Tag Archives: writing workshop

#SOL19: Writing Matters

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A connectedness

A relationship

An opportunity

A process

A product

Two sides of a coin.

Can be used to learn or

Can be used to demonstrate learning.

Is thinking out loud

Typically on paper.


Sometimes painfully etched

Sometimes spewing out voluminously

Faster than any ability to capture.

Can be long

Or short,


Or creative,


Or public,

With form

Matching the purpose,

Reveling in the need

To create,

To rise like a phoenix,

To leave shadows,

Whispers in the wind,

Songs in the air.

Writing . . .

a compulsion

a living/breathing requirement

a necessary component of life

What purposes do writing serve?

Consider these:

  • The Magna Carta
  • The Articles of Confederation
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitution
  • The Bill of Rights

What do they stand for? 

Why were they written? 

Why do they matter?

A survey of Americans resulted in a list of these Top 10 Milestones in US history.  Do you agree?

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Writing Matters.


I am missing the #TCRWP Writing Institute. It’s hard to not have #TCRWPEnvy so I revisited some notes from last year’s Writing Institute to consider for my own writing this summer.

In last year’s keynote, Lucy Calkins addressed levels of writing workshop.  Link 

Where are you?

“Level 1:  Start and Stop.  Do a few days of minilessons.  Do a few worksheets to ‘master the skill’, and then back to some stale writing. No investment. It feels like pulling teeth.”

“Level 2:  The Good Student Writing Workshop filled with compliance. Open any notebook and you will find that students are doing the work. Safe work. They respond to all school assignments, but they never take any risks and share themselves.”

“Level 3: Passion and intensity flow through the notebook, drafts and published writing. There are notebook entries that do not come from a response to day to day instruction.  Students want to write. It’s an ALL IN Writing Workshop.”

What level was your 2018-19 workshop? 

What is your goal for 2019-20 workshop? 

Where will you begin?

(And don’t forget to follow #TCRWP this week for highlights from 1200+ Writing Institute participants!)

(#cyberPD – Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman)

Celebrate that your journey has begun and focus on Learning!

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

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CCSS Writing Success: Begin with “Small Moments”

Where should writing instruction begin this year?

  • “I have the new Units of Study.”
  • “I have the old Lucy Calkins units.”
  • “I just need to get started with writing because it is something that our students have not been taught.”

Do any of those quotes match your current planning status for the new school year?

Consider starting with personal narrative.  The students are ALL experts on themselves.  Writing personal narratives will allow the students to “ease” into the school year without a lot of drama and angst because the goal will not be a “research paper.” (And remember that “research paper” is NOT a type of writing in the new CCSS writing standards!) Instead personal narratives can:  introduce students to writing workshop, set the framework for writers notebooks (grades 3 and above), provide a focus for writing instruction, and begin to teach self-reflection for the authors.

So what does Lucy Calkins teach about “Small Moments” of writing?

Each moment is important.

“1.  Picture the moment in your head.

2.   Tell the details of the moment.

3.   Sketch the moment.

4.   Stretch and write the action in order over several pages.”

(Calkins, Lucy.  “Small Moments – Personal Narrative Writing”)

What will instruction look like?

Read Alouds that might be familiar for your students include:

    •  A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
    •  Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
    •  The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Read alouds would involve discussion of small moments and details that “show” what happened.  The teacher may also consider constructing a “Small Moments” shared class story or having partners discuss and write a “Small Moments” story together before students write their own independent stories. Students who have written “Small Moments” stories will also share them with the class to further reinforce and validate their progress.  Students may need many cycles of “Small Moments” writing, conferring, and small group instruction before they confidently complete several pieces that showcase their ability to produce quality writing!

How will students know if they have hit the “Small Moments” target?

Depending on the age of the students, a checklist for student reflection might include:

___  I wrote about a small moment.

___  I wrote about what happened first, next and last (or beginning, middle, and end).

___  I zoomed in and added details.

___  I wrote about something true in my life.

Quotable gems to keep in mind throughout instruction from tweets about @colleen_cruz’s presentations during TCRWP August Writing Institute:

“Voldemoort was nothing in comparison to what we teachers are currently facing.”

“If the lesson isn’t going well, just stop . . .  You aren’t going to be Sully on the Hudson.”

“Pick just one thing to focus on and do it really, really well.”

How are you beginning your writing instruction this year?  
How have you used “Small Moments” in your writing instruction?


CCSS and Writing: The Path to Accelerating Achievement

2013-06-24 09.32.102013-06-25 12.46.332013-06-23 15.24.13   2013-06-23 15.06.40

The staff at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project are in the middle of their second week of writing institutes for the summer of 2013.  Just six weeks ago I was at the first institute in New York City immersed in a wonderful world of writing authors and experts:  Lucy Calkins, Sarah Weeks, Tony Wagner,  Billy Collins, Patricia MacLachlan, Colleen Cruz, Mary Ehrenworth, Maggie Roberts, Kate Roberts (and the Twitter friends that I met in person including @jennymae and @azajacks).

Lucy Calkins kicked off the keynote and then led the beginning grade 3-8 sessions every single day.  It was one of the most fabulous professional development experiences of my life (even though I was sure I was in the wrong place the first day because writing a narrative WAS HARD!)  The chance to learn from, be challenged to improve, and to ask questions on a daily basis  was literally a slice of heaven.   We did not hear everyone’s story but in a community of 1300 learners from 52 nations and 42 states, there were many stories to be told!

I have many favorite quotes from Lucy Calkins that I will be regularly reviewing to see if I am on course, but her opening  keynote was literally a call to action!

1) “Don’t waffle!”

In order to achieve something, one must “go for it!” Stay the course.  There are many pressures on teachers and public schools, but now more than ever the adults at school need to be doing the right things for the right reasons.  Kids need writing every day, not a little workshop time here and there during the week.  Writing has to be on the schedule daily for students to grow their writing skills!

2) “Work with deliberateness towards crystal clear goals.”

Begin with student writing and then identify goals as next steps.  Research on achievement shows that students who are most successful are those who get feedback and work on getting better.  Deliberate practice with concrete goals will set the learning curve.  Look at Hattie’s research on goals for more information about the effect size of having clear, purposeful goals.

3) “Bring writing to scale.”  

Change is hard so you will need a support group.  Find those communities that will support you because the people who make life-altering changes usually have a support group.  If necessary, be a bottom feeder and move forward because students can and will assume identities as writers with our help.  Use the Common Core to create a sense of urgency to provide writing workshop time so students can develop the writing process with integrity. Remember that three of the reading standards support “writing” in addition to the 10 writing standards that all students are working towards.  Literacy time probably needs to be half reading and half writing and extend across other subject areas in the day as well.  If students are writing every day, their work will be visibly better in three weeks so we have a moral imperative to provide both the environment and the instruction to make that happen in our classrooms.

And my closing  Lucy Calkins gems for today:

“Remember that we are not teaching kids to DO something.  We are teaching them to BE something!”

“What is the Bill of Rights you give to all writers at your school?  What is the promise you give the kids about writing?”

What are your favorite Lucy Calkins quotes?
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