Category Archives: TCRWP

#SOL19: Day 28 SOLSC

Four days left.

Four more posts.

Four more ideas.

Four more slices.

Why does it feel so different?

The pressure to have a story.

The pressure to not have a bandaid.

The pressure is real.

The pressure for students is real.

The pressure for teachers is real.

Is it self-inflicted?

What’s the solution?

Yesterday was amazing.

Our Heinemann reps have established a #ConnectandCollaborate group and provided support requested by local teachers, coaches, and administrators.  Yesterday we, groups in Iowa, Missouri and South Carolina heard answers from our questions posed to Lucy Calkins about coaching.

How do teachers step into conferring?

First task:  Set up the Environment


  • “Do no harm.”


Lucy reminded us that, “You will be conferring all your life. It helps to put yourself in the writer’s shoes.”  Consider when has someone’s feedback left you scarred for life?  “Don’t do that.”  Kids will be vulnerable.

How much does it mean to you to get a real compliment? A real authentic response from a peer or an administrator; not a judgement. “Do that!”

Teachers have power. We can make kids want to put words on the page.  Make sure you are responding in a human way. Warm. Human. Don Murray said, ”Be the kind of person for whom kids want to write.” Respond in human way to the content. When you are headed for radical change, do NOT criticize. Do NOT point out all the things they screwed up.

Second task:  Check your Posture

Are you sitting side by side?

The student holds the paper. The student writes on his/her paper. The goal of the teacher is to get students to say more with little tips to keep them writing:  “Holy Moley, what happened next?”“Wow!  Look what you have written in 5 minutes.” All of this is setting up the backdrop because in order to respond to writers, you have to set a climate where students want to and DO write!

BEGIN by Studying Conferring

  1. Read the guide about the predictable parts of  a conference
  2. Watch the Videos:  Amanda and Lucy
  3. Identify and Practice the Conference Parts

Don’t expect perfection. Plan to grow and learn. Check out the suggested problems in the “If…Then…Curriculum resource online.  Have those solutions ready. Talk about the common issues.


Thank you Beth, Kelly, and Kerry (Lisa and Ashley) for setting up this Zoom opportunity.

What did you learn yesterday?

How will your passion and excitement carry your learning forward? 

How will you build on your own “I can . . .”?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 27 SOLSC


Post its:  Assorted colors

Post its:  Assorted shapes

Sharpie Permanent Markers:  Assorted colors

Flair Markers:  Assorted Colors

Card stock:  Assorted colors

File Folders

Plastic Sleeves

Game boards

Classroom Look Fors

Glue Stick


Assembly Time

New skill:  Generating QR Codes for document access

What does your work space look like? 

What materials do you use? 

How do you organize?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 21 #SOLSC


Screenshot 2019-03-01 at 4.31.25 AMI check the calendar.


Meeting coming up.

Do I:

a. Cheer and high five with excitement over a meeting

b. Have a mini eye roll

c.  Yawn in anticipation of a lively session

d. Plan to arrive early, stay late and be totally energized?

Which one fits your feelings toward those regularly scheduled meetings?

At the TCRWP Saturday Reunion I deliberately chose Meghan Hargrave’s session titled:  “A Session for Coaches and Teachers Leaders: Professional Development that Sticks” and like the theme for the day, Meghan talked about a clear purpose, relationships, facilitation, and cycles of learning.

The topic was important. The room was packed. People sat on the floor in the back, on the sides, and leaned in to catch every word.

What do your meetings look like?

The information that I found most intriguing was when Meghan talked about different methods for meetings.  Just like in workshop, different methods for meetings. Here are the five she shared.

Methods for Meetings

Mini-lecture 5 – 10 min.

Demonstration & practice

Role play

Make and Take

ON-demand teaching – both coaching method and meeting method


Could be faculty meetings

Could be PLC meetings

Could be grade level meetings

Could be collaborative planning meetings

And the methods could vary.

Does that happen in your world?

Or are your meetings pretty much structured the same way, with the same method, meeting after meeting? 

What’s the best that could happen if you changed the method of the meeting?

What could be the potential impact for students?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 19 SOLSC

“Hey, Iowa, how are you doing?”

My walking companion turns to face the man talking, who is also selling . . .

“Iowa State,” I forget and say, “No, Iowa Hawkeyes.” Now I’m engaging in the conversation.

Someone always asks for directions on the Metro. Inside Columbus Circle, I had no clue. A second request came outside Riverside Church so I could provide those directions.

Why do folks talk to me?  I wear my collegiate pride. (Remember we have no National Sports Teams in Iowa.) So I’m used to strangers talking to me or asking for help.

It was a pure pleasure to hear Anne Taranto Saturday at TCRWP in a session titled:  “Lifting the Level of Student’s Talking and Writing about Books:  Give Kids Tools and Tips to Talk and Jot about Books during Read Aloud, Book Clubs, and Partner Time”.

Here’s quick peek into the first three minutes.

“Talk is important.  Layer your talk.”

A turn and talk:

“In your role, what are the patterns that you are noticing around talk?  

Some of the most common that Anne shared with the packed to the gills, sit on the floor, participants in Everett Lounge were:

“They do a great job when I tell them what to do.”

“They are resistant and drag their heels.”

“We get structures up and running, but they don’t talk.”

Why is TALK important?

We need the language so we can talk. We need to share in order to display our thinking.  Community matters. So in order to raise the level of talk, we need to manage the big lofty things.  We need the bigger goal to manage the mess.  That means that we will have to let the control freak that loves quiet go in order to let the learning chaos rise. 

WE, the teachers, know our purpose.

Do our students?

Will the students ever hit the target if they don’t know the purpose? 

Try the talk . . .

Try the layers . . .

Try to see it another way . . .

When you are stuck, do you use talk?

Talk for a “process” or Talk to think deeper?

What results do you get when you don’t know the purpose? 

Is the work a bit frustrating?

How could you “reboot” talk to improve it?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 18 SOLSC

“Oh, you were going down,” the maid commented. She pushed the button for a higher floor.

I remained silent.  “Should I use my typical Iowa spiel? ‘Well, I live in a town that doesn’t have any buildings taller than two stories.'”

Nah. Silence. No excuse. Too early!

The elevator dinged to announce its arrival. I moved to the elevator bank that was lit. I didn’t remember if it was a



W                                               P  arrow.

N  arrow or an       U

Simply too late to matter.

By the time all my thinking was done, the elevator was going down, down to my destination. Trivia. Let it go!

Tell Your Story . . .

Shanna Schwartz is a master storyteller and she delivered a powerful keynote when she used stories to offer tips to help teachers, coaches, and administrators in Cowin Auditorium understand what will make TEACHING STICK.

Old School . . .

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I noted and appreciated the delivery of the keynote. . .  Stories, a  document camera, and anchor charts created in front of us.  No powerpoint, google slides or Prezi.  These were the presentations I remember from the first sessions I attended at #TCRWP Institutes. (Lucy Calkins also addresses the atmosphere and delivery of mini-lessons in Leading Well.)

Three memorable quotes . . .


Children like all humans do not just learn things whole and then do it perfectly. They do it partially, making approximations, and gradually showing more learning.” (Shanna B Schwartz, 3.16.19. TCRWP) (Check out her book for the exact wording.)


“Have to be planned enough so I can watch students, to know what to do, and be flexible enough to change to meet kids needs!” (Shanna B Schwartz, 3.16.19. TCRWP)


“Sometimes teaching feels like a performance. Teaching should be a relationship, a warmth, and closeness that you are building together.” (Shanna B Schwartz, 3.16.19. TCRWP)

Timeless . . .

One of Two Keynotes at the #TCRWP 96th Saturday Reunion was “Making Your Teaching Stick” by Shanna Schwartz.

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Shanna referred to this book (as did Sarah Picard Taylor in her introduction of Shanna) that she wrote 11 years ago as a base for her keynote.  It might be a quick book to pull out and review with your staff. Every single book from the Help Desk series has tips worth revisiting and the price is right.

So when something isn’t right in life, do you choose silence as I did on the elevator or do you study the situation in order to figure out alternatives?  If it’s a short interval, time may solve the issue.  But what if it isn’t?  Then what do you choose to do?  What is your default?  Your knowledge? Your skill set? What stories do you lean on?

What are the principles that you hold onto dearly? 

How do you deliver your instruction (and your PD)?

What are the areas you continually return to for problem solving because they don’t seem “to stick”?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 17 SOLSC

Friday we walked, talked, walked and finally checked GPS.

“I think we need to turn here.”

Not quite sure, we made a turn. We walked and talked some more. The weather was balmy.

The conversation: Kids. Family. Work. Life. Catching up on life changes. On slicing. On plans for the weekend.

We walked, talked, and walked some more.

“Oops, let’s recenter the map.”

“And now that means retracing our steps.”

It was enough that the daily goal was met. Better yet, we laughed at mis-steps and retracing our steps when we made wrong turns. The destination was talk and enjoying NYC – not our physical location.

The errors were not totally “user errors” as Google Maps on my phone has only ever given driving directions. (And Google loves to volunteer information based on past information.) It wasn’t “set” for walking directions so a three or four block walk was over 10,000 steps by the end of the afternoon. The directions were a source of laughter. After all the weather was comfortable, the company was delightful, time was plentiful, and the conversations connected on so many levels.

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So how does this GPS/Google Maps story connect to Saturday and the 96th Saturday Reunion at TCRWP?

Before the final Saturday keynote at Riverside Church, I was quizzed by the master.  After telling Lucy Calkins that it was a fabulous day, of course, she asked me what made it so good.

Gulp. . . On the spot . . .

Every session talked about purpose.  Purpose for teachers. Purpose for students. Joyful purpose. Not “git’er done, struggle through it” purpose! And make no mistake about it, it’s also all about student choice. Student choice in what to read and write is the foundational framework that motivates more reading, more writing, more thinking and sustains it at deeper levels when it gets tough.  It’s not about FUN, it’s not about cute activities, and it’s not about the chevron-themed classrooms. Instead it is  about following interests and passions of students, allowing students to blossom and grow . . . And it is also about relationships. Our relationships with each other as learners, as readers, as writers and thinkers, as coaches of teacher leaders, coaches and administrators. Our relationships with books, writers’ notebooks and the work that we ask students to do.  Life work, not just compliant school work. And of course it’s not easy, but with a group and the continued support of our community, WE can do this together. We can rise to the challenge because our expectations are the students’ ceiling!

HELLO, isn’t that why thousands of teachers were REALLY in New York City on a Saturday for a day of free learning at the 96th Saturday Reunion at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project?

The literacy levels that your students reach are in your grasp. Stop fussing about the *$&@$/ tests and all the “things” outside your control.

You are the GPS, the Google Map, the roadmap for your students’ success.



What will you do to ensure that you grow and learn in order to be the best YOU that you can be? 

What will you read? 

What will you write? 

What will you think? 

What words can you go back to?

Who will you partner with to sustain your work?

You will have to return for details in future posts . . . fun in NYC beckons!

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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#SOL19: Day 16 SOLSC

Four years ago I was headed to Riverside Church;

Today I’m headed to #TCRWP for the keynote.

Four years ago I took the Red #1 to TC;

Today I’m taking the Red #1 to TC.

Four years ago I headed to the Kitchenette for a Slicer Meet Up;

Today I’m spending the day with Clare and our Slicer Meet Up began on Friday.

Just one of the many venues today;

For sure with the closing so grand!

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How are you spending your Saturday?

What will you be learning today?

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this daily March forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here.

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Independence: Taught? Or Not?

Who is doing the work?



How do we know?

Does it matter?

This flow chart from an October 7, 2018 tweet by Daniel Willingham caught my eye this week out in the Twittersphere!

I have studied it on my phone, my iPad, and on my Chromebook. I continue to revisit the subheading “(doing laundry, making lunches, doing dishes, etc.)”

Does this chart apply to routines in the classroom? 

Does this chart apply to instruction in the classroom?

Should it?

Where does my “curious” mind go?  I “celebrate” the opportunities for formative assessment.  Observation and completion of tasks quickly come to mind. Fairly straight forward. Items that I can check off. Routines.

How much of the school day should be “routinized” to this level? 

What’s the end goal?

Previous posts have discussed the fact that many times students do not have enough practice in their work in order to really KNOW and DO the task at high levels of cognitive effort.  Is that a flaw in the curricular design, the instructional design, or in the instructional delivery system? Or a symptom of other issues?

And then Wednesday night’s Twitter chat with Alicia Luick and Taliah Carter was about the Independent Use of Mentor Texts to Promote Independence in the Writers’ Workshop. Serendipity and another celebration as topics aligned!!!

It helped me when Alicia explained the difference between mentor texts, demonstration texts, and exemplar texts.  All have many uses as we think about a “progression to independence”.

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How do we teach independence?

How do we provide practice time so students can develop confidence, competency and independence?

I love these ideas from Ryan Scala. Students can quickly be “upping their game” so they are ready to lead demonstrations, small groups or seminars!

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So many ways for teachers to scaffold and support students at their current level in order to “reach” for the next level and continue to stretch and grow.  Sounds easy but supporting all students in a classroom is hard work.

And who is doing the most work?

Do we “teach for independence”?  

Do we provide enough practice time and get out of the way in order to increase independence?


#NCTE18: Digging Deeper #1

Two Saturday sessions have left me with a lot of thinking points. Thinking, processing, writing, and thinking some more. Here’s the first one!

Capacity – Based Writing: Instruction Empowers Students –  Deconstructing the Struggling Writer Label while Championing Inclusive Practices

Presenters:  Kass Minor, Colleen Cruz, and Cornelius Minor

Not one to leave seating to chance, I had a two-pronged plan. A)  I asked a friend to save seats and B) I mapped out the plan to access the room and literally ran to the session. So three of us had front row seats. It was packed. People on the aisles. People on the sides. People on the floor. Everywhere.

And then the audience. Carl Anderson in row two. Kelly Gallagher in row two. Dorothy Barnhouse on the floor.  Katie Wood Ray in the back. And a whole room full of people I didn’t even see!

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Writing:  It’s complicated!

What’s in a label?

Kass had us thinking about language right off the bat. If we begin with describing our own behaviors, needs and characteristics, what’s the range of descriptors that we use?  She modelled some and then put us to work with a partner doing the same work. Pay attention to the language you use.  Too often schools (and the people inside the school) see what the person cannot do.  This pushes a student to one extreme or the other.  Then we have to spend time repairing those ideas.  If we are aware of our language, we can be less dehumanizing.

Positive Descriptor Behaviors, Needs and Characteristics Negative Descriptors
Can tap out multiple recognizable cadences – beyond beginning drummer! Fidgets – finger tapping ADHD – Disturbs others, Noisy

How do we make sure that students can and are accessing the core curriculum?

Colleen batted this section literally out of the ball park.  Her knowledge of kids, instruction, and the law make her a powerful connection for helping students who are experiencing difficulty in writing.

Disabled?  People still don’t talk about it. Both of her last books have some sections on access:  The Unstoppable Writing Teacher and Writers Read Better. Colleen began by reminding us that, Where you are positioned is affected by your ability.  It changes from place to place. Kids are only special education students at school. We are the power brokers for our kids. Not coming up with nicer synonyms for a label.  Being authentic. Removing instructional obstacles.  

“Do students need to sit still for writing?

Do students have to use a pencil?

Do students have to write quietly?”

These were just a few of the questions that Colleen posed.  And quickly answered with my favorite, “Burn the pencils for students who are struggling with them!”

And what about the student who is using a wobble chair with a chromebook that has Dragon that does not understand his/her speech?

Better questions:

“Where did you do the most work? 

What part do you like?

What are you working on in your writing?

Who is your audience?

What kind of writer are you?” ( with a response in a letter format)

Amplifying students’ strengths and approximations – and complying with ESSA – help students be more successful. They sit a bit taller when we call them “authors” and “writers”. What language and actions set students up for success?  What language and actions set students up to advocate for themselves?

Supporting claims with well-reasoned writing

Cornelius put us to work instantly with a 30 second search on our phones for a photo to talk about. We had an oral rehearsal with our partners to tell the story of a picture. And then we practiced messing around with claims, first to support a claim of his:  A – protagonist is super resilient or B – protagonist is super clumsy and silly.  We examined a video text for evidence, watched the video clip twice and then stated our claim and evidence to our partner.  

What did this feel like/ look like?

Quite comfortable.  Skill isolation.  Just like in sports.  Beginning with the skill in isolation before chaining any other actions.  Building the context.

Beginning with popular media, a video clip and then talking with friends.  Then moving to a different text.  Could be a poem.  Could be a short story.

Cornelius labelled this: Standards Bearing Writing – meeting you where you are.

No annotation. Beginning with viewing and talking.  Beginning where all students can experience success.

Then planning instruction based on students readiness for the next step and then the next.  This does not have to consume tons of time.  We practiced two different arguments in less than 10 minutes.

Talk. A plan. Setting the stage. Building context. Legitimatizing “effort” with many possible answers.


I teach people – not a curriculum.

Love in a classroom is attention to people.

The first attempt is messy. Handwriting is not a concern.

Spelling is not a concern. Writing is a process.” Cornelius Minor, NCTE18, 11/18/18.

Improvement begins with US!

How are you improving your language?

How are you providing real choices so students will be successful? 

How are you beginning your instruction so that kids are first successful, with a lot of talk, on the initial isolated skills? 

How are you building your own capacity?

Colleen:  @colleen_cruz and  

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Kassandra Minor @MsMinor1

Cornelius Minor @MisterMinor

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#NCTE18: Saturday

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The  magical learning continues at  #NCTE18 and a theme that emerged on Saturday:

Slow down . . .

Yes, there is a sense of urgency. 

Make every minute count.

BUT stop counting every minute. 


Slow Down.

Look into the eyes, heart and soul of every student. 

The day flew by and again there were folks that I never saw. Decisions about sessions were incredibly hard to make.

The #BowTieBoys, Jason Augustowski and Dr. Mary Howard 

It is all about the heart. And paying attention to the students. Listening. And learning WITH them. This quote from Jason is a great snippet for teachers to consider.

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Roundtable sessions planned and executed by the students. Simply amazing.





Showing not just telling

Students from middle school through high school.

Not to be missed!

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Responsive Teaching:  The Courage to Follow the Lead of the Reader

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The respect, love and joy of this panel made my day!  Students at the heart of our work.


A perfect merger.  And such important work!

Think about a teacher who loved you into being.  Responsiveness begins with heart . . .”
Don’t rush to “check it off”.  Skill and expertise has to come behind. Don’t land on the side of “judgment”.  “What’s going on?” “Wonder.” And then the learning that comes from the four quadrants.  

“Step back so your students can step forward.” Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris

Tom Newkirk has been a favorite of mine from my first #NCTE conference when he bemoaned that “the hamburger graphic organizer is not only an insult to a paragraph, but is also such an insult to a hamburger”.

4 Battles Literacy Educators have to Fight

  1. Economy – Curriculum as Hoarding (add, add , add & nothing is deleted)
  2. Louise Rosenblatt – Model of Reading – Literacy as Transaction
  3. The battle for writing. Writing should not be colonized by reading.Literary analysis 795,000 fanfiction pieces about Harry Potter
  4. Battle for choice- Carnegie – “public library”  Teachers will need to make it free!

    Questions to Ask when you Write

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When Phonics is the Foundation – in a Curriculum of Authentic, Deep Literacy

Lucy Calkins,  Rachel Rothman-Perkins and Rebecca Cronin

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Rebecca, Rachel, Lucy and Mabel

“To teach well is to rally your people with heart and soul to learn with courage and enthusiasm. Fear:  Is this curriculum going to cover everything?  Mastery? Proven? Everything? Fear-driven anxious place is far too common with NO place in child’s emergent literacy. Voice is the single quality that matters most. Voice matters for teaching, and learning (as well as writing). To teach phonics well, imagine yourself at kitchen table talking to someone right there with you. Teaching phonics is leading and teaching. “

“That sense of connectedness matters tremendously.  Connecting matters. Connecting to reading and writing. TRANSFER – only reason to teach phonics for reading and writing. TEACHING kids identity. Language is a joyful world!”

And because this is not an “All About” post since I promised “snippets” I will write later about the fabulous session from Colleen Cruz, Kassandra Minor, and Cornelius Minor.

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