Category Archives: Writing

#SOL19: Determining Importance


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I tugged at the thing in my mouth.  A string? What on earth?

I started to gag.

Someone grabbed my wrist and held it tightly. But the string in my mouth!  I know I was screaming “Take it out” but only a garbled mess came out.

My teeth hurt. Something was rubbing my lips.  My throat hurt.  And that string!

“Help me! Please!”

It was just one week after school was out for the summer. I was 9. My older sister and I were in beds in the same hospital room after having our tonsils out.  She wasn’t too thrilled about the apparent 2 for 1 discount.




Are all the events above equally important?  After a #TalkPower Twitter discussion of Chapter 4 last night I decided to practice using one of the tools from Shana Frazin and Katy Wischow’s new book from Heinemann.

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The Tool:  The Event-O-Meter

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The plan is to use this tool with events in a story or nonfiction book as students talk about the events and the category that they belong in.  In order to get a feel for this, I decided to try it with a story that I was drafting for my slice. The goal of this “game” is to discuss the thinking for the placement in a category.

Here’s how I thought about my story above. First Draft Thinking. (I wouldn’t use every sentence as I did in this first practice.)

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Is every detail or event in a story equally important? 

Who determines the importance? 

The author by its inclusion? 

The reader by their response?

(And sorry dear readers, I am still working on this story . . . )




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#WhyIWrite19


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After 738 posts on this blog, I am a writer who puts marks on paper for so many reasons. Some days I celebrate stories of joy, family events, and life. Some days I invite learning: new ideas, clarification of previous learning, or to synthesize the thinking after learning. Some days I review and revise my own ideas, updating a post or adding in new ideas, thoughts, and applications. Some days I share resources and books that are a match to my current understanding of reading or writing.  And some days I write because of a compulsion to open up the faucet of ideas and let them flow.

Writing as a process takes many forms. Some are familiar and comfortable, while others are still stiff and rigid. Defaulting to poetic forms means that I can avoid rules of correctness and conventions that seem so stifling. When the goal is expression, rules become the fog in the brain that STOPS production. Frozen – unable to move forward or backward. Time stolen away, minute by minute, until the fear of “incorrectness” or death by “red ink” recedes. Unrecoverable time. Time lost unnecessarily because there is no one process, no one way to research, no one way to put marks on the paper!

Today is the National Day on Writing. You can read more about it here including an interesting fact about how much email writing an average office worker does in a year or just check out writing trivia.

Why do you write?

Why does writing matter?

#SOL19: Empowering Teachers


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I ripped open the envelope. So much hinged on the contents.  Where I would live.  Where I would work. My life.

Two pages: one page for my elementary ed placement and a second page for my special ed placement.

YES!

Both placements were in the location requested. Fourth grade in one building and then half day in the same building and half day in a second building for special ed.

16 weeks of student teaching would fill the spring semester of my senior year in college.  16 weeks around holidays and weekends would run from January through May.  16 weeks out of the dorm and in my own apartment. Apprehensive . . . perhaps a bit.  Excited . . . YES! Returning to my junior college town in a different role.  Trying on the role of a teacher.  YIKES!  Student Teaching!

Fast forward to my current work with teachers and graduate students . . . most but not all are teaching. And thinking about teacher growth, district professional development, and the opportunity to take courses, participate in webinars, and attend conferences. So many sources of learning!

I’m fascinated by this sketch noting by Joy Vega and thankful that she gave me permission to use it in my blog post. This is just the top third of the page from one of the #ILA19 sessions.

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IDENTIFIERS:

Date

Location

Title of Session

Participants

The BASICS!

It’s eye catching!  Innovative color choices . . . and the use of the dots!

Within five minutes of the opening, the audience was generating and discussing their own possible “Problems of Practice.”

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The first step in Action Research.  And then the actual research questions. The refinement. The revision. The data. The student responses. The curiosity. The quest for learning.

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And the reflections from the teachers – scattered across the US – were amazing.  These were the Heinemann Fellows presenting at #ILA19 who should be writing a book about their work! So easy to celebrate this group and their work! Empowering Teachers through Action Research:  Dr. Kimberly Parker, Aeriale N. Johnson, Tricia Ebarvia, Anna Gotangco Osborn, and Tiana Silvas.

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(If you are on Facebook, you can read Dr. Mary Howard’s notes about this session here.)

ACTION RESEARCH:  Validating Instruction, Pursuing Improved Instructional Practices, and Reflecting on Professional Growth

What if Action Research were a part of continuing education, continuing endorsements, and recertification processes for teachers? 

What if Action Research were a part of a “paid, 5th year experience” for novice teachers who had support for setting up a classroom at the beginning of the year and quality coaching ALL year long? 

What if we “re-envisioned teacher prep” programs to include first draft Action Research so data collection was placed back in the hands of teachers with curiosity and questions of their own?




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#ILA19: Research


Third time’s a charm!  It was so helpful to dig into additional chapters from this book.

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I wrote briefly about the #NCTE18 session here and assessment and vocabulary as well as #ILA18 here about Chapter 16 Comprehensive Literacy Instruction and 8 essential components.

Assessment:  Peter Afflerbach Handout

So much to think about from this outline. Some key takeaways to discuss:  What do you know about your assessments?  What do they claim to measure?  How well does the assessment align with your “needs”?  What are the challenges?

How do we get quality, informed research in the hands of teachers and administrators around the world?

  1. Know the source.  What Works Clearinghouse 
  2. Know the researchers and their reputations and experience as researchers and practitioners.  Reading Hall of Fame is one trusted source.
  3. Know the goals of research.  Nell Duke and “10 Things Every Literacy Educator Should Know about Research”
  4. Attend the #ILA19 Research session with P. David Pearson and Nell Duke at 7 AM on a Saturday morning in New Orleans!

 

 

#ILA19: Images


Powerful words and images from Institute Day at #ILA19 that promise thoughtful reflection throughout the convention!

From Diane Lapp and Kelly Johnson (Breakout Workshop B)

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Afternoon Keynote

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 #earlylitILA19 pm keynote: Juli-Ann @julieB224

What images are you thinking about?

What are your Top 3 sessions for #ILA19?

#SOL19: Collaborating


“How can I help our students continue their writing work? What do I need to know?”

Silent fist pump.  Huge silent cheer.

Collaborating with all staff that work with our students is sometimes daunting.  How can we make support services more seamless? It takes conversation between adults and students. Choices. Work. Fewer absolutes. More choices.

We’re making sure the same resources are available for students, no matter what their working location is. English Learning support. Special education support. At risk support. Support spaces are limited. Chart paper could maybe hang on the back of the classroom door.  Here’s an example of our “first-draft collaborating thinking” to make sure the students have access to supports . . . if needed or when needed.  Here is one example built on a file folder that a support teacher is using so language, instruction, charts, and tools are the same across classrooms.

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Portable Folder with Session 1 Up the Ladder Narrative

How are you sharing supports? 

How is that working for teachers?

How is that working for students?


 

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In Every Child Can Write, Melanie shows examples of bulletin boards that display tools and charts that students can access as they need them.  This post extended that across classrooms for students and teachers who provide additional support. Last week’s Blog Tour is summarized here.  The winner of the free book for this post was Kelsie Elias.

Check out the posts here:

  • Blog Tour Stop 1 with Clare Landrigan – Link
  • Blog Tour Stop 2 with Kathleen Sokolowski – Link
  • Blog Tour Stop 3 with Paula Bourque – Link
  • Blog Tour Stop 4 with Lynne Dorfman – Link
  • Blog Tour Stop 5 with Fran McVeigh – Resourceful Link

FYI:  I reviewed an advance pre-publication copy of “Every Child Can Write”.

 




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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Stop 5: Every Child Can Write Blog Tour


This week you have been treated to a blog tour to introduce you to the big ideas in Melanie Meehan’s book, Every Child Can Write:  Access Points, Bridges and Pathways for Striving Writers.

 

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In case you have missed a post, here is the recap:

9/29: Clare and Melanie with a video overview  Link
9/30: Kathleen about Chapter 8  Focus on Spelling and Conventions Link
10/1: Paula about Environments, Management and Routines  Link 
10/2: Lynn about Chapter 6 Charts  Link
All of this is leading up to the chat tonight on #G2Great at 8:30 ET. (Tonight!)
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FYI:  I reviewed an advance prepublication copy of “Every Child Can Write.”




This book is based on two beliefs:

“1. All children can learn to write.

2. It is a fundamental imperative that we do everything in our power to teach
the students in our care how to express themselves through words and through
writing.” – Meehan, M. Every Child Can Write. xviii.

Sometimes I am known as a “book devourer”.  I pore over pages I love. I have conversations with the author as I read.  And I often do NOT read a book, cover to cover . . . as in beginning with Chapter 1 and ending with the last chapter.  I love to study a quality Table of Contents (and Melanie has the BEST ever). And the Introduction is superb.  Colleen Cruz set the need and the goals of this book beautifully and Melanie delivers with encouragement, a bit of fun, and an honestly engaging text that has you nodding your head. The ideas and issues are real. This is a book that I did read cover to cover the first time. And the second time. Now I’m going back to my post its and selectively rereading the “good parts”! (and it’s a sizeable chunk)

The book delivers many entry points, bridges and pathways for striving writers as promised, but it is also about entry points, bridges and pathways for teachers.  You will have many avenues to explore in this book.  The “Pause for PD” section in each chapter is specifically designed to make the book interactive . .  . to help you bring it to life.

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Chapter 9

Chapter 9 is truly a gift to teachers, coaches and PLC teams because it is ALL about problem solving. Melanie takes us all inside a third grade classroom, shares data, instructional planning, and both the questions and the thinking that guide the teachers’ writing instruction. Melanie is quick to point out that this is not a formula for success as you may not have that second person in your classroom. Remember that Melanie invited you to “tinker” with the ideas to make them work for you and your students. Instead this chapter is meant to reinforce all the learning in previous chapters and share a way that it “might go” in a classroom and how you in turn could use the learning to make sure every child is writing.

So how does this go? Writing is complex and there is no easy “one size” solution.

Keep in mind that this is just a brief summary of my perception of Chapter 9 where Melanie “shows” you how the information and tools in Chapters 1-8 can work together in order to help problem solve some very common writing problems that may exist in your classroom. (And some of the parts occur simultaneously and not in the abbreviated linear format that I have used for this summary!) These are five common writing concerns that teachers and I have had discussions about them past and present!

A. The teacher is concerned that several students just are not writing or are writing at a very minimal level. Note that this “concern” was bigger than numbers/scores!

  • Course of Action:  Check the environment. How does it look from the student view? Are their routines that will raise the level of student engagement?

B. What are the entry points for students? Is it content?  Where to begin?  How to prioritize?

  • Course of Action:  Increase writing volume through several entry points including reteaching routines and setting up clear expectations.

C. What are the bridges to increase student independence?  How does the teacher ensure students are doing the work?

  • Course of Action:  Collect additional data on HOW students spend their writing time (engagement data).  The teachers determine some very specific skills that with short term scaffolds would move the students forward.  Those bridges help students  grow their skills with shared writing and gradual release of responsibility to decrease teacher dependence.

D. What pathways will help students be more productive? How does the teacher encourage efficiency and effectiveness?

  • Course of action:  Explore specific paper and writing formats for planning to meet individual student needs. The teachers also look at a variety of ways to have students use charts including access on a bulletin board where students were expected to be responsible for getting mini-charts as needed, to use them, and then to return them to their place as originally presented in Lynne’s blog post yesterday. (Aha – not just gluing into a notebook very passively and then never being able to find the chart again!) And then also think about a way to encourage conventions (see Chapter 8 and Kathleen’s post) without stifling the production of ideas!

E. How does a teacher collect volume and engagement data as additional routes to provide enough practice for students to increase their skills and their own confidence and competence?

  • Course of action: Change the color of Flair pens so the teacher can check writing volume each day. Develop individual plans for writing as necessary. Develop and/or strengthen writing partnerships. Focus on writing conferences that lead to a higher self-efficacy when using writing tools.

In Melanie’s example of a third grade case study where students were not performing at the level that the teacher expected, this plan was implemented for four weeks with a second teacher available to teach and coach three to four times a week. The results: the total number of students who were proficient in all district required traits of focus, organization, elaboration, fluency, voice, and conventions increased.

You will have to check out the data in the chapter to see exactly HOW MUCH and WHERE the greatest increases were.  The data is solid. But beyond that, students began to view themselves as writers and were more willing to assume risks because they felt more confident and competent. (risk-takers!) In turn, they became more independent and successful in their writing. And based on student work, the teacher also incorporated some of the changes from the four weeks into the next unit BEFORE it even began! Win/Win, all around for students and teachers!

What do you need to study? 

How could this case study inform your own study? 

Where would you start?

Don’t forget the chat tonight with #G2Great at 8:30 ET and 7:30 CT!




Book Give Away

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This giveaway is for a copy of Every Child Can Write by Melanie Meehan. Thanks to Corwin Press for donating a copy for one reader. For a chance to win this copy of Every Child Can Write, please leave a comment before midnight on Sunday, October 6, 2019.
I will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. Please leave a valid email address when you post your comment. From there, our Corwin contact  will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your email address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only.)
If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of EVERY CHILD CAN WRITE after the deadline has passed (and I check to see who wins from the other four posts). A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Go back up to the links at the top if you haven’t commented.  Each blog will be giving away one free copy of Every Child Can Write.  That could be YOU winning one of the five free books!!!




#G2Great Wakelet – Link

Literacy Lenses Blog Post – Link

#SOL19: That Song


What is it about noise that sometimes will interrupt your sleep?

Three nights  in a row, thunder rolled and roared for over an hour straight. No hyperbole.  60 minutes (or more) with less than five seconds between booms.

Was that what was keeping me awake?

Nope, it was the song.

The song that those males make.

Specifically made to attract females.

And being nocturnal critters, it was all night.

They are attracted to dampness.

Strike one, we’re close to a week of flood watch status (that is stretching the truth),

But it seems like forever.

Strike two, each of those critters sings a song.

To their friends inside.

And their friends outside.

Tomorrow, I will research to find out if there is anything that attracts them.

Or anything that will kindly entice them back outside.

Until then, another night of crickets rubbing their back legs together,

Singing that song,

So loudly that it interrupts my sleep!




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL19: Saving Lives


Miss Fran  Miss Fran  Miss Fran  Can you come here  We need help  Jeannie fell down and she is crying

20 simple words

Words that I had to replay in my head to understand what I had just heard

The sense of urgency The fear The need

20 simple words that were uttered totally like verbal diarrhea that can make sense in print with a rereading or two Capital letters help with sentence sense but the work is difficult when punctuation is left out

I do believe the message on this shirt that I found on Facebook

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Source:  Facebook

Punctuation can save lives as illustrated by the Tshirt above.

Punctuation. can. cause. major. headaches.

Who is punctuation for?

If you are still reading this post, how did you make sense of the text above the picture.  How were you able to read text without punctuation?  Often in a fast and furious draft, punctuation is spotty or left out.  Ideas.are.the.focus.

Thinking about punctuation brings to mind one of my favorite tools – punctuation sticks and I wrote about them here.

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Because these are clear, they can easily be inserted into several points in a line in order to determine that best location in any particular piece of writing. It’s a playful way to experiment with varying punctuation as well!

Why does it matter? 

Today is National Punctuation Day.  Try varying your “usual” punctuation today. 

Does anyone notice? 

Is punctuation more important for a Reader or a Writer?




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL19: #OLW Celebrate


My One Little Word (#OLW) was out in force this holiday weekend.

Celebrate

So many choices . . .  It was a family weekend . . .

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Relatives  and a funeral

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Saturday Wedding

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The beginning of the NCAA football season . . .

Sunday AMarekN Family

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Monday Labor Day Dinner and 15 Mareks/Ruths

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A blog post for Literacy Lenses:  All Learning is Social and Emotional:  Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond.  (link)

It began with a text!

“Good morning, Fran. Just realized you’re in the great state of Iowa and so am I this weekend!  My brother lives in Kalona.  How far am I from you?”

The irony.

And so noteworthy!

On Saturday we were playing cards at my aunt Janie’s in Kalona which is about 100 miles from my home.  I was there in Kalona the day before.  Kalona, a town in the northwest part of the county where I grew up.

It was an irresistible invitation. We solved the problems of the world, literacy, schools, and the state of education on Sunday when I met up with Dayna Wells, from California, that I met in real life in New York City at a TCRWP Saturday reunion over four and a half years ago (Link). A reader. A writer.  A blogger.  A Slicer. A TCRWP learner!

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How did you celebrate Labor Day weekend 2019?

What were your choices?  




Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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