, post-its, revision pen), because those first revisions will develop volume, stamina, and risk-taking. Habits and behaviors will come from your philosophy of writing! CL

How have these takeaways and notes added to your K-2 writing knowledge base?  

What do you want to remember?

Session 2:  “Power Tools, Methods and Strategies:  Access and Support for English Language Learners and Kids with IEPs in the Writing Workshop (4-8)”

Colleen Cruz

When working with “Striving readers”, Colleen had us consider:  personality, expertise, strengths, needs – not just problem areas!  This positive, asset-building approach reminded us of the many things that a target student (one with an IEP, labeled EL, or both) could be viewed “as more than one way.”  In order to teach students who are struggling, we must know them!

Colleen challenged us to observe students in many ways (and this is in her wonderful book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher).  Storytelling circles on the first day of school.  Ask students to bring an object that the student can tell a story off of!   English learning students can tell story in dominant language and then tell in English or with a partner as a scaffold.  And then consider collecting knowledge in these areas:

  • Social conversations
  • Whole-class conversation
  • Small-froup conversation
  • Pen grip
  • Feet placement
  • Closeness of face to paper (vision)
  • Legibility and size of writing
  • Pressure on pen
  • Eyes during workshop (on charts, on own work, on classmates’ work, wndering)
  • Posture
  • Patterns of geting started in writing
  • Patterns in topics
  • Patterns in strategies
  • Subject area of strength
  • Subject areas of struggle
  • When experiencing success . . .
  • When experiencing frustration . . .
  • Areas of expertise
  • Spelling
  • Grammar

Take Aways:

  1. Telling stories about students changes us from thinking about them as case studies to more personalized humans. CC
  2. Observation data is important so take at least once a month to truly observe – “First Friday of the month – take time to watch your class.What is it that this child does?” CC
  3. Only give feedback on one thing!!!  Make it be a BIG Ticket Thought where other things can be “tucked underneath!” CC
  4. When reviewing a student on demand piece, name what students are doing – helps with teaching purpose – without jargon and buzz words.  Keep your language simple. CC
  5. Go to understood.org – Look up a disability.  How can this add to your repertoire? CC

What themes are you beginning to see emerge from across the day?

Closing session:  “The TCRWP’s Latest and Best Thinking about Efficient, Powerful Small Group Work that Accelerates Students’ Progress in Dramatic Ways”

Amanda Hartman

Small groups might be for:




Shared Writing & / or Interactive

Word Study

Don’t wait.

Use small groups NOW!

PLAN for three small group sessions in a row – And not the same sequence/type each time.  Not all students will need all three sessions! But some will when your goal is building independence and seeing evidence of transfer.  Students will be sitting there.  You need to have that specific learning target (AND YES, only one) that will move the writing across all kinds, all pieces.

What matters?

  • Crystal clear goals
  • MOSTLY the kids (Pacing)
  • NOT brand-new
  • Practice – Repetitive – Transfer
  • Scaffolding
  • Feedback
  • Create a series – use a mini-chart

What tools are you giving students?


  • Writing in the air
  • Lead in phrases or sentence starters
  • Refer back to a tool (shouldn’t be a NEW one when working on practice)

Take Aways:

  1. Use of Strategies to attain goals 80-85% of small group is practice. NOT NEW GOALS! AH
  2. A small group session of 10 minutes will have two minutes of teacher talk and eight minutes of student practice so that the teacher can check in with each student three times! AH
  3. If Ss struggle, how long do you wait? Who do you help? Help students who need quick nudge so that you then have 3 of 4 students working and can really spend more time with the one stuck student. AH
  4. Be prepared. What are my coaching moves? What are my scaffolds?   Demonstration, lean directions, teaching tool?  AH
  5. “How do I set up for two or three small group sessions in a row? How do I help Ss incorporate and use the strategies with more automaticity and independence?” AH

For me  . . .

I have homework tasks yet to do, but writing this post helped me think about what I HEARD today.

Where/ how/ when will I use this information?  

How is my learning helping me revise my thinking?  

Which comes first – the learning, the revision of thinking, or the openness to new thinking?

slice of life 2016

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.  Writing makes us all more human!










36 responses

  1. YOU are an excellent notetaker!! I especially love the questions you pose at the end of each session. I feel I am at the Institute, learning from afar!! Thank you for generously sharing!! Keep learning and posting, please!!

    1. Sally,
      So much to learn! You are totally welcome!

  2. One day I hope to get to a summer institute. It’s a dream anyway. I liked Colleen Cruz’s idea of storytelling circles. It’s great to build community, help students see the importance of telling stories, it gives students practice in using the language of stories, and can give teachers an opportunity to observe students. Thanks for sharing all the smart thinking that is going on in your workshop sessions!

    1. Lisa,
      You are welcome! So many people from so many places!

  3. I am grateful to you, Fran, for sharing highlights from day one!

    1. Stacey,
      So missed you at Riverside yesterday. In fact we did talk about you, your note-taking, Evernote, etc. as we sat in the front row!

      You are welcome!

  4. Wow. Fran, you really know your stuff! Keep on doing what you’re doing. The world needs more teachers like you!

    1. Thanks, Lisa!
      There are 1200+ of us here at TC this week. I have no clue how many also attend next week for the Reading Institute but that’s a lot of educators who are spending at least 30 hours in the pursuit of more knowledge about writing! ❤

      1. It’s good to see so many educators committed to aquiring more knowledge for our kids. Keep up the good work. We parents appreciate you!

  5. Michelle @litlearningzone | Reply

    Wow, Fran! Always impressed with you note taking and processing! Thank you for you willingness to share your learning! What a day!!! Enjoy this week and look forward to more!

    1. Michelle @litlearningzone | Reply


    2. You are so welcome, Michelle! Writing these blog posts helps me “know what I know.”

  6. Thank you so much for posting your thoughts. Just day one is full of so much richness. There are so many different “Big Ideas” to take away. I like your note taking format. The questions at the end of each section structure for others to use your notes for their learning take aways. Wow! I hope you don’t mind me stalking your week. It’s inspiring for my own personal writing.

    1. This is a new format for me (I think). I’ll have to check the last two years’ posts I do love the daily writing while I’m at #tcrwp; it helps me get ready for each new day!

      Do follow along – it’s not stalking!

      1. Thanks!

  7. Thank you Fran for summarizing your learning for us! So wanted to be there! Now I feel like I’m learning with you! Loved the notes on revision being 85% of writing – so true. Makes us think about how we are teaching it! And I loved AH’s idea that small group work is practice not new strats. Will help many teachers do more small groups! Thanks again and I look forward to reading the rest of your posts!!

    1. You are so welcome, Tina. Always so much to learn and so many ways to grow!

  8. Fran,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to share what you are experiencing. It is the next best thing to being there. All of us “at home, arm chair tweeters” are learning right beside you. Have a great week!

    1. You are welcome, Jan! I’ve discovered the power of learning from my friends and their tweets as well when they attend workshops.

  9. Appreciate the detailed notes, Fran, both what you heard and how those words stirred your thinking.

    1. You are welcome, Brian. So much fun in sharing!

  10. What important and useful information. Love this quote…”Revision is NOT one special day on the unit plan calendar! It’s every day!” CL Not all students are at the same place in their writing their classmates and to say something like “Tomorrow we will all revise our work” just doesn’t make sense. I totally agree that revision is an ongoing process.

    1. That is one of my favorite quotes as well. So much fun and learning and so happy that “REVISION” is a big focus for the week. I think students are struggling because we, the adult writers, are also struggling! ❤

  11. Amazing. As always. You and TCRWP. There are so many things I got from this post. I love Lucy’s call to be writers and know your writers. Colleen’s list of tapping into our ‘striving students” and the strategies for small group planning are terrific. Thank you for this!

    1. Julieanne,
      Of course, I was channeling my readers – and especially those of you who have been writers much longer than me!

      You are so welcome. Your writing is always a source of sustenance for me! Heart, Body and Soul! ❤

  12. As always I am grateful for your detailed notes(even in the instances when I sat next to you in some sessions- I love the way you capture your main take-aways). I wish I could have heard from Colleen Cruz directly- it sounds like lots of what I need (although I have loved all my sessions so far). So glad to have met you in person finally!

    1. Erika,
      I love the take-aways, too! We’ll see if 10 days of take-aways is tooooooo many!
      So much fun to meet face to face and actually be side by side in sessions!

  13. So awesome Fran. Thank you for being so generous and taking copious notes, editing them and then putting them into such an easy to read, understand and learn from format. You truly are appreciated. Enjoy the rest of your time soaking in all that knowledge. 🙂

  14. I am saving this post for summer vacation, when my teaching brain has the space to absorb all your wisdom. Thanks for sharing, Fran!

    1. Summer vacation will soon be upon you, Tara! Enjoy your last few days!

      You are welcome! I have gained so much wisdom from you, my friend! ❤

  15. […] #TCWRP Writing Takeaways here, here, here, here, and […]

  16. Kim Oldenburgh | Reply

    Thank you so much for these notes. I do wonder why small groups should not be new learning. I will admit this past year one of my goals was to get better at implementing small groups and I did often incorporate new learning as I had a small group of writers begging for more depth. The lessons for that small group wouldn’t have been appropriate for the whole class. The rest of the time was spent practicing what they were learning. Any insights on this?

    1. The goal of small groups is to meet for about 10 minutes with teacher talk for about 2 min. and students working about 8. So, there isn’t time for new learning. With the reading progressions, kids who needed to dig deeper to go higher would not need new instruction – just continuing to self evaluate. I think it’s the “always reaching with higher expectations for EVERY student! ”

  17. […] #TCRWP Writing: Takeaways Day 1#TCRWP Writing: Takeaways Day […]

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