Monthly Archives: April 2016

Finding Harmony From Theory to Practice: Questions Teachers Ask In The Real World

We are both big fans of Pitch Perfect movies.  We love hearing how they can take different types of music and blend them together to this dynamic harmony that just draws you in.  At first it seems chaotic but then the music is transformed into thought out harmonies that are a musical celebration of sound.  These are mash-ups, a fusion of disparate elements that when fused together become something amazing. This is sort of what planning a Unit of Study is like for us as we merge content, process and student needs. It’s not chaos, it’s a process. It’s easy to think it’s all just a big mess when books and magazines are sprawled across the backseat of your car. It’s all going right when every librarian looks at you with suspicion and  knows your name, because every month you’re borrowing the most books your card can carry (50 books).  This post aims to  construct a window into our planning process. We know questions are more important than answers as surely as we know that process is more important than product.  Questions are the underpinnings of the teaching process and it goes like this:

Setting Up for our Informational / World Communities Unit of Study

Interpreting Curriculum Goals: What is your intention for teaching this unit of study?

  • How do we integrate social studies content with the reading process?
  • What are the content standards we are accountable for?
  • What are the components of the process for informational text?

Making A Plan: How can you create engagement around the work in this unit of study?

  • What do our students need right now?
  • What are our students’ strengths?
  • How do our students learn best?
  • How do we meet the needs of all learners in our class?
  • How do we make the content relevant to our learners?

Finding Resources: Building banks of materials, for a controlled choice, to match the interests/needs of the learners in your classroom

  • The big grab: putting it all together to build the materials for the Unit of Study
    • Content (Does it have the information we need?)
    • Engagement ( Will it spark interest in the students?) (Is it visually appealing?)
    • Mashups (Does the text match up to the interests and strengths of our students?) (Can the text help extend their individual strengths and move students further through the process?)
    • Variety (Do you have text that shows different perspectives and text structure?)
    • Leaning Into Critical Thinking Goals: (How do these materials lay the foundation for flexible thinking?) BLOOM / QAR
    • Making Connections: (How can students use these materials to create contextual knowledge, to build a knowledge base?)

Experience The Process:  You Do It First. This is a time for us to immerse ourselves in the resources, evaluate all they have to offer learners and then reflect on their utility.

  • Is this a realistic plan?
  • Do the resources offer exemplars? How can we use them?
  • How do the materials inform the sequence of the teaching?
  • How can we use these resources to get the most varied results?
  • What supplements do we need to these resources to make learning more accessible?

This is as far as we are right now in the process.  Our next step is to put the learning in the hands of our students and to see where they take us.  As we do this we will be asking questions around:

  • Creating Context Through Student Ownership: Kidwatching to assess relevancy (observation) Are students engaged in the work?  Is the work helping them work towards their individual goals?  Are they being resilient learners- what makes you say that? Are students challenged?  Are there signs for spontaneity for their learning? Is learning joyful?
  • Tweaking  (reflection) What is working?  What needs to be changed?  How are our observations informing future practice?

Planning for this unit is a mash-up of grand scale. We are fusing content, literacy processes, student ability, social dynamics, creativity, student choice, and our own learning process for our teaching to create a context for ownership and growth for us all. We are trying to use the end of the year as our Pitch Perfect finale. So get your groove on This is about thinking through the process. We may end up with a product but it’s the work in between that counts and makes the biggest impact.  This is the time to celebrate learning with vibrant energy and joy! This is our send off, our final act and we want our students to shine.

Jill’s favorite Pitch Perfect Mash-up

Jenn’s favorite Pitch Perfect Mash-up

Ideas And Identity: What Social Studies Teaches Us

Her face was quiet and still but her big brown eyes blazed with intensity, “Can you believe he went to jail to help the Indian people. He wouldn’t fight, but he didn’t give up on what he believed.” A glossy picture of Gandhi lay spread across her desk and she looked back down at it, and it was apparent  that her mind was trying to work out this new information. She took a deep breath and said, “I’m just so surprised. He got their freedom.” As a young girl of Indian immigrants finding a real life superhero that mirrors herself is profoundly important.  

He was trying to explain why Helen Keller used sign language, “She was blind, so she couldn’t see, and she was deaf.” He was trying to think about how sign language would work if you couldn’t see, “She had to talk to people using her hands and she also used braille.” He looked closely at his partner and started to scratch his head and move from side to side.  Clearly his partner was still confused, he went on to say, “Braille are these bumps that you feel with your fingers. It’s a kind of writing like a code.” His clear blue eyes searching his partner’s face to check for understanding.

Our Biography Unit of Study gave our students a glimpse of what a life well lived, one that is fueled by passion could be.  Now we are getting ready to show them the world. Social studies expands students’ understanding for what it means to live in communities around the world. We are often surprised by how much children already know, but also dismayed by their misunderstandings.  They are naturally curious about the world and now we are going to feed that curiosity with source documents and the freedom to expand their learning. We are getting  ready to launch into our Informational / World Communities Unit of Study which will take us to the end of the school year.  It’s an opportunity to engage our students in a long term project that flexes their facility for the reading/writing process.  We are asking them to to use all they have learned to produce a culminating project. Two guiding questions are at the forefront of our thinking:

  1. How do we teach content and the reading and writing process in the service of greater comprehension?
  2. How do we offer choice with an expectation that certain grade level content understandings will be learned?

Breaking Apart The Unit of Study:

The reading process: how readers learn to access texts:

  • Main idea and supporting details
  • Text Structure: compare and contrast, problem and solution, sequence
  • Using text features
  • Synthesizing information
  • Inferring and predicting
  • Summarizing
  • Analyzing information
  • Critiquing information
  • Making real life connections
  • Adjusting reading for multiple genres eg. traditional literature/expository text

NYS Grade 3 Content Understandings: what third graders need to learn:   

  • Politics (government, laws, leaders, propaganda)
  • Geography (maps, landmarks)
  • Economics(needs and wants, SuperPowers vs. Third World, money, natural resources)
  • Social / Cultural Dynamics (art, music, religion, food, holidays, traditions)
  • History (timelines, artifacts, source documents)

Nuts and Bolts:

  • We will pick 2 countries from each continent except Antarctica (We will choose countries that show the diversity of each continent).  
  • Children will vote on the countries they would like to study (Top 3 choices)
  • We will set up partnerships for each country (Looking at academics and social components)
  • Partway through the unit we will merge the partnerships into their continent group (Let them dive deeply into their own country to gain a strong understanding before joining together)
  • Each partnership and group will be provided text sets with multiple genres, artifacts, timelines, maps etc. (multi-sources for deeper learning)

Grade level content::

  • Compare and contrast- Pick a category (history, geography, economics, politics or social)  to look deeply at.  Compare and contrast the two countries in your continent.
  • Personify their country-  Make your countries come to life.  Teach others about your country by becoming it and showing it through the country’s eyes.
  • Problem and Solution-Form a “United Nations” problem solving group who can analyze and critique problems and provide solutions to real life issues. Pick a real life problem and explain how your two countries can work together to solve it.
  • Predict and Infer-Look into the future- What will your countries be like in 10 years? Use their history and present day conditions as a reference.

Providing Choice:

Create a choice board for activities where each group will make one selection for each social studies standard. Each activity is assigned a point value (1,2,3) depending on its level of critical thinking. See our anchor chart: Skyscraper QAR/Bloom Groups must complete a total of 10 points.


  • Create a timeline of important events (1 pt)
  • Personal Top 10- news headlines from history (2 pts)
  • Write a simple play to act out an event in history (3 pts)


  • Create a topographical map (1 pt)
  • Create a travel brochure with landmarks and important information about your country (2 pts)
  • Write a newspaper clip explaining how your country uses its geography to be successful (3 pts)


  • Create a model to demonstrate the setup of the country’s government (1 pt)
  • Create a political cartoon about an event in history (2pts)
  • Write a speech that an important leader from your country might have said  (3 pts)


  • Make an economics map to show where your natural resources are located and how much money they are worth (1 pt)
  • Pick an item & represent the cost by making money from each of your countries (compare and contrast) (2 pts)
  • Make a diagram to show the average cost of living in your countries (average income, house, car, food) (3 pts)


  • Create a menu of food that is a part of your country’s culture (1 pt)
  • Plan a celebration for a special holiday or tradition your country celebrates (2 pts)
  • Set up a gallery that represents a theme for your country (freedom, perseverance, oppression).  Showcase famous art, literature and music to represent this theme and explain how they all relate. (3 pts)

The fun has just begun. We are so excited about this work and we can’t wait to get started: gathering videos, source documents, and building text sets.  We are driven as we imagine our students’ excitement and curiosity. Just as the Biography Unit of Study flipped a switch and children could begin to conceptualize how remarkable humanity can be, so too will their understanding of what it means to be a citizen of the world. This is their work and it has to be important because this is how they will learn what it means to work hard and create something that is driven by an internal desire to learn and grow.  There is so much to anticipate, we cannot know how this planning will be received or what the children will bring to this process.  We do know that we are showing them what it means to live a life where real work matters and that what we do everyday makes a difference.  TedTalk: Barry Schwartz: The Way We Think About Work Is Broken

You Can’t Do This Work Yourself: Build a Collaborative Community

Have a little trust:

Teachers can be connected educators, read professional text, participate in educational conferences and be active on social media but still find themselves unsure what will work with their students.  Sometimes we have kids that don’t fit the expectations of a grade level, they are outliers.The more anxious you feel about a kid, the more they feel it. It is not that you are not trying, you can be differentiating and offering a multitude of supports, but you may still not be getting the results you need to get. What do you do? Take a deep breath and trust yourself.  Enlist some support and collaborate to think out of the box.

This post celebrates out-of-the-box thinking, and the power of thoughtful reflection that sparks action. It is a story about a boy who entered third grade very guarded and resistant to any risk taking.  He is an English as a New Language (ENL) student with significant academic gaps. All of his energy was being devoted to keeping the appearance that he was doing the same work as everyone else. When he could no longer hide the truth from his peers, he became shy and withdrawn.  He didn’t want help from the teachers because this made him stand out and he just wanted to fit in.  

We believe that teaching begins when we meet children where they are and for this boy we had to make sure he perceived the classroom environment as being a safe place where it was ok to take risks.  This work began with thoughtful partnerships and supportive groups. As he began to build relationships and form an identity as a learner he grew more confident. Then something amazing happened, he began to talk, to engage with classmates, and was ready to learn.

Making reflection a habit of mind:

Teachers reflect and seize the moment.  Before we move forward to this next stage in his development,  we look back at the progress and look for milestones:

  • He is socially aware and has an inner drive to acquire language to be an active part within partnerships and groups.  This acquisition was slow but he had to be confident before he was ready to dive in.  
  • We respected his need to have grade level books in his bin and to explore them even though he could not read them conventionally .  We let him be who he was and access these books from where he could .
  • We observed him so we could meet him at his strongest point.

Why not start with the student’s strength? What can he do well? Then make a careful evaluation of our concerns. Reflect on classroom observations then make the plan:

Screen Shot 2016-04-23 at 11.35.51 AM
Student Strength: Uses text features; Takes risks one on one; Socially aware; Cooperative learner: Stays on manageable tasks; Works independently with the right supports (set him up): Has social conversations; Good visual and auditory memory Careful Evaluations: Can’t read independently:Can’t write independently:Hyper vigilant about how others perceive him; Language acquisition is steady but slow Reflecting on Observation: Reading aloud he will finish sentences or recall names and places; Can locate text using text features like maps; Can identify sight words that are spelled correctly in a simple sentence he creates; Surrounds himself with grade level text; Wants to be busy at a task; Demonstrates confidence with peers
Resourceful to get what he needs Make a Plan: Create a sight word map of locations for him to write an original story using characters he knows; Continue to use partner support to challenge him during read aloud; Daily shared reading to read with support; Story tell with the teacher as a scribe then illustrate.


Freedom and autonomy:

It was a strategic move to work with him during independent reading time.  The class is an avid group of readers and individual conferences is an expectation for all during  that time. We gathered the supplies; the map, sentence strips, teacher markers, scissors, highlighter, all the things he likes to use.  He was beaming and it was apparent that he felt special when he saw the map and all the supplies waiting for him.  He couldn’t wait to get to work.  It was a perfect fit.  He was enjoying the activity, building up his language skills as he made up sentences around the pictures, engaging with the sight words in a way that was meaningful to him, and it had a math component with the plotting which is an area of strength for him.
This scaffold has become a meaningful tool for him. The next day,  as he worked independently in his book bin using Geranimo Stilton, a book rich in text features, he used the map to identify words within the text and began to keep tallies of frequency. This is agency in action and his enthusiasm started to draw in other children.  It is natural in our classroom to use students as teachers.  We got an idea, why not pair him with another student to do this work.  This pairing had to be mutually beneficial and meet the needs of both students.  An embedded opportunity revealed itself.  A  boy who is very bright, but can be unfocused, started suggesting ideas for how to use the words around the pictures.  It was in a helpful way and both boys seemed very happy about this arrangement.  A partnership was formed; one boy would teach sight words, the other would teach how to be a soccer goalie. They got right to work.  As we stood back and observed, we saw pure engagement.  

Teaching is everything:

It is time to celebrate the insights of teachers.  It is not about the sight word map because it won’t work for all students.  The map is a product of a process of teacher observation and reflection to meet the needs of one individual student.   This is the work!  It is about being a teacher to children first.  We are not slaves to levels, we are not handcuffed to the Common Core, we are not blindly following our curriculum.  We are accountable to our curriculum and we are responsible to our students, we can do both.  We need to give kids what they need right now so they can learn.  This is rigor through relevant, meaningful work.


Unlocking Each Other’s Potential

As connected educators, we find inspiration not only from our school colleagues but from our virtual faculty.  We belong to a Voxer community. Jenn was having a conversation on Voxer with Joanne Duncan about unlocking each other’s potential.  It occurs to us that  the key that turns the lock is the deep substantive conversations that make us think.  Here we are,  all doing the work and when we share our insights it inspires us to think in a deeper way.

As always, as we reflect on our own learning, we had to ask the question who is inspiring our students to think deeper.  Here is what they said:


Keshavi inspires me especially during math time.  She does math tricks or strategies that she shows to me that makes math easier.  It makes me feel happy because I have someone to count on when I need help.  It inspires me to make my own papers and charts to help me.  When I watch her and see what she does, it gives me ideas about what I can do.  “


“I think Tessa inspires me because she is very good at writing and reading.  I don’t think I am good at writing but whenever I think of Tessa I think I should work harder and write better things.  She is always writing something and this makes her really good at writing.  I think if I write more like her I will get better at it.  She makes me want to write more just like I read a lot.”


“Rileigh inspires me because she is so smart /intelligent and every time I look at her she is having fun.  She never gets mad and has a good heart.  She says good things about everyone and she helps others.  She is able to get over things that bother her and I want to be able to do that.  I watch her and I try to do what she does.”


“Keshavi inspires me because she is very smart and she can answer a lot of questions.  She works really hard and she is helpful.  When people need help, she will help them.  I can’t copy her but I watch  her and she inspires me to want to be better and work a little bit harder.”


“Natalie inspires me to do my best.  We talk about things and that helps me work better.  She treats me good and makes me happy all the time.  When I’m happy, I work harder and I do better work.  I never had her in my class, so I am happy because now we can do work together and this helps me learn.”


“Vinny inspires me a lot.  When he is working hard, he can get his work done quickly.  I watch him and it inspires me to work hard and get my work done too.  He also helps people and I try to do the same.  It is the right thing to do.”

Reflection is so revealing .  These simple conversations lend so much insight into the learning process for these children.  We need to name this for what it is, formative data.  We can use this information to inform partnerships, set instructional goals, and demonstrate relevant behaviors through using student models.  As we evaluated the children’s responses we saw both academic and social awareness at play.  Growth mindset is not just jargon, this is it happening in real time.  Through these conversations we can identify areas in which students are striving for personal growth. They haven’t mastered these things yet:  using tools, immersion in the process, resilience in the face of challenges, collaboration to elevate our work, and the importance of pacing. These children can be mentors to each other as they work through the trials and tribulations of third grade.

Adults who have a growth mindset do this also. Jenn was encouraging JoAnn to take that step into blogging because it was something that she talked about wanting to do.  Blogging offers teachers an opportunity to be introspective and thoughtful about their practice and their philosophy. Blogging has done this for us and reading blogs informs our practice, provides a connectedness and pushes us even further.  We want to share some of the blogs from our Voxer community who we learn with every day.


Literacy Lenses                                                        

To Read To Write To Be

Lessons In Literacy, Lessons in Life                    

Four O’clock Faculty

Resource – Full                                                       

Simply Inspired Teaching

Reading Teacher Writes                                       

Burkins & Yaris Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy                                                

Kinderconfidential The Good The Bad The Planning

One Reader at a Time                                                                                   

The Writing Book Lady  


JoAnne Duncan

We can’t wait to read your blog JoAnne! 

Children As Teachers- Students Leading Read Aloud

Where do great ideas come from?  

We are always on the lookout for good ideas.  One came from our dear friend, Dr. Erica Pecorale.  Erica is both generous and brilliant, she is the kind of teacher who is open to collaboration and is a source of inspiration for all who know her.  Follow her on @twitter @epecorale .  She co-moderates a  weekly chat called #simplestarts with Kari Yates @Kari_Yates and Dani Burtsfield @girlworld4 .  Erica suggested having student led read alouds where students prepare a read aloud that involves active engagement from their classmates.  They are not merely reading aloud a story but they have a plan on what they will do with the children; turn and talk, stop and jot, and follow up activities involving talking and writing around reading.

Why take the time to do this work?

This suggestion really resonated with us because our work together is focused on promoting agency in the classroom.  If we value independence, then it just makes sense to plan for it throughout the school day. Read aloud is typically the teacher’s turf, but when we share this time we are opening up potential for student learning in a multitude of ways. We are flexing our standards in ways that are both relevant and engaging.  Here are some examples of students at work:

    • As a scaffold for kids who need it, there is conferencing beforehand to focus on word solving.
    • Students are practicing read aloud as a performance piece, making fluency viable.
    • Students are reading with purpose and understanding because they are directing the reading.
    • Students are planning and executing the lessons and this makes reading for meaning vital to the process.
    • Students are planning active engagement for their peers through a multitude of  listening and speaking activities around the book.
    • Students are planning and executing writing about reading just as we would have done.
    • Students are making choices from a wide variety of genres with a rationale..

How did it roll out?

It was state testing time and we wanted an activity that would bring joy to the classroom during a difficult time of the year.  This was the perfect fit.  We began this on a volunteer basis where students chose to pick a book to read aloud and plan a lesson.  Quickly, students began to sign up and discuss their ideas with us.  When they felt ready and had sufficient practice, our students became teachers.  

What did we learn?

  • Child selected groupings: it was interesting to see how children prepared this aspect of the learning.  Some students were intuitive and pragmatic with how students should be grouped to maximize the learning.
  • Child’s perspective: this was revealing to learn how children conceptualize the teacher’s role.  Some students circulated the room and conferred with students, while other students wanted to give a grade.  Some students replied to their classmates’ answers with positive messages.
  • Focused learning: students who are prone towards distraction were completely engaged in this process.This experience afforded them insights that would otherwise have been inaccessible, would students understand what had to be done? Would they be bored? Would they like the book? These are all ways to reflect on one’s own learning as they planned for each other.  
  • Importance of play: on Thursday April 14, 2016 #G2Great had @MrazKristine @cheryltyler11 @AlisonPorcelli join the conversation and it was an inspired chat.  We were struck by how the power of play was revealed through this work. This was purposeful play where children assumed the role of the teacher to stretch and grow their thinking and actions.   

Don’t take our word for it, listen to what students had to say…

Natalie- “I had to practice a lot to make sure I did a good job.  It was hard because it is a rhyming book so I had to work hard.  I was thinking about how I was going to say things and what to ask the kids.  My head felt a little crazy with so much going on.  Before school that day, I was excited but nervous.  When I got in the reading chair, I felt very excited.  The children were noisy at first so I had to stop and wait.  I was hoping they would like their groups when they were going to act out a scene from the book.  I thought it went really good and I was proud of myself.

Tessa- “It was really fun because I got to be in charge.  I wrote down what I was going to make the kids do and I picked a book I thought was right- a funny book to entertain the kids so they weren’t bored.  I practiced the stories I was going to read.  I felt nervous but I think it went really good.  The children did a good job with my activity because they wrote a lot and really persuaded me to read this book.  They had really good reasons.  I learned it is really hard to be a teacher and go around and help everyone.”

Vinny- “When I did the read aloud  I was a little embarrassed and I didn’t know if they would like an informational book.  When I read it, I felt good.  The activity went well and the children were really writing a lot and working hard.  I could tell they learned a lot about ants.  When it was over I felt really happy that I did that read aloud.  The class was really interested, looked at the book and wanted to use the book to read the parts I skipped.  It was hard practicing reading it- I even practiced with my sister at home.  It was all worth it because it was a good time for all of us.”

Nolan- “I thought this was really fun because I was able to think about how Mrs. DeRosa taught and it helped me to teach.  When Mrs. DeRosa asks us questions and tell us to think about what we would do if we were in the story, I did the same thing.  I was talking with a lot of groups as they were working and they were working really hard.  They were connecting their work and making their thinking bigger.  I think they had a lot of fun.  I loved being the teacher!”

Rileigh- “I love reading to the class because I get to show them my favorite book and it is fun to share your ideas with everybody.  When I was little, I used to love to read to classes and I was never scared.  I like to do activities about reading all the time so I thought I would do one with the children.  I let them free style a little and I could tell when I saw the happy faces on them that they liked it.  I went around and gave children ideas as they were working and they did a great job.”  

Until We Meet Again – Bringing the Work Home: #TCRWP Reunion

Content Literacy Building Knowledge Across the Curriculum – Stephanie Harvey


  • To build foundations of knowledge we have to offer children variety; topics, genres, levels.  We may be picking the focus that children will study but they will have choice.  This is what Richard Allington calls “managed choice”.  
  • Setting up classroom structures that support collaborative learning is also important to this process.  A gallery of choices stemming from songs to expository text and narratives show children that there is a lot to learn and this is sophisticated.  This provides a space where students can gather, observe and discuss a plan for their learning.  
  • Stephanie Harvey demonstrated this work through videos.  In the videos, it was clear that the classroom teacher used these structures and it allowed us to observe how students work.  The students were engaged, collaborative, and were working with clarity.  They were intrinsically driven.

What this means:

  • We left there thinking of ways we could expand on this idea of managed choice.  We just completed a biography unit of study and students read texts within the span of their person’s life.  Students explored text sets including digital text, pictures, poems, informational text, picture books and articles relating to their person and the times they lived in.  Our next step would be to explore using lyrics and primary sources to integrate more content in student learning.  We both were accepted into The Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute so there will be more to come about this.
  • This was a confirmation of the work that is already going on in our classroom.  It is easy to have some doubt when your classroom is bustling and kids are working independently.  While this can sometimes be challenging, it was great to see that it is being valued by experts in our field.  
  • As we watched the videos, you couldn’t help but be struck by the reality and power of this type of learning.  Open ended questions generate discussion within this managed choice and serve as a springboard for next steps in their own learning.  Questioning was not the task it was a scaffold to build momentum for their own learning.

Closing – Creating a World We Believe In – Lucy Calkins


  • This was the most inspirational part of our day. Imagine thousands of teachers leaning in with rapt attention.  Lucy was talking to every one of us and what she did so well was she tapped into our shared values; ”You don’t give up your Saturday if you are not committed to the work.”  Our overwhelming sense was we were in this together.
  • We build community through story and Lucy shared the history of the Saturday Reunion as she reflected on the story of her life and how it was interwoven to the narrative of the project itself.  As we listened to her tell the story, we realized that we participated in that past and it was our shared history.  The bicycle race, Mo Willems, Patricia Polacco and Linda Darling Hammond and we began to reminisce along with the crowd.  
  • They call it a Saturday Reunion because it is a time for us to come home.  To feel “less weird” because:  we aspire to be more than what we are, we don’t shirk away from hard work and we are willing to take a risk.  

What this means:

  • We strongly believe that it’s all about what you value.  Our values are deeply connected to the kind of thinking that goes on in the project.  We believe in balanced literacy and workshop.  This is not an easy road.  We come to the Reunion Days to be with others who think the way we do.  To get strength to go back into the world  and fight for what we value for children.
  • It is really generous that the project opens their doors to share their best thinking with all of us and we respond by sharing ours.  It is like we are sharing the pen and writing this history together.  We are sharing all of our stories together in an attempt to create a narrative of excellence.  
  • Why do we keep coming?  It is refreshing to not have to justify our passionate stance, to be surrounded by people who understand our sense of urgency.  These Reunion Days are joyful times for us that we look forward to.  This time we recruited someone new, Tom who is a brand new ENL teacher.  We will encourage him to come back as he crafts his own story of what his professional life will be.

Generative Learning In Action: The Reunion Continues #TCRWP

Session 3: How Can We Help Students Become Reflective, Goal-Driven Writers? Checklists, Feedback and Goal Setting Can Accelerate Student Growth – Alexandra Marron


  • Strategy Seminars: This is a way to teach strategies that makes the learning transfer to student need. Students sign up for a strategy for example, how to find the Main Idea, this builds in choice, and formative assessment.  Choice because students are determining their needs by making a selection.  Formative assessment because teachers can observe the choices made. This tells us a lot about mindset:
    • Does the student have a fixed mindset, are they selecting strategies that they are already good at?  
    • Do students know themselves as learners?
    • How effective was my instruction? Do certain methods work better for certain children?
  • Using the TC Learning Progression from the Reading Pathways Book as a multifunctional tool for teachers and students during goal setting. This idea was first introduced to us in Brooke Geller’s session. We are the kind of teachers who think it is so important to integrate all our learning into a cohesive vision.
    • Teachers use the progression as a record keeping device (insert pictures)
    • Students can cut them up and make micro progressions, and goal setting tools (insert pictures)

What this means:

  • Independence: either of these take-aways work as structures to promote independent work. Choice and tools work together to empower students. The whole goal of workshop is to lift the scaffold and foster independent learning.  
  • Agency: Our work aims to p
  • ut the learning in the hands of our students.  Together we explore student potential which means we have to let them shape the path for us to follow. This work resonated with us because it is additional thinking that informs our current practices and makes us think deeply about the vision for what might come next.

Session 4: Structures and Rituals (and a Calendar) Can Make Your Writing Workshop Support Your ELLs K-5 – Jen DeSutter


  • The way we can get to know our writers is by using three lenses to study student work to set goals: language, word study and genre knowledge. The way we view their work is shaped by the different expectations for each stage of language acquisition.
  • Everything we do in our classroom needs to be rooted in context.  Knowledge integration means that we make connections for learning throughout the day. We have to provide instructional variety to engage learners.  We can do this through shared writing, interactive writing and writers workshop.  

What this means:

  • Once we look beyond the way students’ writing looks on the page, we can learn to embrace how their language knowledge is conveyed through their writing.  This will change how we view progress for their writing. We are moving away from only looking at mechanics/spelling and closer to process learning.  We loved the idea of using the three lenses (language, word study, and genre) to evaluate student writing. Jill was able to look at the different stages of language development and match her students to their levels of language readiness.  It was a natural fit and that just made sense. As we do this, we are looking at possibilities opposed to limitations.
  • We’ve been thinking a long time about using instructional techniques in strategic ways.  Shared writing is a natural fit for learning syntax and grammar.  Interactive writing is a great way to promote elaboration through group discussion.  What better way to teach academic language than having children apply their learning right there on the spot?  As we listened we began to think about how we would integrate tools as part of our instructional practice. A focus might be on generating cognates, synonyms, or  suffixes/prefixes to promote meaning making. Where there are tools there is also engagement.  As we incorporate pictures, gestures and phrases, we can reach many more writers.
  • We believe in the reading/writing connection. Our next thoughts turned  to taking Jen DeSutter’s ideas and transferring this learning to reading work. Context is extremely important, and it is especially so for our ELL students. Every writing move can be made more meaningful through reading work. How can we do this? Student work offers us opportunities to teach into language, word study and genre.  If we use student writing as a mentor for shared reading and interactive read alouds, we can teach them how to look at writing through the three lenses: language, genre, and word study.  This is a way to tap into language that is easily accessible to them and values their work.