A Tradition of Learning: Coming Home to The Saturday Reunion #TCRWP

October and March calls us back to Teachers College so we can attend the Saturday Reunion. March 19, 2016 marked the 90th Saturday Reunion at the Reading & Writing Project.  Just as always, we left our houses before sunup, and met friends and colleagues at the Ronkonkoma Train Station. From there we board the 6:40 AM train to Penn Station. We do it because we know that there is  always some new idea that will shift our thinking.  There is room for new perspectives that challenge and inspire us to think deeply about teaching. We dedicate this post to Lucy Calkins and her dedicated team. Thank you for opening your doors and our minds to the possibility of what can be.

Opening: Andrew Solomon: Author of:  Far from the Tree  

Watch this moving video


  • He is using his voice to share the stories that would be otherwise hidden from us.
  • Forge meaning (finding what you need);  build identity (a place in the world).
  • Understand the power of community.

What this means:

This was an emotional experience for us both. We were humbled and thankful to hear Andrew Solomon’s Opening Keynote. A life worth living has to hold meaning. What happens when a physical or mental affliction prohibits acceptance? Andrew Solomon positioned an empathetic lens for us to get a sense of these complex and painful stories. Despite trauma and heartache there is still joy, there is still love, there is still faith. There is our shared humanity. He extended an invitation to lean in and listen without fear, to open our eyes to look without shame, and mostly he made an appeal for us to open our hearts to each other.    

Session One: Use Mystery to Support Foundational Reading Skills

Brooke Geller


  • It’s not really about teaching the genre, it’s about using mystery to teach the reading process.
  • She underscored the value of student engagement – making mystery intriguing, something they want to do.
  • This Unit of Study (UoS) is designed to hand off big critical thinking work to the students.  Their work is to make generalizations (theories) and test them out.  This all works together to provide an engaging, and  authentic way to grow foundational skills.   

What this means:

  • An instructional shift comes right away in the language used with students:
    • “The mystery OR the problem…”
    • ”The detectives ARE the main characters…”
    • “The witnesses/ suspects ARE the secondary characters, who are helpful/harmful…”
  • A Detective Notebook (pad); A Magnifying Glass (leftover stuff from an old science kit) are the vehicles to drive student engagement.  You would think they were handed GOLD! The room was buzzing around how they would use these tools and they got started right away. Perfect! They loved it.
  • With tools in hand students are actively reading to find out the mystery, and the detectives.  Their purpose is to be observant readers who are reading in an analytical way.   They are not merely following along, they are constructing meaning and recording their theories in their notebooks.  This is enhanced through partnership work, and is the foundation for the next step – MAKING GENERALIZATIONS & TESTING THEM OUT.

We will continue to blog about our learning at the #TCRWP Saturday Reunion.  Here is a preview for our next post: How Can We Help Students Become Reflective, Goal-Driven Writers? Checklists, Feedback and Goal Setting Can Accelerate Student Growth – Alexandra Marron Structures and Rituals (and a Calendar) Can Make Your Writing Workshop Support Your ELLs K-5 –Jen DeSutter







One thought on “A Tradition of Learning: Coming Home to The Saturday Reunion #TCRWP

  1. Jenn,
    I love this format – “take aways”and “what this means”! I enjoy reading other blogs about sessions because we all enter at different learning locations!

    Are you attending June institutes? We need to plan ahead to meet up! The Saturday reunions go so incredibly fast! <3

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