TCRWP 10/22/22 Saturday Reunion

Sometimes you don’t know what you need.

Saturday I needed to hear author Peter Reynolds share about how he craves human connection. He explained it is probably because he is a twin and from the very start had a human connection, right there in the womb. Then he simply said, “FInd your twin.” And immediately I thought of those humans I crave and carve out time to spend moments with, every though I do not have a biological twin.

Saturday, I needed to be reminded by Mary how I can use the video Joy and Heron to teach vocabulary. I especially liked how she showed ways to use this work in book clubs. “Math is not the only place for manipulatives,” she said as she moved small 1×2 inches post-its around on the change-over-time story arc.

Saturday, I needed to reflect on my assessment timeline with Laurie (I’ve done such a timeline for my reading life and my writing life but never for assessments). I found it powerful to think about the times I took and/or have given assessments. I needed to be reminded of rituals, structures and tips to ensure assessments are paired with meaning feedback to grow students.

Saturday, I needed to be reminded by Katie of Shared Reading and how it can include nonfiction text. And how it can include ways to teach word solving strategies and fluency, two skills my current students need to practice.

Saturday, I needed to be inspired by Lucy. I needed to hear again, “You are who you spend time teaching with. Learn together.” I also found it inspiring to be encouraged to “talk less” and “watch & coach” more. The students need to do the work and I need to simply set them up to do it. She ended by reminding us to Be A Mr. Jenson.

Here are my padlet notes and images from the day. Of course, I share, as you may not realize it and you may need a little inspiration, too. Clearly, TCRWP is one of my “twins”, a group I crave to interact with as a human. So grateful TCRWP shared on Saturday and that I zoomed in to be inspired.

Seven Years Later

I entered the large, paneled room in Zankle. I could imagine it hosting important gatherings with big-wigs mingling as the piano in the corner played Vivaldi. On this morning, seven summers ago, teachers gathered and I was one of them. I sat at on e fo the rectangular tables and introduced myself to the strangers who would be my classmates for the week. Our teacher, Mary, began. “This week, we will immerse ourselves in WWII. You will each be in a book club, reading a WWII historical fiction book. Each table group will also focus on an aspect of this time in history – the map, the music, the timeline, the vocabulary. Let’s get started transforming this room.” I wrote about that week HERE.

I enetered the whiteboard-covered classroom and asked how I could help. “I want my students to immerse themselves into aspects of WWII, before we start reading Historical FIction novels in a book club. Can you help we gather resources?” I smiled and agreedd to gather and post them to THIS PADLET, making it easier for the students to access.

Then I remembered back to that week, seven years ago when the teacher, Mary, did a read-aloud using two picture books – Rose Blanche and Angel GIrl. I ordered the first and it arrived at my house the next day. I checked the 2nd out from the public library. I found my green notebook filled with my 2015 Summer Institute handwritten notes. I set up my document camera and channeled Mary, recreating a read-aloud of two books told from differening perspectives about WWII. I sent THIS 18-minute SCREENCAST LINK for my colleague to share with her students.

I often hear how the blooms from the seeds teachers plant today with their students won’t ever be seen by them. Today, I understand this clearly. It’s taken seven years for the brilliance of a week with Mary Ehrenworth to be utilized by me, her student. Finally, the conditions are right and the seeds she planted in me are passing onto 7th grader readers in Virginia. Thank you, Mary.

Photo taken of the map my table-group made during the 2015 Reading Institute with Mary as our Staff Developer leader.

TCRWP – where I like to go to learn

What can I say? I like to learn.

So this past Saturday morning, I arose early and drove to the bakery to buy my breakfast right as they opened at 8am. Then on returning home, I set up my computer, plugged in my headphones and grabbed my notebook and pen. I sat and learned from 9-12noon from the experts at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. It was their free virtual Reunion Saturday and I feel lucky to have learned from seven dedicated literacy leaders on Zoom. My notes are here:

PADLET of NOTES from March, 2022 Reunion Saturday

Yesterday got me thinking about ALL the times I have taken the train to NYC to learn in-person during the before time. Sometimes, I drove to Stanford, CT and stayed with my sister-in-law and took the Metro-North into the city to learn at Teacehrs College. Sometimes, I attended a free one-day workshop like the one offered on Saturday. Other times, it was a week of learning where I paid to grow professionally. I never regretted the cost to learn with the TCRWP staff developers. They approach their work as a think-tank, always questioning how to raise the level of reading and writing for students and always sharing their latest findings. They appraoch institutes by allowing the participants to do the work. This is how I like to learn, by doing. Hence, I return to learn from them, year after year to learn the laters and experience by doing.

I took time today to find all the blog postings I’ve made over the years which is a summary of all they shared. As I opened each blog posting and reread, I immediately could see myself in the TCRWP library or the classroom in Horace Mann or the Corwin Auditorium. As I reread strategies taught to me, I smiled knowing I’m still using them because they work with students. I heard a few new ideas yesterday and will give them a go. TCRWP is where I go to learn and reignite my teaching passion.

Where do you go to stay current in literacy practices?

FYI: Here is a curated list of my blog posts sharing my major take-aways from my visits to TC.
I curated this mostly for me, to have all these in one place. But you are welcome to take a look!
(I started going in 2009 but didn’t start blogging about it until 2011):
August, 2011 Writing Institute. October 2011 Sat. Reunion
January, 2012 Coaching Institute
August, 2012 Reading Institute October, 2012 Sat. Reunion
January, 2013 Coaching Institute March, 2013 Sat. Reunion
August, 2013 Writing Institute and HERE October 2013 Sat. Reunion

March, 2014 Sat. Reunion
July, 2014 Reading Institute
and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE
(sat next to Beth during this instiute in Mary’s section
and now I work with her!)

August, 2014 Writing Institute
and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE

October, 2014 Sat. Reunion
March, 2015 Sat. Reunion
July, 2015 July Reading Institute keynote,
Mary’s WWII section, Emily’s NF BookClub

October, 2015 Sat. Reunion
March, 2016 Sat. Reunion
April, 2016 Digital Institute and HERE
August, 2016 Reading Institute
August, 2017 Writing Institute
October, 2017 Sat. Reunion
August, 2018 Writing Institute – Mary Stronger Partnership work, Mike Essay Work, Matt de la Pena
May, 2019 Graphic Writing Institute
October, 2019 Sat. Reunion

March, 2019 Sat. Reunion

I attended a MS Book Club Institute in 2017 and the June, 2021 Equity Institute but have not blog about them, yet. I do recommend both these institute.


Today is one of three favorite times of the year for me – the March Saturday Reunion at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). The other two are the October Saturday Reunion and a TCRWP Summer Institute. In the summer of 2009, I attended my first writing institute. Amongst these expert literacy leaders, I returned every October and March and summer to the upper west side of New York City to attend workshops at Teachers COllege, the Graduate School of Education of Columbia University. Oh, and a few January’s when I learned of their Coaching Institutes. Looking back and counting, I’ve attended a total of 18 summer institutes and today will be my 20th Reunion Saturday.

Today I do not head to Union Station in DC to take an Amtrak north.
Today, I won’t hussle off the train at Penn Station with my eyes looking up to follow the large red 1 signs to get me on the subway headed uptown.
Today I won’t see the blue and white mosaic at the Columbia Stop at 110th St. as I exit the subway train.
Today I won’t walk the few blocks past Barnard College (where my oldest is now an Alum) to Riverside Church.
Today I won’t walk into that immense stone space filled with my tribe, teachers from all over, giving up personal time to learn from the best literacy minds on the planet.
Today I be handed a Trail Guide listing pages and pages of workshops to attend.
Today I won’t take a seat up front with notebook and pen at the ready to write fast and furiously during the keynote speech.
Today I won’t cross the streets and enter Horace Mann or Thorndike or Grace Dodge along with thousands, driven to find a seat, often on the floor to listen and learn.

Looking back, these visits taught me how to write, how to read, how to be a book club member, how to run my classroom as a workshop.
Looking back, these visits introduced me to the TwoWritingTeachers, to twitter, to blogging, to amazing teachers in NY, in Iowa, in CA, in Cambodia, and in my hometown of Arlington, too.
Looking back, these visits introduced me to authors, so many, many amazing authors.

Today I will be connecting from my home, sitting alone in Virginia.
Today, I have my computer charged, my headphones plugged in, and my notebook and pen ready.
Today, I’ll sit in my dining room and will listen and learn from the greatest literacy minds on the planet with teachers from all around the world.
Today, I will miss having a live turn and talk partner, many who are slicers.

Thank you, TCRWP for teaching me.

FYI: I have written about my many visits to TC:
August, 2011 Writing Institute
October 2011 Sat. Reunion
January, 2012 Coaching Institute
August, 2012 Reading Institute
October, 2012 Sat. Reunion
January, 2013 Coaching Institute
March, 2013 Sat. Reunion
August, 2013 Writing Institute and HERE
October 2013 Sat. Reunion – Kate Dicamillo is Keynote!
March, 2014 Sat. Reunion
July, 2014 Reading Institute and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE
(sat next to Beth during this instiute in Mary’s section and now I work with her!)
August, 2014 Writing Institute and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE
October, 2014 Sat. Reunion
March, 2015 Sat. Reunion

NOTE….this curating is taking longer than I thought!! I will finish it but I need to get organized for today’s reunion. I’m looking forward to curating my blog like this so I can find and return to great teaching gems!

Unit Celebration

ME: Welcome to the 1st Dorothy Hamm Middle School Nonfiction Chapter Book Book CLub Conference. TOday, six book clubs, will share their expertise after reading a nonfiction chapter book. Get ready to learn about the Cold War, the making of Google, a person named Malala, a person named Omar, Japanese Internment Camps and about being quiet. Thank you for attending this conference, being curious to learn new things and sharing your own expertise. Let’s get started!

Fallout Book Club, as a Tedtalk, presenter: The Cold War takes place after World War 2 where 2 major superpowers of the world are the U.S. and Soviet Union….

Google It, as a Poster Presentation, Presenter: If you have any questions, ask or go Google It!

I Am Malala Poster Presenters (as a conclusion and with 3-voices together): “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

When Stars Are Scattered Book Club Expert Panel Presenters: (L as Moderator asks “Omar” played by Y what school was like in the refugee camp.) A classroom was filled with about 100 students. I was lucky because I was one of the few who had a notebook.”

They Called Us Enemy Poster Presenter: George’s family was sent to the internment camp simply because they looked like the enemy who bombed Pearl Harbor.

Quiet Power Poster Presenters: The author shared stories about famous interoverts like Elon Musk, Taylor Swift and Albert Einstein.

ME: Thank you for attending and presenting at our conference. I learned so much. Please pick one idea you took notes on while listening. When I say go, walk around and share something you learned and listen to what a conference attendee learned. Talk to six different conference attendees. Conferences are a great time to talk with others! GO!

NOTE: This slice gives you a glimpse of the unit celebration which is now one of my favorite Units of Study from TCRWP. It is called, Tapping the Power of Nonfiction by Katie Clements. I honestly was intimidated by nonfiction novels. Katie’s unit changed this for me.

My Teacher – Mary!

“Students need WARM DEMANDERS – a person who is compassionate, caring but also holds that student accountable. Type in the chat that teacher who was a WARM DEMANDER of you.” These words Tyrone Howard spoke during the closing Keynote of the TCRWP Saturday Reunion.

I immediately typed Mary Ehrenworth. That first summer back in 2009, sitting in the front row of the Columbia Univerisity Auditoium with 500+ teachers behind me, I was a student learning how to write. Mary taught me in a caring manner while masterfully nudging me to do the work and be accountable.

This past Saturday, Mary taught me some more. I am so thankful to be a part of the TCRWP community, learning.

Here are imiages from the slideshow I made to highlight the ideas shared by Mary, along with a former staff developer, Pablo, and a NYC teacher, Marc. They have a book out now called The Civically Engaged Classroom.

Studnet Letter Link

Marc’s students’ work Link

My Teachers

I spent from 7am to 6pm yesterday moving into my new school. Not sure why I have some much to move in and unpack ….actually, I do know why. I teach Reading 6 and therefore have tons of books!! It is also my 28th year as a teacher so I have almost 3 decades of collecting my favorite picture books and novels to share with my students. Plus, the pencils, notebooks, post-it notes, glue sticks, bulletin board boarders, anchor chart paper, whiteboard markers. Lucky for me, I’m in a much bigger classroom with lots of storage. Now, ALL 20+ boxes are emptied and the books and materials have a shelf to call home.

Today, I made these four signs to hang in the back of my room:


They will join these speech-bubble faces I’ve made over the years:

Ellin Keene  – We talk to understand

Lucy Calkins: Writing changes the world

Carl Anderson – How’s it going?

Cornelius Minor – Be a producer, not a consumer of tech

Kathleen Tolan – Build a Reading Life

Jen Serravallo – Teach students how to read at each level

Kelly Boland – Students set and meet goals using the learning progressions

As I teach, these amazing educators will “watch” me and nudge me to be the best teacher I can for my students.

Whose shoulders are YOU standing on this year?

Whose photo would YOU add to your classroom wall as a reminder?

Weekend of Learning

From March 13-16, I was busy learning at both VSRA and TCRWP Saturday Institute. Today I have a little extra time. I plan to review my notes and process them here in writing.

Things to remember from VSRA:

  1. Pernille Ripp – if you don’t know of her, start following her. She is an amazing teacher in Wisconsin and started the Global Read-AloudAnnual Event. She was the VSRA Opening Keynote Speaker. But she also spoke at 8am for 90 minutes about writing. BIG TAKE-AWAY – In Writing Workshop, provide CHOICE!!

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She is concerned that we tell kids about the Writing Process and show the the stages – brainstorm, draft, revise, edit, publish. However, now that she is a published author, she realizes her writing process is messy. She suggests we let kids know this. She highlighted this in her classroom by skyping wih authors (suggested using this list created by Kate Messner). She asks the authors to talk about their process. After multiple skype sessions, her students felt liberated knowing that all writers have a different writing process.

Slide highlights from Pernille’s KEYNOTE SPEECH:

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2. Highlights from Kylene Beers and Bob Probst Conference Talk

  • Increase student volume of reading
    • reading a series – studies show such readers become lifelong readers
    • providing classroom libraries with characters that match students.
      Check out: We Need Diverse Books Website
    • becoming comfortable with an author/character allows the reader to feel fluent.
  • Increase STUDENT TALK in the classroom –
    3 BIG Questions:

    • What surprised me?
    • What did the author think I already knew?
    • What changed/confirmed what I knew?

Things to remember from TCRWP:

1. Keynote by Jason Reynolds. He is the coolest! And he signed my Reading Notebook. I wrote about it here.

2. Workshop by Katy Wischow – Co-author of Investigating Characterization Unit of Study for MS I was excited to learn of this new unit. It arrived yesterday from Heinemann and I plan to try teaching it in April/May.

3. Closing KeynoteMarc BrackettEver since hearing Marc and about his Ruler, I’ve been assessing my color zones. Am I feeling yellow, green, blue, red? Why? Maybe it’s time to get more sleep, to eat, to breathe. Time to get back to yellow! Read more about it HERE

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Thank you, Cindy for teaching me how to add a slideshow to my blog!!

What Color are You Feeling?

I heard Yale professor, Marc Brackett speak on Saturday. He is know for his RULER Approach. He was the closing Keynote at TCRWP Reunion Saturday in Riverside Church.


I knew nothing of his work. Since Saturday, I keep thinking, “What color am I now?” after he introduced me to his Ruler Method – a Mood Meter. The x-axis is a measure of how pleasant one feels. The y-axis is a measure of how much energy one has.

Screen Shot 2019-03-20 at 6.09.08 AM

YELLOW – how I felt after I made my presentation at VSRA.
GREEN – how I felt listening to Marc. I was so tired by Saturday afternoon but loved my day of learning at Teachers College.
RED – how I felt the day after my Fair at school as I read an email complaint and tried to remind myself that you can’t please everyone but I was still annoyed.
BLUE – how I felt standing on my crowded subway car after leaving Riverside Church as a man very, very loudly cursed others blocking his way (the F-word seemed to be his every-other word) and sadly the rest of the subway car felt like me – powerless to move him from his RED rage.

Then another man, probably feeling BLUE, too and holding a jar, asking for spare change spoke to the RED-raged man. Why you need to shout, man? Sure, it is annoying to have the doorway blocked? As I stood frozen by the shouting, the two men continued to converse, one loudly, the other calmly and soon the loud man was laughing. Then in two stops he exited the train and I felt relief and GREEN.

Marc reminded the 2,000 teachers gathered at Riverside church how kids can’t learn when they are afraid. He also spoke to us. As teachers, we can’t teach when we feel exhausted and annoyed. Then he shared how through breathing, eating well, sleeping enough and exercising we can set ourselves up for more YELLOW/GREEN times. And then we can be a role model to our students.

I’m glad the panhandler was a role model for my subway car on Saturday.

Spying on MY reading

This year I am teaching Reading 6 in Middle School so naturally, I am spending my time reading and spying on myself as I read. This was a trick I learned first from Ellin Keene in Mosaic of Thought, Heinemann, 1997 (a life-changing book for me and for the literacy world) and then reinforced by the staff developers at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Armed with the Pathways Reading book and more specifically focused the learning progressions of four skills (character traits, characters’ response to change, predicting, and author’s craft), I spied on myself as a reader Friday night.

Friday during the school day, author Alan Gratz visited my school promoting his newest book, Ban This Book.

IMG_9933 2

As I was leaving school with an autographed copy of his book, I stopped at the supply table in the back of my classroom and took time to set myself up for reading this book AND recording my thinking about it. I grabbed some post-it notes and added one to the last page of each chapter. Now for  this particular book, some of the chapters were short and the book itself is 243 pages long. And I will admit that many minutes went by as I armed my book with end-of-chapter note-taking space. However, now the book was ready. As soon as I heated up some dinner, I was ready, too, with pen in one hand and book in the other.

Friday night I sat and read the whole book! It IS a page turner and fun school story about one of my favorite things – books! And I found as I got to the end of each chapter, with that blank yellow post-it staring at me, I had a thought about the book at that moment and I jotted it down quickly before beginning the next chapter. I jotted character traits about the main and minor characters. I jotted down my predictions of what would happen next. I jotted that moment when the main character acted out of character. I jotted about times when I felt just like a character. I jotted about moves the author made to keep me reading.

It looked like this:

Then Monday night, I removed all the post-its. As I did, I sorted them into piles. All the ones about Amy Anne in a pile. Another pile for Trey and a third for Trey’s mom. I had a prediction pile and an author-craft pile. I had two favorite scenes, so I put those together. It looked like this:


During my many visits to Institutes at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, the staff developers have encouraged the use of a Reading Notebook. Since the act of reading is so invisible, the notebook is the place to make one’s thinking while reading visible to themselves and others. It is the place to hold onto thoughts, review them, grow them, revise them, and have them close at hand during a book club discussion or in front when a literary essay is being drafted.

As I looked over all the piles on my dining room table, I asked myself, what are the big ideas? I decided I had enough thinking to make two double-pages. One would be devoted to characters, their traits, my connections to them and times they acted out of character. (These are all skills defined in TCRWP Pathways to Reading book.) It ended up looking like this:

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I then took the predictions I made, my author’s craft notes, my two favorite scene and fun things I learned while reading this book and added them to look like this:

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I can’t wait to teach my sixth graders today. My mini-lesson will be a reminder about how, when we read, we think. One way to make our thinking visible is to stop and jot it down. Then I’ll show them how I did it. First, I set myself up for success by having a book of my choice that I was motived to read. (Somehow meeting the author hours before at my school and holding a book, signed by the author is very motivating!). Then I took time to add post-its so I’d be reminded to stop and jot. Using post-its allowed me to sort thinking into piles. It allowed me to them organize my thinking into my notebook. At the end, I added some color for fun.

Now, I am on the lookout for others who read this book thoughtfully. With my notebook in hand, I’m ready for a book club discussion. Or maybe I’ll use these pages to write a literary essay. No matter what, I know I will have fun sharing my spying on my reading with my 6th graders today!