Writing With Influence: Day One Reflections 2015

Overall Take-Aways:

What part of today squares with your beliefs? What is still circling inside your head? Let’s reflect on today’s work before we move on to tomorrow’s…

30 thoughts on “Writing With Influence: Day One Reflections 2015”

  1. Today was so interesting and engaging without anyone being made to feel uncomfortable during group activities. A workshop approach is needed in classrooms, and many writing philosophies of choice can be more appreciated if teachers would truly use their assessment to guide their instruction. This is a shift that is not only long overdue, but will take much time and buy-in from teachers and administrators. Hopefully someday we can freely and openly instruct our students using the best research and practices.

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  2. I really enjoyed terming the process of using a “mentor text”. I had never heard of that before, yet I realized my team and I do use mentor texts as we teach reading and writing. However, we call them novel studies. I will be using this phrasing with my students this year. I also appreciated the conference rehearsal-I thought the volunteers did a fantastic job. I plan on referring to the conference cheat sheet often this year. Finally I plan on asking my students “what have you read that is most like what you are trying to write?” It really makes sense to me to build on their background knowledge that can only come from what they have read.

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    1. Dave,
      As I heard you sharing today, all I could think was, “Get that guy to the Summer Institute for Teachers!” I know Val and I may seem biased, but it truly is such an inspiring place for educational inquiry, an exchange of ideas between like-minded educators, and to practice and explore your own craft as a writer.
      See you tomorrow!
      Melissa

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed the day today. I thought the information shared and the enthusiasm for writing was incredible. I want to jump right in and make changes to what I have been doing. I am excited to try some new approaches this year, and I want to do loads more! I have been doing a writing workshop for years, but I have gotten away from the way I did it years ago due to time restraints. Today I learned a lot of ways to adjust what I have done and make it far better. I loved the mini lessons with the mentor texts especially to help with conferencing. In the last several years, I have gotten away from a conference like the ones modeled and done much more of just listening to whole pieces and conferencing from that. I like this approach much better. The one thing that is still circling in my head is how to start up the actual workshop. In the past, I have taught how the writing process works in my room (the steps) and modeled how they should look etc. I am wondering if that is still needed or not. Without any knowledge on the Units of Study that were mentioned, I feel like I am not sure where to begin. Now, if only I could be given permission to do writing workshop more than 3 out of the 6 day cycle for 30 minutes. That has not worked and from all that was covered today, will clearly still be an issue.

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    1. Perhaps teaching the steps of the writing process within the actual minilesson while utilizing genuine student writing as a fodder to model the process may work best. In this way, the actual steps of the process will make more sense to student writers as they work through and in and out of each stage.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Val

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      1. After today, I think I am going to change the process from what I have been doing for years. By taking out the part that I made unique to my class, it will free me to conference more like we should. Then, I do not really need to teach the steps since they are pretty much the same in all classes. I will be able to do some mini lessons modeling my expectations using authentic work to do so. Thanks!

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  4. As a 5th and 6th grade “Reading” teacher, it was amazing to hear the phrase, “What have you READ that is what you are trying to WRITE?” I am not “supposed” to be teaching writing (insert laugh here)…that is for another teacher in my family. However, I am the teacher with the passion for writing, the one who is always trying to gather new ideas and tools for my teaching that has now spanned over two decades, the one who revolved my entire differentiated supervision plan from Val’s FR Writing Institute that I observed last summer….anyway, you get the point. I LOVE teaching writing, I love reading my students’ writing (I have over 100 students every day), and I am so excited about the ideas that we implemented today. It is obvious that all of the teachers in attendance are incredible educators that want to foster a love and reading and writing on a daily basis…bring on the 2015-2016 school year!!!!!

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    1. I love love love teaching writing, too. I wish I could do it all day (within the reading, too)! I want to get further training and look into the institute next summer. Keep up the great attiitude!

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  5. I was exposed to Lucy Calkins two years ago when I read Pathways to the Common Core. From there, I have read other research as well to help my own classroom Workshop Models (ELA & math). I have witnessed and have data to support that a Workshop Approach supports individual student learning, so today’s information was very validating. I still struggle with time constraints and students exposing some very personal stories in their writing that requires intervention from our guidance counselor.

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  6. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that everything about today squares with my beliefs. Having become a WPWP Fellow, I was forever changed as a teacher, especially a teacher of writing. That being said, I haven’t always been able to successfully implement all of the ideas that I have or to meet all of the goals that I’d like to achieve as a teacher of writing. Thank you, Val, for giving me more tools in order to improve my artistry.

    Circling through my head (pretty much non-stop!!) is HOW and WHERE TO BEGIN. Brandy and I are thinking, discussing, researching, rethinking, etc., so that we can put into practice what we are learning at this workshop and make it work with much of what we are already doing well. I am wrestling with so many questions: How do I start? Where do I start? With what material do I start? Do I start with small excerpts and pieces? Do I start with a larger piece, such as the memoir we practiced today? What will be most effective? How can I ensure this is (primarily) a success? And that’s only the icing on the cake.

    It’s a bit much, eh? Well, you asked, my friend. You asked. 🙂

    Thank you for an inspiring and informative first day. ❤

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  7. Today was wonderful! I am eager to incorporate new approaches to my writing workshop time this year. One of the most invaluable areas that I feel needed in a classroom of writers is building a community in which the students feel comfortable to take risks and empowered in sharing part or all of their pieces. I love the idea of utilizing mentor texts and providing the students with multiple pieces of amazing writing to pull from as models and to provide various strategies to store in their writing tool belts. I am not very familiar with the Units of Study that was mentioned today. I tried to google some information when I got home today, but I wasn’t able to view a sample for my grade level. Although the students’ writing will certainly guide workshop time, I feel it would be helpful to have some starting points/suggestions. Because time is always a factor in any classroom, I love the idea of reciprocity of reading and writing. Although I feel like I was attempting reciprocity, I believe that I could be doing so more efficiently, and I look forward to the additional days of sharing strategies and ideas.

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  8. Today was a great first step in trying to help improve our student’s writing. I really liked how we can use writing to also teach similes, personification, etc. We currently have no curriculum for writing. I feel this workshop will provide me some ideas and skills that I can take back to the teachers I work with. I learned a lot on this first day and I am very excited for the next two days. I have so many ideas from today and I am excited to try and implement these ideas in my classroom this year.

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  9. Today’s workshop was very beneficial to me because I am very new to teaching writing. I would like to learn more about scaffolding lessons during writer’s workshop. I want to implement the mentor texts with the mini-lessons into my current curriculum. My favorite part of the day was the conferencing demonstration. I, myself, am guilty of giving “cotton candy compliments” instead of meaningful feedback. I am looking for strategies to help with peer conferencing/editing, as well.

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  10. Today’s workshop was filled with a wealth of information and ideas for teaching our student writers. Using mentor texts with students is ideal for minilessons in writing and can also be used to teach other skills. Through the use of mentor texts, students have the opportunity to mimic an author’s craft and feel more successful in their own writing. Conferencing with students was a challenge this past year. Today, however, while watching various examples of conferencing, something clicked. Seeing it in action made it more meaningful than just talking about conferencing. Thanks for a wonderful day!

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  11. Today’s session affirmed so much that I believe about teaching writing. It should be student driven and it makes so much sense that it be about individual writers since no two writers will have the same ideas, same concerns, same pacing, etc. However, most schools -and I am guilty of it too – don’t teach writing this way. Here’s the prompt class, let’s all develop an argument, everyone write a five paragraph… that is what most of us do despite what we know is best. So, what is circling in my head? How do I make it work? Can I see it in action? Are there videos of actual classrooms I can watch? Mentors I can talk to when I panic about it not working the way I anticipated? I have wanted to run a workshop based class for years but never felt confident enough to do so and had only read about it. How do I transform my classroom to do this? I have not used mentor texts, but this summer prior to the workshop I started to focus on pieces I was reading to use this way. But, where do I find ones for the informational and argument? I am not a non-fiction reader, so I know these mentor texts will be far more difficult for me to find…..

    I had an hour to kill before an eye appt. after our session today, and I found myself wondering around Joann fabrics. I bought little stars and poster boards. For the accountability of my students, I will put their name on a star and they will post it on one of the charts to show me where they are that day in class – drafting, reading, wanting a conference, etc. Experience tells me that I will have students who simply will choose not to progress,. So I wanted a visible check in my class to see where everyone is and to see if they can progress to an inevitable deadline. Does this sound like a good idea?

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    1. Carol,
      Love your reflective process. My advice… jump in head first and don’t look back. Use this year as an inquiry study and grow your craft as a writer and a teacher of writing. There’s varied ways to keep track of status of the class. Whatever you are comfortable with and keeps you abreast of student needs and growth… go for it! In addition… thank you for your bravery in our fishbowl conferencing today. Be confident and proud… you are a natural. Thanks for helping us learn from your ease of the concept.

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  12. WOW… I had a hectic night after I left… but I’m still in awe over the fabulous training today! I meant it when I said I wish I could have you in my pocket, or a little ear piece, at the very least, Val!! I am extremely new to all of this, and am usually not as nervous– but I have a feeling once I leave on Wednesday, I am going to feel like I am right where I need to be! I have been reading Lucy Calkins, Ruth Column and John Collins’ work– I have met with several colleagues and friends- but like others stated above, today really started to tie things together for me…
    I am still trying to figure out how to best reach the 4th grade students that I will only see once every six days… that doesn’t sit well with me– and I like your idea to wait until we depart on Wednesday to finalize my thoughts and somehow present the problem and a possible solution- whether that means teaming up with the corresponding ELA teachers or somehow conferencing during homeroom, etc.
    My other concern is organizing everything for each of my seven sections of writing (and four social studies). EEEK!
    I, like some of my new friends, am eager to research mentor texts, and to utilize them in the best way possible in my mini lessons and in collaborating with the ELA teachers.
    Most of all, THANK YOU, Val! You’re nothing short of amazing! If I wasn’t so far, I would definitely join you next year as a fellow!! (I will be applying to Pitt– and look forward to the experience!!!)
    See you in the morning!

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  13. I left today’s session already thinking of ways I can incorporate a writing workshop into my schedule so my students are given more opportunities for writing. The use of mentor texts with mini lessons is something I am eager to incorporate. I think it will be very beneficial when teaching such concepts as figurative language, word choice, point of view, and grammar skills. What’s circling in my head is where do I begin and how do I make a writing workshop work in my daily schedule. I know it’s going to take time to develop a writing workshop that provides the best opportunities for my students. The implementation of a workshop is going to be a work in progress, but worth it for my students.

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  14. Today’s writing workshop helped me to further my knowledge of teaching narrative writing. The session reinforced my belief in the importance of modeling and scaffolding and showed me the importance of using mentor texts and how to use them. There are many ideas still circling in head. I am trying to figure out where to start making changes to my writing instruction, what units of would be most beneficial to my students, and how to incorporate these ideas into what I am already doing in the classroom.

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  15. Today was fantabulous! . . . and now that I am home from rehearsal, I can focus on my homework. 😉

    My dissertation research focused on students’ lived experiences as academic writers, Reading and writing have always been a part of me (I ate my first book. Yep. I did.), so spending the day inquiring and reflecting and sharing (Oh, My!) was perfect and validating. Today squares with my beliefs and practice wholeheartedly. Time to run proper wrtiters’ workshops may never exist for me, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t do them. Many of my colleagues are floored a by my comfort level at not having a word-for-word script for teaching, or my ability to go with the kids and let their minds lead my teaching, but that is just how I have always operated — despite the OCD and hyper organizations in most areas, I have always let the students guide my teaching.

    I was (and am) already thinking about how I can rejig my lessons to even be more mini for the upcoming year, and am excited about using the writers’ notebooks. Lots of ideas . . . .

    I was talking to a few people about videos of this type of stuff in action, and one of my favorite sites is http://www.teachingchannel.org. Great videos. Sarah Brown Wessling is one of my favs. A go-to video is: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/teach-students-to-think. She guides her students through learning how to analyze. She uses a short story – micro fiction – and the story is “Waiting” by Peggy McNally. It is one sentence! Great mentor text to use for various units of study. Link to that and other micro fiction is: http://www.sabatinomangini.com/uploads/4/…/micro_fiction_–_jerome_stern.pdf.

    Off to attempt some sleep while visions of choreography, lines, lyrics, and writing dance in my head. Until tomorrow . . .

    P&L,
    Lisa

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  16. Everything we did and discussed today rings true with my own personal philosophy on teaching ELA. It was awesome to get some fresh new ideas to incorporate into my classroom. I have been involved in MANY trainings on using mentor texts, but today’s workshop gave me specific and significant ways in which I can do so in my classroom. I am energized and ready to start planning some activities for back-to-school!

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    1. I am responding from class on day 2…sorry, had no Internet last night! I only wanted to say that I am very excited to try this during this coming school year! And i AM going to go to Target after class today to get notebooks. I feel a little more comfortable about starting this on day one, after the beginning of today’s class, and that would have been one of my questions. There are a lot of ideas flying around, and my only other issue is trying to ‘catch’ them all, and remember how incorporate them into my classroom.

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  17. Val, Thanks for your presentation at MC. It was great to see some of the instruction you are using at your school in your work as a Reading Specialist. I appreciated the opportunity for our teachers to work together to experience using some of the strategies that you use.

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    1. That was the question of the day, “Does your knowledge of writing far exceed your experience of it?” And we sure experienced it together! I’m glad you appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with your colleagues in this way.

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