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Teachers' College August Writing Workshop- Day 1

August Institute: Writing Institute

Day 1 

        I'm here at Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project! I've signed in already and am at Riverside Church to listen to the keynote by Lucy Calkins.

Keynote: Lucy Calkins Achieving a reset

 "Think about how far we've come...

-am eighth grade blogger brought Pearson to its' knees
-Twitter bringing us together
-using checklists to help guide writers
-hottest research topic in schools today: Should we serve chocolate milk in public schools?
-writing and taking a position as early as Kindergarten (argumentation)

        We can detect that this writing is influenced by the Common Core. TCRWP has been with the CCSS since the beginning- Pathways to the Common Core is Number one on the best-seller's list. Lately, CCSS has been under attack- testing in particular. In the early years, it did create motivation and excitement. Today, not so much. (Personal opinion: I like the standards, the testing- NOT. Test is just written badly and is extremely difficult). How can we reset to get back to the spirit of the CCSS? We need to help each other to bring ourselves closer to the work of CCSS. The goal is to give kids world-class writing instruction.

     One of the great themes in life: we need to be our own author.  Human beings are the beings that mark history and our lives. Writing takes time: we read, write, question, fear, love, live and make something of them.  Pearling: taking a moment of your life and pearling it, making something grow out of it , making significance out of experience, growing significance out of the detail (idea of Katherine Paterson).  The story is not in the big events but the synapses between them.  Those moments when you stop and reflect. 
     I'm for the Common Core plus.  Adopt the standards that you believe in plus ten percent.  It's you bringing your life themes to your teaching. Each of us needs to bring our passions, life themes, deepest purposes to our life's work of teaching.   Great teachers call students out of hiding.  Every student comes out of their shell and develops come out, come out where ever you are!  Bring your life theme to the Common Core.
     This is how we achieve a reset.  How can I bring all of me to this work to energize the CCSS?  It is OK to say this is where we want to end up (CCSS) but it is critical that every school get find their own pathway.  These shifts need to be locally controlled. Remember, teachers should not be doing the hardest work- the kids should be engaging in more productive struggle.  What are your best practices? You need to bring it to the school and make it better.
     The tendency to douse hope with fear.  Instead of saying "I have to because..." say "I can do this by..."   Do work you believe in.  Turn your school into a place where you bring passion to your work. This writing work will help students be better friends, better community members, better citizens. Writing can teach us the mindset: "I can take this moment and make something out of it."  Meaning isn't delivered to you on a silver platter.  Being engaged in your work is being human.  It's what we're called to do.  We are each the mother of our story."

Writing to Intensify Reading: From Entries to Composition Books to EssaysKate Roberts

Trouble with writing about reading:

  • We hate it (Engagement)
  • It's not worth it (Quality growth)
  • It's useless, we do it because we were told to (Busy work)
  • Dependent on someone else (It's an assignment)
Remember, writing about reading is worth it!
  • It represents thinking
  • Integral school move
  • Assessment
  • Reflection: It helps kids reflect on what they've read
Working on:
  • annotations and post its
  • entries
  • companion books
  • literature essays
What we naturally do when we write about reading:
  • Relate it to personal experience
  • Restate what the line was saying
  • Thought about big idea or theme
  • Envision- bring the line to life
  • Connect to other texts
  • Questioning
Natural experience- using post-its
It's not about the post-it, its about annotating our thoughts as we read.  What do you see in he annotation? Personal connection, Inferences, Comparisons, etc

What should we be looking for in the annotations?
  • Range/repertoire
  • Skill
  • Level/Rigor

Short story: "The Stolen Party"  Read Aloud -author Liliana Heker

My annotations:  (Free form prompt)
Rosaura feels she's friends with the girl.  Mother worries she'll get hurt because she doesn't know her "place."
"Rich people go to heaven too."  Different world views.

Directed jot:  Take a side.  Rosario should (or not) have gone to the party.  (Debate prompt)
Rosaura should not have gone to the party.  She's going to get hurt because the other children will not accept her as the maid's daughter.  People may laugh at her.  She's "hiding" who she is and that's not healthy for her.

How has the author built up suspense?  Created a mood?  (Strategy prompt)
  • The warnings from the mother
  • The ways Rosaura keeps saying how wonderful it was
  • Being singled out by the magician
What is this author trying to teach us?  (Strategy prompt)
  • Don't expect too much (friendship)
  • Understand your "place"
  • "or maybe" Rules of society
Sometimes your fist thought is not always your best...  Use "or maybe" to rethink it (Thought prompt)

Ways to prompt annotation
  • Free form -write what you want
  • Debate -take a side
  • Strategy prompt -think about a strategy
  • Thought prompt -way to push your thinking "or maybe"
How do we get students to internalize these and go deeper?  The teacher shouldn't be the hardest worker in the room!

Level 7 (Fourth grade)
When asked to talk about the characters, drawing on details that seem important, the reader is apt to generate ideas mostly about the main character's traits, in some depth, using more than a single word to do this, either producing a few synonyms or using phrases or sentences to capture a trait. The reader may say a lot but struggle to get at what exactly he or she means.  With nudging, the reader can clarify these thoughts.

Important to model how to push thinking...expand. Make it explicit.
From "she is sad" (third grade) to "she if prideful person who is also really afraid of her place" (fourth grade) to "Rosaura wants affirmation: She is made at her mom because she teases her but when she is proud, she goes to her mom." (Fifth grade)

Make a chart that says "Ways to move my thinking"
Name emotion >>>Focus on trait
Name a trait >>> Tries to say more about the trait

The purpose of post-its is not to write.  It's to stop and jot.  Use them as starting points for later writing or discussions.

Tomorrow...creating a system for annotating, when do we stop and jot

Conferring to move kids and generate curriculumCarl Anderson

Conferring concerns:

  • getting around to all the kids
  • effective system for documentation
  • making sure kids apply what we conferred upon, follow through (embracing your inner Lucy Van Pelt)
  • applying conferences to small groups or fishbowls (cheat codes because of logistics aka large class size)
  • how to prioritize
  • addressing specific deficits

You're conferring and don't know what to say...just say "Great conference.  It was good talking to you." 

Catechism: We are teaching the writer, not the writing." -Lucy Calkins

To me this means, you talk to the students.  What does this story/essay mean to them?  What else can they add.  Stay away from conventions!  Get to the deeper meaning of the story and what it means to the writer.  Why did they choose this topic? Every student is different and has different needs- work from their individual base.  
Carl's view: The point of a conference is to make the kids become better writers.  It might be a strategy, a quality, an aspect of language- I teach only one thing. Keep the conference focused on one thing. It's about adding to their repertoire. 

Teacher as editor! Noooo. Only accomplished writer's have editors.  Their goal correct to make the product better.  It's not fair to be an editor for your kids. You need to be their teacher!  The larger goal is to make them better writers.

Assessment comes from assidere- to sit down.  Conferring is to sit beside the student and talk.

Identity is critical to being successful.  Do your students see themselves as writers? Writer's talk about: genre, their process, what they're trying to say, problems they're having as writers, ways they're crafting their text, purpose for writing a text, writing goals
Be clear-talk is a necessity.  Shrugs, "fine" and "good" are not acceptable.

New book coming out by Dan Feigelson on Conferring.  Carl likes it!  He suggests- ask students to "tell me more" at least twice during the conference.

Writing is essentially about making meaning and communicating.

Due to "pressures", teachers are not talking to students anymore. That's imperative.  If you're not talking, you and your kids are losing out! It should be fun for you and the kids.

Talk the talk of writers!  Mini-lessons are crucial to demonstrating the talk of writers. Talk about purpose, meaning, structure, craft...

Questioning techniques are very important in conferring.  First, cast a wide net "What's going on?"  "How's it going?" "What's up?" "How's writing going?"(Primary questions). Ways of talking in a conference: "Are you having any problems?"  "How can I help you?" "What are you trying to say in this piece?" "Where are you in the writing process?" "What's your next step?" "What are your writing goals?" "What genre are you writing in?" "Why are you writing this?" "What craft techniques are you using?" "What are you doing to make this better?"(Secondary questioning).   

Next time... (Tertiary questioning).


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