Sunday, August 31, 2014

2014 National Book Festival Highlights

As I headed to the new inside venue for the National Book Festival on Saturday, I knew I was there when I saw this very large sign on the side of the Convention Center in DC!!

Here are some of my highlight:
KATE DICAMILLA: Her tips for budding-authors include spending lots of time reading, making a deal about how to do the work of a writer (for her, the deal was to write 2 pages a day), and to pay attention to everything. Notice the world and write down what you see in a notebook.

BILLY COLLINS: I knew Billy Collins was our Nations Poet Laureate and I thought he mostly wrote for adults so I went to listen to him in the Children's Room and found out he has a children's picture book! A panel of people spoke  - Billy, the head of the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the illustrator and the book publishers. It was explained that on the 25th Anniversary of the Center for the Book, Billy wrote an 18 line poem about a boy, a boat, and a book. Then it was suggested that this poem should be a picture book. Now it is, called Voyage! The poem points out the magic of transformation that occurs when we read. Billy reminded us that Emily DIckenson said it best: "There is no frigate like a book." If you don't know Billy Collins' work, I recommend his TED talk. I also love his poem about turning 70, called Cheerios.

Rita Williams-Garcia: She is known for her HF YA novel called One Crazy Summer. She started out by saying she learned at an early age the importance of letters because her mom sang her the ABCs in such a way that the letters seems to jump. Tanks to illustrators, she could "read" books at age 2. During her childhood, she loved making up stories. She would write 500 words/day and pay her older sister $.25 to use the typewriter to type up her stories. "It never occurred to me to become an author - I was one! she said she thought growing up. Her newest novel, Gone Crazy comes out in October.

Jack Gantos - I learned SO much from him!! He handwrites all his stories. He spends lots of time sketching out the places where his stories occur and then writes about what he sketches. After hearing him speak, I really want to read his Joey series.

Tim Tingle - I learned SO much from this author, as well! He is a Choctaw Indian and a storyteller. He now devotes his time to gathering Indian stories and sharing them. I bought 2 of his books: How I Became a Ghost and Walking the Choctaw Road. He said the two things you need to be an author are 1) to READ lots and 2) to know Shakespeare! (He reminded me that I really need to spend time reading and understanding Shakespeare because I never really have done this). He ended by saying you can tell a person traveling is a book lover if they have 2 books with them - the one they are reading and one to read when that is done - because their worst nightmare is to not have a book to read!

Jacqueline Woodson - I had pre-ordered Brown Girl Dreamer and it arrived at my house on Thursday and I finished it Friday night and brought it to see if she'd sign it. She was sitting 3 rows in front of me just before starting her talk so I went and asked and she kindly signed the book for me saving me from waiting in line! She explained that after her grandmother dies and then her mother died suddenly after that, she wanted to write a memoir. She felt there would be a point where there would be no one to ask about earlier times. She talked to her aunt in Ohio and her cousins in SC. Her memoir includes "all my details that made me Jacqueline WOodson, the writer. Her tips for being a writer: Follow Katherine Paterson's advise and spend BIC time - butt in the chair time! Spend time reading the genre you are writing. It helps her to read her writing out loud.

Judith Viorst - She said she started writing poems in the 2nd grade, using sharpened pencils and sending them into magazines but only got rejections. FInally, in her 30s, she got published! Now, at age 83, she has two new books out - an Alexander book and another called Two Boys Boo. She told the audience all about the movie coming out in October based on Alexander. Jennifer Garner plays her in the movie! Her advise for writers is: Be serious about writing and write every day. Read lots to know all the different ways a story can go and all the topics that stories can be. An audience member called her one of the Wise Woman of our Culture and asked her what helps her be wise. She humbly thanked this audience member and said: Books help me, Poetry helps me, my group of women I regularly have met with for the past 30 years help me. "Everything I bump into in my life helps me be wise."

Eric Litwin - author and singer of the Pete the Cat books had the room moving and singing during his session, the last I attended! His website is a must see! Go to view all his books, especially his newest about the nut family! And also to hear his songs!! Great for any age! I try to follow Pete's motto when something goes wrong - not to cry and instead, keep singing along because it is "all good"!!!

If you missed the Book Festival, check soon at to see videos from the day, as all the presentations were filmed and many will be posted to the Library of Congress website.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

2014 TCRWP August Writing Institute - Day 5

Annie - Argument Work, today with Nonfiction!
Annie pointed out that Bend 3 of this Unit has a student choose a topic. She pointed out that the hardest part is having kids find resources. She suggested their choice lead to small groups so together they can share resources. OR if resources seem scarce, she suggested we teach a student how to create and give a survey and how to carry out an interview OR tell them to choose another topic.

Then Annie lead our advance class in one more argument using the text Oh, Rats! by Albert Marrin.
Round 1:
"Rats is a topic that is hotly debated now in NYC, especially after Hurricane Sandy brought many rats out into the open. Some find rats to be DANGEROUS. Some find rats to be HELPFUL. I am going to read-aloud info about rats. Take a minute and set up your notebook to take notes while you listen."

Annie read, I took notes, and then I picked a side. In a small group, 3 of us explained orally how helpful rats are, while three of us strongly shared how dangerous rats are!

Round 2:
"I'm not sure if it is that rats are so dangerous. Let's change the question. Are rats dangerous OR are they just a nuisence? Again, take a moment and get your notebook set up to take notes."

Annie reread some info about rats and then read some new parts. Again, in small groups, we picked a side and shared our debate points. This round really helped me to think about HOW to use evidence to spin or match my position.

Round 3 option:
"Give a group an audience that their debate must convince. For example, tell them to coinvince doctors OR to convince chefs OR members of the World Health Organization. Kids or teachers can role-play to be the audience.

Round 4:
"Albert Marrin is a very convincing author. He uses lots of craft moves to do this. Two pop out to me. He uses structure and he uses word choice. Which move it more powerful? Again, set up for notebook to take notes as I read and reread parts of his book."

Annie reminded us of how to approach argumentation.
1. start with a simplistic difference
2. refine it by changing the question to define the argument more precisely
3. refine it more by debating the craft moves of the author

By living this debate work with Annie for a week, I am READY to try it often with my 5th grade wrtiers this school year! I'll be sure to check back on this blog to see how they do orally and in writing.

Colleen - Mentor Text
Colleen reminded us that the goal is to get students to be talking about who THEIR mentor is and why they choose that mentor text. The goal is for students to independently choose and use mentor text.  "When you write, find a mentor text. See how that author did it and now you try it."

Writing Resources
1. Writing Center in the classroom
Access to pens, different kinds of paper, envelops, post-its, highlighters, dictionaries, bi-language dictionaries, different kinds of dictionaries (Websters, picture...) grammar books, etc.
2. Mentor Text Files
Have hanging folders of a variety of genres. Inside have xerox examples of that kind of writing at different levels of reading ready to use and share.
3. Library
Have Mentor text baskets, former student writing baskets, current student writing baskets, Menotr Author baskets, etc.
4. Charts - be sure to have one where you are annotating the text to learn from it as a mentor
5. Technology - links to authors!
6. Post those in the room who are EXPERTS on _____. Let kids advertise this or create Help Wanted signs. Kids can lead seminars!

We ended with a very powerful CELEBRATION!
"Think back across the week and find a line from a mentor text or something said during the week related to mentor texts. Be sure what you pick is 13 words or less. Thumbs up when you have it."

Then Colleen began by saying: A Mentor Text Poem by the Advanced Section and one by one, we shared our line...our section was large - 40+. Together we created a moving poem to remind us the importance of Mentor text!!

Again, by living Mentor Text with Colleen all week, I can't wait to set up my library using this lens and being sure that I am using mentor text during all the units I teach to my 5th graders. I also plan to use her clebration format sometime during the year!

As I end the week, I return to Lucy's words from Day 1 - We bring who we are - our life's theme - to all we do. All week long, each staff developer and guest author did this so well. Kate Roberts, a new parent, did this. Seymour Simon, a scientist, did this. Carl Anderson, a dad and a writing teacher, did this. I am still reflecting on what my life theme really is. I know it involves books as I constantly read, especially children's literature. It involves being positive because I try to persevere and remain positive when so much stuff isn't so positive. It involves being helpful because I get lots of energy out of encouraging others and helping others to shine brightly. I'll continue to reflect but I know as this school year begins, I want to be transparent to my students and parents. When I share ME, they will get honest teaching!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 TCRWP August Writing Institute - Day 4

Annie - Argument Essay
A suggested classroom visual to have during this unit: 3 posters (for/against/undecided).
As he unit topic is first shared, ask students to place a sticky with their name on it on one of the 3 posters. Then as they do research, check back and move it is hey change their mind. Remind the class that we all have opinions. For this unit, the challenge is to stay open to all aspects of a topic (which is a great life-skill) and know that their name sticky note can move at any time based on the evidence they learn through research.

The TCRWP website has MANY text-sets already created to do this work.

They also have performance assessment in reading NF that could be used as an assessment or as texts to read to write an argument:

During Round 2, the topic stays the same. Now you are teaching how to write a stronger essay.
* Teach how to analyze the writer of a source of information.
* Do with articles by having readers question what the research article and info-graphics say/show
* Start noticing the moves that are one in the text set and apply this craft to writing

Possible lace to find a topic is the local paper an hen use the local paper's articles as a text set.

A well-written article uses many techniques (see grade 6-8 list) to reach many goals (see handout of gr 6-8 goals) To notice this, we watched an amazing speech by Severn Cullins-Suzuki given in 1992 at the UN Global Summit - Watch and be ready to be speechless after she completes her argument (just as the members of the UN were!)
Then we named the techniques Severn used and the goals she was able to achieve while listening to her speech. The same kind of work can be done with the essay arguments that our students write. The worksheets shared from the MS Units of Study is a VERY useful tool!

Colleen - Mentor Text
Thee books Colleen shared today are:

All could be used to teach many, many writing lessons! 
We were to bring a mentor text we plan to use this year in WW and plan out a mini-lesson in just 7 minutes! I used:

It was useful to plan purposeful work using a mentor text in a short amount of time!

Finally Colleen stated "A happy teacher is one that has a conferring toolkit" (which I have started to make!) and she listed those things to include in it:
* One familiar whole class mentor text, marked up with post-its, pointing out how all the ways different parts of the text can be used as a model for students' writing
* More mentor texts at various levels, maybe typed up to leave a copy with a stuent after a conference
*Student work samples - can use the nes in the Writing Pathways book
* A typed up version of my charted class demo writing 
* Checklists
* My Writing notebook
* My conference notes
* post-its
* highlighters
* gel pens
* plastic pocket to mark up a piece of writing and then it can be wiped off to use again

Workshop - Carl Anderson on Mentor Text
Carl reinforced ALL that Colleen has said all week long!
He emined me that another possible small moment mentor text to use is Ralph Fletcher's Marshfield Dreams:

I want to reread this and add some of the excepts to my toolkit!!

Keynote: Seymour Simon
As Cornelius brilliantly and enthusiastically introduced this amazing nonfiction children's author, he reminded me of why we need to read NF. "We cannot fix the world if we cannot describe the problems of the world." By reading Seymour's books, we come to understand the world and can then write about it. He also reminded the audience that if the 1,200 Institute participants were placed in book clubs of four people each, each group could be given a different Seymour Simon book to read and no repeating of titles would be necessary. That is a lot of books!!
Then while Seymour talked, he shared that when he writes NF, he tries to:
* write it as an exciting story
* use vivid language and action verbs
* use comparisons ("Just the tongue of the whale weighs as much as an elephant.")
* asks questions
* uses photos and diagrams

His website is amazing:

He also posts a prompt each Wednesday to encourage student writing. Here's the link:
Maybe this can be a place to visit on Wednesdays!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

2014 TCRWP August Writing Institute - Day 3

Annie - Literary Essay / Research Argument Essay
 We first spent time orally rehearsing our draft of our Literary Essay and then we did a flash draft of it. Some tips Annie gave included:
* Be sure to have at least 2-3 pieces of evidence for each bullet point
* Ask if each piece is relevant to the point
* The goal is to have the reader of your essay consider your opinion. to reach this goal, the most compelling evidence must be used.
* Providing time to orally rehearse just prior to the flash-draft helps to great strong writing down on the page
* On flash-draft days, be hands-off as a teacher. Walk around and read over shoulders looking for patterns. Push all to get their essay down and remind them that during revision, they can fix it up.

Argument Essay
All the skills from essay and literary essay are used. The difference is that a debatable topic is chosen that exists in the world and our job is to suspend all of our own judgement and read LOTS of research on both sides. Then the essayist decides on which side to agree with and writes an essay.

Bend One - Though choice is usually given in WW, for this unit, the topic is assigned. This ensures that the teacher can provide resources that are for both sides of the argument. The resources are articles, graphics and videos. As text is read, the reader charts evidence that is for and against. Annie modeled reading one text with us and then had us reading about the topic of competitive sports. Are competitive sports good or bad for kids? This is the argument that is part of the new Grade 7 Argument Unit. A typical cycle will look like one day to research, one day to flash-draft, 305 days to revise and then publish.

Colleen - Mentor Text
Colleen shared a nonfiction text with us - No Monkey, no Chocolate.

It is by Melissa Stewart, Colleen's new favorite nonfiction children's author.
On her website, she has an amazing timeline showing why it took 10 years to get this book published! Check it out and peruse her whole website where she shares so much of her writing process!

We read the text, using one of the lens and asking the suggested questions.
As promised, here's Colleen's list:
What are the parts of the text? How are those parts connected? How are those parts organized? What effect does organization and connectedness have on the reader? Are there any parts of the structure that don't seem to fit? Why? Why do you think the author organized it this way? What possible connections are there between the meaning of the piece and its structure? Where else have I seen this structure before? Was it for similar reasons? How could I apply it to my own writing?

What is this text really about? What else could it be about? If I'm not sure what the text is really about, what am I sure it is NOT about? What are some moves the author makes that help make the possible meaning clear? What do I know about the author that helps me further understand the meaning? What similarities so I see between this text and other texts with similar meanings or themes? How could I apply this to my own writing?

What is my favorite parts of this piece? How did the author create those parts on the paragraph, sentence, or word level? How does the craft affect the structure and vice versa? What possible connections are there between the craft of the piece and its meaning? Where else have I seen similar craft moves before? How were the effects similar or different? How could I apply this to my own writing?

What moves has the author made that are clearly in line with the characteristics of the genre? What moves, if any, are out of line? Why would the author decide to do that? How could I apply this to my own writing?

What moves around grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction stand out?
When looking at the powerful segments of the text, what ways were conventions used that contribute to that power? Looking across the piece, what patterns in conventions do you see? What effects does the author's use of grammar and conventions have or not have on the reader? How do grammar and conventions affect the meaning of the piece? Why do you think the author chose to use conventions in those ways? How could I apply this to my own writing?

Next Colleen pointed out that published writing is very inspiring for writers. However sometimes they are too perfect and our students can be intimidated. This is when WE can write a mentor text.

Mirror Writing Strategy - Colleen showed us writing by a 3rd grader. Then she modeled writing a similar piece just as the student did, using all the things the student was doing as well as what he wasn't going.  Then we tried to do it on our own. This was hard but it did give me a strong understanding of what the student can and can't do as a writer.

Write Off the Checklist
Looking at the checklist, try to write a piece to match. This gives you a strong felt sense of the checklist.

Student's Best Writing
Ask students to look at their writing and pick a place where the writing is really good. Then have them annotate that place, naming what they did. "Now take the things you did well and try writing another piece. Write it as good or better."

Closing Workshop - Mentor Text by Cynthia Satterlee
1. Using the checklist, read a menotr text to see if it has examples that match. Using three different colored sticky notes, name what you see in the mentor text. Orange = structure; Blue = development; Green = Language conventions. She modeled this showing a NF book called Surprising Sharks. On the first page she placed an orange sticky and wrote: The author wrote a lead that asked a question of the reader to engage them and also included humor. Once the mentor text is annotated, it can be used during a ML or conference to help a writer see how they might "steal" this writing move.

2. NF Goal Sheet and Technique Sheets - these were created for the grade 6-8 Writing Units of Study. They are a great reference to remind the teacher of the moves that an author makes in NF books and WHY these moves are made. GREAT RESOURCE!!

3. Units of Study - she pointed out that in the Units of Study book, there are specific lessons explaining how to teach students to use mentor text! I'll be sure to read these and teach them!

Keynote - Kate Roberts
(staff developer, co-author of Falling in Love with Close Reading and new mom to Bo!)
Just like parents-to-be who research to know what to expect, teachers research and study to know what to expect in their classrooms. However, just like new parents, teachers need to adjust their expections to fit the reality. We need expections in eduction but we can't hold on too tight. Instead, she suggested we keep our expections huimble.
* Know what they are good for and what they are not good for
* Keep kids at the center of our work
* Make the decision as a teacher to have FUN because then our students will remember what we teach them.


2014 TCRWP August Writing Institute - Day 2

Annie - Literary Essay Unit
We were reminded that the Argument Protocol practice yesterday, along with being great life skills, is the baseline for helping kids to generate ideas to turn into a Literary Essay - reading-thinking-talking-acting-writing.

1. Generating Ideas: Annie showed us lots of student notebook examples where students placed their thinking on the page. All were different yet all included evidence from the text, reflection, and evidence across the whole book. We saw a web with book theme as the middle, sketches of important objects in the book, a letter a student wrote to the character, a diary entry written by the student as if they were the character and an emotional timeline of one character through the whole book. Then we tried it and she shared a few of ours. I especially loved the page of ripples one of the participants made based on Each Kindness that listed times the character was unkind and the thinking about if she had been kind. Anne reminded us that this reading work can live in RW or during Read-aloud and the thinking, talking, and writing needs to be placed somehow in the notebook so it can be used during the Literary Essay Unit.

2. Choose an idea - write a thesis
Annie's tips included picking an idea that can be backed up with multiple pieces of evidence and to also see if the idea holds throughout the book. If not, maybe the phrasing can be revised. We tried this by using the boxes and bullets structure in a few ways: reasons, times when, ways/kinds, changes in the character as beg/middle/end, and the theme/lesson learned by character A/B/C. Annie reminded us that the students will sometimes list evidence as a bullet so we need to help them make each bullet be a category and then place the evidence under each category. She also said they may need help keeping all three bullets parallel. This means if they are stating three reason, all must be reasons and not one a reason, one a times when and one about another character. The essay structure must be parallel.

3. Gathering Evidence
She suggested we be creative in our notebooks to hold onto all this evidence. Some might put a bullet at the top of a notebook page and as evidence is found, add it. Some may use the folder system used in the essay unit. Some may use post-its to sort into piles. Evidence can be quotes, actions, descriptions, Include all possible and then during the revision phase, the best can be picked.

Colleen - Mentor Text
Today we had Colleen's Mentor, Katie Wood Ray who authored Wonderous Woods, with us in spirit. Colleen shared the protocol that Katie explains in this book to use and we tried it out with Each Kindness.
1. We enjoyed a first reading of this book and had a class discussion
2. We revisited the book using an organizer to find the following:
*What are some of our favorite parts of the piece our author wrote? (the good writing)
*Why do we think the author decided to write like that? What does it do to make the piece better?
*What do we wnat to name this move?
*Have we seen anoher author write this way? Where? Give an example.
The rest of the class was so interesting! Being in an advanced section of 45 people, all advanced and all so smart, we had quite the discussion of the great piece of writing!!
3. We ended by starting to focus on a particular part - structture, meaning, Craft, Genre, and Conventions. Colleen's handout listed all the lens with questions to consider. SInce we are finishing this on Day 3, I'll add those questions tomorrow in my post. Be sure to come back tomorrow!

Closing Workshop - Shana Frazin with input from Ryan Scala (a friend of mine who I just found out join the Project as a Staff Developer!!) on Ways to Use the Writer's Notebook

Shana started by reading-aloud a Ralph Fletcher except called What is a Writers Notebook, Anyway? Brilliant writing and now added to my list of things to share with my students during the 1st week of school. I recommend you finding it and adding it too!

We turned and talked about WHY have a notebook and she discussed showing past notebooks at the start of the year to students and having them chart what a notebook is and isn't. (something I plan to do!) She reminded us that our notebook is just like pintress, the place to pin and collect artifacts. It is the place to exercise our writing muscle and take risks and as the girl in Lucy's video said on Monday, it is just for you. "When you write, it's you. It's yours."

Then Shana shared five goals of what a Writing Notebook can be:
1. Notebooks Support Writers in Creating an Identy as a Writer:
She suggested using Fletcher's idea of sketching out a map of where stories in your life can take place - a setting map. She added the idea of revisiting this throughout the year. During the NF Unit, generate ideas about what I can teach about this place and during Opinion Writing jot about why each place matters (playgrounds matter because...)
2. Independence
She suggested we teach kids to create plans in their notebook. Today as a writer I will... and then tell your partner your plan. She suggested looking on to find Stacey's post about Plan Boxes. She also suggested that maybe part of the notebook be tabbed to be the place were kids work on their independent writing projects. We don't ant them have a mindset that they write for school. Instead, we want them to use the notebook to be the place were they write for life!
3. The only mistake you can make is to NOT write
The notebook should be a support to help create a habit of writing. She suggested as a way to show expected volume, to have a 3 minute writing smack-down. Let's see who can write more in 3 minute - you or me. Ready GO! After 3 minutes, count the lines of writing. Now multiply that by 10. This is the number of lines you should strive to write daily. What a great way for writers to "see" how much they should be writing!
4. Work on Writing Craft
She showed this sentence - I watched my mother comb her hair. She called this a sentence that anybody could write. Now try it again, adding the precise details of YOUR story. It became: I studied my mom as she lifted the blue plastic pick to her curls. (now that is a sentence that only Shana can write!) The notebook can also be the place to add photos of anchor charts and have a strategy pocket to hold artifacts.
5. Fall in Love with Revision
She challenged us to create a culture of revision in our classrooms. As a teacher, I need to provide toolkits and strategies and model these well so revising is then done by my students! Her great analogy was our writing can be vacuuming the rugs and dusting the shelves OR it can be Extreme-Makeover WW Edition! When we just change a word or add a word, we are just dusting. Instead, kids need revise a story into a complete makeover!

Beginning of the year idea: the kids will begin to generate an idea after the minilesson. After 5-7 minutes, interrupt and ask them to turn the page and generate a dffierent idea. After another 5-7 minutes, do it again. This teaches them that as a writer I am to collect LOTS of ideas and this sets them up to do that!

Keynote: Lester Laminack
What a character!!! He had me laughing and laughing!! I also want to read Many-Stories House by George Ella Lyon which he read from. AND I want to read Lester's book!