Monday, October 17, 2016

Daily Blog  10/15/16

Opening: Chris opened by projecting an abstract image and asking “What is this?  Or, What could this be?  What does it remind you of?”
The notion that recognizing is a thinking skill.  It opens the mind, frees our thinking allowing us to see new possibilities.

Writing Time 9:10- 10:10

Photo%20on%2010-15-16%20at%2011.19%20AM%20(1).jpg        Revitalizing Revision
             Bobby Livingston’s workshop

Bobby provided recommendations for how to motivate students to revise their writing including: Teach them to ask questions.  Encourage them to write expressively.  Seek ways to help students find authentic purposes so they become attached to their message.  Write small scale low-stakes writing exercises, write with students, etc.

He provided a good number of practical activities and strategies for teachers to use with students.

Creative Problem Solving Strategies
Chris Newcomb’s workshop

Chris presented on Creative Problem Solving Strategies and how we can use them to help ourselves and our students create new ideas and solutions.

In what ways might we…?

Chris encouraged us to think in terms of many possible ways to solve problems, find answers, and create ideas. He shared an acronym that provides strategies for creative thinking called CREATIVE WAYS. Chris shared a variety of activities that could be used to encourage divergent or creative thinking. We all read a Frog and Toad book, A List, and applied the strategies to creating an activity for students to complete using the story.

Leveled Annotation
Courtney McCann’s workshop

Courtney taught us about annotation, a structured way to markup text and dig deeper through multiple readings. Specifically, she taught us about leveled annotation, which allows students to focus on different kinds of thinking/responses to their reading.

We looked at some amazing examples of student annotation - and noted how the students were making their thinking visible. We discussed what they understood and what they were puzzled by.

We all spent some trying out leveled annotation ourselves. We read parts of “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. It was quite a challenge for some of us!

You can see Courtney’s presentation here:

Student Driven Blogs
Darren Choate’s workshop

Darren presented on using blogs in the classroom. He focused on having students generate their own content by focusing on a particular topic. The focus was on building engagement and pushing kids gently forward through coaching, peer feedback, and praise of skills. The class provided a lot of great ideas about how to guide students forward and how to get even more out of blogging in the future.

The closing moment was a poem called “I Care and I’m Willing to Serve” by Marian Wright Edelman.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Afternoon Fall 9.24.16

After lunch Bridgette started us off with a wonderful writing outdoors workshop as a practice to engage students in observation and creating questions. Twenty minutes of observation and writing time outside on a blustery, crispy, yet warm fall day revealed twelve different perspectives  and questions.    Below are the questions we asked.

Darren - How complex is a little beetle and what organs for they have?

Rebecca- Whether the drought would affect the inside of the milkweed pod/

Bridgette- Why is the dandelion stem called a clock?

Shawn- What is your obsession with personification in nature?

Bobby- Where did I associate and reflect and where did I observe?

Shawne- What words can be used to describe the different ways wind moves?

Kim - Why is writing easier for me right now, is it because I am outside?

Susan- Is there a word for a group of crickets?

Courtney- Why doesn’t the air move like this in Ohio?

Chris- Why was the building that houses all the gardening tools be so ugly?

Patricia - Where does this wind go?

Jane - Does the sun hear the elder pine’s pleas for rain?

Last portion of the day we discussed Teaching the Neglected R in small groups using Save the Last Word protocol Patricia introduced.

Shawne’s closing moment spoke to the importance of art, specifically  music in “the need to decompress and pull oneself back together”.  It was lovely.  Perfect. As a final closing we read each other’s mindful moments throughout the day, connecting end to beginning!


Praise for Kim - Conferring with Writers
Your presentation included all the important point: content, examples, demonstration, active engagement. Each piece was clearly tied to your goals and could easily be incorporated right away in a classroom.
I like your several practices you gave us and the opportunity to try it out.
Wow! That was fabulous! You did a great job keeping your presentation varied, engaging and hands-on.
Super job connecting the different points you made with personal experiences.
Love the easy to follow organization!
Extensively organized with materials and effective visual aids!!
Your presentation was engaging and valuable. There is so much I can take from it into my classroom right now!!
Well researched, great videos.
Wonderfully useful tools for conferring!
Your workshop was chock-full with really useful take-aways, without feeling rushed.
I loved the open nature of your style. It allowed us to be engaged and ask questions.

Praise for Susan - Reading through a Writer’s Lens
I REALLY appreciated the specificity of your instruction and the practice opportunities - useful materials too.
Wonderful, helpful, amazing presentation. Your books are great.
Thank you for sharing your collection of beautiful books. The process for “gathering craft from literature” was effective.
This presentation touches what I believe is most important for literacy teachers.
Loved the work you built into your presentation. It was very fruitful and important.
I loved having time to read picture books!! And the emphasis on slowing down.
Great presentation - loaded with practical information, just enough info to satisfy but not overwhelm.
Thank you! Excellent! Brought home the importance of really showing what showing means!
The activities provided tons of inspiration. Chock full of great info and lists of ideas for all grades levels.
Craft vs. message - so much of the separation of these 2 things aligns with my own workshop! You did an excellent job and I love your passion for this; it’s infectious.
Your workshop was so engaging, interactive and informative!

Wonderful, helpful, amazing presentation. Your books are great!


Here's the video about my college roommate who won one of the MacArthur genius awards.

Her videos are jam-packed with word play, literary allusions and historical references.

Padlet Link

Image result for padlet
Click this link to access the Padlet for today's Conferring with Writers presentation.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Susan opened the morning with some book talks featuring picture books that are perfect for launching Writer's Workshop. They included Mr. Zinger's Hat by Cary Fagan, One Day. The End.:Short, Very Short, Shorter Than Ever Stories by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, and My Pen by Christopher Myers .  

Patricia and Brigid reviewed the portfolio expectations for the fall session. They reminded us that we don't have to create an whole portfolio but can add the fall requirements to the portfolio we created this summer. You can access all of the course requirements here

Brigid led us in a team building activity that included pairing up with a partner, playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors". The loser then became the cheerleader for their partner, who moved on to a new partner. In the end it came down to a dual between Bobby and Patricia! The cheering was boisterous! The competition intense...requiring several rounds. In the end Patricia came out victorious and we all had a great laugh! Together we created a document of ideas that can be used in our classrooms to offer students (and ourselves) brain and body breaks. You can access the document here

After some time for independent writing, we broke up into book groups to discuss our professional reading related to "Rethinking Teaching Practice". Small groups shared out central ideas from their texts, along with a 3-5 minutes lesson idea.  

A working lunch allowed us time to meet with our mentors to talk out (and hopefully firm up) our plans our upcoming workshops or action research projects. Time was provided to writing a blurb for the presentations and a schedule was created. You can access the blurbs here and the remaining Saturday schedule here

Tim Lynch, USM Research Librarian, came to teach us how to use the USM Databases to search for peer reviewed articles.  His interactive presentation included how to navigate the new USM website, find the Library Databases, tips for narrowing searches by topic to find peer reviewed articles, and how to create a bibliography. The time was very helpful! 

After meeting with our Writing Groups, Susan shared several websites that are helpful resources for teaching in general. Both The Nerdy Book Club blog and The Educator Collaborative blog are also great places to publish work related to teaching and learning.

The Two Writing Teachers Blog
The Nerdy Book Club

The Educator Collaborative 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday, July1, 2016

Wow!  It's July and the last day of the Summer Institute!

Brigid shared a heartwarming video from Story Corps that tells a tale of how a book mobile transformed a young girl's life.

During Teach Me Tech, Chris introduced us to, a free online video downloading program.  If a school, home, or other venue's network is unreliable, having the video downloaded on a device is a handy way to avoid having to go to Plan B.  Keepvid is another platform that will also allow users to import a video into iMovie for editing.

Rebecca, Denise, and Tim met with groups to share options for life after ISFI.  Monthly writing groups, led by Leah Siviski, meet at a variety of places on different days of the week.  They require no commitment and feed our writing souls.  Professional Development opportunities include the annual fall conference, ISFI presentations, and professional learning groups, to name a few.  The Young Authors Camps are a great way to experiment new teaching ideas or work with students who represent different grade levels from the students you typically work with.  Of course, it is a treasure to work with YAC campers, students who chose to join a writing camp!

Our final mentor meeting of the summer focussed on discussing each Fellow's idea for the path he/she is leaning toward.   Several Fellows have already signed up for the fall workshop presentation slots.

After an outstanding pizza selection from Otto's, everyone shared a passage, poem, or piece of prose to read aloud followed by a quiet reading of the portfolios.  The variety of genres, voices, humor, surprises, and emotions revealed were heartening.  Your passion and talent are absolutely inspiring, and it is exciting to have you in the SMWP family.

Closing Moment:  Happy People Dancing On Planet Earth 

Pizza Survey!

Please take our pizza survey!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Last Summer Day Checklist

All the things that need to be accomplished today are neatly contained within this document.  Please make sure to open all your permissions on your google docs to "anyone with the link can comment."
Eleanore Morse

Calmness suffused over our boisterous crew as Eleanor lulled us into a sense of awe with her lullaby voice beckoning us, "to be willing to open to the something that waits there for us so we can live in its shadowy presence and find a way to discover our radiant moments and use the  details to create our transcendent, radiant moments. Luminous, transcendent, holy, limitless".

“Details in writing can capture these moments of awe.  Details come from accurate noticing - be receptive to new world’s looking at the scene. Pay attention, intensely. We each have our own voices. Value, respect it! Allow silence, listen to the silence of your memory”.

Eleanor ended with this blessing - “May your heart be broken with radiant moments”.

If you would like, please post in a couple of sentences what you captured!

Last Part of the Day

Some of us scurried over to purchase Eleanor's books. And then we all met in our writing groups, some taking the time to write, while others shared their writing. It sounded like a productive time, hearing snippets of Bobby and Shawne's work.

Mercedes awesome closing moment video:


Was your interest piqued during the Carousel Brainstorming activity about sketching noting? While I haven't personally tried it, I have several friends who are using it and raving about the technique for capturing notes and thinking, both for themselves and students. So here are some resources for those of you who might be interested in learning more about the concept.

This blog post will give you a quick overview of the idea of sketchnoting.

Sketchnoting 101: How to Create Awesome Visual Notes

Sylvia Duckworth's Sketchnoting for Beginners Google Slide presentation

Don't feel like you have the drawing abilities to sketchnote? Me too! Here's a video using the ideas without drawing a thing.

Our Voice Thread Comments

Blog the Day 6/30/16

Opening Moment
"Hope is a renewable option: If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning." - Barbara Kingsolver

We began the morning with Jane's opening moment, which was a reflection of Barbara Kingsolver's video reflection titled "On Writing"

Kingsolver discusses her process for writing and revision: "My first drafts are full of clunkiness, be assured that the first time I wrote that sentence it didn't sing on the page. Mostly they come and splat on the page and you say oh dear and move on... and then you revise and revise and revise. It's like being a musician and you have this enormous piece to play... you don't make it all perfect on the same keep at it, you attend, you listen, you read your words aloud to yourself. The great thing is that nobody gets to see my junk. I have the great luxury of keeping a work until its exactly the way I want to put it out to the world... Every time I start a novel it's clunky. I'll get in there and muck least now we have the delete key." -Kingsolver

Teach Me Tech with Jane
VoiceThread is an online collaboration app that uses multi-media, most of all student voices to create, edit, revise projects, papers, presentations, and more.  There are multitude of uses for Voice thread.  Below is a link to a PDF explaining some of the educational advantages for using VoiceThread:

If you have a VoiceThread account please click on the link below:

If you do not have an account please sign in using:

Password: ISFI16

VoiceThread taps into the idea that audio is the first mode of communication and can be very useful, but we often forget about its usefulness. VoiceThread creates a platform for sharing ideas via audio.

Jane showed us how we could login and create identities on her page as if we were students. With a few laughs, tech glitches and identity scrambled, we fumbled our way through VoiceThread to explore how to view and contribute to audio files as a group.

"The idea is so that they can hear their own voices and have a conversation." -Jane Fullerton

Fellows talked about how they use VoiceThread (e.g. Bobby uses for IB students to record their reading of a poem and then to respond to students' recordings. Students can also do critiques of their own or others' audio recordings.)  

Writing Across the Curriculum Workshop
Kelly Crockett, a teacher from Raymond Middle School shared her ideas about integrating writing across the curriculum with us.

What does writing across the curriculum mean to us and how do we feel like we are part of writing across the curriculum?
-every classroom teacher is a writing teacher and integrating writing in all classes, writing is a shared responsibility
-tension with content teachers around time (E.g. focus on teaching students how to write a lab report at the expense of covering content)
-presumption that English teachers are the only ones responsible for teaching writing
-finding common ground around expectations for writing and teaching writing
-math is a language and writing can be a focus there too

Ideas in Prezi (from Content Area Writing: Every Teacher's Guide by Daniels, Zemelman, Steineke):
-writing helps students become more actively engaged in subject matter
-writing can save classroom time while deepening comprehension of the subject
-writing is the key to differentiation
-when students make their thinking visible in writing, test performance often increases
-writing skills are a predictor of academic success
-never add anything new in your teaching schedule unless you take something away (get rid of what's not needed)

We did a carousel brainstorm activity where we wrote down our ideas on chart paper responding to different ways to incorporate writing to learn for that content area (Math, Science, Art, Phys Ed, Health). We moved around to each posted and added our ideas to the existing list. Here are the photos of the Carousel Activity. We were then asked about what ways we'd use the Carousel brainstorming in our classroom.

We then did a Walkaround Survey, where we read an article titled "Cutting Cursive, The Real Cost" and took notes on it to find "a couple of essential facts".  We then wrote down those 3 facts that we annotated into a graphic organizer chart. We then paired up and shared our facts with others to add to our chart. The point of the exercise was to accumulate and share new info. gleaned from the article by walking around and discussing our findings with others who read the same article. We were then asked about what ways we'd use the Walk Around Survey in our classroom.

We then watched a video called "Our Story in 2 Minutes" which depicted an interpretation of our human history & evolution through images and were asked to write down our thoughts, questions and reactions. We passed our responses to the left and added our thoughts to the paper in a Write Around.

Finally, we discussed Exit Slips & Admit Slips:
-Exit Slips are quick responses to a question about the day's learning
-Keep the question simple
-Allow the 5 minutes at the end of class!
-What do you want to know about what students are learning (or not)?
-read the Exit Slips that day to help drive/guide your instruction in a timely way
-Admit Slips are given as an assignment to bring in the next day
-can be similar to an Exit Slip

We finished with an Exit Slip in the form of the following: One thing I learned today about Writing Across the Curriculum is_____. Because of that I plan to _______.

Book Discussion: Teaching Writing Category
Sarah Collins facilitated our book discussions for our Teaching Writing Category books. She reviewed the protocol for discussion with us first to explain the steps. In our groups, we discussed the book's best selling points (including a specific writing strategy) and shared our findings in 3 minute presentations with the larger group.

The first group presented a video book review for Fletcher & Patalupi's Craft Lessons.

The second group shared a Google Presentation for Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This.

The third group  presented their teaser Animoto review of Crafting Writers by Elizabeth Hale.

The fourth group shared their thoughts and review of Barry Lane's After The End.  

Afterwards, we did a quick whiparound, sharing our thoughts on what we liked and how we might apply our takeaways from these books to our classrooms.  

Eleanor Morse, Guest Author Talk
Eleanor discussed the idea of "radiant moments" in writing or in a story and the "power of details to create transcendence." Morse offered that her "desire to capture these moments is one of the reasons that I write. I'm talking about moments we might say are beyond words - moments that are euphoric, luminous, transcendent, holy, awe-inspiring."  

One of the reason for "the arts" is to capture those moments.  Morse stated that we would focus on how "well chosen details can support those radiant moments." Morse reflected on a childhood experience leaving her family's lake house in New Hampshire and pressing her face against the car window to see the final glimpse of the lake and a stream of light coming down through the clouds.

"Awe prompts people to redirect concern away from the self and toward everything else." -Jake Abrahamson

How do we write about those things that fill us with that sense of wonder without that "gosh, golly sentimentality".     -EM

"Without these moments of awe literature feels arid and without music." -EM

"Idea that it takes 3 generations of monarch butterflies to return to the same spot where they started. Part of the process of creating something revelatory in our fiction is to believe that there's something within us that's asking to be released." -EM

Stanley Kunis' "The Wild Braid" talks about the writing process in relation to gardening in his garden.  

"If the terrain were familiar the poem would be dead on birth. The path of the poem is through the unknown and even the unknowable, toward something for which you can find a language. It is that struggle, of course, that gives the poem its tension. If the poem moved only through the familiar, it would be so relaxed that it would have no tension, no, mystery, nothing that could even approximate revelation, which is the ultimate goal of the poem."  

Eleanor asked us to share our own radiant moments: Jane shared her experience of seeing a double rainbow, and a hummingbird.  
Shawne described the feeling of being in a bee suit and pulling out the queen and all the bees surrounding her in a calm humming.
Chris described seeing his shadow during a full moon.
Brigid described the shift in the air before a storm coming and the sky turned green and you could feel the electricity in the air.
Darren shared his experience flying to Japan and the sunset over Mount Fuji and suddenly feeling the awe and wonder of arriving across the world.
Rebecca shared the image of yellow gingko trees all falling at once in the sunlight after a rain storm.  

Eleanor then read to us several excerpts of radiant moments illustrated through descriptive details from several of her favorite authors and texts.

"Details are the engine that bring your reader inside your world" -EM
Importance of showing not telling.
Adjectives and adverbs tend to act as covers for writing. Example: He walked joyfully through the park. (tells vs. shows)

Eleanor passed out writing prompts on strips of paper and we each took 3 and passed them to our neighbor. We had the choice to integrate 1, 2 or 3 of the prompts into a writing response, focusing on integrating descriptive details.  

How to nourish these radiant moments in your own writing:
  • Make Your Ego Porous
  • Notice, Observe, Stay Awake - noticing is the first act of writing, so pay attention to everything around you. Pay attention to your voice as a writer and value and respect it because you are the only person in the world who will be like you
  • Make Space for Silence and Mystery - make language from silence in order to move into something that hasn't been created before
  • Love the Questions Themselves- "Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language." -Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Have Courage and Be Open - be willing to have your heart open and broken

    "May your heart be broken and open with radiant details." -EM