TCRWP CA Trip - Update #4 - Getting Started as a Writer

I was placed with the 2nd grade group for the workshop demonstration session this morning. Barb, our presenter, walked us through a Writing Workshop day as if we were students in her class.  She talked (and she's really funny). She read a book. We talked and shared.  We listened. She talked. We talked.   She did a mini-lesson.  We sketched. We shared. She talked. We wrapped-up. She gave us homework.

She began the session right off by reading this book out loud to us, The Best Story, about a little girl on a journey to find her own identity as a writer. She is journeying into the world of writing and gets advice from different characters in the story about what good writing should have...she ultimately comes to discover that writing comes from your heart, from inside you.  [By the way, you might like to know that she read the book on the document camera and we stayed in our seats.]

Barb used this book as a springboard to begin sharing the important topic of Generating Ideas for Our Own Writing...a BIG SKILL in K-2 writing workshop...[so often times as teachers we help kids figure out what to write about my making anchor charts with idea lists, but we don't teach them HOW and where to find their own ideas for writing]...She said, "When faced with a  blank piece of paper, I think, there's nothing exciting about my life" so....writers must ask themselves, "Where do I come from?" [and she doesn't mean geographically,...but meaning more like "Where are my heart-centered places?" and she goes on to to talk and sketch the "heart-centered places" that she comes from and tell these stories of where she comes from.

"I come from my grandma, she's 90. She has false year, I made hard candy for a family gathering knowing grandma had false teeth...she took one anyway and I said Grandma you can't eat that, and she said, yes I can, I'll take my teeth out and suck the chocolate off"....and drew a picture of her grandma's face on a blank white sheet of paper and wrote the word Babushka under her face.  

She went on the tell and draw about important people and places, giving specific examples for each one about why they were important and part of "where she came from."  She said that writing about where you come from is less about the coordinates and more about the emotional experiences about who you are and where you come from.  

Then it was our turn to think and sketch about where we came from and share out with our neighbor...all the while wrapping up this part by saying [when talking about her grandma] "it's not about my grandma, it's about the conversation I had with her and sucking off the chocolate..." we [students] need to be as specific as we can with people...and tell the emotional story that goes with the experiences. 

From here we move to the back of the room...with 23 adults sitting on the floor around her easel as she begins the writing workshop mini lesson. 

This was the anchor chart that she created...again, tied into the focus of Generating Ideas.  She told us four steps for getting started.  She said getting started is like ripping off a band-aid, you just have to do it.  For the Plan step, you'll see that she shared three different strategies for making a plan before sketching. 1. Tell the story across your fingers. 2. Point to each page and tell what you will say on each page. 3. Write a blurb at the top of each page to remind you what will be written on that page.  You want to give students permission to plan in one of these ways vs. saying, everybody do it this way today.   For the Sketch step, she modeled making a sketch of her story on each page (5 pages). Then she said you will write words to match each sketch on each page.  Her story was a small moment story about when she told her dad she was moving to Taiwan over a glass of iced tea at a downtown deli (the small moment lasted 3-5 minutes).  

We each then went to the writing center, took a writing folder, took five pieces of writing paper and began to think, plan and sketch.   Our homework is to Write.  She shared a few books that help with Generating Ideas for Writing, called demonstration texts, including this one called Night of the Veggie Monster...also, The Rain Stomper and My Best Friend.  

She spent the last 15 minutes before lunch going over the layout and design of the new Curricular Plan Units of Study, speaking to the organization by year, month and day.  Telling teachers that they could follow all units in order or deciding to cut some out. She did say that the units are cyclical throughout the year, so unit 2 builds on 1, unit 4 builds on units 1, 2 and 3, etc.  At the beginning of the document, there are goals of how the year might go and each unit has an overview. She recommends highlighting BIG IDEAS in the units.  There are possible teaching points suggested in each unit, but only bulleted, not numbered as you may find your students need something as the bottom of the list before something at the top, your students will guide where you go. She suggested reading the Curricular Plans like a book study on your grade level, and to only read one unit at a time.  Like read September in August, etc. She said you will craft your own mini-lessons as you go as well.  Think about Big Skills that are transferrable from unit to unit, not the tick-tacky things that are unimportant. For example, a Big Skill is Planning Your might say, "everyone plans, here are some different ways"

When reading the unit, you might use a T-chart like the one below to plan what it is you want students to do and how you will teach them to do it. 
Or, as you are reading through and highlighting the unit of study, you may want to organize the skills and strategies you will want to teach them in this way for whole group or small group mini-lesson ideas:
Barb mentioned that the new curricular plans are written in narrative form and can be overwhelming at first, but to dive in one unit/chapter at a time. Someone in the room asked about the Primary Units of STudy, the books (the K-2 set and 3-5)....and how the curricular plans were were different or the same. This was her response: She said the Lucy Units of Study (the books) are more outdated than the Curricular plans and in the process of being rewritten right now. [So if you or your district is considering purchasing them, wait]...however, she gave me the impression that the Curricular Plans (the e-docs) were just fine, in fact, she said use the Curricular Plans for content (what to teach) and she said to use the Units of Study for methodology.  

If you have any questions, you'd like me to ask the presenters, we, Kathy and I, and the other instructional coaches in the district, are having a working lunch with the presenters on Thursday.  So leave a question in the comments and I'll ask them for you...and repost all the Q&A's in another post.  

P.S. While I was sitting in the Atlanta airport for three hours, I made some new fonts and dingbats...Hello Doodles, Hello Squiggles and Hello Digitheads.  Not that I'm on a computer and not my iPad, I've added them to the right sidebar of my blog. 

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Camille said...

I hope you are loving our Caliornia weather!

Question: Can you explain the difference between skills and strategies? That's fuzzy for me.
An Open Door blog

Tammy said...

I hadn't heard of the Curricular Plan Units of Study. I'll have to get my hands on a copy. Thanks.
❀ Tammy
Forever in First

Valerie R. said...

Very helpful summary of your day. Thank you! Summer vacation is the perfecct time for all of this information to percolate before I spring into action in August.

krissyb said...

Thank you for the great post! Where can I get your cute border?


mary b. said...

Thanks for this recap. Keep them coming! The Rain Stomper is new to me - am ordering it now.
(I have used both - the published set & the curricular plans. She labeled it perfectly. Books = methodology. Curricular plans = lessons/content. They are wonderful - full of background for the novice and experienced, and BIG SKILLS that are broken down in a thoughtful manner that helps guide young writers.)

krissyb said...

Thank you for the great post! Where can I get your cute border?


mrs. tabb said...

awesome. so jealous i didn't get to go to the summer institute this year. I heart tcwrp! :)

Jennifer Jones said...

The TCRWP presenters are telling us that the Curricular Plans are the writing curriculum and to use the UOS books as (methodology)reference since the UOS books are now almost 10 years old...they are re-writing the UOS books and they will not be divided K-2 and 3-5 as they are now but one set per grade level.

Jennifer Jones said...

Krissy...thanks! I'm on information overload...and I thought I knew with writing workshop curriculum well, so I can't even imagine how this must be for new Lucy-kins. My cute borders are availabe here:
Check them out! Thanks! Jen

Amanda Madden said...

Thanks for this post! I'm your newest follower. :)

Teaching Maddeness

Jennifer Jones said... my reply to mary b. comment re: the UOS and the curricular plans. Take care, Jen

Jennifer Jones said...

Camille, skills and strategies go hand in hand in that a skill is what you have when you've used strategies to learn the skill. Like riding a bike is a skill once you know how to do it and you never forget because you practiced a lot using strateges. When students have to skills of truly writing small moment stories, we teach them strategies, like writing across the pages, how to plan using a timeline, how to choose seed ideas vs. watermelon ideas, etc. In reading, strategies are like tools in a shed to a gardener, they'll only help you learn the skills (of knowing the difference between fact and opinion) if you you know how to use the tool or better, how the tool helps the job of a gardener or reader. How does the strategy of Determining Importance in Non-fiction help you as a reader get the skill, Fact vs. Opinion. Yesterday, Barb said, she thinks of skills and strategies as a staircase with strategies on every stair and the skill at the top. Hope that helps.

mary b. said...

How interesting. (A friend of mine went to the reading workshop. Same thing - she felt brain overload every night!)

I read/heard (?) that the curricular plans would be updated every year. Is that true? If so, when will they upload the new plans?

I appreciate you letting us 'tag' along with you ;-)

Jennifer Jones said...

Mary...yes, you're right. They are updating and will be revising those from year to year AND the DRAFTs of the first three units became available on the TCRWP website just yesterday, for every grade for reading and writing. I accessed them today and you can too. (Rumor has it that Heinemann will not be publishing the 12-13 e-docs, but for now, what is available (the first three units of study) are available on the TCRWP site. Grab them while you can.

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