PD – “History in the Making” Journals

professional resources, writing

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As a coach, I’ve struggled with finding my role in remote learning. Normally, I support teachers, but with the unfamiliar expectations and pressures teachers are facing right now, would my support be overwhelming? This article from Gravity Goldberg helped me reflect on the ways I could best contribute to my school community. One of the ways I could help most was by continuing my professional development.

After doing several Zooms with TCRWP staff, I decided that one of my major contributions would be to continue offering PD to my staff. Lucy Calkins talked about having students AND teachers do big, important work during this time, not busy work. Provide some purpose. This PD isn’t compulsory, but it is flexible. Teachers can decide if and when to do the PD. On-demand PD allows for choice and availability during this unpredictable time.

The question became: What will I teach? I’ve been posting on my social media accounts about kids keeping journals during this historic crisis, and I recently realized that ADULTS could benefit from keeping a journal right now, too: for our mental health and for ideas to use with students. So I created a PD opportunity for any interested staff: “‘History in the Making’ Journals”. It’s a flipped PD, which means teachers will explore the resources I’ve gathered and tinker with their journals on their own. Then we’ll share our experiences (NOT our journals) in a Zoom on Wednesday, April 1 at 3:15. Piktochart came to my rescue again by providing an easy-to-use infographic template for my workshop:

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Here’s the breakdown of the PD:


To build teachers’ background knowledge, I shared an article from the LA Times, “Journaling the coronavirus pandemic”. I copied the article to a Google Doc so that my colleagues could track their thinking with comments. I love doing this for a couple reasons. First, making others’ thinking visible is fascinating and helpful. I usually learn as much from my peers’ comments than I do from the text! Second, it models a task that teachers could replicate with their students.


I gathered resources for the minilesson in a Padlet: more background info, examples of journals, prompts/sentence starters, and minilessons. Basically anything that could inspire journal work. I especially love the journal examples, most of which I took from the LA Times article. A graphic journal? I’d never considered it. Writing a note in my phone? Pretty handy. These resources could also be used with students. Seeing all of the options gave me all sorts of ideas.

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Tinker Time

Tinker time is what I call the middle section of the workshop when writers and readers get the bulk of time to practice the skill or strategy taught in the minilesson independently. For teachers’ tinker time in this workshop, they’re going to work on their journals. They might tinker with a different structure each day until they find a “just right” fit for them, or they might do something different every day based on what they want to express. As teachers work through this process, I hope that they have some moments of genius about how they could adapt this work with students or supports students might need.


I scheduled a Zoom for Wednesday, April 1st at 3:15 for anyone to attend, whether they did journal work or not. Since journals are intimate and private, we won’t be sharing journal pages. Instead, we’ll share our experiences with the process and reflect on ways to do this work with students. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.

I’ve started brainstorming other on-demand PD ideas to lead during quarantine. Do you have any requests? Let me know!

Literacy Links – Volume 61

grammar/conventions, literacy links, online learning, poetry, professional resources, writing

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What does a literacy coach do in quarantine? Reformat PD for teachers so they can access them on-demand and remotely! The first remote learning PD I developed was Writing Clinic #5: Demo Pieces. I decided to gather all of the Writing Clinics on a Padlet in case teachers had time to explore previous Writing Clinics. My latest quarantine PD is “History in the Making” Journals. It’s a flipped PD, which means teachers will explore the resources I’ve gathered and tinker with their journals on their own. Then we’ll share our experiences (NOT journals) in a Zoom on Wednesday, April 1 at 3:15. I’m really excited about continuing to offer PD online. 🙂

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 60

Harry Potter, literacy links, online learning, professional resources, writing

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Hope everyone reading this and your families are doing ok.

Teaching and learning look very different right now. Although I am personally hoping that the only literacy work that students are doing is reading and keeping a journal, I think we can support that work by doing book talks and offering writing ideas and reminders, like tips for making books at home or capitalizing first word in a sentence (only accessible through LPS Google accounts). Students have a lot of unique experiences and feelings right now, so encourage them to document them as much as possible.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Writing Clinic #5 – Demo Pieces

professional resources, writing

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Writing Clinic #5 – Demo Pieces has been planned for a while, but the quarantine demanded a different format. Since I always use a workshop structure (book talk, minilesson, tinker time, and share), I knew that part would be the same. I just needed to find the right delivery platform. SO MANY new (to me!) platforms have been shared over the past several weeks that I have to admit: They’ve all BLURRED together. Even if they hadn’t, though, I don’t think I currently have the head space for another new thing. So I decided to keep it simple by using a Google Doc file.

First, I divided it into the workshop sections, plus a message from me and more info sections. Then I recorded my minilesson in Quicktime and didn’t even think about editing or reshooting it because ain’t nobody homeschooling AND working from home got time for that. The only new thing I learned how to do was how to add a hyperlink to an image, which was so simple I didn’t even have to Google it. Finally I added in all of the text and hyperlinks that teachers would need to navigate this on-demand PD. I’m eager to hear how it goes!



Literacy Links – Volume 58

Harry Potter, literacy links, poetry, professional resources, reading

Screen Shot 2020-03-06 at 2.47.47 PMPotterheads getting inspiration from The Important Book to craft stanzas
about Harry Potter people, places, and things.

This year was the third iteration of the Harry Potter Club, and it was my favorite yet. For the first time, I ran it like a workshop, which is my teaching model of choice (Why it took me three years to make this move perplexes me!). Even more amazing than the change in model is how much more I focused on writing activities. Each session introduced a new writing activity, and I’m so pleased to report that students opted to do each with enthusiasm and passion. Each of the writing projects are being bound into books now and will soon be permanent additions to my faux Hogwarts Library. Next year’s goal: Get Potterheads reading Harry Potter books while they’re during Harry Potter Club season.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:


Literacy Links – Volume 57

book list, literacy links, poetry, professional resources, reading, writing

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On Monday, I hosted my fourth Writing Clinic. This one focused on revision, and while the attendance was the lowest yet, I still enjoyed the opportunity to present, discuss, and support. Plus, teachers got a chance to make a revision microprogression for each of the big three genres (narrative, information, and opinion) and start a revision toolkit, complete with revision shades. 🙂

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Literacy Links – Volume 56

Harry Potter, professional resources, reading, writing

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If I could find a way to make the Harry Potter Club my full-time job, Center would need a new literacy coach. We’ve met three times so far, and this year, I’ve structured it like a workshop. We have a soft start in which wizards have options for activities while everyone arrives and gets settled: reading Harry Potter books, doing a coloring page, working on a puzzle, reading the latest issue of our newsletter, the Daily Prophet, etc. Once everyone is present, I review or preview the classes for the day: the craft in Transfiguration, the materials for Potions, their Divination quiz online, and the reading/writing activity for Library. I usually station myself at Library so that I can do a reading or writing minilesson as wizards rotate through, but sometimes I’ll lead Potions. I’ve loved this structure so much, and students enjoy the independence of prioritizing the order of their station work. These afternoons are magical.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

  • Is THIS my chance to become a published author?! Or YOURS?!
  • A conference at which to present or attend in October. I always love getting my learn on.
  • Audiobook Listening Copy – Sign up for an account and submit an application. Once approved, you can download free audiobooks each month as supplied by publishers. They are DRM-free and yours to keep.
  • Pioneer Valley Zine Fest – I’m fascinated by zines, the ultimate DIY publishing. This event is on my calendar.
  • Mental health break – Kids should name all the things.

Literacy Links – Volume 53

literacy links, professional resources, reading

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Two of my clubs are starting soon: Reading Ambassadors and Harry Potter. Reading Ambassadors group is a service and leadership club and Harry Potter is a fan club. They’re both so special to me because they’re a combination pep rally, time for self-expression, and community building. Reading Ambassadors is full and there’s a waitlist, but there are a couple more spots in the Harry Potter Club for students in grades 3-5. Register here.

Here is this week’s roundup of literacy links for some quick inspiration, tips, and refreshment:

Four Things to Do at the Halfway Mark of the Year

professional resources, reading

With the start of the new year, resolutions abound. This time of year is perfect for trying out something new in the classroom, too. If you’re not sure what you could experiment with, consider any of the following ideas.

Reading Marathons

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If you haven’t hosted a Reading Marathon, now is the perfect time to have your first. As testing season approaches, we want to make sure our students have the stamina to attend to a lengthy task, but we need to explicitly teach them some strategies. Hosting a Reading Marathon is the perfect event. The teacher teaches students how to maintain their stamina by doing stretch breaks and power poses, creating positive self-talk, and setting goals before students are tasked with reading for as long as they can. I have students create a stamina four-square in their reader’s notebooks so they have a record of what they think will work for them.

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You can keep the Reading Marathon simple, or you can have props and costumes: racing numbers, athleisure attire, a whistle, etc. During the Reading Marathon, teachers can assess students’ stamina by tracking behaviors.

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This chart provides such great information, and if you host your first Reading Marathon soon, you’ll have time to support students who struggled with stamina before the end of the year!

Visit the Reading Lounge

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This space would be a great place to host a Reading Marathon! Reserve the space using our school’s Google Calendar (click on “other calendars” if you haven’t added it to your calendars yet).


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It’s so common to give students surveys at the beginning of the year with students. I’ve always been a fan of Jennifer Serravallo’s “What Can I Work on As a Reader?” self-reflection tool. These surveys help teachers get to know students and help students set goals. At the halfway mark of the year or the end of the first term, why not administer the same survey? If you return students’ surveys from the beginning of the year, then they can do some great reflecting about areas of growth, needs, infer some possible reasons, and make new goals with different action steps. You could even have students record a video of themselves reflecting on their growth if you use a video tool in See Saw, Class Dojo, etc.

Classroom Library Audit

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You might think your classroom library is in good shape because you have full, maybe even overflowing, shelves. Most students don’t seem to have any trouble finding books for their independent reading. But when was the last time you took a close look at what is actually occupying your precious shelf space? Scholastic’s 11 Essentials for a Highly Effective Classroom Library is eye-opening! I’m guessing there are a lot of outdated books that aren’t being read and a serious lack of multicultural, #ownvoices books. If we classified books by publishing year, I think we’d find that our collections are dated. I’d estimate that less than 20% of the books were published in the last five years. This is the perfect time of year to Marie Kondo your collection. Talk with your administrator to see if there are any funds to acquire new books. If they see pitifully bare the shelves are after a thoughtful purge, then they may be more inclined to replenish your books using a low cost book suppler like First Book. In fact, many administrators don’t think there’s a need to fund teachers’ classroom libraries because they see stocked shelves.

These activities can take place any time of year, really, but the halfway mark is a natural transition time for everyone. When students hear teachers’ thoughts about experimenting with their teaching practices, I think students are more likely to show flexible, responsive thinking as well.

Happy experimenting!

Writing Clinic #3: Exemplars

professional resources, writing

This month’s Writing Clinic focused on exemplars. Exemplars are models of student work that guide students’ performance. Providing an exemplar of the final product benefits students *and* teachers because it eliminates any doubt about what the work of the unit should look like.

During the workshop, I ran through WHY we should use exemplars, WHAT we can use for exemplars, and HOW we can use exemplars to support students.

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Screen Shot 2019-12-16 at 6.31.52 PMFinished look of the minilesson’s anchor charts

Teachers spent their tinker time of the workshop making tools to use with exemplars. Most decided to make their grade level’s version of this huge display I saw in a post on the Facebook group for the Units of Study for Writing:

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 1.49.16 PMA teacher generously shared her display in this post on the Facebook group
for the Units of Study for Writing

The language for each section comes from the writing checklists available in TCRWP’s Writing Pathways or in the online resources. After printing out their chosen genre’s checklist, teachers started making their tools.

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Other teams made small, toolkit-size versions of the same tool.

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I’ve really loved every Writing Clinic I’ve hosted so far, but this one might’ve been my favorite. Digging into the topic with teachers, especially during their tinker time, is such valuable PD for everyone. They often ask questions I hadn’t considered, and I love thinking through trouble-shooting options with them: What might that look like? What else could work? What are the possible effects of that? The best part of these Writing Clinics, though, comes in the days afterwards when I see the work being used in classrooms with students. These teachers waste now time testing out new ideas. I’m such a proud coach. ❤

The next Writing Clinic will be focus on Revising Toolkits on January 27th. Hope to see you there!