Writing Clinic #1: Conferring and Small Groups

literacy, professional resources, test prep, writing

Once a month, LPS teachers have a “teacher-led” staff meeting. Teachers must be in the building from 3 to 4 working on anything of their choice. After going to the Saturday Reunion at Teachers College and Literacy for All, I was desperate to share all of the new ideas I’d learned. I’d been considering lots of different sharing options, and I realized I could offer it during these teacher-led Monday afternoons! So on Sunday morning, after getting permission from my principal, I started brainstorming my first Writing Clinics. The first task was to brainstorm the sessions and create an advertisement to share with staff. Thanks to Mr. Shu, I used Canva, and the graphic design was a piece of cake! 

In general, I use the Workshop Model to plan my PD, so I created my agenda on conferring/small group work using the same workshop components that I use with students: book talk, minilesson, work, and share.

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Book Talk and Minilesson

After a quick book talk on Carl Anderson’s, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences, I launched my minilesson. I decided a flow chart would be the simplest way to break down the conferring process.

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For each part of the Conferring Cycle, I asked myself, “Is there a meaningful tool that could support teachers’ work with this step?” Although I considered possibilities for each step, I decided to focus on the latter half of the Conferring Cycle because I thought they’d have the most impact on students and teachers. So I created a tool for the following steps of the Conferring Cycle: Assess, Craft a Teaching Point, and Create a Tool. By the end of the minilesson, I’d taped all of the possible tools teachers could make to the board as models of what they could create during the WORK portion of the WORKshop.

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Work Options

Here’s a close-up of all of the tools that teachers had the chance to make at the first Writing Clinic along with how to use each one:

IMG_4342 2“Assess” Tool: Formative Assessment using Checklists from the Units of Study

How the Assess Tool, Formative Assessment Using Checklists from the Units of Study, Works: Teachers cut up an illustrated checklist from the online resources for the Units of Study on Heinemann for the unit’s genre of writing and paste the criteria on the left hand side of an opened file folder. The three white blank labels at the top are for different categories: ✓+, ✓, ✓- or Meeting, Progressing, Emerging or Yes!, Starting To, Not Yet. The green sticky notes are for writing students’ names according to the level of the work they’re sharing during conferences. Tip: Laminate!

IMG_4341 2“Craft a Teaching Point” Tool: What/How/Why Planning Template

How the Craft a Teaching Point Tool, What/How/Why Planning Template Works: I’ve noticed that many of the anchor charts from the TCRWP Units of Study lay out rigorous goals of what students should do, but they don’t tell HOW to do it or WHY it should be done. The same goes for the teaching point, so I created this scaffold to get teachers in the habit of planning the what, how, and why of the lesson, whether it’s for the whole class or small group. Of course, like all good scaffolds, this tool would become obsolete once the teacher develops this frame of mind for lesson planning. Tip: Laminate!

 

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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (inside)

Screen Shot 2019-11-05 at 2.16.17 PMCreate a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (front)

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Create a Tool” Tool: Checklist Sorting Mat (back)

How the Create a Tool, Checklist Sorting Mat Works: This tool, again, uses the checklists. This is a tool that encourages student self-reflection. They take strips of the checklist and decide if they are showing evidence of that work or not. Anything that lands on the “Not Yet” side turn into writing goals and can even be stored in a handy pocket in the student’s writer’s notebook. Tip: Laminate!

Every teacher left with a tool to use with students or to plan with right away.

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After the Clinic, I decided to display all of the materials in the teachers’ workroom so that all teachers had access to the information and materials in case they wanted to DIY the tools.

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There’s also a Google Classroom for this work; email me if you want to join.

I can’t wait to hear how the tools work in teachers’ classrooms!

Literacy Links – Volume 45

creating, literacy links, writing

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Last week, I hosted my first Writing Clinic. Its focus was conferring, which I believe is the heart of Writers’ Workshop (looks like the blog, Two Writing Teachers, agrees with me in the latest post, “Conferring Notes: The Key to Unit Planning”). Entire grade level teams attended the first clinic, and everyone left with a tool to support their conferring. Some even realized the tools could be transferred to other content areas as well! That’s what I call high leverage tool action! After the clinic, I displayed all of the materials and supplies in the teachers’ workroom in case they missed it and wanted to DIY the tools. Can’t wait for the next session on November 25th!

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

Literacy Links – Volume 42

Just for fun, literacy links, writing

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I’m devoting a lot of my thinking and attention to writing this year. How can I support students’ independence in writing? How can I encourage their transfer of skills from one unit to the next? How can I improve their awareness of themselves as writers? Reflection is a tool that I turn to again and again in my writing instruction. I want students to think “I’m here. This is where I need to be. This is how I will get there.” If they can navigate that metacognitive process independently, then I have no doubt that they will improve as writers.

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

Literacy Links – Volume 40

creating, Harry Potter, professional resources, writing

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I have been obsessed with Dr. Rudine Bishop Sims’s quote about books as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors ever since I first heard it. So true. So powerful. When I saw Grant Snider’s print inspired by the quote, I knew I had to get it. After the reading specialist at my school transformed a long hallway into a magical, Disney-like space, I jumped into transforming some of the new, diverse texts I’d gotten for the book room into my own hallway display. It’s hard to have a favorite metaphor from the display, but I love this last part:

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I overheard some students saying that “Books are music!” I hope they submit it for the display!

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

Literacy Links – Volume 37

literacy links, writing

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Having students pick book nooks is one of my favorite lessons in Readers’ Workshop launch! We read aloud You Can Read and discussed the good book nooks in their classroom. One of my goals for my lessons this year is to plan the what, the how, and the WHY. WHY is it important for readers to have good book nooks? Sometimes I’m even explicitly listing the WHY on the anchor chart.

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

HQTS: Making Literacy Toolkits

announcements, creating, literacy, professional resources, reading, writing

Background

At the last PD day a couple weeks ago, the literacy coaches organized a variety of stations focusing on writing about reading. Teachers spent the majority of the morning exploring resources like the Literacy Continuum and Learning Progressions, analyzing student work, and calibrating assessment. They collected tons of ideas about what students need to be able to do as writers about reading and data about what their students were showing them. So what next? Here is where a toolkit will be a lifesaver.

If you’re a member of the Units of Study Facebook groups (if you haven’t joined them yet, DO IT!), I’m sure you’ve noticed people sharing ideas, asking questions about, and creating meetups for these toolkits. It’s a notebook, binder, or any kind of collection of tools you can use to support students’ literacy skills and strategies.

Based on your students’ demonstrations and understandings and your knowledge of what gets tricky for your unit/topic, you create a set of tools to support small group or one-on-one instruction. These tools are your teaching focuses, often a skill or strategy from a whole group minilesson with more scaffolds in place. The tools might get used during a small group lesson for which you’ve planned or you might pull one specific tool out to support an individual student that you noticed needing additional support during a conference. They are flexible and adaptable, which makes them incredibly useful.

Our HQTS Work

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During our HQTS, we’ll explore resources, materials, and ideas to inspire us before getting into toolkit creation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the options, so I’ll be sharing the best of the best so you don’t have to weed through a bunch of Teachers Pay Teachers nonsense.

There will be so many things to consider: the focus of your toolkit (Reading fiction? Writing nonfiction? Theme? So many options.), the best tool for the job (Mini anchor chart? Microprogression? Leave-behind for students? Demonstration text?)  A toolkit that covered all of reading would be an inefficient beast. Instead, consider making a toolkit for nonfiction and fiction or even each unit. Whatever focus you choose, I’ll have sample toolkit pages for you to adapt, and as you create more, we’ll add to our Padlet to continue inspiring us.

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The thing I love most about starting a literacy toolkit is that it inspires you in so many new ways. When our HQTS is over, you’ll have at least one toolkit ready to use with students. However, I know it will also change and grow over time, and you may even leave with ideas for so many more toolkits.

Interested? Sign up here.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with. 🙂

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Toolkit Ideas for Writing About Reading

literacy, professional resources, reading, test prep, writing

Made with Padlet

A quick search for “toolkits” in the Units of Study Facebook groups will yield dozens of posts with requests for and pictures of various toolkits. They are certainly a hot topic. However, I haven’t seen many that focus on writing about reading, a component of balanced literacy that students are expected to do throughout the year in a variety of contexts. As a result, we’ve begun gathering and creating some sample toolkit pages on this Padlet. Browse for inspiration, and post your writing about reading toolkit pages, too!

On Becoming a Teacher Who Writes

professional resources, writing

IMG_8139My current writer’s notebook

I’ve always loved writing. In fact, there was a time in late middle school and early high school that I wanted to make writing my career, thanks to an impressionable year with an amazing teacher. I researched colleges and universities with strong creative writing programs and started wearing quirky clothes to increase my author mystique.

Then AP classes, college, grad school, marriage, and babies struck, and I lost my mojo. When I finally became a teacher, I used the Workshop Model and the Six Traits to implement my favorite teacher’s creative writing project. I also co-produced a literary magazine for my elementary schools. Clearly, I was a teacher who loved teaching writing and coaching writers. But beyond writing occasional blog posts, I wasn’t a writer. So when I saw Jennifer Serravallo’s announcement that she’d be hosting a Summer Writing Camp, I thought about all of the packing we’d be doing while minding a toddler for our we-love-it-here-so-let’s-buy-a-house move and how terribly I miss my older son while he spends the summer with his dad, and in typical overachieving Ms. Vigna fashion, I signed up right away!

According to the announcement, each week would focus on a different genre of writing, starting with fiction. All of the lessons were delivered via Facebook Live and were easy to find even though I never watched or did the lessons the day they were released. I eagerly filled my writer’s notebook when I had an extra twenty minutes–ten minutes for the lesson and ten minutes to write–to disappear, which was usually during naptime or around bedtime. At the end of the first week, I had a draft of a story that I could continue to develop. My first piece of fiction in nearly thirty years.

It was clear to me how I could easily repeat the process for any of my other seeds to craft another story. Additionally, it was obvious how easily I could stray from the lessons to follow my own lead. By using Ms. Serravallo’s strategies, I uncovered all sorts of hidden pathways to my own writing conclusions. It was inevitable to make the connections between my role in this process and my students’ roles. Teaching these strategies and craft moves is a way to pay it forward for our student writers. What a gift.

Before the end of the first week, I knew that I wanted to replicate this process with teachers. A weekly writing club that meets before school. Perhaps even an opportunity to earn PDPs or SACs or SIS? I will explore all of the options because this work is that important for ourselves *and* our students.

Happy reading and writing.

Reading Poster Unit

creating, Just for fun, literacy, quotes, reading, writing

One of my mantras as a teacher is, “If the students can do/make/think it, they should.” So when we realized our schools’ walls could use some spiffing up, we decided to turn over the decor transformation to the students! Since this is “The Year of the Reader,” what could be better than some inspirational reading quote posters?!

Together with the librarian, I’ve created a short unit plan that could be done at any time of the year.

Day 1

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Illustrator Source: unknown
Text Source: Neil Gaiman for The Guardian

The first day of the unit will be used to inspire students and give them a chance to explore and pick an inspirational quote about reading. We’ll kick off by showcasing some inspirational quotes found online and in quote books for kids.Some questions to discuss: Why do people like inspirational quotes? How can inspirational quotes be important?With this being “The Year of the Reader,” we’ll veer towards quotes focused on reading:

Students will record quote contenders on their Reading Quote Poster Planning Sheet.

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By the end of the lesson, they will circle or star the reading quote that they want to use for their poster!

Day 2

To help students realize the impact of good graphic design, we’ll share simple fundamentals of graphic design and analyze inspirational quote examples to discuss what we notice about the designs, such as fonts, layout, spacing, alignment, flourishes, and more. They’ll jot or sketch ideas on their Reading Quote Poster Planning Sheet that they may incorporate into their drafts the following day.

Day 3

This will be production day! First, they’ll sketch out their ideas on 8.5×11″ paper in pencil. Once they’re happy with their designs, they’ll go over the design in black ink. Finally, they’ll erase any of their pencil marks to end up with their final draft!

Day 4 – Optional

The final session will be a day of celebration! It’ll begin with a silent gallery walk of students’ designs. They’ll observe each design and leave a compliment on a sheet underneath for the designer to keep. All of the designs can be bound in a simple book, put on display, and catalogued in the library. If desired, students can also use this time to vote for their favorite designs. The top three designs from each class can be enlarged and posted throughout the school. During the very final portion of the lesson, students should complete a reflection about the whole process.

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Possible Extensions or Adaptations

  • Book talk and/or read aloud picture books about imagination or art.
  • Create bookmarks instead of posters.
  • Instead of having students choose a quote about reading, they can find a particularly meaningful quote from a favorite book that they read during the year. They can use some of the same graphic design elements in their designs, but they can also print it on a page FROM a book:

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Any of these quote projects would be SUCH a great keepsake to celebrate the Year of the Reader!

5th Grade WIN – Padlet

reading, technology, writing

Click here to find the Padlet for our WIN group.

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I’ve posted before about Padlet, the digital interactive bulletin board, but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it authentically until now. For the next several weeks, I’m meeting with fifth graders to work on reading responses during WIN. In addition to using critical thinking skills, collaborating with other writers, and writing clear ideas, I also want students to use the computer for this work. Padlet seems like the perfect platform to accomplish these goals! I’ll provide an update after we’ve tinkered around a bit more!