Digital Writers’ Notebooks – Session #5 of the CRWP 2020-21 Webinar Series

Digital Writer's Notebook Cover Slide - CRWP 2020_2021 Webinar Series

In our January webinar, Chippewa River Writing Project teacher consultant and Springport High School teacher Becky Schwartz (@RSchwartz702) shared her feelings about moving into remote and hybrid learning, and one key adaptation that she made: a digital writer’s notebook for her writers. Weaving in some Pear Deck interactivity to her session, Becky then provided a deeper dive into a lesson using George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From” poem.

Inviting us to make a copy of her digital writer’s notebook template, then led us through a process of crafting our own “Where I’m From” poem. Reminding us that students appreciate her sharing some personal stories of her own in her own poem, Becky helped us see the ways that students could begin with a brainstormed list of memories, then invite students to highlight and categorize them, ultimately moving their words into stanzas and creating their own poem. 

As an extension, Becky described the ways that she has students take their initial version of the “Where I’m From” poem and added media elements in the slide deck. From there, she teaches students how to use audio and screen recording tools to create an audio and/or video version of their poems. By moving students through this scaffolded process, she is able to have students share their voices in a meaningful manner. Moreover, we need to take some time to listen, and to ask them what they might need. 

Finally, we share Becky’s presentation slides and digital writer’s notebook. She reminded us, too, than even our screen-savvy students are sometimes a little hesitant to try out new technologies. Providing them with time and space to play with poetry — and technology — can be a powerful opportunity for literacy learning. 

We welcome you to sign up for future webinar sessions and to join us for our mini-virtual conference on Saturday, January 30th, “Teaching Remotely without Being Distant.” And, we invite you to follow CRWP on Facebook or on Twitter: @chippewariverwp.


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The New York Times Learning Network: Session #4 of the CRWP 2020-21 Webinar Series

Cover Slide - New York Times Learning Network Presentation from Dr. Sharon Murchie

In our webinar on December 15, 2020, Chippewa River Writing Project teacher consultant and Okemos High School teacher Dr. Sharon Murchie (@smurchies) talked about her work with The New York Times Learning Network.

Dr. Murchie’s presentation slides with all of these links can be found here

Dr. Murchie started us off by letting us know that high school students can get the NY Times for free from now until September 2021! She then introduced us to the seven authentic writing units that are available for teachers that include mentor texts, examples, resources, contests, and videos that help you give your students amazing writing opportunities. Additionally, Dr. Murchie talked about countless resources and activities your students have available for free from The New York Times

These are great engagement activities for students to practice inferences, start writing, and get kids thinking and discussing current events 

Dr. Murchie also introduced us to The New Times’ Hyper-Nation series as part of the Race, Racism and Racial Justice Resources as a way to help teach some of this difficult race and cultural issues that are hard to start conversations/discussions with our students. She brought up her work with the Learning Network using modern and engaging mentor texts in a project she has called “Writing Our Own Lives.” Her lesson has students pick their own reading list of short mentor texts from The New York Times “Lives” column. She wanted to have students write for real world audiences and engage with real world stories to help them not only become better writers but also better writers for her senior’s Common App work. Dr. Murchie shared her journey this far about how this has goin in her classroom this year. 

Finally, Dr. Murchie introduced us to some of  the ideas she has for her future teaching from her work with the Times. First are the mentor texts that the Times offers as part of a series called “Annotated by the Author’s” where the authors talk about their craft and choices. This is a powerful opportunity for students to see and hear other writers and student writer’s think and make choices in an authentic way. Dr. Murchie discusses wanting to discuss a video series called “A Conversation on Race” that will further help with some of those difficult conversations to have with students. And last but not least, she gave us an idea for your substitute teacher folder in 550 potential writing topics from the Times as well. 

If your mind is blown by all these resources, Dr. Murchie recommends starting with ‘What is going on in this picture?’ and then work to apply it to writing to start. 

Please follow CRWP on Facebook or on Twitter: @chippewariverwp.


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Strategies for Asynchronous and Synchronous Instruction in Elementary Grades: Session #3 of the CRWP 2020-21 Webinar Series

Strategies for Asynchronous and Synchronous Instruction in Elementary Grades Cover Slide

In our webinar on November 17, 2020, North Branch Elementary School teacher — and one of CRWP’s newest teacher consultants — Lyndsay Young discusses strategies you can use with your kids for both whole class, real time teaching as well as solo, any time learning opportunities. A master of active learning strategies with technology, Lynsday discusses her use of engaging teaching tools such as Nearpod, PearDeck, Padlet, Conceptboard, and Flipgrid.

Throughout the session, Young discusses her reasoning for choosing PearDeck, which includes both ease of use for her students and the ways in which this tool can be flexible in a variety of settings, from elementary teaching all the way to college level instruction. PearDeck is an add-on for Google Slides that allows you to create live interactive activities that can be used for formative assessment, to prompt discussion, to invite written response, and provide even more live engagement tools. Moreover, she talked about how to make PearDeck as a “student paced,” asynchronous lesson for students who are absent from the live lessons. 

Within PearDeck, Lyndsay integrates a number of other tools to streamline student work and activities in one place. Padlet, a collaborative space for brainstorming and curating resources can be integrated easily. In a similar manner, Conceptboard (an interactive whiteboard that is also a Chrome extension) allows you to have activities and engagement works with sticky notes and jigsawing. Young also discusses how to use Flipgrid for asynchronous activities to continue student learning and interaction. 

PearDeck — in combination with these other great tools — might be the game changer you are looking for! 

Here are some of the resources shared during Lyndsay’s presentation:

Additional Resources:


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Using Break Out Rooms Effectively in the Writing Classroom: Session #2 of the CRWP 2020-21 Webinar Series

Using Break Out Rooms Cover Slide

In our October 20, 2020 webinar, Chippewa River Writing Project director and Central Michigan University professor Dr. Troy Hicks (@hickstro) presented ideas on how to use break out rooms effectively. Dr. Hicks challenged us not to worry or think about what meeting platform we are using, but how we want to use our breakout rooms. 

He asked us to begin to begin to think of our activities as “anytime learning” (asynchronous)  and “real time learning” (synchronous). He presented us with important questions such as:

  • What do we value?
  • What can we do to make the most of the precious time we have with our students?

Dr. Hicks introduced the Harvard Project Zero’s Thinking Routines Toolbox and the National School Reform Faculty’s Protocols for collaborative work and small group discussions. He had us consider how we might blend these ideas with popular activities and literacy structures such as the 4C’s Collaborative Writing Activity, KWL charts, Venn Diagrams, Jigsaw reading, Save the Last Word, probing questions, and more, all giving us a great example of lessons to make the most of our time with students. 

This session was packed with great activities, ideas, and resources for how to better use your real time learning experiences with your students in break out rooms this year!  

Here are the links to the resources shared during Dr. Hicks’ presentation:


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