Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 9th - TCRWP Reunion Saturday

During five, non-stop hours (should have been six but my head was spinning after five and I couldn't get a seat in the Riverside church, so I missed Lucy's Perfect Storm keynote), I learned SO much from the amazing educators associated with TCRWP!

1. The first hour was author, Katherine Paterson!! I especially enjoyed her explanation of how she came to write Bread and Roses, Too, her latest book. She saw an old photo of children who came to her town of Barre, VT in the 1918 to be educated when the Lawrence textile strike occurred and was inspired to write a historical fiction book based on this event. She read-aloud a portion of the book to us. I just purchased this book on my kindle fire so I listened attentively. Then she shared a fan letter from a soldier in Afghanistan who had just read Bridge to Teribithia. He thanked her for showing him how a book about beauty helped save his life. She connected with this soldier on his return from duty and encouraged him to write.I just downloaded his book, Words in the Dust, to my kindle fire!
  Words in the Dust

2.Currently, I am co-teaching a FCPS Writing Academy course (Teaching Multiple Genres during Writing Workshop) and we're using Carl Anderson's book how's it doing?. Teaching the course and then spending one hour with Carl yesterday have renewed my love for this man - what an amazing gift his conferring ideas are to the writing workshop process. Carl reminded me that the MOST important topic to teach kids is that writing communicates meaning. The structure of the piece, the details, the voice, and the conventions all are ways to get the meaning across. We must expect that a writer has something to say. He suggested having kids answer this question: Why is this event from my life important to me? What do I think about this topic? What is my opinion about this topic? We MUST focus on MEANING.

3. I ended up in the Milbank Chapel to hear Mary Ehernworth for my third hour due to my first choice workshop on the 4th floor being full (yes, I felt that burn in my legs from climbing four TC flights of stairs to only be turned away). Mary explained the importance of teaching kids how to write research-based argument essays. Then she shared her successes and struggles as she did this work with students. "Writers, when in your life have you won an argument or wished you could? In my job, the ability to stake my claim, without crying, is so beneficial. When you argue with logic, and not with emotions, you will be heard."
She shared great mentor texts (both print and visual) that can be used when teaching this writing unit. The mentor texts can be found on the TC website at this link:

4&5. And now I have a new favorite staff developer - Cornelius Minor! I spent my last two hours with him yesterday in back-to-back workshops - one on using technology in RW and WW and one on helping struggling readers. Then today I perused his website:  I encourage you to do the same and to follow him on twitter: @MisterMinor #TCRWP

Take-aways from using technology in workshop:
* Those who know how to use tools well, have an economic advantage
* He invites technology into his classroom to ensure ALL his students can use it and then be producers!
* First, as a teacher, you need to get good at this...form your own PD team made up of the bossy girl in your class ("every class has one!"), the kid who is an expert at something (he'll be able to research the topics you want to know more about), and the kids who comes to school every day early (he can teach you before school!) Put these kids together and charge them with the task of teaching you technology!
* Get smart about using: a cell phone, a tablet, an iPad, and google suite (essential technologies!)
* Have a classroom culture in place so all feel respected, can learn, and can speak both in the analog world and the digital world
* You don't all need "it"; you ALL need to know HOW to gain access. I deliberately teach kids how to gain access - I teach the hustle - Growing up, I didn't have a computer, but the man next store, who needed his lawn mowed, had a computer so I made a deal with him to gain access.

Take-aways from the struggling readers workshop:
* He has seen struggling readers because of:  text is too hard to read; teacher makes wrong assumption; kid doesn't know what is expected; it is too hard to do all at once; not enough practice; teacher doesn't allow student to make mistake; student has trained dependency.
* The success in reading is in the selection of the right text.
* I can teach the reader strategies to use in a conference, a small group, or whole class lesson but I must remember that there is NOTHING I can say that will help them. The ONLY remedy for struggle is PRACTICE. I must provide the time and the accountability for practice and then celebrate growth (not perfection).

My fingers are crossed that I hear soon that I am accepted to the TCRWP August Writing Institute. I can't wait to return to NYC and continue to learn from the smart educators at Teachers College.

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