Friday, July 26, 2013

Day Five: Professional Learning Community Starts

Today, teachers from North Andover and Reading public schools met to start our work together as a Professional Learning Community. Our focus is writing workshop and the Units of Study presented this week.

I feel very supported now and know I am not going it alone. I have the two other teachers in my school for support, the fifth grade teachers from my district that were at the training, and a fifth grade "buddy" from North Andover as well. 

I also have a fifth grade partner from my district as well. We decided what to tackle first and when we want to get it done. Our focus is preparing a binder to refer to while conferencing. For instance, one divider could be "staying in the moment" In that section would be possible lessons/strategies you could teach to the child and a mentor text listed with page number to provide an example. We each took four strategies to do and will share them with each other before school starts. Then we will tackle some more. This task is made easier by the fact that there is a book in the Units of Study collection that gives if/then ideas for conferring. If the child ______, then ________.

I am very excited to get going with this work. Many of my blog entries this school year will be about my work on developing my writing workshop.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day Four: The Last Day with our Fearless Leader

Today we role played conferencing one on one. It wasn't too hard, but my more pressing concern is gathering and organizing all the mentor texts. I am going to spend a lot of time doing that this summer and other colleagues will do the same and then we can share our work. 

I love the idea of spending time during conferencing to research the child and come up with a theory and lesson on the fly. I trust I can do that once I have a strong conferring toolkit to support my decisions including mentor texts. The If/Then book that comes with the units of study has a lot already done for teachers in regards to teaching decisions on the fly during conferences.

Along with role playing, we talked about small group instruction and watched a great video of it in action. All the videos we watched this week are on the following site:

- Click on resources
- Click on Common Core resources
- Click on CCSS videos (left margin)
- Click the link in the middle of the page

An aha moment for me was the idea of grouping by need, not level. Writers at all levels may need a lesson on staying in the moment, whether they have one paragraph written or three pages. If our focus is teaching students strategies, they should be grouped by what strategies they need. Duh, right? 

Assessment was another important topic we learned about today. Writers workshop and the rubrics that are used lend themselves well to the common core and standards based report cards. The learning progression charts are a tool that I will use often in planning, conferencing and assessment. 

What a packed day! An overview of informational writing was also taught today and we walked through a few pages of a fabulous mentor text, Oh, Rats!

We ended the day by celebrating our revision/final drafts with a museum walk set up. It was great to walk around and read everyone's work. I liked that we wrote comments for them to see when the activity was over. The comments for my piece were encouraging and some of my writing strengths were affirmed. I still feel I need a lot more instruction about how to get my writing to the next level. I am a good writer, but want to become a great one. 

Sadly, today was the last day with our presenter, Maggie Roberts. We all were left wanting more of her help and guidance, but we will have to use twitter or email to get it. :-)

The message she left us with was to not try to be the expert. We can all help each other and learn together. 

Tomorrow we are meeting from 8:00-12:00 to start our professional learning community work(P.L.C.). I am really looking forward to working with my Reading and North Andover colleagues to improve my teaching of writing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day Three: Mentor Texts and Revising

Another productive workshop session today. I am not going to write much tonight since I spent a lot of free time finishing my revision draft for tomorrow's session. It is supposed to be a final draft, but it really is still in the revision phase.

Today, we learned about how to use mentor texts with students. It was very cool to go through pages of a text, Hurricane, and write post its about what the author is showing us about what good writers do. This is also a great activity for kids to do with mentor text. Most importantly, these marked up mentor text can be used by the teacher to model when conferencing with a student.

We also went over how to confer with students. I felt relieved when the presenter said that she only gets 2-3 one on one conferences done each day during workshop time. Table conferences are a great way to confer more often with students  in addition to the one on one times. The goal is for students to become independent, so the minilessons and the charts that come from them are valuable tools for students.

The afternoon was about revising and editing. There are so many ways to go back in to your writing and make it better. I am not going to list them all here. Too tired. Will share in a later post though!

My writing brain needs to relax and watch some bad reality T.V.!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day Two: Teaching Points and Minilessons

Today we got a lot done. We moved on to teaching points and minilessons. The modeling and practice was very helpful to see how this will be implemented in the classroom. Tomorrow we are presenting minilessons in groups. Valuable practice.

I am starting to get a better picture of how my writing workshop will run this year. I always did a form of workshop, but all I knew was what I read in books. The kind of learning we are doing this week is invaluable!

We went over multiple minilessons today and I have a better idea of how to generate learning points and develop the lessons.

Tomorrow we are moving on to editing/revision and conferencing. Looking forward to it!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day One: Summer Institute on the Teaching of Writing

Today was day one of a weeklong writing workshop in North Andover presented by the Teacher's College (Columbia University) Reading and Writing Workshop (TCRWP). TCRWP is a research and staff development organization. We are using Lucy Calkins Units of Study.

The presenter, Maggie Beattie Roberts, is dynamic and focused. She tells great stories, but stays on track. Day One was beautifully paced and jam packed with information, modeling and interactive learning.

It was a refreshing surprise to get new information that I had never heard of before. After 21 years of teaching, workshops get frustrating when the same  concepts you learned in college (1980s) are still being taught. 

For instance, I had never heard of Cambourne's Seven Conditions of Learning. Although this is not shocking information, it is always helpful to reflect on these lists. 

1. Immersion: content and context
2. Demonstration: practical, concrete models
3. Expectations: clear
4. Responsibility: accountable learners
5. Approximations: find approximations in student work; determine what they are trying
6. Practice
7. Feedback, support, celebrations: should occur continuously

We went over the principles for Writing Workshop and the bottom lines for Writing Workshop. New to me was the phrase "approximation." It is what we do instinctually as teachers. A student is not exactly on target, but we can see what he was trying and what he got from the lesson. Helps to guide our teaching. I also liked the idea that you are not just teaching the writing, you are teaching the writer. 

We explored classroom environment including finding room for a meeting area for workshop. I am rethinking how my room is set up and I may move my desk to the back of the room to make more space for a meeting area.

Of course, we talked about the writing process and we learned how to start the first writing unit, personal narrative. The afternoon was walking through a workshop session and writing.

The day flew by! We had to read a few pages for homework and write three beginnings for three personal narratives. Looking forward to tomorrow's session.