June 18, 2012

What educational philosophers or theorists have influenced your understanding of teaching, learning, and schooling?

Harry Wong

Ralph Fletcher

Regie Routman

Lucy Calkins

The 2 Sisters


What role does affect (feeling, attitude, disposition) play, if any, in learning?

I believe that children will be motivated to learn when they can trust you.  I also believe they will be engaged if you seem like you are truly interested in what you are teaching.  If you act like you don’t care, so will they.  If you don’t get to know a child as a person first and appreciate him/her individually, I think they will just do the work to please you (not to become a better learner, etc).  Kids will thrive if you create and maintain a positive learning environment where all students are appreciated and set up for success.

What recent research studies have influenced your practice and how, specifically, have they changed what you do in the classroom?

I read The Daily 5 and The CAFE by the 2 sisters a few years ago.  They are very positive and believe that all children can learn.  Their books are suggestions of how to manage your classroom during reading time (however, there is much that can also be applied to writing time).  I love how they emphasize simplicity and management training at the beginning of the year so you can really teach and work with the students for the rest of the school year.  I also like how they make sure you include enjoyment writing with an authentic purpose.  Students need time to write letters, plays, cards, lists, etc because that is authentic writing.

What “distant colleague” (author) has influenced your pedagogical practices?

Harry Wong and the 2 sisters have influenced me because they stress the importance of front-loading management so you can focus on teaching.  Also, Lucy Calkins, Regie Routman, and many other authors have solidified that modeling is extremely important in elementary school.

As you think about the history of compositions studies and English Language Arts, what problems persist to the current era?  Why do you think this is so?

I think the biggest problem in my district is that we are being forced to teach “canned curriculum”.  Though I think it’s very important to have goals (and maybe a Scope and Sequence), the kids can tell when you are forced to teach something (rather than teaching something you’re passionate about).  I try to fake it, but they can still tell (especially when I’m holding the teaching guide so I don’t get in trouble for skipping something when an administrator walks in).  I also don’t think that pre-service teachers receive much instruction in college of how to teaching LA.  I know I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing.  They get their experience on the job.  However, many districts use different “programs”, so they are taught how to use the “program” rather than how to teach LA effectively.

What role might new technologies play in our and our students’ writing?  What role, more specifically, might mobile technologies play?

I think new technologies have allowed students to be more social with their writing.  They are able to create documents and projects (Animotos, Photostories, Storybirds, etc) to tell their stories in creative and social ways.  The audience becomes larger and broader this way.

Mobile technologies are especially good for students with disabilities.  The iPad allows ELL students to translate very quickly (Google Translate), hearing and visually impaired students to be accommodated (General Settings), and struggling writers (or children who have problems with handwriting) to use Podcasts to relate their ideas.

Wide Awakeness, Critical Consciousness, and Critical Pedagogy

June 18, 2012

Rautin and Ibriham Essay Reflection

Page #

Quote from the text:

My observations:


“The “poet” is a broad, generic term used to refer to someone who not only has the language but also the vision to tell us something new, or invent the known in an unknown language.”

After watching the YouTube video, Poetic Stick-Up, from Ted Ed, I realized that many of my students (especially those from different backgrounds) have different talents of expression.  I should appreciate those talents and allow for representation in many ways.


“A critical pedagogy opens up spaces for imaginative possibilities and a caring, unconditional dialogue, within the bureaucracy of schooling.”

I would agree.  I work really hard at the beginning of the school year to get all the procedures in place while, at the same time, getting to know the kids on a personal level.  I let them know that I am human and make mistakes and so will they.  I try to create a trusting and fun atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable to share their ideas and thinking.


“Decades ago, Maslow (1971) fervently proposed that intrinsic learning and arts in education could provide meaningful discovery into oneself and foster growth of consciousness and “becoming fully human.””

I totally agree that you have to be intrinsically motivated to do something (or at least that’s when you get the most learning done and best products completed).  Extrinsic motivation seems to make the kids not as motivated to learn for the long run (not to mention what it can sometimes do for behavior... that’s another story).


“Imagination is what, above all, makes empathy possible.”

This makes me realize that I should definitely have kids use their imaginations creatively more often.  Not only would I get better writing, I would also have a class full of kids who can put themselves in others’ shoes.  Awesome!


“Through integrated and enriching practice, teachers can enable students to embrace diversity, transform, and broaden ways of knowing and coming to understand the unfolding global issues around them (Wiebe et al., 2007).”

Though I really like this idea and agree, it could also be dangerous.  Teachers really need to consider the topic before they decide to have conversations with children.  I’m thinking about parents who do not want their children to “grow up” or learn about the world.  This just reminds me to be careful about what I expose children to in the classroom.


“a pedagogy of unconditional and open dialogue, attuned to the social realities of the class and/or community is necessary to initiate meaning-making, humanism and consciousness (Freire, 1998; Green, 1995).”

Agreed (see note for p. 27).


“However, as powerful social agents, it is teachers who make the choice of what to teach our students and ultimately dictate the visibility of the implicit, explicit, or null curriculum (Alexander, 2005).”

Teachers serve as a type of filter.  We use our own judgment to teach kids what we think is important or relevant.  However, that judgment is based on our backgrounds and what we have found to be important during our lives on earth.  That doesn’t mean that’s what is important for all.  The textbook companies and curriculum writers do the same.

Effective Practice

June 18, 2012

Writing and School Reform

What do you already do?  What area do you need to do more research/work?

Researched-Based Practice

Examples of Use in Classroom

1.  encouraged students to bring the languages, experiences, and images of their home communities into the classroom to be used as resources in service of student learning

I encourage a lot of talking on the rug (sharing stories from their countries), but I definitely LOVE the idea of having a family board.  Also, I have them decorate their Writers Notebooks with family pictures.

2.  positioned students and teachers as co-inquirers and co-learners, a process that allowed teachers to model inquiry, study, and learning for their students

I ask a lot of questions and encourage my students to dig deeper.  I would like to model more reading and authentic writing in front of my students (like updating the class website, writing notes to myself for ideas for writing, etc.).

3.  asked students to use writing to collect, analyze, synthesize, and communicate information and opinions

I don’t have students write enough in the content areas even though I believe that is extremely important.  With the time constrictions and large curriculum, I feel that I have taken a lot of the creativity and talk time out of my lessons.  That will change.

4.  called on students to draft, compose, and revise a variety of writings for a variety of audiences, purposes, and occasions

I liked Annette’s idea of changing genres and thinking about audience.  We teach author’s purpose a lot with our reading program, so I think doing a genre writing lesson would help students understand this concept in a deeper way.

5.  required students to use all the language arts (listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking) all at once and all together in the service of learning and sharing their ideas

The language arts are not separate in the real world, so I think it’s extremely important to teach them together when we teach children.  Again, the metacognition comes to life when you’re using all the language arts and strategies at once.  That’s real thinking and writing is thinking.

6.  encouraged students to make some of their writing public beyond the classroom, so as to gain a better understanding of how literacy works in the world

I have students blog and publish using Web 2.0 programs.  They also use Google Docs and can share with family, friends, and me.  I try to teach students that they will be writing for a variety of purposes.  However, I really need to explicitly teach them to consider their audience and write with a purpose.

Executive Summary

June 18, 2012

Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle & High School

What do you already do?  What area do you need to do more research/work?

Researched-Based Practice

Examples of Use in Classroom

1.  Writing Strategies, which involves teaching students strategies for planning, revising, and editing their compositions

I think they need to be taught explicitly and individually for younger students so they learn and are able to verbalize what their brains are doing when they write.  However, I also believe it’s very important to model and encourage them to talk about the strategies and use them together because that’s what real writing is.  With the computer, I believe people can revise and edit at the same time.

2.  Summarization, which involves explicitly and systematically teaching students how to summarize texts

This is extremely important because we do this on a daily basis in the real world.  Whether it’s summarizing what we think someone said for better understanding or using summarizing to persuade someone to read our favorite book, it is an extremely important skill.  I would like more information on how to explicitly teach this skill.

3.  Collaborative Writing, which uses instructional arrangements in which adolescents work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit their composition

I LOVE this idea!  I had kids peer edit and revise.  However, I love the idea of having them talk a lot before, during, and after they write (in all steps of the writing process).  I am interpersonal, and I know a lot of students are too.  Plus, it gives students a realistic model when they listen to their peers.  I like the idea of using Google Docs for this, but I also like just having them work together in person in the classroom.

4.  Specific Product Goals, which assigns specific, reachable goals for the writing they are to complete

I imagine doing this individually while conferring.  I believe I’ve helped students create goals for themselves in the past, but I’ve focused a lot on conventions because their writing is sometimes unreadable.  I would like to focus more on ideas and craft in the future.

5.  Word Processing, which uses computers and word processors as instructional supports for writing assignments

I have 6 “typers”, 2 desktops, 2 laptops, and 2 iPads in my classroom.  I could have ½ of my class type at a time.  I’ve found that some students actually write more when they are able to type instead of handwrite.  Since this is a skill that is essential in the real world, I don’t see a problem with that.  It will also be nice for students who have a hard time with the act of handwriting.  I also think it would be helpful for some students get get motivated and engaged by podcasting or having someone (or a computer) type their thoughts so they can see themselves as storytellers.  When their confidence is increased, then I could scaffold them to do the process of writing their stories themselves.

Day 1 Learning  


June 19, 2012

What am I thinking about the role of student affect, attitude, or disposition and students improving their writing?  How does this relate to “wide-awakeness” and “critical consciousness”?

I think that kids need to be joyful to be wide-awake.  I know that when I learn best, I am completely engaged, at my zone of proximal development, and working toward a goal with the big picture in mind.  I would also say that I am joyful.  I think these ideas go hand-in-hand, and I would assume many of my students feel the same way.

In what areas do I already feel strongly prepared?

I feel like I am a positive teacher who does a lot of student-centered activities.  I do a great job of this in Readers Workshop, Math, Social Studies, and Technology.  However, I think I can definitely improve in the area of writing.  That’s why I’m here.  I think I will spend more time on sharing with my students because the authors said that children experience job when they are able to share and collaborate with other students.  I will also make sure that students have enough time for an activity to come to its natural conclusion.  I am changing my thinking of writing because I actually think that being more simple will be better for my students.  I thought of writing as a complex task, but in reality, it is storytelling with revising.

Common Core

June 19, 2012

In what areas do I need to improve my own knowledge and skill?

10 minutes - Free Choice Reading

30 minutes - Reading Street Lesson

15 minutes - Low Group

15 minutes - Group

15 minutes - Group

5 minutes -   Share

Could this be my inquiry project?

I think it would be interesting to report out on using Social Bookmarking and sharing online.

Day 2 Learning

I really liked learning about joy.  I think I do a lot of the activities that the authors note, but I do need to remember to do more of them on a daily basis.  I feel very constricted by the requirements of core curriculum and evaluations that sometimes I see myself taking the joy out of learning by following the script.  I was aware of this before, but I feel more compelled to change back to the way I used to teach so my students are motivated to learn with joy.

These things lead to a joyful learner:

Ideas for Small Moment Stories

Red Robin shooting

Almost being shot when I was 4

Car Ride to Florida with the sharpie marker

Brother almost peeing on me in the middle of the night

Car breaking down on way to California

Not taking gum when it was offered to me

Friends making fun of my fake Cabbage Patch Doll

Winning State Sweetheart

Crashing my boyfriend’s car when I was 15

Showing my parents the dead rat under the couch

Telling my Grandma I didn’t want to ride with her on the Teacups at Disney World

Hearing that my best friends died my senior year of high school


June 20, 2012

Today, we use Socratic Discussion Groups.  I was very intrigued by this idea because I can see it as being so beneficial to teach children how to recognize good and meaningful conversation, and in turn, teach them to be good conversationalists.  Our Reading Groups did not discuss our articles ahead of time.  Instead, we were given questions to think about while we read.  Then, we sat in a circle in the middle of the classroom.  We were not given any prompts on how to lead or have the discussion.  While we discussed our article, the rest of the class took notes on the good things each person, and the group as a whole, did to promote conversation.  Examples included piggybacking, affirming, expressing emotion, etc.  I will definitely use Socratic Discussion Groups with my 4th graders next year.

What am I thinking about the role of research on curriculum development and pedagogical approaches?  How does this relate to my thinking about student affect and students improving their writing?  How does this relate to “wide-awakeness” and “critical consciousness”?  How does it relate to the CCSS?

Our group read an article about Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study.  The funny thing is that her publisher is the group that published this article.  You could see this as an advertisement, but our group did not because we are already “sold” on the ideas that are presented in the program and we respect the authors and researchers.

The researchers in the Bibliography are all very well-respected Writers and teachers of writing, so we trust what they have to say.  They say that using a writing process increases student achievement.  I guess you could argue that kids would be “wide-awake” because they know what to expect and what is expected of them.  Many of the Principles are indirectly related to the CCSS, but a teacher may have to extend some lessons to hit all of them (personal experience).  They are rewriting the Units of Study to align with the CCSS.

Day 3 Notes

Pick a Mobile Technology to report on (Social Bookmarking)

Inquiry Project


Log Report


June 21, 2012

Well, today’s the day I got rear-ended on my way to class.  When the car hit me, the only thing I said was, “Of course.”  I wasn’t surprised.  It’s like I was expecting something like that to happen.  I don’t normally feel like that, so it’s weird that I had such a nonchalant attitude.

Things that went through my head, but are SUPER-WEIRD!!!

NCTE Beliefs About the Teaching of Writing

June 21, 2012

Writing has changed in the past century and a half:

Everyone has the capacity to write, writing can be taught, and teachers can help students become better writers

Can anyone learn to be an artistic genius?  Skills and process should be taught because there is evidence that writers improve with teaching.  Writing teachers need to sign up for lifetime professional development.

People learn to write by writing

“Writing instruction must include ample in-class and out-of-class opportunities for writing and should include writing for a variety of purposes and audiences.

This makes me realize that I probably should have my students write at home.  That doesn’t mean that it has to be for writing class.  It could also be for Social Studies or Math.  Even though I’m not a huge proponent for homework for 4th graders, I think it would be ok to offer the option to write, edit, revise at home in Google Docs or in a Notebook.  That doesn’t mean I have to grade what they do.  They could have their parents helping them at home.  A second teacher does not sound too bad.

Writing is a process

Writers need to be taught many strategies of how to get ideas, edit, revise, and what to do when they get stuck.  They also need modeling and for the teacher to talk out loud about the thinking process he/she is going through while writing.  Writers need to learn to work effectively with one another, be able to write for deadlines, purpose, and audience with different choices/options of ways to go about it.

Writing is a tool for thinking

I see that as completely true just through this institute.  It’s amazing how many times I’ve sat down to start writing and I have no idea what I’m going to write.  But as I start the process, ideas flow and I sometimes go in a different direction than I originally thought I would go.  Janet’s Demonstration opened my eyes to having my students just write for 15 minutes.  Even if they write “blah blah blah”, the simple process of doing it will help generate ideas.

Writing grows out of many different purposes

Of course the purpose for writing poetry is different than the purpose for writing a Science lab report.  However, I’m learning that it’s super-important for students to learn that not one form of writing is ok for everything.  I need to have so many more varied mentor texts for my students to read so they are taught that people write for different reasons.  I thought I had students already writing for a variety of purposes (blogs, texts, comments, journals, emails, websites, math answers, etc), but I’m actually realizing that I need to have them write more for understanding.

Conventions of finished and edited texts are important to readers and therefore to writers

Conventions should be taught in the context of writing rather than separately in a workbook.  I totally believe this.  I also think that kids will pick up on many conventions with more access to reading good literature.  However, they do need to practice.  This is an area where I would like to grow by having students make goals for their conventions and spelling so an audience can understand what they are trying to say.  I don’t want to bog them down and unmotivate them in the process.

Writing and reading are related

I remember watching Finding Forester and loving the quote, “Writers write so readers can read.”  I loved the quote so much because I hated sharing my writing out loud and this quote seemed to justify the fact that I didn’t need to read my writing to anyone.  I write, and if someone else wants to read it, then that’s their deal.  I saw reading and writing as two separate things.  Now, I have obviously changed my opinion on that.  Writers write so readers can read.  Meaning that you need to write to an audience so they can understand.

It is amazing to me that my school district has chosen a “canned” reading program that goes entirely against what the NCTE believes.  Though I know it to be true, now I see in plain view that, “One way to help students become better writers is to make sure they have lots of extended time to read, in school and out.  Most research indicates that the easiest way to tap motivation to read is to teach students to choose books and other texts they understand and enjoy, and then give them time in school to read them.  In addition to making students stronger readers, this practice makes them stronger writers.”  So, why are we requiring a “program” to teach reading and writing separately where students are offered no choices.  The program dictates what reading the children will be exposed to.  The program has so much direct instruction that students do not have enough time to read.  In a day when standardized testing has so much focus, why would a school district choose to impair students in 2 subjects because they are so closely related?  Don’t they see that if you offer students choices, they will be motivated to read.  The more they read, the more information they get.  The more they read, the better writer they become.  This would all help for a standardized test (let alone just help the kid be a better student and human being).

Writing has a complex relationship to talk

If I didn’t learn anything else from this Institute, I would have been happy to remind myself of how important it is to talk.  Storytelling is writing.  I need to make sure that my students have more time to talk before, during, and after they write.  With this, I need to explicitly teach what a good conversation and storytelling looks like for classroom management purposes.

Literate practices are embedded in complicated social relationships

This hit me the hardest because of our ELL population.  We’ve always been told at Red Cedar to let kids write in their native language first, then push them to write what they can in English.  Even though I followed this advice because it was given to me by respected ELL teachers, I now know what it is so important.  Not just ELL students benefit from this.  Our goal as Writing teacher should be to “not leave students where they are, however, but to move them toward greater flexibility, so that they can write not just for their own intimates but for wider audiences.”

Composing occurs in different modalities and technologies

Finally!  It is written down and supported with research that it is important for teachers to know how to use/make websites and be up to date on technology and design.  I really think design and writing go hand-in-hand.  You can tell a story with text, pictures, sound, and video; so students should be exposed to and taught how to use all.

Assessment of writing involves complex, informed, human judgement

It is important for teachers to be able to formatively and summatively assess students so they know what to teach next and hold high expectations.  It should NOT be done by a computer (it’s written down in this article!).  :)

How Thinking May Have Changed

After reading this article, I am reminded and encouraged to try new things next year.  I was thinking that I needed to improve a few things so I could teach my intern next year how to be an effective writing teacher.  However, now I believe that I may need to restructure my teaching and management so I can do what is best for kids.  I will inform her that I am trying something new, based on research, and that I may stumble.  That is authentic teaching.  Like Janet said yesterday, it would be nice to be placed with a teacher who is continually trying to improve her craft.  That was a great reminder and motivated me.

When I think about joy and wide-awakeness, I believe that the NCTE is on the right track.  I think their beliefs are what I also believe.  However, I had had to conform to my district’s “programs”.  After reading the research again, I am highly motivated to still do the “program” but also do what I know (and what is backed by research) is best for kids.  I want my kids to be wide awake and experience joy.  That is a huge motivated to learn more.  I believe everything we’ve learned so far about teaching writing is interdependent.  If you do this, then this gets better.  If that gets better, then the original thing gets even better.  That’s a great way to think about teaching!

Letter to a Colleague Summarizing NCTE Standards

Dear Daryl,

I know how much you love teaching writing, and I always think of you when the topic of writing comes up.  Maybe it’s because you went to New York to study with Lucy Calkins, or it could be because I teach the grade level above you so I get your kids (who are all amped up to write at the beginning of the year thanks to you).  However, I’ve noticed that you’ve been a little frustrated lately with our district and what administration wants and expects us to do as teachers.  I’ve noticed because I feel the same way.  That’s why I’m writing to you.  After participating in the Red Cedar Writing Project’s Summer Institute, I was reminded of what good teaching is and I wanted to share my findings with you as a way to remotivate and excite you about teaching writing.  So here are the contentions of the the NCTE.  Do they match with yours?

While reading all this, are you saying that you already do most of these things the NCTE says are important?  I’m sure you are because I know how passionate you are about teaching writing.  This letter has two purposes.  One is to confirm that what you do is best for kids.  The second is to encourage you to keep doing what you know is best and don’t be discouraged by the pressures put on us by the district.  If your students are joyful and competent writers, then you’ve done your job.  I am proud of you, and I wanted to make sure you know that your efforts are appreciated.  I hope this letter motivates you to do what’s in your heart.

Your partner in education who appreciates you!

The full article with descriptions for the contentions can be found at:

Ideas for Small Moment Stories


Red Robin shooting

Almost being shot when I was 4

Car Ride to Florida with the sharpie marker

Brother almost peeing on me in the middle of the night

Car breaking down on way to California

Not taking gum when it was offered to me

Friends making fun of my fake Cabbage Patch Doll

Winning State Sweetheart

Crashing my boyfriend’s car when I was 15

Showing my parents the dead rat under the couch

Telling my Grandma I didn’t want to ride with her on the Teacups at Disney World

Hearing that my best friends died my senior year of high school

Genre Switch


Car Ride to Florida with a Sharpie Marker

Personal Narrative

When I was 7, my family went to Florida to see my Grandparents and to go to Disney World.  I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait to get there!  The problem was that it took 18 hours by car and I had to sit in the backseat with my annoying little brother, Jeff.

Jeff is 2 years younger than me and he’s always gotten on my nerves.  I swear he does things just to piss me off (no, I do not say pissed off at 7 years old).  When riding in the car, I set a clear boundary that


A boundary was set by Pettit’s sister, Mary.  Pettit was not permitted to cross the line that separated the back seat.  Pettit crossed the line and his sister yelled to get back to his side of the car.  Pettit got back on his side, but he put his hand right next to the line saying, “I’m not on your side.”

Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, the beautiful sister of an annoying boy decided that she needed her own space to be happy in the car of her parents.  Her brother was a mean boy who did not think of others.  He had bright orange hair, freckles covering his nose, and slightly small eyes.

One day, the princess Mary had had enough with her brother, Jeff.  She decided to play a fun game to make her brother stop being annoying once and for all.  It was called “Connect the Dots”.  Mary had seen this song on a favorite


Connect the dots

La la la la la

Connect the dots

La la la la la la

Pee wee started the song

on tv

but Mary sang it

a bit off key

Mary’s mom had enough

of the kids fighting

Little did she know

About what Mary was plighting

With a sharpie marker in hand

and a grin on her face

Mary sang the song

at a snail’s pace

Scary Story

That’s when, all the sudden, her mother looked in the rear view mirror.  What are those kids up to?  She slowly raised her eyes, shifted the mirror, and saw the most horrifying thing she had ever seen.  It was all over his face.  What had happened?  She couldn’t believe her eyes!  Sharpie marker was covering her young son’s face to the point that you couldn’t even see his features.  It was slashed and smeared from one side ear to ear.  She let out a scream of horror.

Freewrite with Visual Prompts

June 22, 2012

Someone in China wrote an entire novel on the walls of this house and then disappeared.  Why?  What happened?

In late 2011, the police were called to the 1100 block of Chen Street in Beijing.  The walls in a small apartment were covered with traditional chinese characters that no one could figure out.  

Went to RCWP, disappeared after she found out that you had to do a portfolio.  How could he get his walls into the portfolio?  

In June 2011, it was rumored that the apartment owner was accepted into a cohort of writing teachers at Michigan State University.  The project was called the Red Cedar Writing Project.  His mother stated that he was “very excited to join teachers from all over Lansing to share their ideas and strategies for writing” after he attended the first meeting on May 16.  However, the situation turned bleak a month later when he found out that in addition to the fun and writing time, he had to create a portfolio.  Since Wentao’s entire writing career was scribbled on his walls back in his apartment in China, it was reported that he became very stressed out.  He wondered how he could get his masterpiece to America to show off to his writing friends.

When asked why they caged-off the basement, the only answer given was “student safety.”  Tell the story.

Student safety was not something that was important at ____ Academy.  Parents sent their children there

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful young maiden who lived in a palace with her family.  The maiden wanted two things more than anything in the world.  The first was to be a teacher when she grew up, and the second was to be beautiful forever.

Keep the students away from the door

I keep thinking about principal Trunchbull and the Chokey from Matilda.  I’d like to write a Roald Dahl-esque type story someday.  I love the details he uses mixed with imagination.  The best part about his stories is that they come alive when they are read aloud.  My students watch me with wide eyes and mouths gaped open when I add voices to the descriptive dialogue.  It is like the voices were meant to be.  I wonder if other teachers use the same voices because of how the text was written.  

This intrigues me because I also like to read aloud Junie B. Jones books.  I think I like to use my imagination to put myself in the characters’ shoes and become them (at least in voice) throughout the book.  Shiloh is another good book to do this.

A lost undergrad discovers a surprising secret in the cupola of Linton Hall.  Start the story.

Oh where oh where has the little bat gone?  Oh where oh where can it beee???

This is the million dollar question for our heroine to figure out.  Linton Hall is known for being old and for harboring many creatures.  However, none is more important or coveted than what lives in the cupola.

Eighty years ago, a group of undergraduate English students were trying to get ideas for their next masterpieces.  They traveled all over campus to be inspired, but nothing had worked.  They would get a few notes here and there, but nothing of much substance.

That’s when they decided that they would live life on the edge by taking their notebooks to the forbidden towers of Linton.  Their trip began innocent enough.  They explored the building and even wrote down in the vaults.  However, things took a turn for the worse when they arrived at the top step of the staircase leading to the cupola.  Those undergrads saw something that they would never forget.  

There, perched on a dowel that was built for him, was a small furry creature.  Describe creature here...

The undergrads thought nothing of the bat and plopped their bags down and began to take out their journals.  Little did they know that the creature...

Writing Marathon


Anderson House Building

I’ve been in the State House building a thousand times, but how cool was it today to get a completely different perspective.  I now know why we have our ELL students at RC take field trips for summer school to learn the language.  It’s the experience that motivates an intrigues you to learn (either language or content).  Today, I learned that you can see all the way past Spartan Stadium from the top of the house building.  I learned that falcons eat the brains of other birds downtown.  We saw a bird without a head and just asked questions about why a falcon would only eat the head and not the whole body.  It made me have a connection that maybe the falcons eat fancy cuisine like in France or Japan _____ cuisine.

I had a different prospective by looking down on the city.  Generally, I am in awe because I look up and it seems like the buildings go into the clouds.  This time, I was in the clouds and looking at the cars and sidewalks I’m usually on and realizing how small we actually are.  I am just one small person who has an effect on some, but I don’t have an effect on the entire city.  It’s too large.

Annette’s husband and my husband know each other from working in the same buidling.  They both had really nice things to say about each other.  Men are so nice.  I mean, really.  Would women talk about each other in as nice of terms and without as much judgement as these men in person and through text.  Probably at first.  Or it would be a squeaky, “Oh my gosh, I know her!”  Yet, it’s harder to tell how a woman really feels.  Men kind of lay it out there.  “Brad, yeah, I know Brad.” “ John, yeah, I know John.”  Matter of factly.

What an awesome experience.  We should write thank yous!

Monday: Talking about Reading Group books (bring written response)

Answer questions that are in syllabus on book

Write letter to colleague

Play with iPad

Inquiry Project (update wiki)

Assessment story How were you taught how to assess?  How have you changed over years?  Writing comments to students (oral conferencing or written?).


June 25, 2012

After doing the Writing Marathon on Friday, I am convinced that I need to take a more active role in planning my writing instruction.  In the past, I’ve relied on the Lucy Calkins Units of Study to teach the kids.  I would read the lesson, freak out about how I was going to present to the kids because I didn’t want to take the time to write my own Small Moment, look for examples of “good” small moment ideas or whole written texts to share with my students, make a Smart Notebook to guide me through the lesson (or look for one online... or borrow from a 3rd grade teacher).  Half the time, I would forget what I was supposed to teach because I would plan so far in advance (create the Notebooks).  This is completely unauthentic for the kids and does not show that I’m finding out what my students need and teaching at their level and to their interests.

It’s awesome because this summer I have had the time (or taken the time... however you want to look at it) to write down my own small moments.  This is going to be a huge life changer.  Instead of being scared or intimidated to teach my students writing, I’m going to be excited to share my stories.  In turn, they will get to know me better as a person, make stronger connections, and learn to write!  Also, it will be great for my intern to see.  

One of the reasons I’m taking this course is to become a better Writing Teacher.  I know that Writing is my weakest area of instruction.  This could be due to many issues (being intimidated by writing in school because there was not a “prescription” on how to do it like math, not wanting to share my innermost thoughts and feeling because I’m afraid of judgement, not taking the time to have a thought out piece, being intimidated by “good” writers, etc.).  I hope to make Writing one of my strongest areas of instruction next year.  I will have mentor texts, my own writing samples, knowledge on best practices for teaching and managing writing in the classroom, and a desire to share my stories with my class.

I was hoping for this type of transformation, but I wasn’t sure I would get it.  On Friday, I thought I would take the whole Writing Marathon part of the day to work on my portfolio.  That seemed to make sense.  Why else would they schedule 3 hours out in the world to write.  On the contrary, I did not even think about my portfolio.  I was amazed by the sights around me, intrigued by the line, “I am a writer” and what that would get me, and excited to see more on the “field trip”.  The experience was a great one (even though I didn’t write as much as I probably should have).  Instead it gave me the confidence to go somewhere I wouldn’t  normally go, go deeper by telling the person in charge that “I am a writer” (even though I NEVER called myself that EVER before in my life... I didn’t really believe that I was a writer... NOW I DO!), see the sights that I wouldn’t normally get to see (the dome of the Capitol), get my brave face on (I climbed those daunting steps with no fear at all... despite the height and angle, I knew that I was going to get an unbelievable experience... even though I’ve know that in the past, I didn’t climb like I did).

Write a response about Assessment to Colleagues


Dear ELPS Language Arts teachers,

After being involved with the Red Cedar Writing Project this summer and reading the CCCC Committee on Assessments (Nov. 2006) view on how to effectively assess student writing, I


June 26, 2012

Demo day


June 27, 2012

Dear Mary,

You knew kind of what to expect when you started this class.  You knew you’d have to create a portfolio, and you knew in your head that it should be digital (to push yourself to learn and use new technologies, but also to best display your work).  You knew this, but you STILL waited until class started to get your portfolio going.

Response to Mary,

Um yeah, I knew, but the problem is that I didn’t know how the class was going to be organized.  I’m one of those people who has a hard time with all the details until I see the big picture.  So, it took a few days of class to really understand how I wanted to set up my portfolio.  Since the days were so long and action packed last week, there was no way I could even think of how to organize something that isn’t due for another couple weeks.  Instead, I worked on becoming a better writer!  Isn’t that what this class is for anyway?

Dear Mary,

You’re right.  This class is supposed to be about you becoming a better writer.  Do you think you’ve done that?

Response to Mary,

Yes, I do.  It’s amazing how much my confidence has increased in 7 writing-packed days.  I never really considered myself a writer before the Summer Institute.  It’s like my brain is exploding with newfound joy that I AM A WRITER!  How cool is that?  Before this class, I wouldn’t have thought it would be as great as I do now.  I would have thought who cares.  Yeah, I can write.  Big deal.  But I never thought I was really good at the creative part of writing.  I had down the rules and regulations, but I never wrote just to write.  Now I’m realizing that WRITING IS THINKING!  The awesome part about that is that I have a bulliten board in my classroom that says “Reading is Thinking!”  Guess what, now I’m going to have another one with the words “Writing is Thinking!”  Oh boy, I’ve come up with a theme for this year.  

Mary Lou Nagy’s Demonstration


Intro:  After reading the article, Draw Me a Tree, I found out many things about myself that I did not already know.  However, there were some revelations that I did not know about myself until I truly thought about it.  I think a person’s tree can change as much as their life changes, and I wonder if one person could draw a different tree every day of the week depending on what happened that day to remind them of their past, present, or future.

Agree With:  I drew my tree very large and detailed with its roots planted firmly in the ground in the center of the paper.  Though there are other details on the paper, my tree is definitely the focus of my drawing.  Based on what the author of the article says, this makes me a very generous and very well-organized person who is thorough and likes security.  I would say this is a very completely accurate description of my personality.  In the past, I have drawn trees that you could see the roots going into the ground.  

Changed my thinking:  Also, I usually draw knots and holes in the tree.  This is supposed to symbolize someone who is accepting of others’ faults and forgiving.  Today, I did not draw those features.  I wonder why.  I think I am definitely accepting of others’ mistakes, but I would agree that I’m having a hard time forgiving one person in particular.  That’s amazing how that changed my life, but it’s even more amazing how it changed even my drawing.  

Disagree With (kind of):  Though I can shift my thinking and start to agree with some aspects of the drawing that are supposed to symbolize my life, there is one thing that I absolutely do not agree with.  When I drew my tree with grass at the bottom, I covered up the roots.  So, it does not look like I care too much about the past.  However, I feel like sometimes I reminice about the past more than most people.  I know I used to have a big problem with what people did in the past.  That didn’t mean I didn’t forgive them, it just meant that I thought about it and possibly judged them.  Wait, now I’m changing my mind.  I can see how I don’t obsess over the past anymore as much as I used to.  Maybe I drew the tree planted in the ground and covered up the roots with grass because I’m starting to change as a person.

Conclusion:  Overall, I really liked doing this experiment about personalities.  I am intrigued by psychology, and I was able to do my favorite thing: draw!  When I first started reading the article, I thought that maybe it was going to be written like a horoscope.  What I mean by that is it would be written in a way that most people could agree with most things.  However, I really think that my tree symbolizes how I truly feel about my life at this particular instance.  After having a baby, my perspective changed.  Maybe my tree changed too.  I wonder what my tree will look like in the future when my life changes again.  I just hope it never looks like the trees drawn in the forests of Snow White.  Then I’m in trouble.

Define my purpose to decide if it’s an essay or memoir.





June 28, 2012

Thank GOD it’s Thursday!  I’ve had a lot of guilt this week because I haven’t spent much time with my kids.  Kaleb has had two baseball games.  One was on Monday and the other was last night.  I had to miss both because I haven’t been feeling well.  I am on antibiotics (started them 2 days ago), but I still feel the respiratory struff and I just feel “weird” in general.  So, last night I just went home and slept.  I feel a bit better today, so let’s get started writing.

I made a list of things I need to work on so I can be organized.  I have a really hard time getting started unless I’m organized, so I’m hoping I’ll just move forward now.  I have a lot to do, but the concrete list will put things into perspective.  I can cross off the tasks one by one, so I’m excited to get started.  Bye!

Teacher Leader

Help people get ready for demos

Google Docs model for Kathryn

iPad training one of the first days of class

Weebly training with a small group for portfolios

My demonstration was technology-rich to show teachers how to easily use

troubleshoot tech questions throughout the Institute

Le Restaurant de Grenouille

by: Janet and Mary

I never guessed I would have attracted the attention of a woman like Collette.  I had never seen hair with lovely green streaks.  The salamander tattoo on her left should dipping just below the strap of her summer dress convinced me of her affection for the amphibian race.

“Je peux à peine attendre pour vous faire cuire.”  (I can’t wait to eat you) She crooned to me with such longing in her eyes.  Despite our language barrier, her tone told me how much she wanted me.  I wanted her just as much.

Her invitation to accompany her to the restaurant which was expressed by her gesture to herself, to me, and to a menu she held in her hand was further confirmation of her interest.  I could already imagine us sitting at the candlelit table gazing deeply into each other’s eyes.  

As she held me, I took one webbed foot and caressed her pierced lip.  She responded soulfully, “Je peux vous goûter déjà”  (I can taste you already)  as she licked her lips.

Our reverie was interrupted when a small, redheaded boy ran up to us.  my lady speaking rapid French and pulling on her arm.

He obviously is opposed to inter-species relationships as he shouted to her in English, “No mom, no!”  She grabs the boy’s arm and drags him into the kitchen while she kept me enclosed in a romantic embrace.  Suddenly, however, I found myself staring at a cast iron skillet with oil popping.  As she reached out to adjust the flame, I saw my future flash before my eyes.  In a flash, I lept into the small boys mouth who gave his mother a double salute before dashing out the door with me firmly, but softly, held in his mouth.  The boy saved my life.

I turned to him and said, “thank you”

He uttered, “I don’t like chicken, and I sure don’t like you.”  He took off running.

Boy doesn’t want his mom, the chef, to cook the frog.  Frog thinks


July 2, 2012

Log Report:  Renee’s Log Report using Strip Designer

Sacred Writing Time

I had kind of a discouraging weekend.  I don’t know why I let things bother me so much or why I dwell on them.  I wish I could be one of those people who goes with the flow, shrugs off unpleasant happenings, and moves on.  However, instead, I decide to take things personally, worry about what others think, and ponder what I can do to fix a situation, thereby wasting an entire weekend feeling like there are butterflies in my stomach.

On Thursday after class, I was so geeked up about how I’m going to be such a better writing teacher next year.  It finally makes sense!  Not just that, but I’m becoming more confident in my own writing, and I’ve also realized how important it is to just write for the sake of writing because “writing is thinking”.  When I can think, I can start to solve problems.  So, now I have a tool in my toolbelt to not only accomplish the 2 things I wanted out of this Institute (better writing teacher and writer), but also a way to think through my anxieties when I’m unsure how I feel about something.  That’s good.

So, maybe I should sit down and write a letter to the person who is at the center of what is bothering me.  Then I can think through my issues and that also gives me time to logically and unemotionally write down the issues that need to be cleared up.


July 3, 2012

Lori’s Teaching Demonstration



I played sax

My dad knew I was excited to play a new instrument, so he bought tickets to see Kenny G

We talked about it on the phone

I’d been to plays before and I knew you should dress up (and I was excited to go out with my dad by ourselves), so I got a new dress

Got home from school

Put on dress and did my hair

Sat on my bed because I had butterflies (so excited to go out, but I didn’t want to show it to my family b/c I’m too cool b/c I’m in middle school)

Sat there.........

Never gave up on my dad

Even when the concert had started, I still waited (he’s usually late)

I thought he’d still come even though we’d missed the concert

Never showed up

I can’t remember if I cried or if I just sat there (kind of in shock... kind of expecting it... not knowing that this is how I would feel every time I would talk to or do anything with my dad from that day forward)


I started playing the tenor saxophone in 6th grade.  I was really excited about playing a new instrument.  Since my dad knew this, he called me one day to surprise me with news that he was going to take me to the Kenny G concert in a few weeks!

What?  Kenny G!?!  I was so incredibly excited for a few reasons.  One is that I got to go see a saxophone genius.  I actually remember laying on my bed listening to his smooth jazz CD while daydreaming about switching to the soprano sax someday.  It would have to be in college though because they don’t let you play that particular instrument in my school.  But the other reason was more important to me.  I was really looking forward to spending some alone time with my dad.  You see, my parents were divorced and my little brother, Jeff, was quite a handful, so I usually didn’t get too much attention when he was around.  So, I was thrilled when my dad said it’d be just the 2 of us doing something that he knew I’d enjoy.

A few days before the concert, my mom took me shopping.  In middle school, it was not cool to wear a dress.  In fact, I remember hating them.  However, I thought this special occasion with my dad deserved an extra-special outfit.  So, I picked out a royal blue flowered A-line dress that hit right at the knees.  I knew that dress would go perfectly with a pair of brown sandals I had at home, and I couldn’t wait to twirl around in it like I did when I was little.

Finally, it was the day of the concert.  As soon as I got home from school, I quickly showered and threw on my new dress.  Since my dad wouldn’t be there until 6:00pm to pick me up for dinner and the show, I took my time primping my hair.  5:55 came and I was ready to go.  I’m never ready on time, so this was a big deal.  I sat on the edge of my bed, careful not to wrinkle my new dress, and eagerly waited for my dad’s car to pull down our long driveway.

6:15 came and went.  Still no dad.  That’s ok, he was usually running a few minutes behind.  It wouldn’t be my dad if he wasn’t late.  Crud, now I won’t be able to have dinner before the show.  Oh well.

6:30... still waiting.  I started to get a little panicky because the concert was supposed to start at 7:00.  My mom came into my room and asked if I needed anything.  Why can’t she just leave me alone?  So, I moved my location to the front step outside my house.  That was better anyway because then I could just jump in my dad’s car and go.

6:50... my dress is getting a little damp and wrinkly from the sweat beading on my skin.  I don’t like to be late, but that’s ok.  At least I get to spend some time with my dad.  This is when I realized that I was more excited about spending time with him than I was about the concert anyway.  Maybe my dad forgot the tickets at home and had to run back to get them.  That would be like him, I thought with a smile on my face.

7:05... my mom peeks her head outside.  “Mar, do you want dinner now?”

“No!” I snapped without even looking behind me to make eye contact.  I didn’t want her to see the tears in my eyes.

I don’t know how long I sat on those steps, but I remember never giving up hope that my dad would show up.  He had to know how much this night meant to me.  He wouldn’t try to upset me on purpose.  Did it mean as much to him?

I remember going to bed that night without eating, and it took a long time before I took that dress off.  I didn’t talk to anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to talk to me.  I don’t remember if I was shocked or sad or frustrated or disappointed.  I just knew that I didn’t want anyone to know how I was affected.  After all, I was too cool to go to a dumb concert with my dad anyway.


July 9, 2012

We had 5 days off over the 4th of July, and I really took them off.  I hope this doesn’t come back to bite me.  

Small Moment Ideas

Hitting a deer with the van

kids’ reactions to hitting deer

tubing down the Platt River

Brad’s family talk

Kristina’s Demo

Thinking About Poetry

hated writing it in school

only writing I remember doing in school (except 3rd grade)

feelings, emotions



musical, lyrical, rhythmic

annoying if written about you by an ex-boyfriend who was too gushy in the first place and then published.  Ahhh!

Mary Wever’s “Where I’m From”

I am from dirt and sand

clay and paint

Always changing




Swinging on a broken hinge.

I am from a home

        torn apart by decisions

        made before me.

I am from backs tickling

        and headscratching

I’m from a screened in porch

from freezer full of pops

I’m from lemon meringue pie and pipe smoke,

        from Grandma and Grandpa.

I’m from sweet and bitter

I’m from Muppets,

from Fraulein Maria and Punky Brewster

I’m from tag

outside after dark,

Running back and forth

chasing a dream.

I’m from Seger and Springstein

        playing while I sleep

        on someone else’s couch

Always with a Journey

to friends’ houses nearby.

broken to fixed

I am from an everchanging



revolving door to a screened in porch

that moves with the wind

Open to changes

Closed to the past


July 10, 2012

Mary Wilkinsen’s Teaching Demo

What do you do when you fart in public?  Or what do you do when one of your students farts in class?

I think that farting in public is really looked down upon.  However, I just saw a news clip the other day that said that the average person passes gas 20-50 times per day.  That means that some of that HAS to be in public.  So, what do you do?  I think that people find that it is their right to fart in JC Penney or another large retail stores.  When I smell it, I look around for the culprit.  However, sometimes the one who committed the crime is no one other than me.  If the gas does not smell, I just stay where I am.  However, if the gas was steaming on the way out and lingers a little too long, I walk away as fast as possible.

I wasn’t allowed to say fart when I was young, so it sounds like a swear word to me.  I feel naughty every time I say it.



July12, 2012

WAAAAAA!!!!  It’s the last day.  :(  And I’m back to my bad habits of writing like I’m texting.  Let’s go to Brody!