“I think you should see if the Writing Project is doing a Summer Institute this year,” my mentor teacher, Chanda Stafford, said to me during one of our many meetings last year. As a first year teacher, I had no idea what that meant, so I nodded, and absent-mindedly made a note of it on her enormous list of goals and tasks for me this year. A few days later, an email appeared in my inbox with the link to the Chippewa River Writing Project.
The next few months flew by in a flurry of drafting applications, preparation, and coaching. When the acceptance e-mail appeared in my inbox one morning, I felt a rush of emotions. I was mostly excited, but extremely nervous. I wasn’t sure what a newbie in this profession could really bring to the table, and at the end of my first year of teaching, I was feeling the PTSD blur that many veterans in the career warned me I would feel. Was I really ready to be a part of this professional organization?
After I completed the first day of the institute, I called my mentor and said,“These people are nuts! How in the world did you survive?” My head had been swirling with nightmares of the prodigious multileveled project portfolio, hours of research driven on the gallons of caffeine I’d consumed, and the stomach churning nausea that appeared every time I heard the words ‘teaching demonstration.’ I was a brand new teacher! I had nothing to contribute to a room full of veteran teachers! Even the other first year teachers had more teaching experience than me! Continue reading Growing as a Writer and as a Teacher of Writing→
As a second grade teacher, I always started out the year reading the book, Call Me Marianne by Jen Bryant. In this book, a young boy named Jonathan notices an eccentric woman, Marianne, dressed in black cape and tri-cornered felt hat, carrying a notebook, and studying a newspaper article written about the new lizard exhibit at the zoo. When he returns her lost hat, she is “scribbling” in her notebook at the Reptile House. Intrigued, he asks her if she is a scientist. She replies that she is a poet, “watching and noticing details that other people miss,” recording those details through sketches and phrases in her notebook. She hands Jonathan his own notebook so he can sketch, record, and write about details he notices that other people might miss. When the story ends, I take that moment to be like Marianne, passing out brand new writer’s notebooks for us to begin our noticing of daily details that others might not take note of: the smells from the cafeteria, the sounds on the playground or how body language reveals feelings. I teach mini lessons on where to find ideas for personal writing. When read alouds spark memories, we write about it in our writer’s notebooks. We discuss our favorite authors and what their inspiration might have been for their books so that we too might find writing inspiration from our lives.
A few days later, I hand out another new notebook and introduce reader’s notebooks. This is our spot to explore stories, informational articles, and our thinking about reading: a place where we draw and write about characters and their connection to other characters, text-to-text connections, responses to what we read, as well as a plethora of other entries. That is where the confusion begins. Even though the notebooks are different colors and are clearly labeled WRITER’S NOTEBOOK or READER’S NOTEBOOK, someone always comes to the meeting area with the wrong notebook, even after I clearly said, “Your reader’s notebook, the green one,” multiple times. Because of this and my new role as an elementary instructional coach, I wonder is there a need for different notebooks, a writer’s notebook to collect ideas and play with mini lessons about writing craft, a reader’s notebook to notice author’s craft and to respond to reading, a science journal to observe, hypothesize and write lab reports, or could the same notebook be used for these different genres of writing? Continue reading Writer’s Notebooks: A tool that is as individual as the writer→
“Your room has a really different feel to it this year,” my principal said the other day with a smile on her face. In reflecting upon that statement, I have to admit that it’s true.
My digital journey started about four years ago when I converted a classroom closet into a makeshift “studio,” brought in an old tripod, and dusted off my five-millimeter camcorder. I had no idea how it would work, but I wanted my students to write in various genres about their independent reading books and then use their imaginations to perform what they wrote. I knew there were better ways of accomplishing my goal of integrating technology, student imagination, and the writing process, but I frankly didn’t know how to go about it. I quickly realized, though, that students knew more about integrating technology than I did. On their own, my 6th graders began to bring in videos they had made at home on iPads, iPods, digital cameras, and phones. They knew how to use the technology and were happy to share their knowledge with each other and me. Soon, I discarded my outdated camera equipment and encouraged my students to make their videos at home using their own devices as both the technical quality and student effort were so much greater. Continue reading From Teacher to Digital Facilitator→
The other day, my daughter called and asked me about a recipe. We chatted about its origin, and recalled a funny story that went with it. Our lively conversation had stemmed from a simple question. Recently, I’ve been paying close attention to questions and their resulting conversations.
“Do you have an idea for your digital story?”
“How was your Fourth of July?”
“What’s the best way to get ketchup and red wine out of a table cloth? ”
“Who can help me with Weebly?”
“Could you look at this piece to tell me if the transitions work, and if the ending is strong enough?”
Each of these is a question I heard asked by someone during their time at the CRWP Summer Institute. Each of these led to discussions between two or more people. Sometimes the discussions were short, other times they were long, and a time or two the discussions were later revisited. Although it might appear that the conversations were casual, they were still interactions in which two or more people needed to communicate with others and needed to know what others knew in order to help their own learning or thinking.Continue reading The Value of Talk→
… participants will explore the complexities of teaching writing in a digital age in which students potentially play the role of writer, multimedia creator, collaborator, publisher, reader/viewer/audience member, and critic during their online engagement both during and outside of school. This four-day event will also provide a space for dialogue between K-12 and university educators about the ways that the teaching of writing is enacted in schools, colleges, workplaces, and communities.