My Zone of PD: Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD

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As I read chapters 1-4 in Welcome to Writing Workshop, I couldn’t help thinking about the gradual release of responsibility. We need to think about, plan for, organize for, and assess for the gradual release of responsibility. Really everything we do needs to set our students up for independence. I love how Stacey and Lynne use this framework right away in chapter one. Too often the gradual release of responsibility is left out of the workshop conversation. If we focus on the flow of instruction in workshop, but the connection between the parts is missing we risk over-scaffolding. As we think about setting up the systems and structures of workshop we need to be mindful how these are being used to do more than manage our writers, they need to support our writers as they practice, approximate, and revise.

Stacey and Lynne highlighted a few ideas I have been thinking a lot about lately in my collaboration with teachers and students. There is a lot of time and space between teacher support and student independence in an elementary classroom. We need to think about how the learning environment can support our students in the work they are doing. Fraser said, ”The learning environment is “the third teacher” that can either enhance the kind of learning that optimizes our students’ potential to respond creatively and meaningfully to future challenges or detract from it.” (2012) Books are the perfect support for a writer. They are in our classroom environment. Books don’t over-scaffold, they are always available, and they are never pressed for time!

Teachers spend a lot of time planning the texts they will use to model in their lessons. Sometimes these texts are out of our students’ zone of proximal development. They can watch us use these texts, but they cannot independently use them as a tool. I have been helping teachers add a section to the classroom library for mentor texts that will be used by the students. We typically add the basket without anything in it. Whenever a student finds a text with a craft move in it, she can add it to the basket. This creates a fluidity between reading and writing workshop and invites students to choose which texts work best for them. When the going gets rough as a writer, one of the best things to do is get up and go to the classroom library. Whenever I am stuck as a writer, I read. I want students to have that same opportunity. Here are some baskets we have created:

Love how this teacher added the series students wrote to the classroom library so kids could use them as mentor texts!

Love how this teacher added the series students wrote to the classroom library so kids could use them as mentor texts!

Student and teacher writing should also be in these baskets!

Student and teacher writing should also be in these baskets!

I love watching kids study mentor texts:


Chapter 2 explores the how to design the classroom environment to support agency, choice and voice. “A literacy-rich environment for writing may include, but is not limited to, classroom libraries that contain a variety of genres and text types and copies of mentor texts (the books the teacher uses for minilessons and read alouds), anchor charts and word walls.” (p.39) This is critical. I love how Lynne and Stacey are making the reading-writing connection a priority in workshop. This is how we will get our young friends to read like a writer and try out new craft moves in their writing.

Check out this book and join me to discuss it with other educators throughout July - #CyberPD


Slice of Life: What is a Goal? #SOL19 #TWTBlog

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My son’s baseball team has a ritual.  No matter how late, how cold, how hot, how badly we lose or how magnificently we win, at the end of a game the team runs to the outfield, takes a knee and reflects on what they learned from the game.  They analyze, discuss, debate and strategize.  They hear feedback and are asked to think about the goals they have set for themselves, where they are in relation to those goals and their next steps to meet those goals.  The focus is always on the next game – improvement and growth.

The theory of growth mindset demonstrates that failing to reach your goal can actually sharpen your game plan and strengthen your resolve to go after it.  Lewis’ research on mastery suggests, “Mastery is not the same as perfectionism. Mastery requires endurance. It is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved-line, constant pursuit.”  This suggests that an over-emphasis on winning is not the path to mastery.  We need to cultivate an environment of reflection, revision and risk-taking.  Goals are not meant to be achieved, but rather to be propelled by.

I believe this ritual supports the true value of setting a goal, risk-taking and the pursuit of mastery.  It reminds me of the group-share in the workshop model.  We often use this time for students to celebrate and share what went well in the application of strategies.  I wonder if we should use this time more often to focus on our goals, growth and improvement.

What didn’t go well today?

How might you try it differently tomorrow?

What did you learn about yourself as a reader today that you will use as a reader tomorrow?

What are you working to improve?

What are you going to do next to meet your goal?

What would happen if no matter how tired, hot, wiggly, loud, or stressed for time we are, at the end of workshop we reflect on what we learned about ourselves as a reader.  Literacy is not about success or meeting a benchmark, it is about love, purpose and creativity.  Grit and growth mindset are not things that just happen.  They need to be cultivated and modeled alongside a joy of pursuit.  We need to take the time to value these dispositions not just label and assign them.  We need to truly embrace the curved path to mastery through our classroom rituals and environment.  Persistence and focus on the game - whether it be baseball or reading - requires a love for it. The goal must come from the student and have personal purpose. Otherwise, our students will remain on the sidelines.

Clare   Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers   here.


Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

My Zone of PD #IMWAYR #PDLove #CyberPD #BookLove #BuildYourStack


July is here! I love this month because it is my month to recharge, refuel, reflect, revise, read and reread. Here’s my PD stack. I will be professionally reading and virtually connecting with educators this month. If you are looking to learn with other educators in July consider joining #CyberPD or Book Love Summer Book Club

In addition to my PD stack above, I will be listening to Maggie and Kate Roberts’ Podcast series Beyond the Letters , rereading the #31DaysIBPOC series, and exploring the resources on Franki Sibberson’s padlet board

I can’t wait to get started. How are you recharging this summer? What is in your Zone of PD stack? Who are you bringing back to the classroom with you this fall?


Slice of Life: Reading Can Push You To Embrace Your Journey #SOL19 #TWTBlog

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Thank you … I have been thinking about what you said.

I turn to locate the voice. Is he talking to me?

Our eyes meet. 

You came to my class last week.  You told us that reading isn’t always easy for you. Teachers don’t say things like that.  They always say they love reading.  You didn’t say that.  I have been thinking about it.

My mind rewinds to the lesson I taught in his class.  I remember the lesson. I shared a time when my reading life wasn’t strong. I shared an entry from my reader’s notebook.

Since my mom died in January, I have had a lot of trouble reading. My mind wanders, I lose track of the plot, and I cannot seem to connect with the characters. I need to read for my job. I have been able to get through the books I need to read and even analyze them, but the joy just hasn’t been there for me. I notice that I have not been reading for pleasure. I have tried lots of different types of books and modalities – paper, digital, and audio. I have tried reading at different times of the day and in different places. My heart just isn’t in it and my brain is following suit.

I then showed them an entry from my notebook six months later:


 I told them my story. I told them that I lost my reading life because I thought reading had to be something you loved. I shared that I realized reading is not always about joy, passion or escape.  That year, when my mom died,  I realized reading can also be something you need.  Something hard.  Something painful.  Something that pushes you to embrace your journey.  You see, characters can be friends.  Characters just may understand your story better than your own family or friends.  Books may not call to you.  You might need to fight hard to get what you need from books.  It might be brutal to open a book you need each night, but you know it is how you will find a way to breathe again.

I told them these books became my mentors and I began to write.  I wrote through the heartache.  I wrote through my tears. I wrote to understand and to hope.  For the first time, I truly looked to authors to guide me.  I discovered what it meant to read like a writer.  I found myself continually shifting between reading and writing – some days more reading and some more writing.  As an adult, I had control over my reading life. I decided when, how and what I would read. This choice allowed me to find my way into reading at a time when it has been difficult for me. I now make it a point to share my reading story with kids.  I know there must be some who need to hear my story. 

My experience has pushed me to think about the options we are providing for our students in school. Do we need to have our reading and writing workshops completely separate? Can we have more of a flow between reading and writing? Is there space for our students to choose the best mode for their literate thinking on a particular day or period of time? Do we allow for students to when the work they need to do as a reader is writing and the work they need to do as a writer is reading?

I think we need to check in with our readers and writers to find out how things are going for them. We need to understand how they are feeling and why they are feeling the way they are if we want to engage them. Once we understand our readers, I hope we can create the space for them to find themselves if they lose their way. I hope we honor what they need and give them options so they can once again find purpose and joy in their reading and writing lives. 


I realize I have been lost in my own train of thought.  He turns to go on his way, and he leaves me with words to guide me as an educator: 

School sometimes makes me feel like if I don’t love reading something is wrong.  I don’t always love reading.  I find it hard. My teacher said you teach teachers about reading so if you had a hard time reading it makes me feel better.  It makes me believe I can be a reader.

I believe you are a reader.  Thank you for sharing your story with me.


Here are some other books I explored that year and since:

Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.

Slice of Life: Sometimes It Is The Realization That Matters #SOL19 #TWTBlog

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Or maybe the big idea is that if you don’t push yourself to do things you are afraid of … you might never realize what you were built to be…

I have read After the Fall by Dan Santat to elementary students countless times. It always strikes me when a young friend has a point of view or response that is new to me.  Most young readers get to the last page and begin to rattle off the predicted themes:

-       Face your fears

-       Never give up

-       You will never know until you try

-       If at first you don’t succeed

-       It’s okay to fail

You get the idea.  Kids typically focus on what the character or the reader will miss if they don’t get back up.  These conversations usually are filled with encouragement and optimism.  Kids say face your fears like it just something everyone does because you should.  Sometimes, while from a literary perspective these kids are right on, the conversations don’t feel authentic. I am not always sure they are considering the message themselves.

The words of this one young friend:

Or maybe the big idea is that if you don’t push yourself to do things you are afraid of … you might never realize what you were built to be…

felt really authentic to me.  He went beyond the obvious theme and considered motivation and purpose. 

Many of us, me included, don’t face our fears simply to say we faced them.  I don’t feel the need to get to the top of the wall simply to prove I can or to show I know how to persevere.  The climb and moment of truth is not what makes me feel successful. 

I think about some of the times in my life when I had to face my fears.  I was not happy at the moment of truth.  I did not get to the top or the end and feel filled with pride and accomplishment.  In fact, I am often miserable at that moment.  I want to be done, get back down, or retreat to my comfort zone.  I don’t have a Rocky Balboa moment. 




The realization for me comes after.  When I look back, I can think about what it took to get back up and use that to propel me in the future.  I remember the “self-talk.”  I remember it was not glorious.  I remember I was unhappy.  I remember not even enjoying the moment of truth.  All of this reminds me that what I do, I do for myself.  I do it to help me realize who I am, who I am meant to be, and who I am yet to discover.

This young reader understood a much bigger message in this book.  It is not about that one moment, it is about the many moments after that moment. It is what you do with the accomplishment.  It is about the realization and one’s identity. 

Later this reader found me.  He took the book and opened it to this page:


See this is what matters, not the climb, this…



 Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Deb, Kathleen, Kelsey, Lanny, Melanie, and Stacey for this weekly forum from Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers, and teachers here.