TCRWP 2013 Summer Writing Institute Notes – Learning with Annie

I got to spend 5 days learning from Annie Taranto, a TCRWP Staff Developer who had also taught me during the January, 2012 Reading Coach Institute. Back in January, we were together at a school in Brooklyn and Annie taught us how to coach while being in Labsite classrooms all week long.
Now I had the honor to  be in a group of very smart Advanced Institute participants from all over the globe ready to hear more tips from Annie on how to teach teachers to teach writing by using the structure of Labsites and Meetings. 
Here are my notes taken while with Annie:
Recommended Book:    Literacy Coaching by Katherine Casey, Heinemann.
Two Structures to Use to Teach Other Teachers to Teach Writing?
Labsites – time to try it, practice it
As the coach, plan the lesson and plan the voice overs – YOU must talk to the teachers so they will value labsite time and understand why you are doing what you are doing.
Plan the lenses:
—  Giving a lens for teachers to view the Labsite is very important. During the debrief, hold the teachers accountable and be sure to recall who had each lens and give each a chance to share.
—  Possible lenses: explicitness, independence, transference,  student engagement, transitions…(see emailed list); a building walk-thru can help you decide on the lenses to use.
Lab Guides can be created to give teachers a place to take notes and can also be a chance to share content and list the debriefing agenda.

Meetings – time to discuss labsite work, time to learn together

Four Mini-Lesson Methods can be “taught” using a labsite structure
  1. Demonstration – watch me do it / now you try it
  2. Explanation/Example – One thing writers do is ____. For example, _____.
  3. Guided Inquiry – teacher names a question and students name what they notice.
  4. Guided Practice – you call out the steps while students try it (teach and AE is together)
The Guided Practice mini-lesson structure was created to get kids to write independently with more rigor. A pattern was seen where there was a big gap between strong writing on a published piece (a piece worked on with lots of time and teacher support) and a student’s on-demand writing piece. It seemed the parts were being taught slowly, 1 thing at a time but kids were not pushed to do the whole. This structure gives them rigorous practice led by the teacher.

Tennis Hopper Analogy: If the tennis coach threw all the balls at you at once, all you could do is duck and cover. Instead, the coach hits you one at a time with repeated practice to your forearm and then moves to your backhand. Then you play a game. This analogy can be shared with the teacher who is teaching MANY strategies within one mini-lesson.

To help teachers know the 4 kinds of mini-lessons:
  1. Show each of the 4 kinds in a lab through demonstration and voice over
  2. In the lab have the teachers practice
  3. Help T plan lessons during meeting time
Remember, the lesson plan template is just a scaffold. The goal is for it to become a part of us so we don’t need it anymore. Just like on buildings, a scaffold goes up, the problem gets fixed, and then it comes down.
To ensure that a gradual-release occurs, use JIGSAW and FREEZE-FRAME in labsite.
Jigsaw/Freeze-frame helps teachers to practice while working together.
EX: Conference (each teacher takes a part)
                research – Teacher A
                decide (freeze-frame and all pick compliment and teach)
                compliment – Teacher B
                teach     – Teacher C
                link – Teacher D
In the labsite, use WHISPERING IN.
This is a move toward independence. The teacher is teaching. The coach or another teacher sits next to her and whispers in, telling them what to say.
—  Teachers need to be seen as learners so in a labsite, the kids are seeing this method and see that their teacher is learning.
EXAMPLES of What to Whisper In:
Say What are you working on?                   Say Show me where you did that.
Say Write this down                                        Say the teaching point again
Say This matters because…
·         be sure to sit by teacher and not by student and only talk to teacher.
·         Let the teacher teach and add in-the-moment coaching
·         Only lean feedback
·         Take notes so at the debrief, you can tell them WHY you whispered that to them. “I told you to ask them more in the research so you could learn more and then teach.”
—  Make sure you are taking conference notes during a labsite so they see you modeling it
—  Show them lots of different methods so they see choices
—  Help teachers see the value in taking notes. When they see you in a labsite return to a student for a conference and using your notes to help you to say, “Last time you were working on ___. How’s it going? Show me where you tried ___.” the teachers can SEE the value of notetaking.
—  Have teachers study notes in a meeting. All bring notes of one student and together we ask, “Are we helping this student grow as a writer? Bring the student’s writing. Look at last 5 conference notes and the writing . What do we notice?
—  Have teachers look across ALL conference notes of her class and use it to form small groups to teach. 
Using On-demand Prompts
—  When teachers say students won’t know what this means (the specific language of the on-demands), DON’T dumb it down . Instead teach S the vocabulary and teach what it means. ALL in school need to administer the on-demands in a standard fashion.
—  Remember that the goal of the on-demand is not an evaluation. It is to find out what they know how to do and to decide what I need to teach.
—  When 4th grade teachers in Sept say “This looks like 3rd grade work”’ celebrate this. It should. You haven’t taught them 4th grade skills yet!
—  The on-demand at the end of the unit lets you see what stuck and what still needs to be taught.
—  Ask “Have they grown as writers?” If not, why? The purpose is to see what is working in my teaching and what isn’t working. Use this as feedback.
Scoring On-demand Prompts at a Norming Meeting (described in Pathways book)
  1. ALL in grade get the prompt and discuss the importance of giving it by using the scripted directions
  2. ALL administer prompt in one class period
  3. ALL bring writing to the norming meeting
·         As a group all look at one piece of writing while looking at the learning progression charts. Using this stem, I would put it on this level because ___, discuss what level writing this piece is.
·         ALL read another piece and score it individually and then as a group, see if you agree. DO a few more if needed.
·         Score the rest in the class (optional: can switch piles with a colleague)
·         Discuss the writing and answer the question: Where are we going? Based on the answer, plan the unit to meet the needs of these students.
  1. If the NF unit is in Nov. give the on-demand in Oct so they can be leveled and discussed and then the unit can be planned based on what the kids can and cannot do.
How to “test” independence and transfer:
Place a student’s publish piece side-by-side with their on-demand. If the published piece score is higher than the on-demand, it is showing that a child can do it with teacher coaching. The goal, though, is for the student to do it independently on an on-demand.
Tips for Great Meetings
  1. Make the agenda known and clear
  2. Include how much time will be spent on each topic
  3. Think about what might need to be done prior to the meeting and clearly state these assignments (ex: we will read the continuum progressions prior to meeting)
  4. Be a “proficient partner”; do not dominiate the conversation, Do ask questions to get all to think it out as a group.
  5. Name the possible pitfalls ahead of time to set the tone of the meeting as being collaborative
  6. Be realistic and don’t overplan
  7. The meeting time needs to support the labsite time
    1. Write minilessons in meetings
    2. Practice minilessons in labsites
Annie also asked us to share scenarios we encounter as Literacy Leaders and she offered suggestions:
Scenario: “Teachers say they buy in and think they are doing it but they aren’t.”
—  Staff Developer (SD) needs to talk to administration and make sure they are on the same page and are making the vision clear.
—  Honesty and feedback w/ teachers is important. Compliment, then teach (don’t just tell).Tell WHY you are suggesting to do it this way.
—  Suggest studying together around a lens, like independence. It will help them to see how the big idea is held through the whole workshop.
Scenario: “Test scores…they are fine so we don’t need to change”
—  Discuss what we value. I don’t value a test. It is the age we live in but the greater moral purpose is missing. For kids, testing won’t really exist much beyond the SAT. Kids won’t always be living in the testing world so let’s teach them to be readers/writers. These are skills kids can transfer to live their lives.
—  The new writing units have kids writing multiple pieces w/in a unit. Instead of one piece in a month, it is a piece a week. Fast-drafting in a day and then large-scale revisions are taught. This pacing will help kids when they have a test.
Scenario: “There is no sense of urgency by the staff to work with the staff developer.”
—  Think about WHY they aren’t valuing it; are the pre/post meetings productive? Are they leaving with useful things to help them act. This is feedback to me, the SD. I need to reflect and act upon it.
—  Do they not see the value in the lenses you are giving them? Does the group of teachers need to change? Does the “one bad apple” need to be removed?
—  Can they sign-up for working in the labsite so they have buy-in?
—  Talk to admin/literacy team and brainstorm how to help teachers get the most out of labsites.
Scenario: “A teacher starts out strong but fizzles. You aren’t seeing it transfer from unit to unit.”
—  Ask was I explicit enough to show them how this can be done in another unit. “Anytime in a unit…”
—  Do they possess the knowledge of the new content? A meeting can be a content dump to help them. Pick a mentor text for new unit and together read and mark it up)
—  Are they working with colleagues or alone? It can go faster and better with a group so burn-out is avoided.
Scenario: “I don’t know what to teach them in a conference?”
—  Show teachers how to use the  If…Then… Curriculum Book, Part 2 resource to make a cheat sheet to have on their clipboard.
—  Think of the problems you expect kids to have in the unit and make a chart:
If                                                             Then
No ideas                                              * pick something you do every day
                                                                * think of places you go to regularly
                                                                * close your eyes and see the day
Bed to Bed story                              * box out 20 min of story
                                                                *stretch it with I said, I thought, I did
                                                                * box out the heart of the story

TCRWP August Writing Institute: A week with Colleen Cruz!!

Colleen Cruz taught me daily in an Advance Small Group during the 2013 August Writing Institute.
Our focus was on:
  1. How to teach kids to write informational writing
  2. How to design a curriculum unit
  3. You will write a professional article for teachers
Here are my notes:
How To Teach Teaching Nonfiction Writing:
The two most important aspects are structure and elaboration.
To move toward having strong structure and elaboration, we brainstormed a topic by:
  1. Listing kinds, parts, types
  2. Listing pros / cons
  3. Listing similarities / differences
  4. Listing cause/effect; if/then; problem/solution
  5. Now, using all these lists, we created the table of contents for our information writing piece!
Past Process:  pick any topic, take lots of notes, organize notes, draft, research some more to fill in holes.
Process NOW: Start from a grounding in a topic you already know, pick something related to that topic, draft a table of contents after brainstorming all angles of the subtopic, revise table of contents, write a flash draft, now research to fill in the holes, revise, edit and publish.
Note: This is a big shift in how to approach the teaching of nonfiction. It matches what real nonfiction authors do – they start with a topic they know and research into that container. Start from a place of knowledge, build your structure, draft quickly, then research to fill in the holes.
Nonfiction Writing Research Moves
  1. Teach what a reliable source is
  2. Make a research plan –  can use a T-Chart and list chapter topic and the plan for research
  3. Notetaking – provide lots of options for how to do it and let students choose
  4. Teach Students to follow these steps:
    1. Read text
    2. Think hard about it and make sure you truly understand it
    3. Now decide what to write and write it down
    How the new 3rd grade NF Unit was Written
    Bend 1 – Organization: five sessions written on organizing info
    Bend 2 – Reaching to write well; now you are making something through your writing
    Bend 3 – Moving toward Publishing; revising, editing, preparing piece for others
    Bend 4 – Transferring the skills used to write a long piece to a writing a short piece; how to do it quickly, in a short amount of time. 

    An Overview of How a NF Unit Might Go:
    —  Immersion to see an overview of possible structures
    —  S picks topic of interest that you want to teach others about
    —  S brainstorms all they know about topic (kinds, parts, reasons, pro/con, compare/contrast)
    —  S drafts a table of contents based on present knowledge
    —  S plans out what to research based on the holes in the table of contents
    —  T teaches how to take notes (3 steps)
    —  S Researches
    —  S drafts, starting with best part first (out of order is OK)
    —  T teaches to revise for structure, elaboration, craft (I think the writer is trying to ___. He does this by ___. He does this because ___.), purpose/meaning, and language
    —  S edit for readers
    —  T teaches ways to make it public
    —  S publishes
    I’m looking forward to guiding my students to write nonfiction by following this unit structure during the 2013-14 school year.
    When Writing Curriculum:
    —  Know your kids and write for them
    —  Decide what the goals of the unit are
    —  Decide on the bends of the unit
    An awesome unit is like a story; it gets progressively more exciting. It should build and build and build.
    How to Design Good Teaching Points (Because it is easy to do poorly!)
    —  Session #7 in 3rd NF Unit – Making Connections within and across chapters
           TP = Today I want to teach you that writing chapters is like making a paper chain. The order needs to make sense and transitional words are used to hold it together.
    —  This is a good TP because it is explicit, gives a concrete example, connects to things in real life, students can relate to it and it includes the content and the process.
    —  Try it: #16 In this session you will teach that when info writers are editing, they keep a close eye on the way they use paragraphs.
           TP = Today I want to teach you that writers edit their work by using paragraphs. We indent to show a new part is beginning just like how the department store hangs signs so you can find the part of the store you want to shop in.
    Colleen made me realize how GREAT the new Writing Pathway book is that comes in the new Writing Units of Study kits.
    History of Writing Pathways
    —  Years ago we laid out lots of narrative writing and it led to a continuum for personal narrative.
    —  When CC came out, we decided to make continuums for opinion and information.
    —  COOL STUFF in the book:
           Learning Progressions – we can SEE where a kid is. Rarely is a kid on grade level for all skills. This helps to see where they are.
           Rubrics with points can be used to show growth
           Helps a teacher teach the exact steps that the kid needs and not just grade-level skills
    Colleen also encouraged US to write this week about a topic that we know lots about. What is it that people in your building go to YOU for help? Write about it!
    Tips for My Own Nonfiction Writing:
    —  Think about weight and angle
           When something matters, it takes up more space. The most words should be on the parts important to you.
           It is not important to draft in order of the table of contents. Instead, start with the most important part.
    —  The mentor text you use should match the genre you are writing.
    —  Have a goal as a writer; ex: I will write a chapter a day.
    —  Audience – Who am I writing for?
    Colleen’s Favorite Nonfiction Mentor Texts
    —  Structure – Deadliest Animals (least to most), Cats vs Dogs (compare/contrast), Amazing Journeys (3 animals on a journey) ALL National Geographic for Kids have great structure!
    —  Elaboration – Elephants by Bloom
    —  Craft – Oh, Rats!
    —  Language – The VIP Pass to Major League Baseball Game; Time for Kids Natural Defenses.

    I Meet Ralph Fletcher!!

    I attended the TCRWP August Writing Institute and on Day Two of the Institute, Ralph Fletcher, was the Keynote Speaker! At lunchtime, he signed my copies of Fig Pudding and Talking Trees, two books that I loved read this past year. Then I stopped at the bookstore and purchased a collection of his poems. I should rename August 6th as Ralph Fletcher Day!! His Keynote focused on using Mentor Texts. Here are my notes:
    —  We need not teach alone – we have mentor texts!

    —  “In order to write well, you first have to be flattened by a book” Stephen King

    —  He shared his poem Sometimes I Remember and he asked us to write a poem starting with the same first 2 lines and ending with the same last lines.    Fun, easy exercise to write successfully as a poet!
    Ten Tips
    1. Read books and poems that you love. Kids will sense your delight and be motivated to become readers themselves.
    2. Take advantage of “micro-text” what can be read in one sitting. Ex: The Other Side – great ending!
    3. Talk about the author behind the book.
    4. Try not to interrupt the 1st reading of the book. Then reread it to do craft work.
    5. Leave time for students’ natural responses
    6. Reread for craft. “I read everything twice. Once to enjoy it and once to steal everything I can from the author.”  Robert Cohen
    7. Design a spiral of minilessons around a craft element. Ex: character – first share info, then example from literature, then from teacher writing, then from student writing.
    8. Use the share session to reinforce the craft lesson you introduced in the minilesson.
    9. Invite (don’t assign) students to use their WN to experiment with the craft elements you are teaching.
    10. Be patient.
    Bonus: Don’t squeeze all the juice out of the mentor text.
    Quote by his sister, Elaine:
    “You have to keep making your life bigger because things keep getting pulled out of it.”

    We can make our classrooms bigger by bringing in mentor texts.