Writing With Influence: Day Two Reflections 2015

Close Reading Slides from Day Two’s Workshop 8.4.15

Overall Take-Aways:

Think about the layers of knowledge and new thinking that have evolved in just two short days. How have you  synthesized this information and looked to re-envision the teaching of ELA in your classroom?

34 thoughts on “Writing With Influence: Day Two Reflections 2015”

  1. I had to respond as soon as I got home. I had said today that my district doesn’t really have ‘set in stone’ writing curriculum. We do have PLN as one of our district initiatives, but I believe everyone uses it differently. I thought the whole way home about how this fits right into PLN, and I can’t wait to start it in my classroom this coming year! PLN is about writing everyday, not grading everything, and looking for certain things in the writing. That’s exactly what this is about. We look at things through different lenses, as I’ve learned in the past two days, reading and writing for different purposes. I could most definitely have them write, looking for punctuation, etc, and still use this way of thinking. This is going to be a fun and very challenging school year for me. Not only am I teaching math for the first time in ten years (I had been the reading teacher in 3rd grade, switching classes for math), I am changing up my teaching of writing, and we’re using a new reading series! It makes me feel like a first year teacher all over again 🙂


    1. Amy,

      We have been working with PLN, too, and I love the ways in which I am starting to see the way to blend some of the ideas. 🙂 Are you working with Joe Ginotti?



    2. Amy,
      I was thinking the same thing about how it meshes well with PLN. The Teaching Point Val talks about could eventually become the FCA on your assessments. Maybe the 5 of us could find a way to communicate and share what we’re doing once a month? What’s working, what’s not, suggestions, inspirations, etc.? What do you think?


    3. Amy,

      We’ve been working with Joe Ginotti and PLN, too. I love synthesizing the ideas together to make the best learning experiences for my kids. 🙂


  2. The past two days have made me think of ways that I can improve my writing instruction. I plan on using different stories and other writing examples as a model for my students to see. The writing notebook is another tool that I will implement this year. I now view writing as a skill that we need to practice everyday. I plan to meet with my fellow teachers that attended this workshop. We are going to use the skills that we learned over the three days to plan our writing for first unit in our Reading Series. I am excited to start on the first day of school. I am excited to see the growth with my students skills in writing.


    1. Having gone to numerous PD sessions over the years, many presenters have a similar philosophy…use research and data, slow down your teaching, use assessment to gauge your instruction, and conference with students to know their strengths and weaknesses better. Sadly, many teachers have to close their doors to do what is best for students. Why are administrators’ hands tied to allow teachers to do their best work? We also have to allow ourselves to be vulnerable to share ideas and concerns with our colleagues with the same mindset. Eventually, hopefully, other colleagues will join in to do what is best for students.


  3. We have 4 teachers in our 6th grade family….Reading (me), Humanities (Writing embedded in Social Studies), Math, and Science. We are a 5th/6th grade STEM building….so Reading and Writing are last on the list in most people’s opinion. I am completely inspired by today’s activities…I love informational text because it is so prevalent in our building. The TDA activity with FOX spoke volumes to me. My colleague that attended the TDA training tried to relay the information to me at the end of last year, and I had NO CLUE what she was talking about. You made it easy to understand with the boxes and bullets and the excellent mentor text. THANK YOU! I will definitely be using that activity this school year! I truly take to heart each of your activities and can’t wait to implement them as I did with so many from the Summer Writing Institute. You are the best resource in the state of PA….NO JOKE! I can’t even imagine my classroom without writing, we write every day…so in my head, I am always the “ELA” Teacher!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Couldn’t have said it better – VAL PICCINI RESOURCE #1. Thanks so much. We were using the “I ” graphic organizer but the boxes and bullets is do much better! Looking forward to argument tomorrow. Loved the craft pause today! Unless you have taken writing with influence . You don’t know AMAZING. You can’t know amazing!
      Linda j. Withrow


  4. The last two days have been very eye opening for me in many ways. I really enjoy the use of the ‘writer’s notebook’ and want to run with that idea. With a recently won grant I was able to acquire Story Starter LEGO kits (https://education.lego.com/en-us/lesi/elementary/storystarter/ss-hardware) as well as 3 ring binders and notebooks. The use of what Val is providing with the writer’s notebook is giving me so many ideas with these binders and other materials gained! (check those LEGOs out for your school to buy, they made some amazing stories!) We do not have a writing curriculum so this past school year my principal provided myself as well as the 4th and 5th grade writing teacher multiple times throughout the year to meet and create building blocks / ingredients posters per writing / checklists and more. This helped us develop our own structure working into a self developed ‘workshop’ like curriculum. Using the tools Val has been presenting and providing I want to take and give them to my colleagues and students so they can have the same experience. The use of the notebook creates an open mind – realistic side to ‘whats in my head’ idea and can be a comfortable format and place especially for young students like mine in 3rd grade. I can’t wait to learn more! Thanks Val!


    1. Great stuff, Amber! It’s been nice to meet you and talk a little bit (mostly about my headache – lol). See my comment on Amy’s post about the 5 of us working as a support group for one another, and let me know your thoughts. See you tomorrow!

      P.S. If you like this, you should go to the Summer Institute for Writers at PITT. You earn credits, gain amazing inspiration and training, network with like-minded educators from all grade levels and districts, create opportunities for yourself to stay involved in the Writing Project (as Val has done as a Lead Teacher and as I have done by contributing in The Poetic Classroom book publication), hone your craft as a writer and a teacher of writing . . . I know sometimes we may sound like a crazy cult or something trying to steal people’s summers, but truly, it is transformative! 🙂


  5. I also liked the idea of using a writing notebook, and I plan to incorporate something similar to it into my coursework. Like others have mentioned, I now view writing from a different perspective and see the value of adding frequent examples from mentor texts.


  6. Since Brandy and I are already 7th grade ELA team members, we’ve developed and aligned many wonderful lessons, philosophies, units, strategies, etc., to bring into our classrooms. All that we have learned, or re-envisioned, over the last few days can now marry and mingle with the successful teaching and planning we’ve already put into place to give birth to a more authentic and organic approach to teaching writers and writing.

    P.S. I feel like I got a little mini-dose of SIT the last few days, and I’m high on life! ❤


  7. These past two days have validated my writing instruction philosophies. At the core of my belief has always been the essential connection between reading and writing. I appreciate your focus on this reciprocity and your many excellent shared resources.


    1. I agree with you, Tricia. My experience at the SIT through Western Pennsylvania Writing Project (2002) changed me forever as a writer and teacher of writing. I have always believed strongly in the importance of teaching reading and writing hand-in-hand. Over the years, my life has been busy, as all of ours are, and often forced away from my instructional philosophies when writing is involved. It has been put on the back-burner, I must admit, due to other classroom directives, but this year, I am going to find my way back to meaningful, reciprocal writing/reading instruction. I am a writer and that has sculpted me as a teacher and learner. I can teach my students that they too can have a voice, talent, and passion that they can share with others academically or personally.

      How am I preparing for the new year: Writing Notebooks are a must in my ELA classes. I have the composition books ready along with Writing Folders. Day 1, here we come! I have ideas swirling around in my head of how to use many of the Mentor Texts shared by Val and several I have used in the past to begin launching the Writing Workshop then moving into Units of Study. I just need to continue my PD and lay it all out to see it in draft form. One step at a time. I know my 4th grade ELA building partner will jump right in with me. I hope to work with my colleagues in my building to develop “student coaching relationships” between different grade levels as us teachers also demonstrate and share our own writing. My former students LOVED when I used to do this so many years ago. I will challenge my students through the modes of writing and exemplars I hope to create to compose levels of writing that we have never taken them to before – all common core driven, too. Bringing the STEAM into our Writing experiences, I hope to work with our new Art teacher for our more apprehensive writers, but very creative artists. Finally, I hope to seek out other valuable and inexpensive resources within Western PA to aid in our success as writers and even meet with this group again to continue our learning and writing. Maybe even convincing our admin. to consider a Writing Lab in the future along with a field trip to visit Heritage Elementary :).

      Val’s expertise and practical application to conducting Writing Workshop and Minilessons using Mentor Texts in our classrooms on a DAILY basis are invaluable. I thank you, Val, for breathing life back into the dusty corners of my Writing mind and journal. It has been an inspiring two days so far and I can’t wait to see what you share tomorrow.


  8. I wish we had more time to learn with Val!!! This has been such a fabulous experience– and I will definitely start the year off right- writer’s notebook, Lucy Calkins strategies, “knee-to-knee, eye-to-eye”, close reads and mentor texts, etc. I never thought I would be so excited to go to another day of training– or so sad to see this come to an end… I am so grateful to have met some wonderful people with great ideas and I look forward to sharing ideas and keeping in touch!


  9. Today was yet another exciting day. I can’t thank you enough for the ideas you have shared. I feel like I learned so much today that I can use to change my approach to writing. I am going to be using the writer’s notebook on day 1 doing the hand activity. I really look forward to the informational writing and have already talked to my teaching partner to have her work with me somehow in combining some of the lessons with science so we can find a way to make the shorter amount of time I have work. I can’t wait to see the results in comparison to what I have done in the past!

    I will definitiely be starting my TDA by doing work like you shared today. I hope to share it wih my colleagues in the younger grades becasue I think they could find texts of their own and model the skill on chart paper etc. It gets those young kids using the language we need them to use.

    I am already thinking of wys to use books that I have used in the past to teach mini-lessons and skills. In the past, I have focused on finding those books for read alouds, think alouds, and other reading skill and strategy work. Reading like a writer is truly something I never thought about and it is quite eye opening!

    Thanks Val for your wonderful expertise. I like many others am sad when the summer is winding down because the hectic days of school must begin and the nonstop work lies ahead, but this year I am pretty excited to see where the new approaches to writing instruction take us. I have to find a way to find more time and convince my admin that more time is clearly needed!

    Looking forward to tomorrow!


  10. These last two days have been some of the best PD I have been to. So THANK YOU, Val! You truly are a great instructor and have a passion for teaching writing that is contagious. I recently purchased Lucy Calkins Units of Study and am enjoying reading through all of the GREAT ideas. I cannot wait to implement the Writer’s Notebook in my classroom. AND you were right…composition books for $0.50! I bought them tonight!
    Today was FANTASTIC! I have always struggled with informational writing, but now I am very excited to do these awesome activities with my students! I can’t wait to learn more tomorrow!


  11. The past 2 days have given me a better handle on how to teach our student writers. Literary Essays are a challenge. Students find the essays easier to write when they use boxes/bullets and thought prompts. They use these for writing in all areas, and their writing has improved. Val has provided us with so much–and yes it can be overwhelming. Start by using bits and pieces of what has been presented–baby steps–whatever you’re comfortable with. Once you start writing with your students, you will definitely see an improvement, and your students will love writing.


  12. Val,
    Off topic question: What materials did you use when you made a collage on your WN cover? It doesn’t look like regular glue. With what did you go over it?


  13. It is a blessing to see how far we’ve come with writing instruction at my school, and this workshop has helped me to see how meaningful and manageable my writing instruction can be next year. I’m looking forward to incorporating more authentic literature and writing in my social studies class and to using that as another opportunity to help my students to grow as readers and writers.


  14. I have always read resource books to my third graders, but NOW I realize that I could have been analyzing the text with them instead of having them just listening to me read. I also never called them mentor texts! That is the first thing I am changing this year-we are going to work to break apart my Seymor Simon texts (and many others) and investigate them all together. I was struck today by the simplicity of making each student a copy of the text and working through it together as a close read.

    I am recognizing the power my classroom library contains and all of the resources I have used to supplement the text books I have used over the years.

    Looking forward to tomorrow 🙂


  15. Today’s session provided another layer of knowledge on the importance of writing and how it should look in the classroom. My colleagues and I have already planned a day to meet and discuss what we have learned and how to implement it into our curriculum. We do not have a set in stone writing curriculum at this time. The information gathered over the past two days will help us have a starting when we do write our ELA curriculum this year for our elementary grades. I loved the TDA example from today and will be sharing the text and ideas I gained with my fellow colleagues to help assist them in teaching these types of essays.


  16. I have been pondering the modes and rethinking how to workshop them. So many ideas are there all because of these two days and you Val! I have enjoyed these two days so much! Today I was inspired after Water Dance. I will have students become an endangered animal. They will write as one, discover what makes them endangered, and write informatively about the animal. Then, they will create an argument about them. I want to sit down after the workshop and ponder each mode and what I want minilessons might go in each one…. I am doing workshop this year. That is definite!


  17. Although I want to revamp LOTS of things, I know I will work to integrate the writing workshop more fluidly into my classroom. I will be working to make reading more a by product of my writing than the other way around (which it has been for YEARS). My story selection seemed to guide my writing projects and not the other way around. I use MANY of the strategies we have talked about so far. I even have used writer’s notebooks, and we do lots of talking to the text/close reading… BUT, I have seen MANY ways to make this more fluid and more organic in my classroom. Writer’s workshop will have a definite regular place in my classroom.


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