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Unit of Study Fiction Writing Grades 3-5 October 27, 2009

Here are my notes from my first session at TCRWP Reunion Weekend. The presenter was a dynamo!

Writing- Short Fiction

Quick Look at Writing Process:

  • Generating (3-4 days)
  • Choosing (1 day)
  • Developing (5-6 days)
  • Drafting (1-2 days)
  • Revising (3 days)
  • Editing (2 days)
  • Publishing (1 day)


Generating (3 days; 4 if not enough blurbs to choose from Writing Story Blurbs-what the story could be about (do for 3-4 days)

  • Chart: Writers Generate Ideas By:
    • Paying attention to the issues (problems) in their lives –don’t let them pick too big of an idea
    • Imaging stories we wish existed in the world
    • Rereading their narrative entries in their writers notebooks and asking themselves, “How could I turn this into a different story?”
      • be very focused-specific-don’t pick whole story (example-playground)
        • 3rd grade-friendship-what happens at recess, can relate to through many times
        • Stories should match their age!!

3-4 days of Story Blurb Writing-We are filling up our notebooks!

Don’t worry about spelling and grammar at this point

Immediately draw a line and have 10-12 pieces (story blurbs) to choose from

  • Story Blurb examples:
  • Maybe I could write about these two girls competing…
  • Maybe I could write about a boy who goes to summer camp…
  • I wish I could read a story about a boy named Josh…

Writers, you are always saying there are no good stories to read in the library and…

  • Somebody…Wanted…But…So

          Pushes them to develop problem

Somebody Wanted (Feared, cared) Because But/so
Jade Cared about her dog Scruffy Because Scruffy was very special to her Her dog ran away and didn’t come back
Bill Wanted to find out why his mom was going out at night Because his mom had just gotten divorced He followed her and found out she was dating

Pick one from chart and stretch out into a story blurb

Mentor Text-Those Shoes

          Not “perfect” ending

          Not she wanted a dog so her mom bought her a dog

  • Choosing (1 day to select)
  • Developing/Nurturing/Rehearsal-need to spend more time on this so 1 day on story mountains or timelines 
  • Drafting
  • Revising
    • Dictionary definition-
      • to prepare a newly edited version (of a text)
      • to reconsider and change or modify-put on a different set of lenses
      • Editing
      • Publishing (1 day)
Possible Teaching Points for Generating with some Predictable problems and strategies

  • Trouble Coming Up with a Story Idea
  • Story Doesn’t Match the Genre
  • Students writing stories about themselves
  • Students Do Not Understand the Problem Arc


  • Trouble Coming Up with a Story Idea

                    Bring in mentor texts—that you could take and change-example Those Shoes

                   If you were reading this book what would you say about it? Is it interesting. Would you tell me what isn’t interesting. Let’s make something happen! Make idea stronger and working with it.

  • Story Doesn’t Match the Genre (flying, ghosts-we will do fantasy later in the year)
    • Ask Yourself, “Can it happen to you?” no superhero magic endings
  • Students writing stories about themselves

          How Can we tweak this?
                   Maybe different problem

                   Never say, “bad idea”-say “great idea-Let’s try tweaking it.”

  • Students Do Not Understand the problem arc-they solve the story immediately
Possible Teaching Points for Developing with some Predictable problems and strategies

  • Choosing a story they think is strong enough, one they want to work on and one they think they can write well
    • Which one do you want to work on and which one do you think they can write really well.
    • Writers can develop their internal and external traits and not holding on to the problem in the story—


  • Choosing a story they think is strong enough, one they want to work on and one they think they can write well
    • Which one do you want to work on and which one do you think they can write really well.
    • Writers can develop their internal and external traits and not holding on to the problem in the story—
Struggle Problem Internal (limit the #) External
He wants to be popular so he lies and says he cheated when he didn’t Bob has let his friend cheat from his test. He gets caught because teacher thinks
  • Usually honest
  • Good student
  • Smart
  • lonely
medium heightbrown hair

only child


  • Think about problem first
  • Shy girl problem-wouldn’t be super friendly and loud
  • 3rd Grade-booklets
    • Storytelling using story booklets-touch page and say aloud-do at least twice each
  • 4th/5th Grade
    • Creating story mountains with small actions
    • Breaking down their story mountains into smaller scenes by thinking about:
      •  change of setting
      • change of time
      • when new characters enter or leave the scene

Sketching our scene

  • Use a sentence strip
    • Rules: have to show time of day by including a clock or night/day
  • Bigger scenes-more happens
  • Smaller scenes-make boxes reflect that
  • Notebooks away-no looking during sketching the story
1 2 3 4 5 6

Story Mountain example- Illustrate how to put—Boxes around scene

On Choosing Day:

  • have them bring notebook and put a little star next to which one they think is strong enough
  • thumbs-up when you have your idea
  • give post-it note to thumbs-up and quickly see/assess ideas
  • 10-20 minutes on rug to choose
  • Let strugglers take notebook home the night before to pre-pick
Predictable Problems During Choosing/Developing

  • 1 dimensional characters
  • Story doesn’t have a clear plot
  • Struggling with creating a scene
  • The solution is without struggle
  • There is no tension building up


  • 1 dimensional characters
    • Really evil or really nice
  • Story doesn’t have a clear plot (story doesn’t make sense)
    • Bring them back to Somebody, wanted, but, so
  • Struggling with creating a scene (what could happen before she got what she wanted)
  • The solution is without struggle
  • There is no tension building up
    • Teach how to slow scene down
      • Add: show don’t tell
        • Show internal thinking
        • Add action or dialogue


What does drafting look like:

          Big scene-full sheet of paper

          Small scene-half sheet of paper


It’s Hard Keeping Up… September 24, 2009

I don’t know why I am finding it more difficult to keep up with my blog lately. I guess it’s that school is at a full, rolling boil! I haven’t had much time to read either. I actually think it might be related to the ages (and phases) my children are currently.

Even though I haven’t been blogging about it, lots of good things continue to happen. The good news is:

I have gotten to experience and fall in love with so many different groups of students this fall as they get started with writing workshop.

I had a great PD day with a grade level that I didn’t have much of an opportunity to work with last year. The dedication to kids and learning in my colleagues is always so inspiring.

I was able to talk a small group of teachers into spending their own money to travel to the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project’s Fall Reunion . You can’t beat Katherine Patterson and Lucy Calkins in one venue! Legal teacher crack!


Narrative Writing-Launching the Writing Workshop grades 3, 4, 5 August 19, 2009

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August & September  [Black # = Mini-lesson)

Materials=Units of Study for Teaching Writng grades 3-5; Book1-Launching the Writing Workshop = Launching; Book 2-Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing=Raising






On-demand Writing Piece (see prompt directions) 1 Mini-Lesson Starting the Writing Workshop-(session I Launching) 2

Mini-Lesson Generating More Writing- (session I or II, Launching)

3 Mini-Lesson Qualities of Good Writing-focus, detail, and structure (session III, Launching) 4; Mini-Lesson Nurturing/Rehearsing- The Writer’s Job in a Conference (session IV, Launching)

7 Mini-Lesson

Buidling Stories-Step by Step (session V, Launching)

8 Mini-Lesson –Choosing a Seed Idea (session VI, Launching) 9; Mini-Lesson-revising-

Studying and Creating Leads (session VII, Raising the Quality of Narrative Writing)

10; Mini-Lesson Writing Discovery Drafts (session VIII, Launching 11 ; Mini-Lesson Revising Developing the Heart of the Story (session XV, Launching)
14 Mini-Lesson

Revising Endings: Learning from Published Writing (session IX, Launching)

15 Mini-Lesson Taking Charge of Our Writing-Starting a Second Piece (session X, Launching) 16 Mini-Lesson Timelines and Tools for Planning and Developing Stories (session XI and XII, Launching) 17 Mini-Lesson Yesterday’s Revisons Become Today’s Standard Practice (session IV, Raising) 18 Mini-Lesson Ending Stories (session XII, Raising)
21 Mini-Lesson Using Editing Checklists (session XVI, Launching)


Motivating Middle School Writers from Kate Roberts August 16, 2009

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Motivating Middle School Writers

Kate Roberts presenter  8/11/09 (Notes from Megan-a colleague who teaches 6-8 in a Middle School in The Bahamas)

There are three things needed:

  1. To demonstrate motivation
  2. To create a community of writing
  3. A genuine response

We want our students to practice 18th century literacy in the 00’s.

There are some ways we hold them back…

-       By giving the same prompts all students

  • Ex. “Write about a time you were scared” vs. “Write about a time you felt big emotions”

-       By giving too many directions or teaching too many points at once

-       By not taking their work seriously

Ways to Create an Audience

-       Have them check in with their partner about regular HW assignments

-       Share with each other everyday

-       Try out different partners (a speed-dating approach to finding a buddy)

-       Don’t wait for celebration

-       Use student work as your demonstration text

-       Quick publish

  • Even before the end of a unit, say “Find your best piece, let’s publish it. Get it on looseleaf for tomorrow.”

-       Publish dramatically across the school

Accountability and Rigor

-       Set high goals for volume

  • At the beginning of the year, do a stamina assessment. Have them write for ten minutes and keep that page to show them how much (or how little) they could write.
  • Draw an X at the bottom of the page. Tell them to write to the X

-       Teach elaboration

  • Give them a list of phrases like “I think, for example, this is important because”
  • Have them orally tell a story and have the partners throw out a phrase when they are struggling

Day 1 & 2 notes from Natalie, a fourth grade NYC teacher Yeah! Sharing! August 14, 2009

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Writer’s Workshop– Day 1 what teachers explain when describing writers workshop.

10 Minute Mini-Lesson– showing your own writing (teacher writer)

25-30 minute independent writing (you work and talk and i listen…) during this time you have to be ready to talk to me about your writing…called a writing conference) Have a small group to work with other writers

5-10 minute partner time to write/share out

Talking about writing….only get better is by doing it (better to give students time to write)

“The more students write the better they get”

Outside of school/HW options: decide how many entries/small moments stories they need to do for the week, assign 10 minutes of writing a night, # minutes/# of pages

Essential that our lives are worth writing about– personal narrative/memoir at beginning of the year…important that students realize that their lives matter.

Writing is a craft and writers need time choice and response/feedback

Writing is about risk/empathy– be revealing

Model risks within your own lessons and share your own writing

Work on telling stories that can be shared in the classroom…

Model writing for that age group— recuperate childhood stories

Getting started: what do you want to do across the year?

Spiral Curriculum within grades:

K- we’re all writers using pictures and words/publish new stories every day

1- we write for readers/ think about punctuation and introduce genres of writing

2- revising but don’t ask them to rewrite pieces and make smart paper choices

3- use notebooks to collect and rehearse their writing

4- increasing craft and increasing independence within genre

5-  increasing craft and increasing independence across genres

writing unit starts with: collecting/generating notebook entries across the week and then we choose 1 or 2 ideas to draft outside of the notebook and then significant revision/elaboration takes place (this would be about a week each task) and then finally getting ready to publish final story.

#1–Start with a personal narrative/memoir/anecdote or a vignette important that it is a small moment

#2– Fiction- realistic fiction

#3– Personal Essay– thesis driven writing/idea based writing– figure out ideas they care deeply about and then tell stories about those ideas

#4– Nonfiction all about or expert subjects or content areas (science and social studies)

#5– Fiction- mystery, fantasy, historical fiction

#6– Poetry– can do a lot of grammar within poetry

Personal Narrative: start with prompts

strategy leads towards independence within writing…

Generating Strategies:

Moments of Strong Emotions (scared, stressed, happy…) and small moments

make a 2-column list of the emotions and the moment

and model how to brainstorm emotions and small moments

Partners Say…(Chart that could be around the room):

“I love that story!”

“That reminds me of…”

“You should write that down…”

(**Want partner to want to leave conference and write more…)

2nd Generating Strategy: 3-column List– start with the part of the list you feel most comfortable with

issues                   people                      moments

friendship              Lisa                         good/bad moments– dirt brownies

betrayal                Patty                         mascara all over the face

jealousy               Chris

loyalty                  Lisa                            stapled our fingers together

pain                                                       hairbrush

peer pressure        Mandy/Rachel            first activity night and what to wear

new school            5th grade                  not understanding slang at school in new state

3rd Strategy: Make a picture map of where stories have taken place and actually draw/label different parts of moments/stories, etc.

Writing Starters:




Use one of the above to start writing…

The blacktop sparkled and the sun beat down on us as we sat making grass friendship bracelets. Mandy and Rachel whispered back and forth as I tried desperately to fit in with my new classmates.

“Wear a skirt? Are you kidding me?” Mandy said laughing. Embarrassed and blushing, I tried to laugh off the fact that I thought I had asked a normal question.


-Meeting Area– make it large enough for everyone to fit there

-Desk spaces for collaboration and independence

-Bulletin Board space- organized by subject area around the room

-Classroom Libraries– around the meeting area/provide easy access to books

-Idea for using Strunk & White for teaching certain grammar ideas/skills

-Charts– way to make kids independent…think about being organized by box and by bullets

Generating Possibilities:

Sketch a place

label possible story ideas

choose one

make a mental movie

write step by step

-Scene writing so readers are right there with us…for the personal narrative

-Ralph Peterson Life In A Crowded Place about classroom management

-Do Now setting students up to next lesson of the day/setting students up

-Finish an entry, if you are writing you are doing fine during writing workshop/ reread writing/ draft something new/ read a mentor text if stuck

Unit 1: Getting Started

Launched notebooks

Learned how to be in a mini-lesson (learning strategy)

2-3 generating strategies

Rehearse stories by telling them

Be a responsive and enthusiastic partner

Make a writing plan

Write fast and furious in small moments

Notebook entry means a small moment zoomed in on that a student has written.

During the lesson what should students being done? Not suggested for students to write down all of the notes during teacher’s lesson or post things on chart paper so they can view it and not get tired from all the writing during a lesson copying notes.

Work on a sample notebook to share with students at the beginning of the year

Perhaps show 2 or 3 column lists, notebook entries, sketches

Teachers Notebook is a strategic teaching tool for modeling student issues show a bed-to-bed story, dialogue entry, etc. to show students that your writing is just a bit ahead of them so it can pull students out of their writing habits and start to grow towards stronger writing.

What paper/kind of notebooks should students use?

Types of paper– one choice is a paper with a box and a couple of lines below the box– students draw a picture and then label things useful for when you still need to sketch to tell a story.

Another choice is a smaller picture box followed by more lines

By fourth grade you should be able to choose cursive or print and decide which students are more comfortable with

Encourage choice among writers, so they feel more independent and excited to write

Break the story into a beginning, middle, and end into three sections but using three blank blocks

this helps students see/identify the tension of the story

Have students label and express feelings thoughts in the box for each section of the story because they tend to add more details to the box/sketch and then can add this into the story

Giving someone a tour of the notebook

Students can leave the rug once they know what they are going to write about

Students come out of the notebook when doing the rough draft on loose paper

Maintain notebooks by writing at night and keep up with free writing– could finish an entry you didn’t start yet, back through lists and write a new entry, and then also think of a new idea and write about that

Walk a partner through the notebook and give a tour– what you liked, what you didn’t like, what you skipped, generating strategies you feel worked for you– this could happen after week 2 when there is enough writing to share.

Making sure we teach students to talk like writers…important steps: like point to the page in the notebook

Make sure the teacher notebook has list of seed ideas and are not written about, also include entries that are you not completely done, and a night where partner didnt do hw to show what that looks like– so the teacher is having the same problems the students have

Students could observe teacher notebook and identify issues/problems etc so students can identify things together

After tour: what strategies we’re using and like?

what stories we’ve written

what’s unwritten/next

what’s unfinished

anything we might want to publish

After a tour, students can make a writing plan for next week: To do: finish ? story, start ? story, try new idea, etc.

Before launching into new unit, good to have a quick independent publishing when they are done to finish a story they hadn’t finished yet

Editing/Writing Conferences:

No editing done by teachers– teach students how they would fix it instead of making corrections for kids

Writing conferences– praising, but also coaching– think about habits

Habits– Intimate conversations

Strategy conferences- i want to teach you something as a writer that can help you, research what they are ready for next, praise/compliment, and teach

Table/Group conference- praise the behavior that you want kids to do

Dialogue, Setting, detail, inner thinking are things that you could discuss during the conference


Notes from Carole- a second grade participant August 13, 2009

Filed under: Calkins,TCRWP,writing workshop — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:01 pm
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Summer Institute – Reading and Writing Project


Keynote Speech – Lucy Calkins – Teaching the Inner Writer: Putting Our Lives on the Line

Lucy feels that you need to have students experience why we write rather than how to write. Imagine a school where students care about writing.

Start with “A Small Moment” Believes in learning to observe and make meaning. Take the moments and determine what the story is about.

First Session: Barb Golub (Section 2D – Union Theological Room 207)

Read Aloud

The Best Story by Elizabeth Spinelli – the young girl receives advice throughout the story on how to write the best story. The turning point for her as a writer comes when you write from the heart.

Conclusions from Discussion

  • Writing comes from purpose
  • Reflection around assigning vs. generating self selected topics
  • Setting up and maintaining a workshop environment
  • Workshop vs. writing assignment

Studies show that teachers who read and write have students who will read and write. Therefore this week will have teachers experience the adult writing process.

Collected Entries

The format for writer’s workshop begins with “Collecting Entries”

Students are asked to jot down interests, hobbies, people, and places in their lives.

Then pick a moment and make a movie in your mind.

Write a story of that moment.

We then wrote for about a half an hour on some of the collected entries. The idea was to create short entries.

Next step was to work with partners.

  • Story tell (read your story)
  • The partners listen for the parts that are really showing, not just telling
  • Share parts that we can really see-like a movie.
  • Give a tip, give a compliment.

Conference Notes

Example: Kathy

(Notice lots of feeling, dialogue, and show not tell internal thinking. Seems she has a lot of stories.)

Things to Notice about conferences

Not every conference is a mini-lesson

There are some patterns in the classroom

Find teaching moments that can be brought to whole class

Try to confer with as many people in a short amount of time. You can also confer at a table. (Sharing one conference with many students)

Barb (the leader) shared “kid” writing. Two examples – one without details and dialogue and then one where there was revision.

Afternoon Session

Ami Shah Mehta

Read aloud from children’s writing…as an introduction

Brian Cambourne – Conditions of Learning – He was researching language acquisition and found similarities to conditions of learning.

  1. Immersion
  2. Demonstration
  3. Engagement
  4. Expectations
  5. Responsibility
  6. Approximation
  7. Practice
  8. Response

Principles of Writing Workshop

  1. Write everyday (they will become more independent, they will be thinking of what they want to write about during the day))
  2. Investment  ( Topic choice, easier to write from their own experience, think about audience, think about purpose in writing)
  3. Unit of Study (Teach within a unit of study, gives traction to your teaching, organizes your teaching around something; you are creating a writer’s life. Creates independence)
  4. Explicit Teaching ( Throughout writer’s workshop you can have explicit teaching)
  5. Process

Primary Writing Process

Rehearsal, then draft, then revision

Rehearsal – tell the story, across the fingers, through drawings

Draft – the student write that down

Revision – students add or edit their story

They start another story and so on…..In one unit they go through the process many times.

Before further revision, they choose one piece to further revise. They edit one piece. Revision makes the story better. (The content) Editing makes it easier to read…Publishing may mean: drawing a picture, making a cover. Therefore, do not let them color until they have revised and edited the piece that will be published.

Each unit of study is four to six weeks. During the school year the process will change about once a month.

Balanced Literacy

Reading Workshop 40-45 minutes

Writing Workshop 45-55 minutes

Shared Reading – content -10-15 minutes

Interactive Writing – mechanics of writing 15 minutes

Shared Writing 10 minutes

Read Aloud – 15 minutes

Phonics/ Word Study (Fundations, Words Their Way)

Writing Workshop Structures

  1. Mini-Lesson – Teach one thing (5 minutes)
  2. Independent Writing Time (the students are writing, the teacher is conferring or small group strategy session)  Mid-Workshop Teaching Point: Writers can I tell you about this, students continue writing) (25 minutes)
  3. Teaching Share (5 minutes)

Use Units of Study Book – and follow the process.

Management Routines to Support Independence

Writing Folder - one side for finished work, one side for drafts. At the end of the month clean out the folder, save one or two for portfolio. Send work home with letter to parents explaining “Unit of Study”

Routines – Materials: Set-up before Mini-Lesson. Put out folder, writing utensil, and story that they are working on BEFORE the mini-lesson. Use table captains if folders are not in desks.

Transitions – “Off you go”   This needs to be taught.


  • Research – process, intentions, qualities of good writing  (1-2 minutes)
  • Compliment – specific compliment that can apply to all the stories (1 minute)
  • Teach – 3 Methods (choose 1) Demonstrate or Explain and give an example or Guided Practice. Whichever method you choose, the child has to try it. (3-4 minutes)
  • Link – restate your teaching point and remind student to always use it. (less than a minute)




Use this table when showing a video of some of the conferences that we have at school.

We watched video of a girl adding excitement to her story about baking a cake with her mom.

Teacher describes actions, what they were saying, and what they were thinking. Teacher used another story to show how to add excited dialogue. Added sentence, “I thought”

Closing Session

Lucy Calkins on Conferring

Research – What are you working on? You also have to teach the students how to be part of a conference. Give them feedback that when you ask the question that you want them to articulate what they are doing as a writer. (Sometimes you may have to give them the words) You are teaching them to do their part in a conference. The teacher’s temptation is to go to the content of the essay (you don’t need information on the new puppy) but you want to go to what the student is working on as a writer. (Zooming in, writing with details,)

Think: What can I compliment and what is the link? What is the writer up to right now?

Rather than complimenting and teaching, start another line of inquiry. What are some other things that you are trying to do? How are you feeling about writing right now? Do you have a sense of audience? When has writing worked for you?

Lucy then asked for a volunteer and used the process described above to compliment and teaches the writer.

Then Lucy used “Adam” from the Unit of Study, “Memoir Writing” Adam writes about when his brother goes off to college.

Lucy does the research, and backs up to get a second line of inquiry…You want to compliment this writer so that the writer feels uniquely seen. In Adam’s case we compliment the honesty of the piece, Compliment him on the action so that he can use the action to develop his writing.

Conference should not be the mini-lesson.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nikki Grimes

Keynote: The Color of Poetry

Consider that if we only show black, Asian, Hispanic literature in Feb., Jan, and May is actually marginalizing the intent of the author.

Second Session of Adult Writing

We start the day writing a “kid’s” piece. At the beginning of second grade, the paper is picture plus six lines.

Writers Plan Their Writing Before They Draft

Think of a feeling then story tell

Try to story tell in a few different ways.

Use a double timeline    (action on top of timeline and feeling on the bottom of time line)

Minibooklet – Author sketches, and then writes a few words to remind you of what you may write.

Role play with an exemplar writing…Jeneva (at the beach)

Jeneva has a focused time and place

  • She has a structured beginning, middle and end
  • Reflective Ending
  • Includes setting
  • Includes action
  • Picture matches the word.

p. 52 – One on One

Research Tips – Big Picture – purpose, audience, independence (not a Q and A about content)

Ask questions that I don’t know the answer….keep questions brief – give a compliment and teach…

Afternoon Session

Narrative – Something happens to a person or character. There will be a progression through time.

Qualities of Good Writing p. 62 in white loose-leaf

Bulleted Parts for K-8

Parts in Italics: for second grade

  • Structure  (Sequence and Focus)

Narrative, focus, endings

  • Elaboration (show setting, show action, show dialogue)

Character Development, show-not-tell, details

  • Concept of Writing – spelling and conventions

Spelling: vowel patterns, parts of words, using known words to spell unknown words

Sentences – more complex and varied sentence structure

Punctuation: Varied end punctuation, quotation marks, capitalization (proper nouns, initials, “I”

  • Craft (writing well, having an effect on the reader, may have a mentor-author)
  • Meaning (thinking of an audience, why are you writing the story)

(Editing and Spelling is not part of the narrative continuum)

The project took the qualities of good writing and wrote the narrative continuum. They wrote it for K-8. See page 62 of the handout. The continuum is for assessment, writing is developmental.

The continuum is on the website as well.

Launching Writer’s Workshop

Unit 1 is Launching; Unit 2 is “small moments”

A small moment is a focused, personal, narrative that happens over a small period of time. It teaches students structure. It is important to have students write small moments before they write longer pieces.

The Units are written in parts… (Bends in the road)

Beginning Small Moment Stories

  1. How do I come up with story ideas?  (Think of a feeling and tell them to make a story that goes with that feeling.)
  2. Plan (Tell a story across your fingers, write two words that tell what is going to happen, tell the story to your partner, sketch the story)
  3. Make your story stay in the same place. Then make them stay in the same time.

Getting More Writing on the Page

1. Sketch – rather than draw

2. Tell the story.

3. Teach them to add dialogue. (Comma and quotation marks can come when you are editing)

4. What were you thinking?

Teaching Revision Strategies

What is the most important part? What is the internal part?

End with a feeling. What happened nest? What is the reaction?

Preparing for Publication – Further revisions, edit, or publish

Other Books for Small Moments

Max’s Bedtime by Rosemary Wells

Max’s Breakfast by Rosemary Wells

Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick by Kevin Henkes (A Box of Treats)

Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements

Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee

A Chair for My Mother

The Kissing Hand

Wave by Suzie Lee

Knuffle Bunny by Moe Willems

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Small Groups

The mini-lesson is what the majority of the class needs.  The small group is by need.

When you pull together a group of students that have the same need (plan your stories) The groups are flexible. The groups are 3-6 students. The strategy lessons are between 7-10 minutes long. While the students do independent writing the teacher is conferring or having a small group.

The Structure of the Small Group Lesson

  1. Quick Intro
  2. Quick Teach ( Explain and Give an example, Demo, Guided Practice
  3. Students Try/Teachers Coach
  4. Link

Closing Session

Types of Charts for K-2 – Kristi Mraz

Routine Charts

Exemplar Chart (make it teach – science or writing)

Strategy Chart (goes with your mini-lesson that you are teaching) Example: Making a movie in the Reader’s Mind) You generate 3 to 4 a unit of study. They are tied to the Mini Lesson…

Procedural Chart

Use of Visuals

Helps students and carries meanings.

  1. Draw simple icons
  2. Use symbols
  3. Digital camera (children doing it or a gesture)
  4. Student Work

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Keynote: Pam Munoz Ryan (see webpage)

Morning Session

Read, “ At Night” by Jonathan Bean

As teacher reads the book:

Think about:

In what way did the author create mood?

How could the author have written the text that would not be as effective?

Jonathan Bean Creates Mood
What we see/hear What It Does
Pillow…sheets..blanket Slows it down and makes us think – what’s next
Zooming in on picture Creates intimacy
Breeze, show, not tell Reminds me of
Illustrations Match story

At end of independent writing, we discussed conference notes. We also discussed the narrative continuum. (in white looseleaf on p. 62)

Conferring Notes can be taken during the “research phase” and all conferences.

Afternoon Session: Ami Shah Mehta

Mini Lesson Highlights

  • Short
  • Invitation (actually instructing students to practice what you are teaching after you model it, they are going to practice it)
  • One teaching point
  • Follows a predictable structure

Minilesson Structure

  • Connection: Activate prior knowledge. ; .i.e. “Yesterday, we worked on..  State the teaching point; Today I want to teach you and tell them how they are going to be able to. (The what is the skill and the how is the strategy) You also want to state why you are teaching it.
  • Teach:

“Watch how I…

Demonstrate what they are going to do (not just tell them directions- add in think aloud

Did you notice how I “added small actions to my story”

Add gestures if possible

  • Active Involvement: Now it’s your turn

Turn and talk

Teacher shares out 1 or 2 ideas

  • Link

Today and every day;  You already know….. now you know how to

Ami showed a video of her teaching students to add small actions to a story (her story the blender; the students worked on their story about the sprinkler

Teacher Student
Connection Talked about nephew “walking”
Teach Adding small actions to the story:

Told the story about the blender “spewing out” the sweet potato;

Explained (and acted out) how to add words (jumped back, my arms flew up, my mouth dropped.

Students act out the actions that Ami wrote.
Active Involvement Acting out: first the blender and later the story class wrote about going to sprinklers Students act out and then pair up and with a partner come up with the words. (jumped up and my arms flew up in the sky)
Link Add small actions when you write the story that describe what your body does Students went off to write

You need:

A Demo Story

A Class Story (that they worked on in a shared writing)

Mentor Texts

  • Choosing a mentor text – love it and have it display what it teaches . Have it be the approximate level of development in their writing. The amount of writing per page is about what the students write .Consider having multiple copies. Hopefully it will have several examples.
  • Reading Like a Writer – the first time let the students experience the book.The second time have students read it like a writer to see how it is written. Students are looking for craft (the way it is written)
  • When this work happens: Hopefully this happens during the “Read Aloud” time.

Mentor Text: My Best Friend by Mary Ann Rodman

Where What do you notice? Why did the author do this? Name Other Places
My Best Friend Short sentences To create tension montage

Spin on when there are punctuation rules….only “once” when you need it and it has to be correct  everywhere else…


  1. What is it?
  • Makes the content better. Revise the leads, the ends, the structure.
  • You could revise for elaboration (adding dialogue, adding thinking, adding show not tell, adding small actions)_
  • You can revise for meaning. (your audience)

2. When does it happen?

  • Either during a unit or there is a whole unit of study on revision.


  • Post its
  • Astericks – where they want to add it
  • Add another page

4. Checklists


Arrived in New York City August 9, 2009

Filed under: Calkins,TCRWP — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:16 pm
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Finished The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott on the way here. (LOVED IT!)

Airline lost bag-I thought that was pretty hard to do on a direct flight-their computer shows the bag getting on, but not getting off

Found the Columbia Teachers College Dorm Room-thankful nice person left their partial roll of toilet paper since mine is in my suitcase. Room was set to a nippy 56 degrees-what was that about?

It is of course sprinkling-where is my umbrella? In the suitcase.

Found a Starbucks-paying for their wireless as Ethernet cord for laptop to access Columbia’s internet is where? in the suitcase

Novelty factor of being on own in city-not so high this time without the necessities.

TCRWP Writing Institute starts at 8 a.m.-I’ll be the one in the same outfit as right now–

Heading back to finish Mary Pearson’s The Miles Between ARC for mailing on tomorrow :)


Architecture of a Mini-Lesson July 11, 2009

The architecture of a mini-lesson is a topic that came up several times over the past week at the Reading Institute , not as something taught to us, but as a topic that was taken for granted to be already understood. I remember when I was at TC in March for the Literacy Coach Institute and I had such an “ah-ha” (or maybe “duh” depending how you look it at) moment myself about the mini-lessons, so I am going to share it here.

The structure of all mini-lessons is the same. If you have read Units of Study for Teaching Writing, you already know that. I did already know that, when it came to writing, but I came to a different understanding of it in March. Not only are the parts of the mini-lesson the same for a writing lesson, but they are the same for everything the teach, whether it be a Unit of Study in Reading, a math lesson, or even something at home you are trying to teach/explain to your children (or even your husband-Don’t clue him in if you are!)

Connection-Remind them of what they’ve learned/been taught yesterday (or recently).

Do not make the mistake of asking, “Who can tell me what we learned yesterday?”. You don’t want cognitive dissonance-which often happens if a student volunteers a wrong answer and you keep calling on them until you get the answer you want.

Teach-Explicitly tell them what you are going to teach them and demonstrate what they are going to do on your own work or a shared text, such as the class read-aloud

Active Involvement (sometimes called Active Engagement)-You are scaffolding the children by providing an opportunity to do what you just modeled, either by themselves, or often with a partner (turn and try it). You want to vary the active engagement so it is not always stop & jot or turn & talk. Also try stop & think, stop & list, stop & act out, or any other that works for your students.

Link-link this to the ongoing work they’ve done and remind them how they should use/try what you taught them in their independent work

It is not just writing lessons, or just reading lessons, that can use this structure, it is all ways of teaching.


TCRWP continued… July 7, 2009

Filed under: Calkins,reading,TCRWP — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:54 pm
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Two days and I have taken so many notes that my thumb is killing me from clutching my pen. 

A friend joked this morning about Lucy Calkins was going to take out a restraining order against me. HaHa. I arrived early to the first session, already having planned and scoped out where I was going to drink my latte and read my book the day before. Arrive happy to not have spilled latte on my white shirt, walk to comfy chair area, and notice that someone else is sitting there already-she looks up and who is it? 

I know you know.


But I’ll still tell you.



It was Lucy Calkins.


She was obviously going over her notes for the keynote address so I very casually pivoted past the comfy chair, left her to her privacy, and went and found a hard bench. 

I’m not stalking her-I just channel her energy and it pulls me magnetically to all things TC (just kidding!) . 


Homework tonight was to read The Art of Teaching Reading (ATR) Ch. 3, 5, & 6 as well as some handouts. I was glad to I only needed to read the handouts since I had read ATR in the past couple weeks.

Decided to reward/challenge myself to see if I could get myself from Columbia to Central Park and then to Times Square by public transportation (and not get lost!). Probably seems like nothing to many of you, but a BIG deal to me. Found the TKTS booth after a light rambling around and got a ticket to see 9 to 5 the musical. I LOVE musicals and it was a great one!


The Art of Teaching Reading and Assessment June 18, 2009

I know I have mentioned  The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, but I feel it  is a book I feel all K-8 teachers would benefit from reading if they have not done so.

Last night at baseball (I’ve figured I can get one chapter of something in if I leave my finger in it and read as the teams switch for in and out field without missing anything) I finished rereading the chapter on Assessment (pp. 137-157) and it, like everything else in the book makes so much sense. Here are some of the highlights:

Assessment is the thinking teacher’s mind work.

“Have you ever tried to change the tire of your car while driving along a mountain road? That’s what it’s like trying to assess your readers in the midst of classroom teaching.” (pp. 137-138)

The chapter is not about ideal methods of assessment, but offers guidance to teachers who find it difficult to fit assessment into the very real-world of classroom teaching.

Calkins strongly urges schools to support two days of one-to-one appointments between all teachers and all children before the first day of school. Wow! Wouldn’t that be fantastic?!

Schools need to develop a gradient of assessment expectations for teachers–first year teachers might need help determining which assessments are critical.

Calkins advises starting with a lean system of assessment and then moving the world to be sure that this assessment affects teaching and learning (the spot where many assessments or assessment programs fall down!)

According to Calkins, “What is the bottom rung of reading assessment?”

Every teachers must accomplish the following goals:

  • An efficient means of quickly and roughly matching readers with books so that the class is engaged in productive work from the first week of schoo and we can begin to assess individuals more closely.
  • We need to underand and support children’s habits, values and self-perceptions as readers.  If every converstaion with every child is all about weighing and measuring the child’s place within our leveled libraries, we end up teaching lessons we did not intend to teach-that we are trying to line up children according to whether they are better or worse readers.          Children should immediately and always sense our interest in the wholeness of each of them as a reader. teaching them  to not simply get through text, but to compose richly literate lives.
  • We need to understand the strategies and sources of information individual readers use and don’t use and need to tailor instruction to each child’s strengths and needs.
  • We need to take early note of (and then understand, teach, and track the progress of) children who are failing to thrive.
  • We need to hold our teaching accountable as we work toward clear and public goals
  • We will achieve a classroom system of assessment that forces us to develop multi-level teaching plans
  • Even the above goals are ambitious.  

Here are her starter questions for getting to know your students as readers:

What should I know about you as a reader?

With whom do you share your reading?

When has reading really worked for you in your life? Tell me about that time. When as reading really NOT been a good thing for you in your life?
What are some neat things you do with reading at home?

Can you walk me through a day and tell me about the reading you generally do? 

Goals: (students help form them-not just having them set by us)

What kind of reader are you right now?

What kind of reader do you want to become?

What do you plan to do to become that kind of reader?

How did this plan help you grow as a reader? Be specific.

What is your next goal? What is your next plan?

What texts will finish your fiction standard?

“It is too easy to become lulled into believing that by suggesting, mentioning, or assigning readers to do something, we’ve accomplished the job of teaching. “

Calkins also recommends that each grade level identify certain observeable signs of reading progress and look for them across the grade, and that we systemically collect data according to these indicators and bring what we learn to meetings and study groups with our colleagues. (We would all learn so much!)

Our assessment system should provide us with a constant source of feedback on our progress toward our goals. Our teaching should be more powerful when we hold ourselves accoutnable for having a real effect on our students’ work. Instead of teaching in a whole-class fashion to a hypothetical average students, we need to take into account thte range of development within our classrooms, designing a curriculum that meets all our children where they are and takes each child further.

I LOVE Lucy Calkins and Teachers College-they just make so much sense out of a very difficult job-teaching reading and writing to a whole class of individuals.

art of teaching reading



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