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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Teaching Remotely Without Being Distant – Online PD Event (January 30, 2021)

Teaching Remotely without Being Distant Flyer
Teaching Remotely without Being Distant Flyer

As educators continue to integrate writing into all forms of remote learning — and grapple with the emotional aspects of teaching in 2020-21 academic year — the Chippewa River Writing Project is offering a half-day mini-conference on Saturday, January 30, 2021.

Through whole- and small-group Zoom sessions in which we will model our own synchronous online literacy learning for middle and high school students, we welcome up to 90 K-College teachers to join us for the day, and to gain insights on best practices for remote learning.

We will engage in a synchronous Zoom session from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM EST, with brief breaks , exploring topics such as:

  • Creating an Online Teaching Presence
  • Organizing an Online Classroom
  • Creative Approaches to Any Time (Asynchronous) Learning
  • Engaging Students during Real Time (Synchronous) Instruction
  • Authentic Assessment for Online Learning

Session Agenda

  • 10:00 – 10:10 – Welcome and Overview
  • 10:15 – 11:05 – Breakout Session 1
  • 11:15 – 12:00 – Breakout Session 2
  • 12:05 – 12:50 – Breakout Session 3
  • 12:50 – 1:00 – Door Prizes and Invitation to Future CRWP Events

Email confirmation of participation in three hours of PD will be delivered after the event. No SCECHs will be available.

Registration Costs and Guidelines:

  • Registration cost: $10
  • Registration closes: 11:59 PM EST on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
  • Cancellation policy: No refunds available, but registrations are transferable by contacting Troy Hicks <>

Enrollment this workshop is limited to 90 participants, so sign up now using our secure web form where we will ask for your contact information, and then you will be asked to click through to CMU’s Quik Pay system for billing.

Screenshot of Registration Form for Remote Literacy Learning
Screenshot of CMU Registration Page

CRWP’s November Feature Spotlight

Congratulations to Troy Hicks for being CRWP’s  November Feature Spotlight. Read about Troy below.
Troy Hicks Portrait (2018)
Fortunately, I can say that I have been part of the Chippewa River Writing Project since it was just a vision. As I was finishing my doctoral work and had already established relationships with others in the National Writing Project, the idea of bringing an NWP site to CMU was part of that conversation when I was hired. To that end, my most memorable moment with CRWP came when I got the call, on my birthday, that we would, indeed, become a site, a reflection I shared in a post for the NWP Archives (
Working with students and helping them build their arguments, through both words, sentences, and paragraphs as well as through images, sounds, links, and other multimodal elements. As writers work, they discover what it is that they really want to say, and then they begin again. Mentoring students through that process is both a challenge and a joy, making those moments in writing conferences and when offering feedback some of the most powerful experiences for me as a teacher of writing.
In the past year, I have been pleased to co-author two books with CRWP colleagues. In February, Jeremy Hyler, Wiline Pangle, and I celebrated the release of Ask, Explore, Write!: An Inquiry-Driven Approach to Science and Literacy Learning ( Then, in June, my book with Andy Schoenborn, Creating Confident Writers: For High School, College, and Life ( hit the shelves. For both of these projects, I have been fortunate enough to learn with and from my collaborators, and we continue to think about how best to support student writers, from middle school through high school, and beyond.
At the moment, my favorite author is educational technologist Neil Selwyn. His books (such as Distrusting Educational Technology <>) and articles (such as Postdigital living in the age of Covid-19: unsettling what we see as possible <>) remind me that, for all that it can do, ed tech continues to become more and more problematic. His critical stance is one that I find helpful as I try to frame my own arguments about when, why, and how to use technology for teaching and learning.
Focus your feedback. It is in our nature to want to give students lots of feedback, as we are likely a bit geeky in that way, craving tons of response to our own writing. However, too much feedback can be overwhelming for writers, and a drain on you. Provide timely, specific, goal-oriented feedback at various stages of the writing process, and model the kinds of writerly moves that you would expect students to emulate. In doing so, you are helping them “feed forward,” putting those ideas into practice.