Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writers learn from other writers...

Imagine this...two days, hundreds of writing teachers, awesome presenters like Katie Wood Ray and Ruth Ayres, and a spirit of community and learning that was almost palpable.  Sound fabulous?!?  For a self-described literacy geek, it was pure magic!

This week, I attended the All Write!!! Summer Institute in Warsaw, Indiana hosted by All Write!!! Consortium (composed of coaches and teachers in northern Indiana).  Few places rival learning at Columbia University's Teachers College, but All Write!!! offered many similar elements.

1. Knowledgeable Speakers: All Write!!! nailed it by providing these top-drawer experts we could learn from in a wide variety of hour-long sessions...
  • Katie Wood Ray --- writing with detail
  • Georgia Heard --- poetry and nonfiction writing
  • Ruth Ayres --- learning about writing workshop from watching swimming lessons
  • Debbie Miller --- reading workshop and comprehension instruction
  • Terry Thompson --- graphica (my first learning opportunity!)
  • Jeff Anderson --- making grammar fun
2. A sense of connectedness: The speakers, the attendees, the small town hosting...all cohesively provided an atmosphere of inclusion, excitement, exploration, and challenge.   It was nearly contagious!  (I think if my husband, a beam designer, would've been there he would've experienced it too...)

3. Construction zone: We made things together...things we could think about together (like graphic organizers, units of study, conferring aids) and take back to our respective classrooms to try out.  Rich talk, rich thought, rich take-away.

So, what is the rich take-away?  Here are several ideas I'm thinking about now. 

Slow down and simplify.  We don't achieve much with cluttered workshops.  After all, the point of a genuine workshop is to allow kids time to independently try out what's been taught and make it their own through scaffolded experiences, practice, talk, and conferring.  Don't get sucked in to how cool the worksheet is you just designed; authentic opportunities to share learning are more powerful.

Write.  Write some more.  Write about everything.  We teach writing better, stronger, and with more nuanced understanding when we do it ourselves. 

Start at the very beginning...  Make kids fall in love with reading by sharing our favorite books to immerse them in a reading lifestyle.  Don't wait to confer either; after all, we want to get to know our new students...and this is an excellent vehicle to do so and develop our community.

Make teacher-friends.  Share resources.  Talk shop.  Learn from each others' experiences.  My professional life is much deeper by creating friendships with colleagues in other districts. 

In Jeff Anderson's keynote, he likened students growth as readers and writers to circles in a tree trunk.  Scientists can tell exactly what happened and when by reading these tell-tale circles.  When was the drought?  The significant rains?  Students' learning lives lay themselves out similarly.  Where was the strong instruction in reading and writing?  The weaker experiences? What mark will you leave on your students' learning lives next year? 

Thanks, All Write!!!, for your incredibly thought-provoking institute!!!! :)

Write on,

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Hi! I'd love to hear what you are thinking right now, so please take a sec and drop me a line. I'm so glad you stopped by today -- thanks a billion. :)