Tag Archives: Emily Smith

#TCRWP Writing: Takeaways Day 3

Jack Gantos was the featured keynote today during the TCRWP June 2016 Writing Institute. And he ended with

See the stories and be the person who can write the story.

          If they  can write them, YOU can write them, too!!!

What a challenge!  

If they (the students in your classrooms / your buildings) can write them,

YOU (all the adults in the auditorium – teachers, coaches, administrators) can write them (the stories), too!!!

Do you write?

Do you write on a regular basis?

The questions above were designed intentionally for you to think about your writerly life.  How do your students know that you are a writer?  Do you demonstrate your own writing?  Do you use your own writing in your explanations?   How do you “DO” these focused rewrites as Jack Gantos named them?  How do you teach them?

Screenshot 2016-06-23 05.32.51.png

Closing Keynote

Jack Gantos

The Writer’s Journal:  Content, Structure, Rewrites = Success


  1. Elements from picture books are the SAME elements you find in short stories and that you will also use in setting up your writing journal so you can’t say, “Nothing interesting happens to you!” JG
  2. Your job when you sit down to write is to press the go button; you want to get words on the paper! JG
  3. Jack’s writing process:  2 hours 1st draft writing;  2 hours 2nd draft writing and then candy = 2 hours of reading! Another 2 hours of work after the scheduled reading. JG
  4. Don’t wait to read until the end of the day when you are too tired to remember what you read!
  5. If stop at physical ending, you will miss the emotional ending – what connects to the reader . . .JG

What Methods Do We Use with Mentor Texts?

Today, I heard Celena, Colleen, and Emily all talk the same language/consistent message about the instructional methods used with mentor texts depending on the purpose/needs of your students.

Demonstration Writing – How to do it step by step

  • Has voice over of “how to do it”
  • Might begin with a frame
  • Shared writing
  • Zero shame in using demonstration writing from the  Units of Study IF it fits!
  • Be aware that not all pieces work as well as others!

Explanation / Example

  • Here’s the text and the explanation
  • Example of how to take mentor text and put it into action
  • Not step by step

Inquiry (Colleen Cruz details)

  • Powerful in terms of agency and independence
  • Learning theory – What student discover on own sticks more!
  • Not everything is best taught with inquiry
    • Sometimes there is content you need to know
    • “Putting your hand in hot oven will burn it – don’t need to learn from inquiry
    • That would be irresponsible
    • No way to discover strategies – kids will not find boxes and bullets on their own
  • Don’t use inquiry if only ONE right answer = allow differences!!
  • 3 favorite things to teach during Inquiry
    • Craft
    • Structure
    • Conventions
  • Inquiry is good for ALL kids!

Centers (Emily)

  • Develop task cards
  • Combine inquiry with structure/small groups
  • Include discussion as rehearsal

Takeaways for Methods of Instruction:

  1. There is no one method of instruction that works ALL the time for all students!
  2. Match your Method of Instruction with the needs of your students.
  3. Check your methods for when you PLANFULLY teach/provide for “transfer work”.
  4. Consider when students are able to “Do the work themselves”.
  5. Always consider: “Would the students be better off writing?” Is “THIS” teacher talk time really more important than student writing time?


How do we demonstrate process with mentor texts?

I also heard Celena, Collen, and Emily talk about both the need for as well as how to demonstrate process with mentor texts.  This seems easiest with teacher or student texts. But you can also go to Melissa Stewart’s website for a behind the scenes look at the process involved in writing No Monkeys, No Chocolate here.  That book was not written overnight!

In Celena’s session today, we actually worked on making our own process mentor texts with a plan for writing, first draft, first draft with some revisions, and draft fancied up!

Takeaways for demonstrating process:

  1. Physical revision (flaps, post-its, cross-outs, different colored ink) clearly shows that revision has occurred.
  2. Having “process” pieces that literally show the progression of work is helpful for revision conferences.
  3. Process pieces that show revision – at all stages of the writing process – keep the focus on continual rereading and revision.
  4.  You need clear expectations for student writing – for yourself as the teacher and also for your students.
  5. You need a vision for your student writing.

What do you see as emerging themes for the week?

Day 1 link

Day 2 link

What have you learned this week?

(Internet difficulties again interfered with pictures and the structure of this piece!)


For further reading, writing, response, or reflection:

Jack Gantos

Remodeling the Workshop, Lucy Calkins on Writing Instruction Today

 Takeaways from TCRWP Writing Institute 2016  – Teachers and Students Lifelong Learners

TC Reading and Writing Project on Vimeo – 59 videos 










Top Ten Quotes I have used from #NCTE14!

I can’t really believe that I’ve been back from #NCTE14 for two WHOLE weeks!  Wow!  Turkey Day and back to work with a vengeance.  What to do before the holidays hit?

I found some time to work on another view of my first time attendance at NCTE.   It involved a new use of Zoom.  Still in draft/learning mode, but I wanted to share what this could look like!

So what have I used? My Top 10 Quotes in the order of frequency of use! This video should give you an idea about the topics I have been working on / using during the last two weeks! (It was also in response to a challenge from @davestuartjr – another virtual and now face to face friend!)


What are you doing differently since #NCTE14?  

How are you sharing your learning?




June 24: Day 1 of #TCRWP Writing Institute

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 


In the old days, some folks working with movies would say that Day 1 is in the can, but I don’t know the correct terminology for digital videography.  I do know that Day 1 of the 2014 June Writing Institute is complete – as far as sessions go.  Is the homework complete?  I doubt it.  Many tasks are facing me:  organizing my materials for tomorrow, assignment for the morning session with Mary, choosing closing sessions tomorrow, assignment for the small group session with Emily.  HOLY COW, that’s a lot of work!  (Not to be confused with this morning’s mention of  a chicken in a post here.)

 In the beginning . . .  Chapter 1

Today began with a one hour keynote by Lucy Calkins in Riverside Church.  Articulate, passionate, and enthusiastic about the role of writing in thousands of years dating back to the cavemen, Lucy’s speech was titled “Achieving a Re-set”.  If you are on Twitter, you can scroll through the tweets from #TCRWP for any that mention “Lucy, LC, or LCalkins” to see the quotes that were most often retweeted!  In typical Lucy fashion, she exhorted the 1200 strong participants  from 34 countries and 44 states to remember their own life themes as they shape the future of schools across the world.  Student writing and conversation dominated the keynote as both written words and video from student conferences were shared.  Writing, Students, Instruction – Who should have a voice?  A speech that began with ” I am blown away by the sheer miracle of your presence.  You are willing to give your life to it!” provided much to think about!  What a wonderful world it is!

Chapter 2 . . .

My Advanced session with Mary Ehrenworth is entitled “Reports, Nonfiction Books, Journals, Feature Articles, Information Writing and ELA Across The Day” and has already exceeded my expectations for the week.  We will be crafting our own progression in information writing this week.

Why do we write informational text?

  • Makes meaning of the world and deepens your own knowledge – really learn stuff & hold on to it forever!
  • Being a producer/creator/co-creator of text
  • Making a topic clear, and being able to make it understandable and authentic/engaging
  • Being able to teach something you know to others!
  • Being able to explain research / content
  • You might discover you’re good at it!

And then in the spirit of inquiry, Mary read openings from the following books so we could consider how they began.  What are moves that writers make, that we’d love to try? was the question that we were trying to answer.

Text Set

The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and turbulent Future of Water – Charles Fishman
The Unthinkable: Who Survives when Disaster Strikes and Why – Amanda Ripley
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – Laurence Gonzales
Outliers : The Story of Success– Malcolm Gladwell
Smartest Kids in the World and How they Got that Way – Amanda Ripley

What would you say those texts have in common?  How are they different?

Chapter 3 . . . 

Social Butterfly Media Cafe 

Rebecca Cronin hosted an optional lunchtime workshop for Tweeters and Bloggers.  Meeting face to face is always a pleasure and showing “columned” tweeting aids like “Tweetdeck” were useful to the crowd gathered to eat lunch and tweet a bit.

Chapter 4 . . .

My small group session session with Emily Smith is “Seeing Patterns in Student Work, Then Teaching Small Groups (and More) to Build New Habits and Skills.”  We have already begun to improve our coaching skills as we use a “Research, Decide, Teach” model to respond to our partner’s writing from our writing sessions.

Not only should we be noticing patterns in writing, but we should also be looking for disruptions in writing.  Where does the writing fall apart?  Being able to generate questions and possibilities will help our students make growth!

Two key questions for conferencing are:

What are you doing?
What are you going to do next?

 Chapter 5 . . .

And then the choices for closing sessions were daunting.  Limiting oneself to one presentation was difficult but I ended up going to Katie Clements’ “Don’t Teach Empty Handed:  Toolkits that Can Help You Teach Explicitly, to Scaffold and to Keep Track.”  Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, organized and so talented, Katie led us through a discussion of WHY we needed a toolkit, HOW to create one, and how BEST to use one.  Citing a personal favorite of mine, Brian Cambourne, Katie shared that often in writing, demonstrations live in mini-lessons, so  students only see them on on one level.  Many writers would benefit from demonstations on their own level. The solution is to create a writing toolkit to help students!

What are some predictable writing problems or needs for students?

Information Writing often seems:

  • Disorganized
  • Only a tiny bit about each part
  • Jumps right in without setting up expectations

What are some other common writing difficulties for your students?  What conference is repeated the most?  Having your toolkit ready now (not waiting for it to be PERFECT is the key according to Katie!) will help you get the year off to a good start!  Practical, doable, and so engaging for working on writing revision for students!


What were your “Take Aways” from Day 1 of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Writing Institute?


P.S. (And is your homework all done?)


Slice of Life: TCRWP Bound

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

*      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *


The last three months have seemed like a year.  Why?  I was waiting to hear about the status of my application for the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s June Writing Institute and July Reading Institute.

It seemed like “forever” since I saw the first tweet that said “…accepted!”  Multiple friends received news of their status.  My reading application status was “wait list” so I tried to be patient and believe that “no news is good news!”  Finally I received notice that I was accepted for the Writing Institute. And last week my reading application was accepted!  Two weeks at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project!  Woohoo!



After my application was accepted I realized the truth of this statement.  Institute paid.  Housing paid.  Flight booked.  Checking time frames. . . Planning to maximize time and learning opportunities.


Why is this blog worthy?



My two weeks at Teachers College last summer for the Reading and Writing Institutes was one of the most fabulous learning experiences of my life!  With the new writing Units of Study, my large group sessions every day were led by Lucy Calkins.  She can build confidence and inspire all teachers to “do more” to increase the reading and writing of students.  Anything and everything is possible with Lucy’s guidance!


And the many rock stars at #TCRWP. .  .  My daily choices included Mary Ehrenworth, Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts.  It was so fun to “know” many of the staff and presenters because of their “Twitter presence” and so easy to thank them for their accessibility!  Unbelievable learning.  And yet, I have to confess, I was ready to go home last year when the first night’s assignment was to write a narrative. I spent hours (some whining and complaining) writing, drafting, rewriting, drafting.  It was not pretty and basically fit the third grade rubric according to the #UoS rubric.  Frustrating, yes; empathy for students, YES!

I am so ready to learn more. Do more.  And I have been working on developing my own writing muscles this year – blogging, tweeting, and developing models.  June Writing Institute!  July Reading Institute!  Love Learning!

My NYC agenda contains:

June Writing

Advanced AM Section:  Reports, Nonfiction Books, Journals, Feature Articles: Information Writing and ELA Across the Day (3-8) Mary Ehrenworth

Advanced PM Section:  Seeing Patterns in Student Work, Then Teaching Small Groups (and More) to Build New Habits and Skills (3-8) Emily Smith


July Reading

Advanced AM Section:  Accelerating Students’ Progress Along Levels of Text Difficulty: Guided Reading, Assessment Based Teaching, and Scaffolds for Complex Texts (3-8) Brooke Geller

Advanced PM Section:  Social Studies Centers Can Lift the Level of Content Knowledge and Reading Instruction (3-8) Kathleen Tolan


 How will you continue to learn about reading and writing this summer?

Here are two writing opportunities for you to consider:

 Summer Writing for You, The Teacher (Two Writing Teachers blog post by Betsy Hubbard)

#TeachersWrite (Kate Messner)


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