#TCRWP Reading: Takeaways Day 1

And so it begins  . . . this week I am attending the #TCRWP June Reading Institute and it’s off to an amazing start! This is what my brain felt like about 2 pm on Monday . . . with an hour and a half YET to go.

Exploding head

08 May 2001 — Exploding head — Image by © John Lund/CORBIS


Information Overload!

Just plug that CAT 6 cable directly into my brain and let me power on all the assistance I can.  It’s going to be an exhilarating experience!

Lucy Calkins Keynote

Why do we read?  How does reading benefit us as a community?  How does the community benefit when we are readers?  These questions weren’t posed by Lucy but so many questions ran through my mind today during her “Call to Action.”

“We come from 38 countries and 41 states . . . 1300 of you to learn about teaching reading . . . to learn about yourselves . . . to learn from each other . . . From places in the heart . . .To say no . . . To say yes”

TCRWP isn’t just an event. It’s not about attending for a week, soaking up knowledge, returning home, and regurgitating that knowledge to a welcome (or unwelcome) audience.  TCRWP is about the community – face to face this week –  on Facebook and Twitter in the future and even on blogs like this between institutes and Saturday reunions.  If you take risks, are vulnerable this week, you will never be the same reader or teacher of reading in the future.  You will grow. You will stretch. You will fly. Empathy is built day by day.  We can and we must learn and understand by thinking ourselves into other’s places.

Takeaway Questions:

  1. How will you support your reading community?
  2. Maybe we need a new educational story.  To reach, to dream, to grow strong . . What do you need in order to grow yourself?
  3. How can you grow your own version of #TCRWP?  Your own nest?
  4. There’s important work to be done.  It will be hard work.  We as educators are asked to outgrow our own work.  How will you outgrow your own work?
  5. It’s not just about naming the strategies, but inducting kids into the identities and values of READERS! How will you create a safe community for your readers?


Amanda Hartman

Rev Up Your Teaching Muscles to Make Your Whole Group Instruction as Potent as Possible (Mini lessons, Shared Reading, Read Aloud) (K-2)




Explanation and Demonstration.

Powerful Whole Class Instruction for K-2 Students

  1. Clarity and Concise Language
  2. Engaging and Engaged
  3. Assess and Give Feedback
  4. Links and Skills (Strategies) to Independent and Partner/Club Work
  5.  Opportunities for Oral Language Development “


Read and Study Mini-lesson individually. (1st grade, lesson 10 – Readers learn new words as they read.) Mini-lesson Practice with Partners.  Mini-lesson planning table group. Mini-lesson Delivery. Debrief. Discuss Goals. Video of Mini-lesson. Discussion of how that was the same and how that was different. Mini-lesson Delivery. Discussion of Goals.

. . . and in all that “What were we studying in the Mini-lesson?

Teaching Point

Pacing – Vitality, Having students think alongside us, Student talk/listen/feedback




  1. Whole class teaching – staying focused is critical! Don’t let student responses lead you down the rabbit hole!
  2. Knowing the Teaching Point is critical. Forward, backward, what comes next? What came before? What it looks and sounds like when a reader REALLY does this.
  3. Focus on one Teaching Point. Not a “Never ending Teaching Point”
  4. Growing students means lots of practice.  That lesson won’t have teacher demonstration but will instead have tons of student practice – PLAN.FOR.IT.
  5. Study lessons together. Discuss the work together.  Build your own community to support your learning about the teaching of reading!

Kathleen Tolan

Beyond Guided Reading: Expanding Your Repertoire of Small Group Work in Nonfiction (3-8)

“Small group work is hard.  Our goal this week is to open up our repertoire about different methodologies to deliver small group instruction.”

What is your vision of small group work?  I’m most familiar with guided reading groups but also like literature circles and book club work.

What’s preventing small group work?

Management – What are the rest of the kids doing?

Fear – I’m not good at it! (not enough practice)

Results – It doesn’t really work for my kids. Or took 40 minutes to “drag that group through the lesson.” There’s no time to do that every day!

Today, I saw, heard and was a part of . . .

  1.  Demonstration Small Group
  2. Read Aloud Small Group

We watched Kathleen in action and then “copycatted that exact same lesson” into our small groups with two different members as the teacher (not me, not me!)

Remember that brain on fire at the top of this blog . . . this was the first time I’d ever seen a Read Aloud Small Group. So new. So much to absorb and process.  My mind was swirling. . . Where would this happen?  When?  With which students?  Why?

I had to take a deep breath.  And then another one. The engagement of the students in the Read Aloud Small Group was intense.  No student could hide.  Everyone had to do the work – in order to contribute to the learning. What a way to know exactly what kids are thinking and to “get them unstuck” and moving!


  1.  On any given skill I could be the top, middle, or bottom. The goal of small groups is to grow and move ALL readers – not just the “struggling readers”.
  2. TC – Kathleen – said that they have been studying small group work for the last year and a half.  It’s okay that I don’t know this!
  3. Increase your accountability for small groups with a public, visible schedule.  That will push you as the teacher as well as the students.
  4. Teachers over plan small group work.  The small group work should be a continuation of the mini-lesson.  It’s not about going out and finding new, wonderful text to use. It’s about more practice – more student practice and way less “teacher talk”.
  5. Feedback is hard.  It is about tone.  It is about the length of the message.  It’s also about giving and receiving feedback.  So very complicated!


What new skill/strategy are you practicing?  

Have you found / created a safe community to practice?  

How does what you are learning from your own learning impact your planning for instruction for your students?

slice of life 2016

This is my story of learning.

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!



33 responses

  1. Thank you Fran!!! I’ll be at the August Reading Institute but I love learning from you right now!! Keep it coming. And hopefully by processing your notes, it is relieving your exploding head some. I know that feeling so well!!

    1. Miss you ~
      Of course, you don’t know what sessions you are in yet . . . ❤

  2. Wow, I can see why you used that picture at the top of your post Fran. My head would be exploding too. Such good info. Have a wonderful time. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Tracey!
      It’s new. It’s hard. It’s so the right work! Teaching is NOT for the faint at heart or those who aren’t ready to put in the work (IMO)!!! ❤

  3. […] And so it begins . . . this week I am attending the #TCRWP June Reading Institute and it's off to an amazing start! This is what my brain felt like about 2 pm on Monday . . . with an hour and a half YET to go. WHY? Information Overload! Just plug that CAT…  […]

  4. Fran, I don’t know that I ever paid attention to the words at the end of your post, “Writing makes us all human”. Wonderful and true words.

    1. Thanks, Bernadette! Our attitude towards others does matter!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing your take-aways from TCRWP–I went to the Writing Institute years ago and remember feeling the brain overload–deliciously overwhelming! I anticipate similar feelings when I attend ILA next month and am so looking forward to it!

    1. You are welcome!

      The concentration of 10 hours on the same topic/work all week is different and more intense than even a pre-institute day at ILA, because there is time to REALLY dig in! ❤

  6. Wow. Your dedication to reading is Inspiring! Thanks for sharing all your information with all of us!

    1. You are welcome, Lisa!
      Learning and growing is important!

      1. It definitely is, Fran! 🙂

  7. Two weeks of intense learning – lucky you! I’m just back from California and one way for me to get back in the teaching game is to catch up on your TC posts, my friend!

    1. Tara,
      I’m sure that if I walked into your classroom, I could see you and the Smithlings DOING this work. You have an amazing knack of being such a growing learner yourself!

  8. Wowza! That is a lot of energy and meat packed into a small space. I love how concise your notes are. You are getting right to the point. I’m learning just from reading your notes!

    1. Do know that I am leaving a lot out! This is so DEEP! So important to continue to grow and learn!

  9. Brain overload! How appropriate. I have often come away from conferences and workshops feeling this way. I love your “takeaways” at the end of each section, Fran. For me, what I took away determined the usefulness of th conference. Your insights give me things to share with my former colleagues when I see them.

    1. Teaching is SOOOO not static! Every group of students is different and so should be our teacher responses! The intent is for everyone to grow and learn!

      So very interesting to pick up something totally new . . .

      And you are welcome, I love the takeaways myself. They are “helping” me focus!

  10. I am learning so much from your posts!! I would love to hear more about read aloud groups. Would it just be a small group using the real aloud text as the mentor? Sounds pretty genius !! Tell me more!!

    1. Adrienne,
      Yes, small group. Using same text or just a bit of NF text in a small group to check that kids get the skill. It was BRAND new for me! ❤

  11. Small groups as a theme this week too, eh? Read aloud groups definitely intrigue me! As ever, thankful for your processing posts!

    1. Erika,
      One large group and one small group . . . So much work that needs to be done. Small groups are more efficient than 1:1 and more manageable for upper grades as well!

      Hope your travels are going well! ❤

  12. You’ve already learned so much and shared so much Fran…hopefully organizing your thoughts here will be helpful in the future.

    1. Thanks, Amy! Sharing helps relieve the “overload” but the brain, heart and soul still remain full!!!

  13. Fran, your posts from your TCRWP days are truly a gold mine. Thank you. SO missed being there for the writing this summer.

    1. You are welcome, Lisa! I missed you last week! 🙂

  14. The overload from TC institutes is exhilarating, though, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your take-aways, Fran. Looking forward to reading more throughout the week.

    1. Catherine,
      It’s exhilarating and a good tired brain feeling. It’s so “the right work” as well!

  15. I’m here too! First timer… So much learning, so exciting! 🙂 I think I saw you from afar, walking out of Cowan today! Enjoy the institute.

    1. I am so excited that you are here. There aren’t as many slicers as some years, but it is always so nice to meet folks face to face. What sessions are you in?

  16. Love this: “How can you grow your own version of #TCRWP? Your own nest?” The nest building is so key for me. Thank you for Kathleen’s small group work. I took her class last year and it’s so wonderful to hear the continuing thread of thought. My small group work is always a huge area of growth. Every year!

    1. Julieanne,
      I think small group work is the key to the world and changes just as our students change. Loving the work in info text! Building confidence!

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