We began with Lucy Calkin’s, “We come from . . .” but it wasn’t the countries and states typically heard in Riverside Church. It was about the difficulties and the joys from the past year. It’s easy to focus on March to the end as we prepare for the 2020-21 school year, but let us not forget that August to March was ours. Ours to teach. Ours to plan. Ours to build community. Ours for face to face instruction. And ours to celebrate.
We ended with a celebration. Music greeted us as we entered. These brave authors read their work. They read from their boxes . . . not from the stage in Cowin Auditorium.
And then Hareem Atif Khan had the closing. So many tears as she shared stories from several stages in her life.
To bookend the you come from beginning, Hareem said, “You go to your communities, schools, classrooms, children, children whose voices need amplifying. Let’s leave vowing to be the teachers that this world needs.”
I wrote about this summer’s reading virtual institute here. I still missed some of the same things this week during the writing week. I wanted to sit and chat with my small groups F2F. I wanted the fun of exploring new restaurants and the closing book sales at Bank Street Book. I wanted at least one Broadway show. Not in 2020.
My Writing about Reading from notebook to literary essay daily sessions with Katy Wischow who was the Institute guide for the week, announcing all the keynotes, was beyond my expectations. And our sessions with Alicia Luick . . . ended with singing. More about both of those later.
My Tips for a 30+ hour long Virtual Institute
- Study the Trail Guide and organize your days.
- Figure out a format to organize your links. Quick access is the key. This simple table works for my links page.
- Consider how you like to organize your notes. Organization matters. How will you access the information? Do you like every session on a single page? Do you like all sessions together by the day? Or together by the session so all five days of Writing about Reading are together? WHY? Set up at least your Monday, Day 1. The 10 minutes between sessions goes so quickly!
- Plan your backup for device failure. What is your plan if your device goes wonky during Zoom streaming?
- Plan your backup for WiFi failure. What is your plan if WiFi decides to take a break?
- Headphones and mic are not really optional if there are other beings in your house. Seriously, conversations are fun and funny with other 2 legged and 4 legged critters interrupting and dark screens and mics off work, but sometimes your patience gives out first!
- Break out rooms – If you have used them, awesome. What did you like? What did not work so smoothly? If there was a slide with directions, I took a quick pic on my phone so I would have it. (Borrowing from my friend Lynn, “I am old and my brain leaks.”) Jot a note. Think about how you focus on remembering and doing the task in small groups. (Ignore if you are not obsessive about remembering the task; someone in your group will capture it for everyone else!)
- Plan to participate as fully as possible. I personally felt the learning was MORE intense than in an “in-person” institute, and I have always felt those were like drinking from a fire hydrant. I didn’t have a plan for evening “think” and “work” sessions. That work space instead of canning 14 pints of salsa might have helped me to feel less stressed.
- Make plans to connect with folks beyond the institute. Your small group? A partner?
- Plan to learn AND have FUN! It’s a transformative week! You will be amazed at the tech tips and tools that you use and learn as well!
What tips would you add?
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?
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”.
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!
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?
Impossible that two days have literally buzzed past in the lightning round of learning. Time . . . that enemy of teachers everywhere.
What have I learned?
The learning curve is high.
There is always more to learn.
My blog posts this summer are going to be a bit different than previous years. “Different how?” you might ask. “Well, more of a focus on application and less focus on ‘reporting’!”
I am completely blown away by the new “Up the Ladder” units available from Heinemann that look like this because I haven’t just read them or watched the videos. I’ve actually “mucked around” with them and tried out some new work as well as experienced the sequence in the Information book in Shana Frazin’s session.
For the record, there is one set of 3 books available that could be used for students in grades 3-8. (And yes, the cover says 3-6 so keep reading please!) In my five years of attendance at #TCRWP, I have had the great privilege of learning from six of the seven listed authors.
(Any errors in this post will be re-posted in another color with accompanying tweets or highly visible corrections. Unfortunately it would be the fault of the operator of this Chromebook, NOT the technology itself.)
August Writing Institute attendees received a copy of the Information “Up the Ladder” spiral bound book. All participants have had an opportunity to review the hard copy.
What follows is an opportunity for you to learn more about WHY these units were written, the responses to the “Aha’s” that have been built into these units. the special features that are included, and how you might consider using these units.
Why did the folks at Teachers College write these units?
- To give students who had never had writing workshop an opportunity to “grow into” this work. For example, fifth graders new to writing workshop were struggling with writing an argument-based essay when they had not written essays before.
- To support teachers who have not done writing workshop before. Using the unit in professional development would provide common language for teachers unfamiliar with writing workshop and the Units of Study in Writing. A new to the district third grade teacher could learn a bit about paper choices and “Small Moments” from the learning opportunities in primary grades.
- So students who are struggling writers who have had difficulty accessing writing can accelerate their writing. This can include English Learners or students with IEPs when provided with explicit instruction.
What has been built into these units?
Staff Developer and one of the authors, Alicia Luick shared these “Ahas” in a closing workshop on Monday, Day 1, of the August 2017 Writing Institute.
The “Up the Ladder” units provide additional support because:
- The writing process matters.
- Organization must be specifically “taught” (and no, completing a graphic organizer is NOT teaching! – my emphasis)
- Teaching into Revision and Student Set Goals is critical.
- Writing volume matters. The use of writing booklets pumped up the volume exponentially for students in grades 3-8!
What are some special features that a teacher will find in the “Up the Ladder” Units?
- In each session “Teacher Goals and then Student Goals” are side-by-side.
- QR Code with video models exist for each session. An author models the lesson (minus students) in 6 -10 minutes.
- Language is clear, concise and easy to follow with a 6 page maximum length.
- The end of every unit has ENL’s – English Language Learner suggestions
- (and added by this author – The post its for the charts are included.)
How might teachers use this new resource? Some Possibilities Include . . .
There are several options. For a district that is new to the Writing Units of Study for grades 3-8, teachers may decide to start the year with all three “Up the Ladder” units before cycling back to grade level units.
Another option might be for a new third grade teacher (for example), to teach the “Up the Ladder” Narrative and then the grade three narrative. The instructional cycle might continue with “Up the Ladder” Information and then grade 3 information and “Up the Ladder” Opinion and then grade 3 Opinion.
A third option might be more of a “Choose Your Own Adventure”. A teacher might decide to use the data from the class “pre-on-demands” to determine WHICH (if any) units or bends to teach based on information gathered directly from the students at the beginning of the year.
Are there other possibilities?
However, a few words of caution.
“Danger, Will Robinson!”
Go back and reread the section about WHY Teachers College (AKA Lucy and Colleagues) wrote these units.
High Expectations lead to High Results.
Students don’t hit targets that they have never seen. Simply slowing down the writing instruction so that all students are progressing at a “slower pace” because the units are “too hard” in a district that has been using the Writing Units of Study for multiple years is NOT a viable goal nor the purpose of this resource. Providing additional support for students or teachers who need INSTRUCTION or PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT is appropriate.
This week there is a great series at Two Writing Teachers about “Writing Workshop Fundamentals“. Check out your beliefs and knowledge there!
Thank you #TCRWP, Shana, and Alicia! So helpful for students and teachers!