Tuesday, June 26, 2012

All Write 2012 - Tuesday Slice of Life

My slice of life this week spans a three day period last week when I was an attendee at the All Write Summer Institute in Warsaw, Indiana.  These three days enriched my life as a teacher in ways I never expected.  This post is just one more attempt to process some of the powerful learning that occurred in those three days.

Much like Franki, my actual learning and professional conversations started way before I ever reached Warsaw, Indiana.  The two and a half hour drive from Dublin, Ohio, to Warsaw, Indiana, with Tony and Franki was nonstop talk about books, technology, and good practices in the classroom.  I can't tell you how many notes I jotted down in Evernote as one good idea after another bounced around the car.

The first evening there was a dinner for some twitter friends who were attending the institute.  Though most of the conversation at my table was getting to know each other, there were also some big topics addressed.  But the best part about this evening was getting to know people a little more personally whom I normally just have 140 character conversations with on twitter.

There are many Columbus area friends and twitter friends that push my thinking on a regular basis.  It was so delightful to see them all gathered in one location first at dinner, and then in the PAC to start the All Write Institute:

Thursday, the institute started with the keynote speaker, Ruth Ayres.  I was so happy to start my day with Ruth's thoughtful and wise words.  Whether she realizes it or not, Ruth has changed my life as a writing teacher in profound ways.  I heard her speak for the first time this past February at the Dublin Literacy Conference, and her passion for writing and children was so evident.  Her session convinced me to try the March Slice of Life Challenge, and after March, to continue with the Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge, at Two Writing Teachers, the blog she shares with Stacey.

But I digress.  In Ruth's keynote, her big message was STORY MATTERS.  We all have stories to tell, and a good writing workshop allows our students to tell their stories, and we should be sharing our story as well.  What a perfect way to start All Write!

 The first session I went to was Franki Sibberson's about Comprehension in a Digital Reading Workshop.  One of the messages I took away from Franki's session was if we’re asking students to just do shallow assignments with technology, that's not what we want; we want the technology to change the ways students think, allow them to think in deeper and more meaningful ways.  I also loved her session because she gave so many specific examples of ways to incorporate technology into all aspects of reading workshop.

I mentioned earlier that I took notes in Evernote.  However, when I got home, I transferred my thinking to a chart - one side was what I heard from the various presenters, the other side was what my action plan might be.  The following is just a miniscule part of my take-aways and action plans from Franki's session:

 My next session I listened to Jim Burke, a high school English teacher.  I had several take-aways from Jim.  First, it is so important to scaffold learning for students, especially when they're trying to learn about something in which they have no background knowledge.  I loved how he responded to students' writing while in progress -- he used a different tool, but made me wonder if having students compose in GoogleDocs so that we could have a conversation about the piece, might not have merit.  I know that when I write, I love it when an editor has that type of dialogue with me.  Something to think about.

I ended Thursday listening to Franki again, this time speaking about mini-lessons.  I've heard her talk about this topic before, but it was amazing how much more I took out of her presentation this time (much the same way I get more out of books during a reread).  The biggest message I took away this time is the importance of having multiple texts to teach a similar lesson.  Also, how important it is to be thoughtful about the books or texts you do choose so that you are building scaffolds into their learning.  Though I do plan day by day, based on how a mini-lesson went on any given day, the idea of having the "skeleton" of a unit of mini-lessons and a huge collection of supporting books for those lessons, will be a goal for me this year.

Thursday evening we had the opportunity to dine together again and listen to Ralph Fletcher speak.  I love his passion for notebooks and gathering what is in the world around you into that notebook.  But, much like the car ride here, more good learning took place after the actual hours of the institute.  When we went back to the hotel, I had an opportunity to meet some wonderful teachers from Princeton Day School in New Jersey.  They were a very cohesive third grade team, and I loved having a conversation with them about workshop (even though it was a little hard to hear, because it was also karaoke night in the bar :) ).  It's so great when you start the time together as strangers and end up bouncing ideas off one another.

The first session on Friday was Ralph Fletcher speaking about mentor texts.  I loved his thoughts about how poetry writing can be a great way for students to focus on the language of writing.  It is for that reason that I started my writing workshop last year with poetry, and after hearing Ralph say this, plan on doing the same again this year.

One of my favorite speakers on Friday was Ruth Ayres.  The title of her presentation was "Nudging Joy."  What a great title, and what a wonderful mantra by which to live.  My other two favorite things she said:
  • the best PD teachers can do is to develop ourselves as readers and writers
  • ***are we celebrating with our student writers or are we only trying to change them???*** 
Such smart thinking -- I will be processing this for a long time to come.

The last session of the day I spent with Donalyn Miller, of Book Whisperer fame.  I love how she's pushing our thinking as reading teachers once again.  It's not enough to get our kids hooked on reading and put great books into their hands; we need to teach them how to be independent readers.  If we can do that, that skill will last them a lifetime. 

So, there you have it -- my reflection on the All Write Summer Institute.

Wow, this was a little more long-winded than I expected.  My apologies.  But my adrenaline is still running strong from all that I learned last week.  How can it still be June, just a few weeks since last year finished, and I am this re-invigorated?!!  Attending the All Write Summer Institute was an amazing gift.

Franki was right in her post yesterday, that there did appear to be an unintentional, but incredibly powerful, theme that emerged from the institute: we need to bring joy into our own lives and that of our students.  We can't get caught up solely in all the mandates and pressures that surround us; we need to get to know each of our students, and celebrate who they are as readers and writers.

I think that's a huge message, and one I plan to hold on to all year long!

Thanks to Ruth and Stacey for hosting us on Tuesdays -- I'm delighted to be continuing my membership in this writing community that meets every week for Slice of Life Tuesday


  1. Wow, Karen! What an awesome couple of days of learning for you! It's amazing what can happen when a group gathers to learn together - and there were some great leaders of reading and writing to help your thinking progress! Thanks for sharing the highlights!

  2. I know. My brain is still swirling when I think of all I absorbed at All Write! Can't wait for NCTE. And two days until I begin the journey to Daufuskie. :)

  3. I think it's so interesting that you start your year with poetry. I love that idea!!! Thanks for sharing your reflections. It's been so nice to hear about the All Write institute from those who attended.

  4. I really, really wanted to go to All Write but just couldn't figure out how to make it work. I have so appreciated all of you who have put together these beautifully detailed posts about your learning. You have given me lots to think about. I would love for Ruth's theme about finding joy in our work to be my theme too…Thanks so much!

  5. The more I hear about All Write the sadder I feel about not being able to make it there...but, there is always next year!

  6. All Write sounds like it was an amazing conference after reading about it on Twitter and many blogs - thank you for sharing! Is the conference always in the Indiana area? Wish it was closer :)

  7. Thank you Karen. I see some common threads that most of you are highlighting. I'm so sorry I couldn't come & hope I can make it next year. The group of amazing teacher presenters must have filled all of your brains with such inspiration you probably want to start right away! Thanks for all the sharing. I like the chart that shows ideas, then actions-a great way to begin!

  8. Wonderful reflection of your learning. The more I hear about All Write the more I want to go there next year!

  9. What a beautiful post-- I am marking it as a favorite to come back to. We definitely don't do as much celebrating and laughing in the classrooms as we should and isn't it the truth that teachers should be readers and writers? I'm heading over to read Franki's post now.

  10. In the sharing of your reflection you have spurred some thinking in me. It is so encouraging.

  11. Great summary from the All Write. One of these years I hope to make it out there to hear all the great things writers have to share. Your notes are one reason that gets me pumped up for school.

  12. What a great post. You learned so much from great people. This post along had me feeling like I was right there with you. Maybe one day I will be able to say this.

  13. I love the theme about bringing joy to our students and celebrating their work. Thanks for sharing this information!