Wendy's Writing Project Blog

A Lesson About Lessons June 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 7:20 pm


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

One should never have to choose between Katie Wood Ray, Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, or others. I walked away with something from each session I attended, but know that I missed out on so much more. At this point, I really regret missing Patrick Allen’s talk on synthesis. I could use his pointers to wrap my head around all that I learned, particularly with Franki Sibberson’s talk on Planning Minilessons for Reading.

Franki gave us a sneak peek at some material in her forthcoming book Planning Minilessons do out this fall. She believes minilessons should be…

–designed to support independent readers by building strategies, skills and behaviors
–based on previous learning
–supportive of the bigger picture of building a community of readers
–active in involving student thinking and engagement
–based on the needs of the current group of students
–as long or short as needed (instead of a prescribed time)
–organized in a way that is friendly to the teacher (she adds schools and districts, but I decline to recognize that as being important)
–grounded in best teaching practices
–aimed at teaching the reader, not the book
–designed by those doing the teaching, not corporations

Franki’s talk supports my current shift of thinking beyond the curriculum or what the corporations put in front of me to use. If you look at my plan book from last year, you would notice that I fell back on what Pearson offered my students instead of what my students may have needed. I’m not saying it is all that bad, but I would argue that it doesn’t always go into enough depth or circle back to the bigger picture of supporting lifelong readers.

Curriculum and standards cannot be dismissed, and Franki showed an example of vertically unpacking the common core in a realistic way and phrasing it with simple vocabulary. It leaves me both hopeful that the daunting task can be accomplished, and longing for that process to be over. I am further frustrated that we have to work harder to interpret something that is suppose to bring consistency.

If I added 13 titles to my reading list from Mary Helen and Tammy’s session on Top Book Picks, I added three times that from this session. Her list of mentor texts for different strategies, behaviors/habits, genre, and literacy elements will be very useful. Her inclusion of exploring the elements with video and wordless books provides great opportunities for differentiation.

If you want to learn more or follow Franki’s work, you should check out her blog, A Year of Reading.


Ask an Author June 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 2:51 pm


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

I long for an efficient writing process. The dreamer in me is always interested in hearing how published authors actually accomplish tasks. I get excited hearing stories of how it takes months (and even years), and how it is often a messy course of events. April Pulley Sayer shared her process at this year’s All Write Conference. A writing process might include (in a variety of sequence options):
Being inspired
Taking notes
Writing a rough draft
Seeking expert advice/researching
Sending to multiple publishers (slush pile)
If you hear back: more revising
Discussions with an illustrator
Illustrator begins sketching
More revising
Completing final illustrations

I think sharing her story will provide an authentic lesson for what writers do. I will certainly take her with me into the classroom this year. She also talked about the publishing process for those interested in pursuing their own projects. I will keep this on my to-do list.

If you teach young kids, and haven’t had the time to check out her work, now’s your chance!



Book Talks June 27, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 11:51 pm


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

I added 13 “new” titles to my summer reading list by attending a session by Mary Helen Gensch and Tammy Shultz. I enjoyed the pace and teaming approach to the book talks presented. I wonder if there is a system out there that would allow me to organize the books I love. I want to be able to search by content/topic, process skill lesson, convention skill, craft, genre, or character trait. It seems like there should be an app for this! Oh… Daaave… Aaaadam!

Stars by Marla Frazee
Spoon by Amy Krouse
You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown
Look Inside a Beehive by Megan Cooley Petersen
I’m a Shark by Bob Shea
More Bears by Kenn Nesbitt
Guyku by Bob Raczka
Piglet and Granny by Margaret Wild
Back-to-School Rules by Laurie Friedman
Tempo Takes Charge by Thea Feldman
Orangutans Are Ticklish by Jill Davis
Bed Hog by Gergette Noulett
Who Will Plant a Tree? by Jerry Palotta

And when I’m ready to read more, there are plenty of ideas to be had on Mary Helen’s blog, Book Savors. She uses her blog to smartly organize books.


Taking the Plunge With Chapter Books June 26, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 11:18 pm


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

My second graders really like to read chapter books. Some can do so successfully, others can’t. They want to. They’d like for me to believe that they can. They do a good job of pretending, but they can’t. I am committed to be more intentional about keeping my kids in texts they can read, and to get stronger readers to think deeper about the texts they are in– not just ‘level up’. Both will involve further educating students and parents. Kristen Horrell, Literacy Coach with the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, presented ways to support all readers, mini lesson ideas for those ready to move into chapter books, and a short list of suggested titles to transition kids from decodable books. Recommended titles include:

Zigzag Kids series by Patricia Reilly Giff
Katie Woo series by Fran Manushkin
“I Can Read” series 1-4 by various authors
Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik
Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa series by Erica Silverman
Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant
Alien and Possum series by Tony Johnston
Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel
Ready Freddy series by Abby Klein

Thanks to strong kindergarten, first grade, and literacy intervention teachers, I had stronger readers than ever last year. Data indicates that the majority of those entering second grade will be at or above benchmark this fall. If that is the case, the majority of the class will be ready to “plunge” into chapter books this year. I want to explore the idea of crafting lessons around HOW to read a chapter book. Topics for lessons include previewing, the loss of picture support/visualization, more complex or unfamiliar text structures, ongoing decoding and comprehension strategies, reading dialogue, following story elements across several pages, sequencing events, using background knowledge, and genres. Can you think of any other lessons specific to transitioning kids into chapter books that I should consider?


Teachers Can Still Change the World June 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 10:33 pm


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

The All Write Conference opened with a profound keynote from Ruth Ayes. Google led me to Ruth years ago through the blog Two Writing Teachers that she co-created with Stacey Shubitz. It was through their blog that I learned about this little gem of a conference. She and Stacey also co-wrote Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice.

Ruth craftily connected with the deflated feeling of many in her audience through her keynote titled, “Mandates Standards and Evaluation: Can Teachers Still Change the World?” She defined story as being interwoven with narrative, informative and opinion. She reminded us that story allows us to change the world, that our nation was built on story, and that living our story may be one of the most important things we do. In this time when teachers are being pummeled by irrational policies and opinions, she inspired us to hold onto what is most important, find the joy in teaching and in learning, and advocate for our students. I will do my best to remember her message that though our job has undesirable nonnegotiables, it is how we approach the nonnegotiables or mandates that will make the difference. It is all about attitude. I hope to remember Ruth’s passion when my attitude starts to falter.


All Write

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 2:28 am


This week’s posts are dedicated to summing up my experiences at All Write 2012.

In between some fields of corn and beans, just east of the “Egg Basket of the Midwest”, is the small town of Warsaw, Indiana. Warsaw is the home of the Tigers, as well as an annual educator’s conference supported by 24 area school districts that invest in professional development focusing on best literacy practices. Hundreds of educators gathered here on June 21 & 22 for the 7th All Write Conference. They met with their mentors: Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, Ruth Ayres, Patrick Allen, Donalyn Miller, Franki Sibberson, Debbie Diller, Jim Burke, and so many more. They listened and thought about their classroom practices, their students, and their own habits. Inspired by their mentors, they learned how to be better educators.

This week you will read what I walked away with, and discover why I sought a seat toward the front instead of my ever-comfortable last-row-slot.


Twitter: It’s a Good Thing June 14, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 7:03 pm

I get a feeling that some of my UIWP peeps haven’t seen the benefits Twitter can bring. I will admit that I’m a seasonal user. Twitter is mostly a professional space for me. I follow educators (+ Caleb’s dog, who provides fleeting awwww moments from time-to-time).

Just like any writing, I find it hard to do if it doesn’t serve a purpose. So, why did we make you tweet at the close of the day yesterday? Well, your responses were very insightful. It was a quick assessment that showed most of you are on track. Some have discovered the tedious nature that film editing brings. I am a bit worried that no one screamed in frustration. Is the assignment not challenging enough? Is the new generation of fellows beyond using video to compose?  Why is no one in meltdown mode? A heftier assignment might provide more evidence one way or the other.

Back to Twitter… My resurgence in the tweeting world has brought some great opportunities, in addition to keeping in touch with the thoughts, opinions and news of the UIWP. Following a blogger led me to a surreal opportunity to spend a few days with Katie Wood Ray, Ralph Fletcher,  Jim Burke, Donalyn Miller, and more. What is not to love about the idea of soaking in some goodness from your own mentors? I also came across a free virtual summer writing camp that has provided guidance and direction, especially when I needed a jump start to some summer writing.  I get oodles of great book recommendations by following a librarian and other bloggers. My summer reading list grew to over 75 books in just one afternoon.

The list goes on. Just keep an open mind. Give it a chance. It really can be a good thing!