March 18, 2017 – TCRWP Saturday Reunion

What a day of learning!! Here are my highlights.

Keynote – given by Drew Dudley, founder of Day One Leadership  which helps individuals and companies to increase their capacity to lead. (We found out at the closing, he was a speaker that Kathleen Tolan wanted). In his very popular  TEDTALK  , Drew tells a “Lollipop story” which becomes a metaphor for moments when a person makes an impact on another’s life, maybe not even being aware of the extent of the impact. He shared how four people: a 7 year old, a man with a 6th grade education, the custodian at his high school and a swimmer are four leaders who he thinks of as great leaders in his life. A leader by his definition doesn’t have anything to do with salary, power, or title. Instead, you are a leader when you live a life that makes people smile when they think of you. He also commanded that we don’t lessen who we are as a leader. Don’t say, “I’m just a teacher”.   Respect your normal. And instead of thinking I have to change the world, think about changing one person in the world. He remined me that my job is to create my own “lollipop moments”. (When at the closing when Lucy mentioned Kathleen wanted Drew to speak, I thought Kathleen truly led according to Drew’s definition of a leader.)

Lindsay Mann – Using Digital Tools to make learning stick – 4 principals:
1. Children Learn Best What They are Ready to Learn – She suggests a way to know where a reader or writer is, to have a recording studio in the classroom. Schedule kids to record what they are able to do. EX: they record themselves reading and the teacher can view and know next steps to teach them.
2. …when they are engagement – Use tools to allow for ongoing self-reflection EX: have partners record how their partner helped them. OR take a photo of writing and use skitch app to annotate writing moves they made.
3. …when Given Physical Representation of learning – it can be the teacher making a video and flipping it or students that are experts on something can make a video to flip
4. ….when given lots of Repetition  – kids need routine and repeated practice

WHERE can you put your recording studio in your classroom? outside in my hallway or since each has an iPad, can’t it just be anywhere! 
HOW will kids share it with me? maybe I create a padlet for videos to be posted to, need to check to see if there is a limit to length that can be uploaded.

She ended by reading us a simple picture book called Wait – a good message to remember in this digital age, where everything goes so fast!

Hannah Kolbe – A birds eye view of 3rd grade Reading Units and Readers
(Discovery ES’s staff developer!!!)
Hannah went through each unit, book by book and shared the major learning progression skills of that unit and then the anchor charts. I found it helpful to see all 5 units shared in one hour, to view the year curriculum and the big ideas of each unit. This summer, I want to review this and think about how the notebook and/or padlets can be used to support each unit, as well as what bookmarks could I make and share with students and how best to display the anchor charts. 

Shana Frazin – No Money for Books / Don’t let that stop you!
She shared 4 minutes of Linda Sue Park’s Tedtalk and asked us to watch it with the lens to listen for words/phrases that resonate with me. WOW!! Seeing this and watching the whole 12 minutes on the train ride home, I am thinking I want to use it as part of a presentation with parents. It is a powerful video that asks, Can a book make a person a better human being? 

She also shared how Gene Luen Yang, our National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature has a great challenge. His platform is called Reading Without Walls and it is explained on his website: As National Ambassador, I issue you a challenge!  I challenge you to read without walls in one of three ways:
1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.
If you really want to go for the gold star, read a book that fits all three criteria!

Right now, my students are doing the March Book Madness (thanks for sharing this idead with me, Erika!). This can be my next book challenge!! So glad Shana shared this challenge with me!!

Then she booktalked these 12 books, books to have!!
1. I Dissent
2. Stef Soto Taco Queen
3. As Brave as You Are by Jason Reynolds
4. Full of Beans by Jennifer Holms
5. The Seventh Fish by Kate Messner
6. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
7. Pax
8. Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks
9. Two Naomis
10. Pack of Dorks
11. Wild Robots
12. Rollergirl

Colleen Cruz – she has a new book coming out in the Fall! It is 50 paired lessons to teach writing by looking at reading and teach reading by looking at your writing. (Corwin Press). We got to peek at some of the lessons!!

Closing  – Lucy
A heartfelt tribute to Kathleen. 
“First Saturday in 25 years without Kathleen…unimaginable loss for us at the Project and the world.”
“Mentor of all mentors – Teacher with a capitol T”
Her parents mentioned that they knew Kathleen was a good teacher but were floored by all who came to the wake/funeral and all who said,  “I’m the person I am today because of your daughter.” She was described as a titan, a weather storm. She was complicated. She showed great love. She also told you honestly what she thought. She had a belief in sky-high potential. Nothing stood in her way to get the high expectations met. She’d tell a teacher that they taught that like a mist. Next time, do it to leave a mark.She named it and always pushed. 

Then Lucy told us to take a little of Kathleen with us today. Can you think of one thing you can do on Monday? Can you think of something transformational that you can do? DO IT!! What would you say if you only had one year left? What would you do?
If you had just 3 months left, what would you do? What would you teach?
Have the courage to see the unbelievable potential in your students and push them to do even more! 

She also talked about the health of a school and said, “The health of a school equals the number of elephants in the room.” Then she commanded: Have the courage to talk about them. 

I walked out of Riverside church, after a day of learning for 6 hours, a bit on overload. As I walked, I kept hearing Lucy inside my head: What are you waiting for? Be the change!

2016 TCRWP August Reading Institute

Advanced Small Group led by with Kelly Boland
Using Learning Progressions and Performance Assessments to Increase Students’ Skills
and Independence (3-5)

I will admit that before this week, I had not opened the Pathways Reading book. I do use the Writing Pathways book. I have given the Performance Assessment, Abby Takes a Shot. I have used the 3rd grade, Building a Reading Life book a little. Kelly helped me to see in just one week how powerful the Pathways Reading book!  As with everything at TCRWP, this brilliant staff developer had me DO the work that I will eventually have my students do. Because I did it, now I can teach it!

DAY 1:
She started with a read-aloud. She told us we needed 2 post-it notes. Then she matter-of-factly stated, “Teaching is a political act. I chose this book.” And then she began reading One Green Apple by Eve Bunting. (So interesting, I thought, in light of the 2016 Presidential Election issues at the current time to read this book. As I pondered her statement about teaching, I had to agree. So often, I share issues in the public realm at school in order to discuss more. It seems like that is my job as a teacher, too.) After a few pages, she stopped and asked:

“What ideas are you having about the characters so far?” Jot it on one post-it.

She read on. Then she stopped again and asked:

“What life lessons or themes seem to be starting to be important in this story?” Jot it on 2nd post-it note.

Then we were asked to get in groups of 4-6, read each character jot and place them in order from GOOD to BETTER to BEST and be able to name WHY we put them in that order.

This was her introduction to helping us see the mindset of Where am I? and What might my goal be if I am here? This was her introduction to using the Pathway Learning Progressions.

All week with Kelly we spent time reading fiction and immersing ourselves in the Fiction Progressions. To unpack a strand, we did three things:

  1. Study the difference between the levels within a strand.
    1. What is the big shift?
    2. What is the key work of this level?
  2. Put the strand in our own words by pulling out the key words.
  3. Imagine how this would look for a student to do while they write about their reading (or for some strands like Fluency, actually read with teacher listening)

Together as a class, Kelly picked the Character Strand on page 183 and we did the 3 steps.

At Grade 2, the character’s feelings are named.
Farah is sad.

At Grade 3, character traits are named.
Farah is shy. She has no friends.

At Grade 4, characters are complicated, more than one way.
On the one hand, Farah is shy. She has no friends. But on the other hand, Farah is strong because she helps make the apple cider.

At Grade 5, add quotes as evidence
On the one hand, Farah is shy. She has no friends. “I am tight inside myself”. But on the other hand, Farah is strong because she helps make the apple cider.”I am strong. I can help.”

At Grade 6, add other character traits….

Suggestion: She said to show Step #3 with very little change from the prior grade level expectation. This helps! It helped me to see the difference from one grade to the next and I see how clearly it will be for the students, too! I left Day 1 motivated to immerse myself in ALL the progressions and have this guide my reading work this coming school year!

Time for gradual release! To offer strong support, Kelly gave our small group an envelop with a question from the Grade 4 Performance Assessment and the suggested response (this is found in Pathways). First she asked us to decide which was Grade 3, 4, 5, and 6.


Then she modeled how to use these responses to look at our jot from yesterday. Which is mine most like? NOW set a goal. Name what I need to do to move on the learning progression. NOW even try to echo write a revised post-it. I could do this!!

Then as a group, we picked different strands and Kelly gave us anchor chart paper and time to make a learning progression. If we got stuck, she reminded us to use the writing from the prior activity and echo write. My group created this chart related to the strand, Characters Response to Change.


Day 3 – Kelly walked us through a suggested way of giving the Performance Assessment. Give it on Day zero of the Unit. Then give it back to the class on Day 3 either scored already OR if teacher didn’t have time, for them to score with your guidance. But give it back on Day 3 so the students get quick feedback and can set a goal right away based on the reader they are right now.

Kelly modeled by saying:
Today I am giving the scored assessment back to you so you can set a goal. I will show you how I scored it. You will think about why your response got that score. Then you will set a goal. Use these questions:
* Which level does my work match?
* Am I missing any parts?
* What could I have done that I didn’t do?
Write your goal on a Post-it and add it to the Post-It Parking Lot:


Then Kelly emphasized how on Day 4 of the Unit, the teacher can use these goal jots to work with Small Groups for the next few days. (Using the Progressions to guide Small Group work is brilliant!! I can’t wait for school to start! Kelly has helped me plan it out my first unit so purposefully!)

Day 4 – Kelly modeled how to plan Read-alouds with the Learning Progressions in mind. Using a progression lens, her questions sounded so focused on strong reading work:

  • I wonder why the author decided to have Farah tell the story. We only see it from her perspective. Tell your partner what you think about this.
  • I’m learning so much about all the characters, so many details. What are you learning?
  • What does Farah really want? On the one hand….on the other hand…
  • How does this part fit with the other parts of the book? What is the bigger idea? Let’s carry that idea with us as we read on.
  • I know small actions can have a big meaning. What is this small part showing us?

Then after lots of practice, she pushed us to now be the teacher. On the page where they are drinking cider, she asked us to decide on the prompt for the Character Responds to Change. Use your progression chart and write a prompt for Grade 2 and for Grade 5.
Grade 2: How is Farah different here? How has she changed? How do we know?
Grade 5: What do you notice here? A shift seems to be happening inside her? Talk about it.

Kelly had us bring a read-aloud we would be using during the beginning of school and had us read it now using the lens of the Learning Progression to plan out a read-aloud. I loved having time to use what I was just taught! And I’m ready to read-aloud Come On, Rain! to my 3rd graders in September!

Last Day – Kelly asked us to DREAM BIG! If your classroom is ultimately the BEST independent reading classroom, what will you see. Jot down your response. I jotted:
My 3rd graders are lost in a book. Students do take time to respond to text and work with a partner, having strong conversations around the reading goals they have named.

Then Kelly shared lots of examples of reading notebook work and videos of kids talking about their reading work. Then she asked us to reflect on our take-aways. I wrote:
“My take-away is that I will use the performance assessment which will lead me to using the Learning Progressions for the first time with my 3rd graders in Arlington, VA. Together, we will co-author a rich, reading life!”

Thank you Kelly for an amazing week of learning. Truly Transformative!!
I also was glad to tell Kelly in person how wonderful the 3rd grade writing unit, Changing the World that she wrote, is. I shared where I wrote about it HERE with her. So glad I could give her positive feedback on the great unit she wrote!


NOTE: I will be posting my notes on Close-Reading of NF led by Kate Roberts, too as well as the other Keynotes and workshops. What a week!! I am always amazed at how much learning TCRWP can squeeze into one week!!


TCRWP August Reading Institute

DAY #1: Lucy’s Keynote
a 2-kleenex speech for me. Here are some of the quotes I jotted down as I listened:

“We come from 23 countries, 36 states, all 5 boroughs…1,300 participants.”

“This institute is NOT an event. It is a community.”

“What do you need to do to build your RWP back home?”

“The challenges of today are huge (and then Lucy listed problem-after-depressing problem facing our world). With all these challenges, we need to get to work.”

“For years at the project, the focus has been on the curriculum. But we realize we also need to focus on the values of the community. Why? Because when we feel safe in a community, we can do the hard work and grow.”

“Learning to read IS scary. My classroom needs to be a safe place to read – a nest, a kind community.”

“In my classroom, I am the CEO. What will be my motto? What will be my traditions?”

“Invite kids to co-author the classroom so it is the best it can be.”

“Books can build the reader we want to become – books like 100 Dresses, Each Kindness and Raymie Nightingale.”

“On the first day of school, a staff developer read The Big Orange Splot and had kids record their dreams. Then asked ” How will this school be different because you are a part of it?”

“Resume VS Obituary  –> schools teach toward resume building; Instead, we need to live the stories we’d be proud to be written about in our obituary”

Kleenex Story #1: Her description of her 90+ year old parents. “When mom doesn’t want to do the stairs, she will sleep in the day bed. Dad doesn’t want to be far away, so he will lounge in the nearby chair. But he can’t hear too well so he fashions a rope using the dog leashes and they each hold an end.”

Kleenex Story #2: An older man who helped the Project got sick and was in the hospital. Lucy stopped to visit him. Not sure what she could do, she offered to get him a radio as he always played classical music from a radio when at work. “I’d like a little Beethoven,” he replied from his hospital bed. “But then I left and went to work and I got busy. Weeks later we got the call he had died. And all I could think of was how I never got him that radio. As I pass the hospital now, I see it only as a radio.”

Last line of her speech – “May we not forget the radio.”


NOTE: I am in a Small Group with Kelly Boland learning about how to use the Pathway Learning Progressions while reading fiction


I am in a Small Group with Kate Roberts learning about close reading while reading non-fiction


Changing the World – a 3rd grade Opinion Writing Unit

I just finished co-teaching band 1 and 2 of the Changing the World, Grade 3, Unit 3. Due to timing, we didn’t teach band three at this time. We were motivated to teach this unit from April 11 to May 12 because our district, Arlington County Public Schools in Arlington, VA is considering adopting the Unit of Study for Teaching Writing for the 2016-17 school year and our administration encouraged us to try one of the units before the end of the 2015-16 school year. Here are my reflections.

Katie, a 3rd grade teacher next door, and I met the week before starting the unit to make a plan. We wanted to publish on May 12 as May 13th was a fieldtrip day and the next week was our state test. So we decided we had time to teach the first two bends. This became the plan:

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 12.52.43 PM

We decide we would alternate day-by-day who was guiding the mini-lesson to our combined 42 students. We have a classroom space where we can open the wall between our rooms, so we did that each day from 2:20-3:20pm and we used my rug area as the gathering space for both classes of students. We assigned them partners and spots and they knew to come to that spot each day for the mini-lesson. We used Google Slides to show the Teaching Point of the Day and any visuals needed for the mini-lesson for the students to view on the SmartPanel during the lesson. Then they returned to their desk to write. To encourage independence, we both posted anchor charts and writing goals on one wall of each of our classrooms. We stood between the rooms to deliver the Mid-Workshop Interruption. Then around 3:15 each day, the students found their partner and shared.

Click HERE to have access to all our Google Slides.


  1. I loved having a partner to do this work Each session is lots to read but being in change of the deliver every other day did not overwhelm.
  2. We teaching point words worked!! I loved holding my fist high and saying “Bold and Brave” and waving my open hand back and forth when I said “not wishy-washing”.
  3. I was worried that the first day would be too much and was nervous knowing that the Principal was coming at 3:15pm and at 2:15pm, we were just introducing the idea that we should have more magazines in the school library. But is worked so well. In one day, the students wrote and changed their world! It was a perfect “drumroll” to motivate us for this unit.
  4. We went with the examples in the session and started writing about our custodian. I found myself watching what she was doing every time I saw her in the hallways once we started writing about her. Suddenly, I observed and had so much evidence to add to my opinion about a noteworthy person.
  5. As the students picked their topic, I started to think about WHO needed to be at our Publishing Party. One student wanted the PE teacher to have a longer Hockey unit so I realized, I should invite him. Another wrote about an idea for more comic books in the library, so I needed to invite the librarian.
  6. BEST PUBLISHING PARTY ever!! We added round tables to the hallway and ensured that we had 10 gathering spaces with 4 student writers and 2-3 adult listeners at each table. We asked that each read their opinion and then each listener give a specific positive comment. And we strategically placed adults who had the power to make change be at tables with writers who had opinions of interest to the adults. The 10 gathering spots allowed all to read their comments and all to give and receive positive feedback!! SO FUN!!

PICTURES taken during the Publishing Party:


To help give feedback, we created this HANDOUT.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 1.36.07 PM

And what did the kids write about? Their writing can be found HERE.

Problem / Solution

Room 212 should have a class pet.

We need to save sea life.

Notable People

Waiters and Waitress should be appreciated.

Miss Kathy, my swim instructor, is the best.

Notable Places

Disneyland is a great place to visit.

Breckenridge is a great place to visit.

A few more pictures – 

This anchor chart listing our Bold and Brave Thesis Statement as suggested in the unit was a great visual to have in the room:

FullSizeRender 3

One day as my Morning Meeting Message, I asked the students to write a problem and a solution they noticed. I got these ideas jotted down:





2nd Annual Digital and Media Institute at TCRWP

My head is still near explosion and trying to process all I learned while in NYC from Tuesday night through Sunday morning. But I will attempt to share a few take-aways here while it is fresh in my mind. I am sure later as I process it all more, I’ll have more to write.

* I am grateful to know a former colleague who now works at PS158. She invited me to spend time at her school on the day before the Institute. Seeing a project school was so helpful. My big take-away was the reminder that as the teacher in the room, I can make my walls match what the teaching points are. As I toured room by room, I stood in an empty room but knew what reading, writing and math units were being taught due to the anchor charts. Sometimes this has happened in my room but not ALL the time….this is something I can work on doing as a teacher.

* PS158’s hallways were filled with art (as an art festival just occurred) and filled with the process of writing. Artifacts from the whole writing process were placed on the bulletin boards. Also the writing checklists were color-coded and students had highlighted places where they did the thing on the checklist in that color on their writing paper. The 1st grade had added an index card stating: I am most proud of____. I loved seeing this intentional reflection on writing, another thing I can work on doing as a teacher.  

* Colleen Cruz, Lindsay Mann, Cornelius Miner and Kate Roberts led an amazing Institute!!

As few take-aways:
* They model the importance of SPYING on ourselves as a reader of digital text and media. What am I doing as I read an e-book, an internet site, a video? Why did I click or not click the hyperlink? As I read a site, do I know who the author is and what their angle is? What are they telling me and what is being left out? Where else can I go to get more information on this topic?

* Then once I know what I do as a reader / writer of digital text or media, then I need to use this to create my teaching points and teach my students!

ALL this reminded me of how in the 1990s, Ellin Keene was telling us to do the same thing with print in her groundbreaking book, Mosaic of Thought. I still fondly look to that book as the one that taught me to be aware of being an active reader. Now this institute pushed me to be more aware of ALL the ways we communicate now in the 21st century. As a teacher, I need to also spy on how I read and comprehend all the visual, auditory and printed material that is coming at all of us so fast.

I stored my notes HERE (full disclosure…this was my first institute that I took ALL my notes electronically. And I have not had time to return to them to reread and fix spelling! I also in many places typed – add photo – as I took a photo at that moment of the ppt slide and soon I plan to insert all my photos but as of now, still on the To Do List!  –   Also, I am still trying to understand google docs. I think by sharing this link, you can get to the file…if not, let me know.)

* As I teach, ask if there is a way to amplify what is being taught by using a digital or media resource. The idea is never to teach the computer application. The idea is to teach strong reading and writing workshop lessons using the kinds of resources that are at our fingertips now because of our phone and our computers. Amazing staff developer, Lindsay Mann shared an online article about Inky, an Octopus that escaped from the Aquarium. As she read it, we had so many questions about this news item. These questions, our curiosity, led us to find out more and more because we easily can, thanks to the internet! We found videos and an e-book and could start to form a better understanding across multiple texts. A BIG take-away is that I am now a reader that is always on the lookout for another angle to view my topic through!!

* Technology allows me to show my thinking in so many ways. I’m used to having my students do turn and talks and to stop and jot on a post-it note. This institute showed me two new resources to use to show my thinking: TodaysMeet and Padlet. Colleen modeled using TodaysMeet as she read Last Stop on Market Street. Yesterday, I did the same lesson with my 3rd graders!! Click HERE to view our TodaysMeet jots. (Note until May 2nd when the TodaysMeet room closes)

If you view our transcript, be kind and remember – this was our first attempt and some our jots were just being excited to write and post in a community. Also, I guess we need to discuss using emoji as some like it and some are distracted by it! But if you look beyond, I personally loved being able to take this printout home last night and notice how some can name a character trait with evidence and some can name a theme in the book. Seeing their responses helps as I plan the next read-aloud. Because my students all have an iPad in their hand, using TodaysMeet is a free, easy online tool that worked as a way to gather their thinking.

And a student today asked if after Independent Reading Time, if we could write on TodaysMeet about what we are reading!!!! I loved his suggestions so I quickly started a 2nd TodaysMeet session HERE. (I made this session opened for a month, thinking that it can almost be a “Status of the Class” digital check in for me).

I still need to process my notes more and keep trying things in my classroom. This institute was at the perfect time. I can try some things out right away (which can never happen when I attend Summer Institutes at TCRWP) but summer is almost here, giving me more time to process and plan.

My final take-away is that I am glad I volunteered to present an Ignite Session at the Institute’s Closing! I wrote about that HERE

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?!!

TCRWP Oct. 17, 2015 Saturday Reunion

TCRWP Oct. 17, 2015 Saturday Reunion – Another magical day of learning at Teachers College. So glad I went and that four colleagues tagged along on the early morning train ride up and back. Here are some of my highlights, seen through the lens of a 3rd grade teacher who wants to get better at teaching an information writing unit and get better at teaching reading workshop.

Mary’s Keynote
She shared teaching points to read complex text:

Mary shared this video:

She stopped at the beginning to have us state what we think about the character. She reminded us of the teaching point “to delay judgement” as we continued to watch.

Can’t wait to share this video with my students who already are trying to be brave. Already my students and I take dance breaks between Writing Workshop and Reading Workshop to rock to the song Be Brave by Sarah Bareilles –

Lucy – Information Writing Tips     (Thank you, Lucy – just want I needed to hear!!)
* Pick a topic close to your heart, stuff you know. Start broad as it is easier.
* Brainstorm the table of contents and allow it to change
* Try 10 drafts of possible table of contents
* Think of the logical order of the chapters
* Do LOTS of oral rehearsal during the drafting of the table of contents and order of chapters
* Jot notes about what you can write and ask: Do you have info for ALL parts of the structure
* Info test relies on STRUCTURE and transition words hold it together
* Informational writing is a conglomeration of lots of different GENRES (How to, small moment, essay, facts)
* Also this about which structure the chapter is written as – compare/contrast, cause/effect…
* ONCE the table of content is set, draft chapter by chapter, the chapter you know the best FIRST.
* As he students draft, teach a revision mini-lesson each day. Remind them on day 2 of revision that they need to go back and revise the chapter from yesterday and today based on today’s teaching point and continue this process during revision.
* To understand the variety of ways information writing is written, look at a mentor text. NOTICE all the different kinds (description, Q/A, images, examples, facts, definitions)
* Include domain specific vocabulary and decide HOW you want to teach the reader what these words mean (glossary, in context, etc.)
* Transition words glue it together from part to part.
*Use prompts to say more: The important thing about ___ is ___, People may wonder ___. This connects to ___. This makes me wonder ___.
*Then teach how to write an introduction (it should hint at the central idea) and an ending.
* Include text features that accentuate the main idea of your writing.

Shana – Bridging the Gap from I know a lot about… to Crafting Beautiful Texts that Teach
(Thank you, Shana – the perfect follow-up to Lucy’s workshop!)

She started by reading-aloud a part from a few nonfiction texts and her enthusiasm for this genre came through. Honestly, nonfiction has NEVER been my favorite but Shana’s passion came through and made me realize I need to do the same when I teach informational writing.

Then she shared Five Lens to Read Nonfiction Writing suggested by Ralph Fletcher

Amazingly, as my partner and I read and reread what, at first, seemed like a really boring scientific animal article, it suddenly was more interesting and we came to appreciate the beautifully crafted text. Studying the mentor text helped me to like this kind of writing more.

Shana shared 4 Troubles Students have Writing Informational Pieces
I. Topic Choice – they pick a topic they are interested in but not one they are an expert on
* Do you care about the topic?
* Can you create a table of contents and fill it in?
* Do I have 1 or 2 resources to turn to to add to what I already know?
Purpose: remind the kids that this unit is to learn how to be a stronger information writer and NOT the time to be learning about a topic

II. Practice – “Practice makes permanent”  “lack of practice makes impermanent”
Suggestions for creating MORE talking/writing opportunities:
1. Science/SS/Math -Turn & tell or Stop and Jot a summary of today’s topic
2. Information Tweets – add a picture and a big idea and tweet it out
3. Write Friday letters home sharing information from the week
4. Listen to the Morning Meeting and turn and tell your partner what you heard

III. Structure
Often the way kids jot facts down about a topic looks “like Jackson Pollock on the page”
Instead, help them to understand the idea of using CONTAINERS.
She showed us this anchor chart:

Then she said: Writers have containers, too. They call them STRUCTURES. The text structure holds the information. The text structure helps readers to hold onto the information s they read it.

Writers think of the best way to convey the information and then pick the best structure.

Then she showed how she wrote about READING ON THE SUBWAY as boxes and bullets, as compare/contracts and as problem/solution. She suggested we try to write about one topic using MANY structures and to give our students the same practice.

IV Development
She showed the Pathway Development Checklists for 3rd grade and then for 4th Informational Writing and 4th was SO much longer. It is a BIG JUMP. They really need LOTS of practice.
She also suggested keeping a chart up in the room ALL year long like this:

Development of ______ (list genre)
Part                             Expectation             Example
By having the charts up all year, the kids will start to understand that the KIND of writing might change, but all writing has a STRUCTURE, gets DEVELOPED and follows WRITING CONVENTIONS.

Shana also gave a shout out to 3 fiction books she recommends:
1. The Thing About Jellyfish
2. The War that Saved My Life
3. Boys Don’t Knit (in Public)

Kristine Smith  – 3rd Grade Reading Unit, Character Study
Kristine went through step-by-step how to use Book Two and the online resources. Now I am set to teach a very powerful reading unit to my students. I love the new Reading Units of Study!!

Ryan Scala – Being Powerful Writing Partners
It was such a pleasure to learn from Ryan. Years ago I met him when we were in the same advanced session during a Summer Institute. Now he is a staff developer!! I learned LOTS – thanks Ryan!

First, I love that he got me to WRITE. “We have to do the work we ask our students to do.”
Using the generating strategy of turning points, he got me to write a story about the first time I read during a church service.

Then he got my partner and I to evenly take turns to help each other write better.
– gave us different responsibilities
– used a tally to balance times used

One tip – Compliment Conference
1. Name the thing you see in the writing – WOW! I like the part where you said ______
2. Point out what it did for you as you read it – As I read it, I ___________
3. Offer a suggestion – Maybe you could _____ in another place

As a place to get ideas for how to compliment a writer, he suggested delivering an inquiry lesson with students by reading the quotes on the back of a book – a book blurb. What do you notice other literary publishers so when they give a compliment? Try saying that about your partner’s writing as a compliment!

And he inspired me with the quotes of those smart people he is standing on the shoulders of:

 “Learning floats on a sea of talk.”  – James Britton

“Writers need to talk about their writing.”  – Katie Wood Ray

Lucy – Closing Keynote

She reminded the standing room only Riverside church that OUR expectations are our kids’ ceilings. She reminded me to teach with confidence and let the kids surprise me!
She suggested:
1. Study student work, decide and teach in the presence of the possible
2. Give ambitious feedback
3. Teach in a rich context using mentor text
And she reminded us that we feel bigger in the company of others who are trying to grow. She reminded us to BE STAR MAKERS!

Kate DiCamillo on Mercy Watson’s 10th Birthday!

On Thursday, October 15, 2015 my 3rd graders and I thoroughly enjoyed celebrating Mercy Watson’s 10th Birthday by watching a live-broadcast of author, Kate DiCamillo. Thanks to the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures, we registered to watch the broadcast. A few days before, we emailed our questions. Then at 1pm EST, we joined students all around the globe to listen to Kate talk about the Mercy character she created and her writing process.

Definitely my students favorite part was when the moderator said, “Students at Discovery ES in Virginia want to know why the Watsons always call the fire department and Eugenia always calls the Police Department?” Cheers erupted because our question was being asked. Kate said: “I like the idea that you can always ask for help so I include that in these stories.” A nice thought!

Here are some pictures from the day:

Our class sign.

Class watching Kate on the Smart Panel.

Kate reading aloud to us.

Kate meeting a real pig at the end of the live broadcast!!
Here’s some highlights of what she said:
* She published her first book, Because of Winn Dixie, at age 36. Now she is 51 and has published a total of 31 books. She has 4 more in the works with a new novel coming out in April.
* Her typical day as a writer is to get up at 5:30am, get a cup of coffee from the automatic coffee maker and write 2 pages. Every day – 2 pages.
* As a child, she was sick a lot and she spent LOTS of time reading books and imagining stories.
* She admitted that writing is a very solitary activity. However, she does have a community of writing friends that gives her feedback and tells her if her stories make sense.
* She got the idea of making Mercy’s favorite food toast with butter the day she drove her friend to the airport using her brand new car and her friend got into the car with toast with butter and proceeded to tell her how great this food is. 
* Of all the characters she has written, she admits that Sistine Bailey and Flora are the two most like her.
* She always has a small moleskin notebook with her to jot down ideas. 
* she travels to “fill her well” and discover new ideas to write about.
* New York City is a favorite place to travel because she can walk 3 blocks and get so many writing ideas.
* She does not believe in “writer’s block”. Instead, she feels there are good writing days and bad writing days. But no matter what, you need to show up and write. That’s why she writes 2 pages a day, every day. 
* Advise for budding writers – READ LOTS and Don’t give up. She had 6 years of rejection letters.
More can be found AT HER WEBSITE

Using Checklist with On-Demand

I saw this on TWITTER:

@garycally: Day 1: give the on demand: Day 2: give them back, with the check list and have them set goals. @tarantoannie #tcrwp” love this!

 Then I tried it myself. I wrote. I picked a small moment from when I traveled to Chicago.

Then I read the 3rd grade Personal Narrative Checklist for 3rd grade from the Writing Pathway book and jotted it down into my notebook. I just included Structure and Development skills as I am pretty confident in my writing conventions.

 Then I reread my on-demand and annotated it to show the things I did do as I wrote my small moment using colored markers:

Finally, I listed my strengths and I listed the things I still need to work on – my goals!!

I LIKE this process!!! I plan to follow it with MY students as I begin teaching Writing Workshop in 3rd grade this year.

July TCRWP Reading Institute – Nonfiction Book Clubs with Emily Smith session notes

I was in Emily Smith’s Advance Reading Session at the July Reading Institute!!
The topic was Nonfiction Book Clubs, specifically the skills of Synthesis, Comparison and Perspective. Each day, Emily modeled for us through a read-aloud using this book:

Then I was in a book club with 2 others, reading about Earthquakes. My book was:

A very useful tool she modeled during the read-aloud with us was using a Vocabulary Word Bank . It looked like this:

“Turn and tell your club members the meaning of any of the words you know.”

She did a shared reading of one part of the book and asked us to tell our group which are the POP OUT SENTENCE or MAIN IDEA SENTENCE and which seems more DETAIL SENTENCES. As she read, she got us to think about what weather is and if all our book club books are related to weather (the other club topics were tornado, hurricane, and volcanoes). Soon our club figured out together that weather only happens in the air so earthquakes are NOT weather.

The last tool she had us try was to listen to a complicated description from the book. Then liten a 2nd time ans SKETCH it. Because I listened and listened again and visualized a sketch, I really got the part of the book about how the sun interacts with the light and moving air to create weather. Here’s my sketch that I used to teach my club my idea after hearing the passage read twice:

Then Emily sent us off to do this kind of work in our book.
What vocabulary words need to be in a bank to help us talk about our book in our club?
What are the Main Idea Sentences and the Detail Sentences?
What text structure is being used to organize the information?
What parts might a sketch help the reader to hold onto the information to then teach it to their club?

Questions to Think About When Planning a NF Read-aloud:
 * Think about the skill you want to model (visualize, synthesis, main idea/detail)?
 * What tool might help (vocab word bank / a map / a timeline / a ranking system)?
 * What is the teaching point and how will you teach (think-aloud, prompt for turn and talks or stop and jots)?
 * When will you have kids have a conversation (w/partner, club or whole group)?

Emily introduced us to the Reading Pathway Learning Progressions. She described them as tiny steps within the skills used to read fiction and nonfiction. The 2 sets of skills are divided into:
1. Literal Comprehension (word work, vocab, fluency, and main idea)
2. Interpretive Comprehension (cross text synthesis / compare and contrast)
3. Analytical Comprehension (perspective / growing ideas)

To get a felt sense of the progression, she prompted me to write a summary.

Then I placed it on the SUMMARY PROGRESSION page:

and my club discussed if it was a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th grade summary. We decided mine was a 3rd grade summary because it has a main idea with details but does not use the structure of the piece to grasp the info (4th grade work). Emily pointed out that writing about reading can be annotated using the characteristics stated in the progressions. Time can be spent to revise our written comprehension to lift the level of our reading skills.

These Learning Progressions:
 * create a vision for what is possible for teaching as the skills are named, grade by grade
 * clearly can see what the next steps are in order to raise the level of a reader’s comprehension
 * clearly can see ALL the many skills that go into this task called reading

Synthesis – to create something new, new understanding, from the parts.
Ask – How do these parts fit together?
Emily suggested that we read with a different lens and then discuss our thinking with our book club.
Just as we read fiction by paying attention to characters, setting and theme, she reminded us that we can read nonfiction with these lenses:
* setting (geography)
* events (cause/effect)
* sequence / timeline
* history
* technology

I chose SEQUENCE/ TIMELINE and reread my Earthquake book, almost skimming to find DATES and I took notes, adding what I read to a timeline. It looks like this:

I loved having a lens to read with. It kept me actively reading. And when we shared in book club, I had stuff to say and stuff to show. As a group member shared her findings about the history of measuring earthquakes, I could match that info to my info. We discussed info that overlapped and new info found by each. We were very engaged and motivated to keep reading to share with our club!
Compare and Contracts – Emily pointed out that as humans, we are wired to naturally compare/contract. We are always looking for patterns to recognize. We can remind our students that this is a life skill and not just a reading skill. We categorize always. Ever since she said this, I see myself doing this. As I write, I use metaphor, a way to compare! As I read, I use my background knowledge to then compare it to what I am reading. Duh!
Emily suggested teaching this first explicitly with a book that is explicitly set up as a compare/contract (ex – Dogs vs Cats). Then move to more complex texts where it is more implied. Then try it across texts (ex – This text says ____ and this text says ____).
FInally she had the tornado club come talk to us (the earthquake club) and we had a lively discussion about what is the same and different between our topics. She reminded us that this can’t happen until each group has gathered enough information. But once they have, this is a powerful way to share about the topics that groups are reading about!
Perspective  – Start with articles where explicit opinions are being shared. 
Then move to less explicit text.
As we read, ask:
*Who is the source? 
* What is the point of view of the source? 
* If the author were involved in a debate, which side of the topic would he be on? 
* What kind of language does the author use?
I will be honest. I love fiction and almost NEVER freely choose to read nonfiction. After a week in an Earthquake Book Club and trying out ways to read my nonfiction book and discuss it with my club members, I am hooked. I do like nonfiction. Thank you, Emily!! I needed this week to immerse myself in this genre and to reading about my reading of it and to discuss it in a club. Because I did it, I now feel more confident to teach it to my 3rd graders next year!!