Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Professional Learning with TCRWP Writing

I was tickled to be able to attend a one day workshop put on by Teacher's College and The Reading and Writing Project this week. Mary Erhenworth and Laurie Pessah were our presenters and they did not disappoint.

We began the day learning about writing workshop. Mary's questioning got us immediately reflecting on the writing that was taking place in our buildings. She asked:

  • How is writing going?
  • How do you know?
  • Is there growth?
  • What are the systems in place for writing over time?
She highly encouraged us to begin each year with narrative. This is a time to gain insight into our children's lives. Writing in the narrative genre gives these children the gift of telling their own stories with knowledge, insight, power and grace. We teach the kids to write so their voices will be heard. We look for who the child is emerging through the writing. It is a true way to research our kids.

As teachers this is a time to begin talking about writing. Our ability to talk about writing directly relates to our ability to teach writing. Teachers at this point of the year, gather to look at student writing through multiple lenses. We must take great care to democratize the level of teaching knowledge to improve students' writing. This is done by looking at pieces of student writing and discussing the evidence we found by looking through the lenses of genre, focus, structure, craft, conventions and volume.

Laurie then walked us through evidence we should look for to determine the quality of writing workshops that are taking place in our building. It is not enough to just have it in your schedule.
  • Students are spending most of their time writing.
  • Folder and notebooks are chock full (& amounts of writing are changing over time).
  • Children can talk about their writing, what they are trying to convey and what their goals are.
  • Strategies on charts are reflected in student writing (ask students, "What charts are most helpful to you?)
  • Writing improves dramatically over time in many ways, including structure, elaboration and conventions.
  • Mini lessons are slimmed down to 10-15 minutes (not a time for Q & A).
  • Teachers are meeting with 7-12 kids a day.
  • Students are energized & uplifted when teachers confer with them.
  • Kids use partnerships to rehearse, give advice and to react to each other's writing (not just when the T says, "work with your partner"). 
  • Kids are advising each other with evidence there was crystal clear teaching.

 A tool to measure volumes of writing.

In another post, I will share more of what we learned about reading and instructional leadership.