A common theme in these four sessions that I attended at #NCTE15 was the importance / necessity of involving students in their own learning. (It’s a connection that I could make about ALL of my #NCTE15 sessions in retrospect.)
1. Bring Students into the Conversation: Goal-Setting, Tool-Making that Supports Transfer
#TCRWP Staff Developers: Valerie Geschwind, Marjorie Martinelli, Ryan Scala, Amy Tondeau began this session with a “Turn and Talk”.
Think of a recent goal that you have achieved.
What were the conditions that helped you to reach that goal?
Motivation is a Result of . . .
- Social interaction
Tools that Support Self- Assessment
- Tools created from Mini-Lessons
Goal Setting with Students and Language that Honors Choice
And then Val introduced the cycle of learning. . . in student language.
- I am working towards a new goal.
- Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it is really hard!
- I need my tool to know each step.
- I am practicing my goal all the time: in every book or in every piece of writing.
- I use my tool as a check-in.
- I can use my goal in lots of places.
- I can teach other people what my goal is and help them do it.
I loved the idea of the three stages. I believe Brook Geller first introduced me to the belief at #TCRWP 2013 July Reading Institute that most “students are over taught and under practiced.” Many students seem to need more practice time with specific feedback and a lot less “teacher talk”. In this case a practitioner is someone who is actively engaged in the doing, who repeatedly exercises or performs an activity or skill to acquire, improve, or maintain proficiency, or who actually applies or uses an idea, a method, or a skill across many scenarios. In other words, our students are the practitioners!
Practice does not have to be boring. There are many methods (see picture below) that can be used to reach “expert” status but the key to this entire presentation was that students would be working on a goal of their own choice and moving from novice, to practitioner, to expert. What wonderful language to put into the mouths of students . . . How motivating and empowering!!!
Caution: These are not stages to be RACED through. They will take time to develop. Students in charge of their own assessment of these stages will definitely be students who know exactly what skills and strategies that they do have in their repertoire.
Be the Force! Help students
- Take on their own learning
- Take on their own change
- Cultivate a growth habit of mind
- See each other as experts
Tools: Checklists, rubrics, progressions, charts from mini-lessons. However, a new look . . . Bookmarks with 3 or 4 choices. Students marked the choice that they were using with a paperclip. Clearly visible!!!! AWESOME!
And then a final reminder .. . .
You’ve met your goal. Now what?
- Maintain your skills
- Teach others
- Get critical
- Set new goals
It was the first time for me to hear #TCRWP Staff Developers Valerie, Marjorie, Ryan, and Amy and I’m definitely looking forward to learning from them during future opportunities!!!
2. Responsible and Responsive Reading: Understanding How to Nurture Skill and Will
Kylene Beers, Teri Lesene, Donalyn Miller, Robert Probst
Of course this was a popular session so I was willing to sit on the floor (don’t tell the fire marshal) because I wanted to be able to be up front and see!
Donalyn’s presentation is here for you to review at your leisure. A very powerful activity included these questions: “What books and reading experiences would form your reading autobiography?” Donalyn explained that: What matters is WHY you chose the book? Insights from these responses lead to deep conversations with students. Convos for Ss
Teri Lesene’s presentation is here. This fact was startling to me! Obviously I need to read more than a book a week!
Kylene Beers and Bob Probst shared a great deal of information about nonfiction reading that has come from the process of writing their new book. This slide is something I want to remember. . . “when I have answers I need to question”.
And this one on the importance of reading.
3. Finding Their Way: Using Learning Tools to Push Rigor, Increase Independence and Encourage Learning in Your Classroom
TCRWP Staff Developers: Mike Ochs, Kate Roberts, Maggie Beattie Roberts
Maggie began this session with many great connections. “We haven’t seen teachers work harder than they currently are, YET sometimes students aren’t working so hard! ” Tools can help students buy into learning. Tools, in our daily life, extend our reach, meet our needs, help us tackle big problems and personally get better! Tools connect, access, build community . . . should change over time!
- Rigor and motivation
- Memory . . . Why don’t we remember things? (short and long term memory) “I’ve taught this 1000 times. I know they learned this!”
“A great coach never achieves greatness for himself or his team by working to make all his players alike.” Tomlinson
And then a typical problem from narrative writing. . . How to stretch out a frozen moment. Kate created a demo page in front of us and told us it was, “Messy!” Lean on a menu of ways, decide the color scheme, and title.
Another tool might be a Micro-Progression. It provides a clear description of behaviors that are expected so students will know where they stand. Middle level is good. Students don’t always have to think they should be at the top level of performance.
Bookmark – 5 or 6 most important things for students to work on. Let students create this for themselves. They can be different!
Mike – Framework for creating tools adapted from The Unstoppable Writing Teacher with a shout out to Colleen Cruz.
Do not plan to use a tool forever. Have a plan to remove the tools. Some tools we will always need (the hammer), some we want to go away/become automatic (steps to hammer a nail) Some tools become references, set aside until needed. Sometimes need an additional/alternate tool. Most writing tools are not designed to be used indefinitely.
Kate: “You find yourself getting as smart as the toolmakers as you use the ‘tools of others’ and you get better as teacher! You don’t want to teach without a sidekick. Your tools can be a sidekick.”
News : Spring 2016 a book from Kate and Maggie!!!! SO EXCITED!
4. Transforming Informational Writing: Merging Content and Craft
Seymour Simon, Kelly Boswell, Linda Hoyt
I think I know this boy!
Seymour’s part was actually titled: Celebrating the Wonder in Nonfiction Storytelling. He began with a discussion of what nonfiction really means. If nonfiction is really “not true” than fiction should be “not real”. There is something about the use of “non” that marginalizes the texts that are labeled nonfiction. After all, who takes anything with “non” in the title seriously?
Not much difference between teaching F and NF. . .
- Who am I?
- What am I?
- What about me?
Mystery, wonder, poem, the universe!
Seymour read aloud many great fiction and nonfiction pairings. One of my favorite pairings was:
Kelly: How Mentors and Modeling Elevate Informational Writing
Mentor texts plus teacher modeling equals quality student writing. When teaching writing, FOCUS! If the target lesson is about leaving spaces between words, only teach “leaving spaces between words.” Don’t teach everything in the world of writing.
Kelly’s example for the text went “something” like this as an example of what NOT to do! “Class, we are going to work on leaving spaces between words today as we write. What does a sentence begin with? Good! Yes, a capital letter. (writes The) Our next word is ‘butterfly’. Let’s clap the syllables in butterfly. How many? Yes, three. What sound does it begin with?”
If the focus is “leaving spaces between words” – that’s the teacher talk!
On mentors and models – read the book once to enjoy, then mine for craft. Use a favorite book over and over and don’t forget to use it for conventions! Here’s an example from Hank the Cowdog.
- Create a culture of Curiosity.
- Provide time for students to ask questions
- Immerse learners in fascinating informational topics and sources
- Focus on content and craft in the writing they see, hear, and produce
- “Float the learning on a sea of talk.” – James Britton
- Teach research strategies
- Teach visual literacy – First grade writing example
8. Writers Workshop Every Day
9. Make sure learners are writing all day long. Write to remember. Write to question. Write to think. Write to express yourself. Write to share your learning. In every subject area.
10. Write Using Elements from Real World Informational Texts (lists, emails, letters, notes, newsletters)
Involving Students Take Aways:
Students can set real goals and self-assess their progress toward their goals.
Students are motivated when they have control and real choices in their work.
Models and tools aid students in moving through a cycle of novice to practitioner to expert.
What are your thoughts about involving students at this point?
The general session that began Monday’s learning at #ILA15 was notable! Stephen Peters shared that “My teacher thought I was smarter than I was, so I was!” To learn more about him, check out his biography here.
And then Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer was interviewed by a panel that included two freshman students from a local high school who asked her questions about how to prepare for a career and even whether parents should have to answer questions from their child. Smart, witty, fun . . . and on the importance of reading as Octavia shared that she struggled with reading and dyslexia.
Game Changers: Using Sports and the Power of Adolescent Literature to Transform the World
Sharon Draper and Chris Crutcher
Laughter, long and constant, emanated from our conference room as Sharon and Chris answered questions from the audience. Here are some of the quotes that I captured from these YA authors who have also been classroom teachers.
Chris – “The only people who are ruined by their experiences are the people who allow it. I’ve seen people stand up under pressure, when I would have folded.”
Sharon – “Leave a door open, without being Pollyannish (not everything is going to be ok). I have to leave hope, not desperation and despair at the end of the book!”
Chris – “I would have failed Ms. Draper’s class but I would have still learned from her class. I ailed other classes, but I still learned something!”
Sharon on Diversity- ” Students, whether Black or Latino, need to see themselves in books and others as well! Classroom library needs to be diverse regardless of the makeup of the class!”
Chris on language (curse words and the F bomb)-“It’s the language of ‘anger/rage’ so it’s natural. I want to hear your story in your native tongue.”
On writing, rejection, and editors:
Sharon, “I sent out 25 letters, 24 were no, 1 yes from Simon and Schuster. When you turn in a manuscript, you know nothing. Find your own path. Just because you know how to climb Mt. Everest doesn’t make it any easier the second time because you have done it before. Still hard, just know what to expect.”
Take Away: Authors that write REAL books for kids, write from what they know and the kids that they see on a regular basis. It’s hard work to craft a book so the content and details are still relevant 10 years later.
Transforming Understanding Through Informational Read Alouds
Seymour Simon and Linda Hoyt
What a star-studded ending to the conference with Linda and Seymour and a room packed to overflowing for the last session of the conference! I was excited to meet my “Science Guy” as we evaluated the credibility of Seymour as a science expert during a TCRWP workshop earlier in July! And yes, he fit our EXPERT category!
Seymour Simon began by showing the craft techniques that he uses in his many books:
- Action words
- Engage senses to set the scene
- Ask questions
- diagrams and photographs
- Descriptive Detail
Seymour also shared a sample of the work that he has done as a publisher at Star Walk Kids. 500+ ebooks are available with more than half as nonfiction. I loved that he worked in a shout out to Mary Ehrenworth, Teachers College (TCRWP) and Twitter, “a unique opportunity for teacher to talk about education in a universe of teachers interested in the same work”.
“EVERY teacher should read aloud daily! Every book I write, I have to read aloud.”
And then pearls of wisdom from Linda Hoyt:
How do we make time for Informational Read Alouds?
“Shorten fiction read alouds. Put short informational Read Alouds into science and social studies to load up the heads and hearts of students. Make time. Informational Read Alouds do not need to be boring. Be picky about what you read.”
Qualities of great informational texts for Read Alouds:
- beautiful language
- high quality visuals
- test language – Does it beg to be read aloud?
- Is it projectionable? (so kids can see the text)
- You do NOT have to start reading on page 1 and read until the end.
We practiced with some text. Be cautious in saying all text should be a Read Aloud. This should be GREAT text. Teach kids that read alouds vary and where, why, and when we adjust them. Brian Cambourne’s Seven Conditions of Learning were included as well as a study of university students who are being read to at the University of Woolangong in ann adult study of the effect of Read Alouds on adult learning.
Linda shared a fourth grade persuasive PSA from Mrs. Fitpatrick’s class, “Pulling over for emergency vehicles”, as an example of student work after learning through Read Alouds.
What are the connections between Read Alouds and writing?
Build Capacity for Deep Thinking and Memory
Recast Conversation Patterns
Pause to sketch, to think, to visualize and talk . .
“Lester Laminack advocates for seven Read Alouds each day. I go with three – only 1 is interactive – so students can FEEL what happens! ( Fiction, NF, and writing craft – ex. lead)”
Take Away: A mix of fiction and informational text Read Alouds needs to be thoughtful, planned, practiced, and executed multiple times each day for ALL students!
What do you want to remember from this finale post?
What will linger with you?
What are informational texts?
The Common Core State Standards include the following in their definition of informational texts:
biographies and autobiographies; “books about history, social studies, science, and the arts”; “technical texts, including directions, forms, and information displayed in graphs, charts, or maps”; and “digital sources on a range of topics” (p. 31).
That’s a broad range so what does that really mean? Sources that can inform your work include:
Research and Policy: Informational Texts and the Common Core Standards: What Are We Talking about, Anyway? by Beth Maloch and Randy Bomer
6 Reasons to Use Informational Text in the Primary Grades – Scholastic, Nell Duke
The Case for Informational Text – Educational Leadership, Nell Duke
Where can I find lists of Mentor Texts?
Award winning lists include:
Mentor Texts to Support the Writers’ Workshop (Literature and Informational Texts)
This list supports writers’ workshop. Others are readily available on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.
What about professional books to help me with Mentor Texts and Informational Writing?
Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing through Children’s Literature K-8 by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capeli (website)
The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing by Ruth Culham (Chapter 3)
Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts by Kelly Gallagher (Chapters 3 and 5)
Mentor Authors, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes and Practical Classroom Uses by Ralph Fletcher
Finding the Heart of Nonfiction: Teaching 7 Essential Craft Tools with Mentor Texts by Georgia Heard
and many grade level texts in the separate Units of Study of Writing by Lucy Calkins and friends at TCRWP.
What do I do with the books that I am considering as mentor texts?
Your number one task is to Read informational texts that you also like. And then your second task is to read these books from the lens of a writer. Identify techniques that the author uses very successfully. Third, talk with other teachers about the techniques and goals! To get started consider these helpful blog posts: A brilliantly written blog post on the use of a mentor text during a co-teaching instruction session by Melanie Meehan can be found in this post “Slice of Life Exploring a Fabulous Mentor Text” on the Two Reflective Teachers blog. Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris list “Our Top Eleven Nonfiction Books for Teaching . . . Everything!” here! Clare and Tammy at Teachers for Teachers also have a post titled “Two Great Nonfiction Mentor Texts”. Tara Smith writes routinely about texts. “Mentor Texts” is a recent one. Two Writing Teachers: mentor text archive (You can also search any of the above blogs for additional posts about Mentor Texts!) And three from my blog archives: Reading and Writing Instruction – Paired Mentor Texts #TCRWP Day 3: Information Mentor Texts (based on Alexis Czeterko’s (@AlexisCzeterko ) Closing Workshop “Five Mentor Texts for Information Writing – and Ways to Use Them with Power”) #SOL14: Writing Techniques and Goals
This was a Topic Focus: Informational Texts; Not a Compendium of all available resources . . . Do you have a better idea of the “types of writing” included in the informational category? Did you find some new ideas? Or revisit some old ideas with a new purpose in mind?
Tuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. Thanks to Stacey, Anna, Beth, Tara, Dana and Betsy for creating a place for us to work collaboratively.
Are you one of the 18 “slicers” who will be dining together this Saturday night at #NCTE14? If not, check out the slicing posts and become a regular slicer so you will be ready next year!
* * *
What’s important in writing? One answer is,
“Teach the writer, not the writing!”
For additional information, go to this post!)
So in writing (narratives, informational, arguments), what transfers (#OLW14)?
Is it the hook, the organization, the voice, or the purpose?
Goals for Professional Development:
I can identify writer’s techniques and goals in order to READ like an author for deeper understanding!
I can use those techniques and goals to dig deeper into the elements of the written genres under review.
I can use author “language” to increase my knowledge of writing techniques and choose quality texts to share with students.
In order to stimulate thinking, create conversations, and pay attention to commonalities and similarities, I chose to introduce writing techniques and goals for informational, argument, and narrative all in the same session.
A. Informational Texts and Writing Techniques and Goals
Back in July, 2014, I wrote this post about how we used “goals” to look for examples in mentor texts. Take a minute to reread that post here.
What do we actually do in PD? We use combinations of National Geographic’s Wolves and Seymour Simon’s Wolves to play bingo with the entire card (3 x 4 array) using the techniques side. The small rectangular post it covers the technique and allows one to add the page number for the location of the technique in the text. The deliberate use of two texts on the exact same topic where each one has a different style and purpose creates fun conversation for teachers. Then we wrap up with a “Know/Wonder”(source: What Readers Really Do by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton) chart to summarize our findings and consider which book would best meet which goals as well as a myriad of reasons why/where/when we would choose which text. (More subtle, less reliance on text features? Find another book where an author has written like Seymour Simon’s Wolves!) Result = fabulous conversations around common literary techniques and goals using the same “naming words” across all grade levels.
Process: Everyone looked at both books with a bit more structure (12 cards each) and less independence for this first round. Goal = identify the techniques and name those that “surprised” the reader.
B. Argument / Opinion Writing Techniques and Goals
In this activity, teachers look at one column of the “techniques for writing arguments” page for texts that had recently been read in class, either by the teacher or by fellow students. Again, we use a “Know/Wonder” chart to summarize our learnings from this section.
Process: Each partner group had one of the “I Wanna . . .” series by Karen Kaufman Orloff and illustrated by David Catrow with either the vertical Column A, B, or C from the Argument Techniques cards to look for specific techniques with room to “jot” evidence for “Know/Wonder” chart. Each partner group has only 4 technique cards to look at books in a “series” by the same author. Goal = discuss patterns the author uses across her series and consider how this information can inform readers AND writers.
C. Narrative Text Techniques and Goals
In this activity, teachers look at just three of the “techniques for writing narratives” and the narrative “goals page” in order to consider how the authors used dialogue, actions and inner thoughts to achieve their narrative writing goals. Each participant jots down page numbers and goals on a response sheet and then discusses what they notice in their books. Whole group debrief is through the continuation of the “Know/Wonder” chart.
Process: Each partner group had a different narrative. Each group chose one technique they wanted to explore and then following a “write-around”, the book and notes were passed on to the next partner group. Each group had time to analyze two books. Goal = Readers and writers will recognize that techniques look very different when considering differences in authors’ styles, audience, and purposes for writing.
As a reader, when do I name those techniques in order to increase my understanding? As a writer, when do I “try out” those techniques in my own writing? As a teacher, how does knowledge inform my deliberate choices for Read Aloud texts?
Were there “absolute right answers” for these three types of text reviews? No! The focus was conversations among the teachers about the techniques to deepen understanding first and then book selection will continue to be future work. The three different ways to use the techniques were just a beginning point! Also consider the following three anchor reading standards dealing with “craft and structure” that allow the reader to make sense of “reading”: