March 19 – TCRWP 90th Saturday Reunion

Thank you to TCRWP community for allowing me to learn at your 90th (my 14th) Saturday Reunion. Know that I return to VA recharged and ready to lift the level of my literacy practice, thanks to your generous sharing of ideas.

Here are my take-aways:
1. Kathy Collins Keynote:
How can we plant seeds so kids will become an adult that reads for pleasure?
With this question in mind, Kathy suggested that just as advertisers brand their products, we, as teachers, can brand books. We can provide pleasurable experiences / comforting experiences with books with our young friends so that when they become adults, they will have brand loyalty toward a book(s) to share with their children! Kathy proposed that just as adults today take their kids on vacation to those places where they loved visiting as a child with their parents, todays’ kids, who have pleasurable experiences with books, will also tend to share those books with their kids.

As a teacher, how am I developing a brand loyalty to books with my students? Am I making books comfort objects? Am I making the reading of books a pleasurable experience?  Great questions to ponder!!

2. Brooke – new 3rd grade Mystery Unit being written
Brooke explained first what this unit is NOT. It is not completing mystery worksheets. It is instead about growing foundational reading skills for level K-O readers with an emphasis on how to read books really well. The unit is divided into three parts.
    1. Read to get the mystery – start with a big drum roll!! Then explicitly tell them that as they read their mystery, they are to do this work as a reader – figure out what the mystery is and who the crime solvers are. If you are reading and lose sight of this, you need to stop, go back and check for meaning.

As you read, you are also paying attention to all the details and using these clues to predict the solution. A mystery worksheet may have had kids jot down clues but it stopped there. Instead, this unit pushes readers to make predictions and go back often to check and revise predictions.

A lesson is also build in to build fluency. Using the Pathways fluency progressions, as readers read their mystery independently, the teacher can go from student to student and note their fluency. Then planning for fluency small group instruction can be carried out using this data. OR the teacher can teach the students to use the progression and to listen to their partner and offer feedback. Either way, a foundational skill of reading is worked on while reading mystery books!

   2. What is the same across mystery books? As an inquiry lesson, students make a hypothesis and then read shorter mysteries on the first day of this bend to test it. Students continue to read mysteries with the idea that now they are reading them stronger than on day one of the unit.

   3. We can use all that we did in to read mystery books to read other books well. This bend is about transference. In a mystery, we had crime solvers. In other fiction books, we have a main character. In a mystery, we have a mystery to solve. In other fiction books, the main character has problems. Now students read a fiction book using ALL the foundational reading skills they practiced while reading mysteries to read this book well!

Suggested Interactive Mystery Read-aloud – A-Z Mystery: The Absent Author by Ron Roy.
Suggested Interactive fiction book: Good-Bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong by Frances Park

3. Kate – 
“There is no ‘easy’ in being an effective teacher.” With this said, Kate shared 4 tools to help make teaching easy. First, she explained three root issues that make it hard – Memory (kids have so much stuff to hold onto), Rigor (kids are asked to work harder), and Differentiation (it is best when teachers match tasks to what a kid needs).
4 Tools:
1. Charts – she suggested using both repertoire and process charts. If help is needed on how to make these, check out Rozlyn Linder who wrote Chart Sense and Marjorie Martinelli and Kristine Mraz who wrote Smarter Charts. Definitely a great tool to help with memory!
2. Demonstration Notebooks – a collection of lessons in binder or artist sketchbook. At the top is the “before text”. In the middle is the header stating the skill this page works on. Then under the header is strategies to try to do the skill. On the bottom is post-it notes to practice. To see an example, click HERE. Kate showed us at the end of our workshop how to make a page. Her suggestion was to push to make it quick – 4 minutes – so you would actually do it!
Suggestion for making the “before example” – Ask What does it sound like when my students are doing ___ skill? Write that.
Suggestions for the heading – names what this page is about – a little bigger font with colors to highlight it on the page.
Suggestions for picking the strategies – Ask Do I know a strategy to help with this skill? If not, who are my sidekicks I can ask? Lucy resource? A colleague? It is OK to do a little research! Then pick two or three so you are offering a choice but not too many choices to overwhelm.
3. Micro-Progressions – she reminded that the Pathways book is the Macro-Progression book. She shared how taking just one part of the progression and showing in user-friendly kid language what this looks like as a 1 star post-it, a 2 star post-it and a 3 star post-it. Kids can she what it looks like and sounds like and now using this tool can try to improve their work. To see an example, click HERE.
4. Student-made bookmarks – this idea is to ask each student to look at all the tools shared in workshop and to pick those that really help them and then make a personalized bookmark to remind them of the strategies they can use. An example of a bookmark is HERE.
The ideas Kate shared during this workshop are explained more in the book that she co-authored with Maggie Beatty-Roberts called DIY Literacy. It is being published by Heinemann in April. Click HERE to read more about the book and order yours!!

4. Kathleen – Ways to have ALL in the room be writing teachers!
“The most important thing we can do in our classrooms is to provide time for kids to give and receive feedback,” Kathleen stated and asked, “Do we have a building where critical feedback is given, paired with suggestions to make our work better?” She suggested that we need to help kids know how to receive feedback and then work to make their writing better.
Giver of feedback – directly state what isn’t working and add “maybe you could try to…”
Receiver of feedback – LISTEN well! Teach them how not to be defensive (But I was…) and instead, listen to what is being offered.
As teachers, are we providing TIME often so students can give and get feedback? Kids need to be setting goals and teachers can provide checklists and to help them do this. When goals are hung publicly, all in the room can become the teachers to help all reach their goal. With any goal, we need to see growth or we will stop working on it. In writing, feedback feeds us and helps us to see what we may not be able to see alone.  A goal can sounds like this: I am working on ______________ by doing ___________. What have I improved on? What do I need to continue to work on?

5. Maggie Using Video/Film to Teach Qualities of Strong Writing Craft
Maggie shared how she started a think tank at TCRPW in 2007 with the idea of exploring digital texts and how this focus may impact writing workshop. She suggested looking at the work by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Curriculum 21.  Maggie’s research has led her to these ideas:
“Writing is writing” whether it is words on the page or a crafted Ken’s Burns’ visual documentary.
“We need to teach kids to read the world as writers.”
“Be a maker, not only a taker” or as others I have heard say, “Be a producer and not only a consumer” when it comes to technology.
She allowed us to experience three digital experiences that I can see retrying with my own writing and with my students:
1. Nonfiction – Open Inquiry – What makes this a strong piece of information writing??
She posed this question and then showed a part of the documentary, The Dust Bowl by Ken Burns
After viewing, we turned and told our partner all that made it strong.
Assignment – Now, write your information piece like Ken Burns.
(an example of an assignment teachers could do at a staff meeting: Write a line or two of information writing to teach about what it is like to be a teacher today.)
2. Argumentation – Closed Inquiry – Using the list of Techniques used by Argument Writers (published by Heinemann in the grade 6-8 Writing Units of Study), we watch the clip of I Have a Dream and jotted down what we noticed being used from this chart.

Assignment – Create your own writing makeover – Write like Dr. King!
3. Narrative Writing – She showed how we could use to use a shared online whiteboard to jot our ideas about narrative craft as we watch a video clip. After we signed into TodaysMeet, she posed questions – What qualities of strong narrative writing do we see? What is the conflict? What can we say about the characters? The Plot? and then shared a clip from Modern Family. She suggested how this online tool helps to see trends that the students are seeing and not seeing as they view a narrative visual test.

Maggie also gave a shout-out to a teacher named Kevin English as someone to follow on twitter:
@KevinMEnglish His twitter page lists him as ELA educator, school board trustee, avid reader, NWP/EMWP teacher consultant, & lifelong learner. I blog at .

6. Lucy Keynote celebrating the 90th Reunion Saturday – a TRADITION!!
I reflected on some of Lucy’s inspiring words HERE as my 20th Slice of Life. I also listened as a 3rd grade teacher at a new school that is in the unique position to create TRADITIONS. Lucy suggested that teachers are a lot like “Startups” (the field that both her sons are currently working in now on the West coast). She reminded me that, as a teacher, I get to choose the traditions in my classroom, just as Startups create their own traditions.  She began to share how during her first year as a teacher, she brought tree stumps into her classroom to create a special place to sit and read. While telling this story, a voice in the Riverside church yelled out, “I have YOUR stumps!”- a perfect example of a tradition started and still going on!!
Lucy pushed me to reflect on what I will launch as “my startup tradition” in my classroom??
What will be, not just the one day activity, but the tradition, the habit, the tool to use to build the best classroom?
Could I go back after Spring Break to pilot something?
Could I spend time this summer reflecting and starting the year off with tradition in mind?
What traditions do I already have in place that reflects my values?
What traditions can I create that capture my values? For my classroom? For my own life?
What will I start? 
What have/will you start?!!