Saturday, July 20, 2019

Learners at the Center of Our Workshop: week 3 #cyberPD

This week the #cyberPD community has been reading the final chapters  in Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman.  (More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 8 Small Group Instruction:  High Value, High Reward
  • Chapter 9  Share Sessions:  Engaging All Writers to Support a Thriving Community
  • Chapter 10  Strategic Instruction in Grammar, Conventions, and Spelling

Toward Student Ownership
The first time I was brave enough to throw the goal setting aspect of writing growth to my first graders, I was stunned by the results.  We had spent much time growing a writing identity, but really needed to dig in to develop our writing.  Having noticed that the greatest shifts came from conferences in which writers were able to articulate what they wanted to do next instead of my suggesting next steps, I decided to try to have each student set their own goal for writing. I wasn't sure how it would go, but I was pleasantly surprised as students selected their goals.  Nearly every student selected a goal I would have chosen as well, but now they owned it.  The biggest challenge seemed to be kids that were too hard on themselves, not reflections that were shallow.  

These chapters really moved us from establishing writing identities, past building strong writing communities, toward giving students ownership of their writing and next steps.  I appreciated the many ways Lynne and Stacey shared ideas for putting students in the driver's seat.  

Three Big Ideas
  1. Consider small groups to develop peer writing connections and learner agency.  There are a variety of ways to adjust support in small group instruction.  Small group instruction can often provide a link from whole group instruction to independence, support students who need to make gains, and as the authors remind provide opportunities for enrichment.  The authors discuss ways to let students have more ownership in writing by choosing small group support they need, creating interest groups, and providing opportunities for collaboration among other possibilities.  
  2. Learner agency can be grown through the end of workshop share.  While the mini lesson sets the tone for the work writers will do, the share helps to bring things together.  Dorfman and Shubitz remind, "Having a share session at the end of every writing workshop provides closure to writers and often gives them something to think about as they ponder the work they'll do the following day."  I love this image of the share as not only a way to look back, but also to help writers to see down the path toward new possibility.  The possibilities shared by the authors for different ways to share in our communities pushed me to think not only about the many types of shares we might lead, but also to consider ways the share can help writers to see the value in their work, dig a little deeper, and maintain ownership.  
  3. Revision and editing happen throughout the writing process.  The writing process isn't linear, yet we often think of revision and editing as something that happens at the end of this process.  In many ways, this makes it cumbersome for young writers.  I appreciated the idea to think more about ways to help writers make revision and editing decisions as they work through the process.  

Two Questions to Ponder
  1. Should editing conversations be part of peer conferences?  The authors share their belief that editing conversations should be between the teacher and the student.  They make some good points about the challenges that come from peer edits, yet I have known writing pairs who rely on each other for this work and do so with some success.  I want to think more about this.
  2. How do we help young writers to see their fingerprint and then push toward next steps?  Maybe fingerprint isn't the right word here as fingerprint never changes, but what I would hope is that writers learn their style.  In knowing their fingerprint they begin to see the strengths in their writing, but also push toward continual growth.  Once students have a strong sense of their writing identity, how do we help them to find (and own) their stretch as writers?  

One Next Step

  1. Think more about a writer's "fingerprint."  Stacey and Lynne used the word "fingerprint" often to describe what authors often rely on "to build content, speak with a unique voice, and organize their writing."  I think of it as the craft moves that are characteristic of a writer.  This would be a great way to talk with students about an author's style, look more closely at mentors, and transition to the varying styles within our writing community.  I'd like to spend some time with a few authors working this process.  



Want to read more reflections?  Please stop by our MeWe #cyberPD community.  Also, please join us for our Twitter chat with the authors of Welcome to Writing Workshop on Tuesday, July 23rd at 8:30 EST.  

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Weaving a Thread Through Our Workshop: Week 2 #cyberPD

This week the #cyberPD community has been reading and reflecting about chapters 5-7 in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  (It's not too late to join us.  More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 5 Whole Class Instruction:  Setting a Positive Tone and Building Enthusiasm
  • Chapter 6  Independent Writing Time:  The Importance of Giving Students the Time to Write
  • Chapter 7  Conferring:  Individualize Instruction, Build Community and Set Goals



Connecting Our Teaching
When I began taking conferring notes with Evernote, I realized I finally found the best way to connect teaching for the writers I was sitting beside.  Thanks to Evernote's way of displaying snippets from past notes beside a new note, I discovered the perfect way to make sure I was connecting writing conversations for students.  Before that, it was easy to realize I was having "popcorn conversations" that likely focused more on the writing than the writer.  

These chapters from Lynne & Stacey really brought to mind the importance of connected teaching for young writers.  Whether connecting across the workshop from the mini-lesson to the share, connecting conferring conversations for writing, or connecting teaching across a unit of study, I was continually reminded of the importance of these intentional moves that support writers as they continue to grow.  


Three Big Ideas
  1. Mini-lessons connect conversations for writers.  The mini-lessons we teach reflect the curriculum writers need to grow, but also are responsive to what we notice about our students' writing.  Following "the basic architecture - connection, teaching, active engagement, and a link" can enhance the lessons for the writers in our learning community.  
  2. The workshop allows us to differentiate support for our writers.  Stacey and Lynne refer to the "I do, we do, you do" sequence that I first learned from Regie Routman.  This is a delicate balance as we want writers to find their own way and too much support can leave them trying to replicate our work instead of making applying the strategy in new ways and connecting it to their work.  I'm reminded of the work of Fountas & Pinnell which creates a framework that utilizes community writing (shared an interactive writing), small group guided writing opportunities, and conferring to support students toward independence.  Additionally, these ways to adjust support allow us to follow the lead of our students with greater ease and help move from differentiation to personalization.
  3. Writing workshop allows students to find their own path.  Speaking of personalization, giving students consistent opportunities to write allows them to shape their own learning.  I appreciated the many ways the authors shared we can support students in a conference.  

Two Questions to Ponder
  1. What are some of the ways we can help students to have more ownership in a writing conference?  We've all walked away from a conferring conversation we thought rocked only to find the writer not hang onto the move we were trying to teach.  The more ownership students have in this conversation the greater the impact on their writing.  
  2. How do we nurture stronger peer conferring?  I'm thinking this has to do with two important pieces students need.  They need to understand the language they can use to best support a partner, but also how to hear comments from peers.  For example, I know when I am in writing groups I listen to everything everyone says.  Some comments open my eyes to new other possibilities, yet others shed light on challenges the reader is having in understanding my message.  Personal preferences can also be a part of someone's conversation so students need to know how to listen and search for the information they need.  


One Next Step 
  1. Begin to collect (and organize) mentors that I might use across grade levels as I work with writers.  Particularly, I want to find mentors that show the varied ways writers make intentional craft moves to enhance their message.  

Next week we take a look at the final chapters in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  Please feel free to join us at anytime.  Here's our schedule: 




Saturday, July 6, 2019

Building a Writing Community: #cyberPD Week 1

This week the #cyberPD community has been reading and reflecting about chapters 1-4 in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  (It's not too late to join us.  More information can be found here.)


  • Chapter 1 What is Workshop?
  • Chapter 2  The Write Environment:  Creating Our Classrooms
  • Chapter 3  A Community of Writers:  The Ingredients for Building and Sustaining Success
  • Chapter 4  Classroom Management:  Practical Procedures and Predictable Routines


Setting the Tone for Writing Works
As workshop teachers, we know that feeling when we look around the classroom and know that our community has become a community of writers.  Each year, there's that marvelous moment when we notice it has all come together.  Suddenly we look up to realize everyone is finding their way in their writing.  There's something about that quiet hum of a workshop, a predictable rhythm to the way we work, that is characteristic of a strong writing community.  

In truth, when I think about the many writing communities I've sat beside, I know that each year the goal was always the same, but the path is always different.  Every time the classroom fills with a new group of writers new stories percolate, new rhythms are discovered, new ways of working are determined as the writers come together in common understandings.  Yet there are essential pieces that are the bones of the workshop year after year.  There are building steps we take each year as we set about in the first days with a new writing community to allow us to grow forward.  

In these first chapters, Lynne and Stacey share key considerations in the first days of building our writing communities.  Summer is the perfect time to think about these first steps.  As I read, here are a few ideas that stuck out to me.  


Three Big Ideas 

  1. A workshop allows the space for a writer to grow their own identity.  "It is here [in writing workshop] that our students can concentrate on the act of writing and learn about their own writing process while establishing a writing identity," Shubitz and Dorfman remind (Chapter 1, loc 578).  This shifts our thinking from the types of writing writers will produce to a bigger picture of helping writers to learn to work flexibly with purpose to get their message across to their audience.  It acknowledges who they are as writers and pushes us past standardized methods of teaching writing.
  2. The intentional - and shared - decisions we make about our writing environment allow space for possibility.  From the physical spaces carved for writers to work alone or meet with peers to writing tools, mentor texts, and the way talk is leveraged in a workshop all open doors for our writers.  
  3. A workshop should provide opportunities for students to brush up against, and learn from, the thinking of other writers.  In chapter 2, Creating Our Classrooms, Dorfman and Shubitz write, "We want our writers to notice the ways in which different writers problem-solve, think aloud, and use strategies to improve their writing (loc 941)."  The idea of "Opening Our Minds to Let in Other People's Thinking" is full of possibility.  It speaks to learning from our peers and being open to new ways to craft our writing.  It pushes us to reach out to authors to move our work forward.  

Two Questions to Ponder 
  1. How can we help young writers to see the ways planning weaves across our writing process?  Reading the first chapters had me thinking more about planning.  For me, the first chapters shifted my thinking of planning in the prewriting stage of the writing process to the way we plan as we compose across days.  As a writer I plan before I begin, often jotting ideas and my plan for the composition.  Each time I sit down to work, however, I take the time to plan smaller steps.  I appreciated the ideas for using status of the class, plan boxes, peer conversations, end of workshop share, and conferring to learn more about the planning process.  I want to think more about this.  How do I help young writers to own this planning process each day?
  2. What are the mentor texts that help young writers envision new possibilities?  Whether setting up the environment, finding ways to lift student writing, or helping to build the mindset of writers, mentor texts can empower our writers.  

One Next Step 

  1. Create a small collection of writer snapshots to illustrate varied ways writers work.  I see these as a small set of informational snapshots that illustrate the way student writers, adult writers, and published authors go about composing.  What are their processes?  Favorite genres and topics for writing?  Favorite tools?  I'd like these to help to build conversations around finding our own writing process. 
Looking forward to next week's look into chapters 5-7.  


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It's July: Join Us for #cyberPD

For the last month, #cyberPD community members have been ordering their books, joining our MeWe community, and getting ready for the start of our July virtual book talk.  This week begins the discuss about Welcome to Writing Workshop by Lynne Dorfman and Stacey Shubitz.

Here's the schedule:




How to participate:
The great thing about #cyberPD is that everyone makes it what they want it to be.  Here are some ideas for joining the conversation:

  1. JOIN the MeWe #cyberPD community.
  2. FOLLOW the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD.
  3. READ and CONNECT.  As you read you can:
    • share quotes on Twitter
    • ask questions of the group
    • start conversations in the MeWe community
    • pin related articles, posts, quotes on our collaborative #cyberPD 2019 Pinterest Board
    • start a Voxer conversation
    • etc. etc. etc.
  4. SHARE.  After you read, choose the way you'd like to share your thinking.  Here are some ways people have shared in the past (but feel free to make up your own):
    • post a response on the MeWe community to the week's reading
    • write a blog post and share in MeWe and/or Twitter
    • create a sketch note response to share
    • use your favorite app to share your thinking and embed or link it to your post
  5. COMMENT on at least three other reflections.  
The power in this study each year has been the reflections of the community.  #cyberPD has participants from a variety of grade levels, positions, and experiences.  I've found each year that reading these varied perspectives truly enriches the learning I take away from the professional book.  No matter the professional book selected, these titles stay with me and impact the work I do because of the thoughtful reflections of the community. 

It's not too late to join the conversation.  Join the fun!  

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Hello Summer & Hello #cyberPD

Today's the day!!!  

The hubbub started this morning as Erika Victor reminded:


All through May #cyberPD community members were sharing their stacks on blogs, Goodreads, Twitter and our MeWe community site.  Some stacks were quite an ambitious, others just enough to allow time for some pleasure reading as well.  The stacks were full of great professional reads which made it challenging to select to the book for this summer's conversation.




Drumroll Please
I know you're all waiting.

You really stopped by to see our selected title for July's #cyberPD book talk. It's never easy to choose a title.  There are so many interesting professional books that have been released recently.  After looking at everyone's stack, we selected the title most often found in summer collections.

This year's #cyberPD title will be Welcome to Writing Workshop:  Engaging Today's Students with a Model That Works by Lynne Dorfman and Stacey Shubitz (also here).  





To join our community conversation in July:

Our July Schedule







Saturday, May 18, 2019

Share Your Stack: #cyberPD

Several years ago, in an effort to have more input into the #cyberPD professional book selection, we added a "Share Your Stack" component.  During this time, those interested in joining the #cyberPD conversation share their planned titles for summer professional reading.  I've found this step to be a bit dangerous.  As I see the stacks shared by others, my pile of summer reading just grows!  So many books....so little time.  #goodproblems

Of course, #cyberPD is a July book conversation, but we find it helpful to get books in advance for a variety of reasons.  Community members will be sharing their book stacks until the end of this week (May 25th).  In an effort to get some direction in my summer reading, I've selected my books for professional summer reading:


Want to know more?
Of course, we'd love to have you join us....so SHARE YOUR STACK!  You can link to the community's conversation on MeWe or using the Twitter Hashtag #cyberPD.  

We will announce the #cyberPD selection on June 1st!!!  I don't think this is going to be an easy decision....


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Hey, #cyberpd. It's time to share your stack!!!

Are you ready to share your stack?  (details at the bottom of this post)

What's in Your Stack?
I don't know about you, but as days tick in May I find myself thinking about summer reading.  I just can't help it.  I've started planning the fiction I hope to read, the middle grade books I need to add to my stack, and - of course - the professional reading I hope to do.  What can I say?  So many books....so little time.

#cyberPD
Building my summer professional bookstack means it is time to think about #cyberPD.    This will be our 9th year talking together about a professional book across digital spaces.  I read several professional books across a year, but the #cyberPD title always seems to stick with me and find its way into the work I do.

What's #cyberPD?  Each summer the #cyberPD community chooses a professional book to read and discuss in the month of July.  The event has certainly grown since its first year which began with less than fifteen people, but the community has remained collaborative.

Here are the books selected since 2011: 

Our Group Has Moved
If you are new to #cyberPD, I should give you a bit of quick history.  While our group has always maintained a strong Twitter presence through the hashtag #cyberPD, we have typically connected our posts in a hub-like space.  In the beginning years, after completing the reading, we linked to host blogs.  It wasn't long until we started using "Jog the Web" to create a collection of all posts.  Well, Jog the Web closed its site so our group moved to Google Communities.  Yep, you know where this is going.  In the early spring of this year, Google Communities closed.  Michelle and I wrestled with this as we think the collaborative conversation and flow of thoughts is such a key piece of #cyberPD.  Michelle suggested MeWe as a platform to allow us to keep the conversation going.  We are going to give it a try.  I mean, after all, the whole point of #cyberPD is to dive into new learning!

Take minute to stop by this year's MeWe group page to join the conversation:  https://mewe.com/join/cyberpd.

Share Your Stack
To get started, we first need to select our book for the 2019 July virtual book talk.  To help to do this, we are asking the #cyberPD community to share their book stacks.  By May 25th, please share the professional books you hope to read this summer.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and/or post on our group's new MeWe page. We'll select the title from these stacks.  It seems there are always about three that show up across stacks.   

The #cyberPD selection announcement will be made June 1st!  We want everyone to have time to get their books and mark their calendars.  We're looking forward to this amplified learning opportunity with all of you.  Join us.  

Share your stack....and join the fun.