Wendy's Writing Project Blog

Content Area Literacy June 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 10:02 am

In her session Content Area Literacy is about More than Nonfiction Reading!, Jennifer Serravallo led a group of teachers to make deeper connections through reading, writing and science. I’ll be the first to admit that I need to continue to work hard to integrate reading and writing across the curriculum, but I was feeling pretty good about the work I have done. I bring content into reading and writing lessons when it makes sense, and certainly teach reading and writing during science, social studies and math. But Serravallo was suggesting more. She called us to “consider what we believe about teaching literacy, and bring it into the teaching of science (or any other content area). She challenged us to bring the workshop approach into science. What would
choice, engagement, working within Vygotksy’s Zone of Proximal Development, stamina, etc. look like?

This may be the biggest idea that I walk away from the conference with. I’m certain that my district isn’t ready for this. I’m uncertain about what it would look like in my day, but it is something that I want to sit with and give more thought to.

Serravallo also led us through an activity of ‘reading’ an exquisite BBC video to try some of the approaches we tend to use more with reading and writing– teaching vocabulary, inferring, questioning, and identifying main ideas from key details. I feel some of her anchor charts would be something I would like to try this year as well.


Not Alright

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 12:56 am


20130626-005315.jpgCarl Anderson burned this image in my mind last week. He never fails to make an impression on me, but this one was unexpected. It wasn’t the teachers and smiling students writing under a rainbow amongst a field of flowers and unicorns that I was expecting. Far from it.


This is the image that distracted me for some strange reason. Though I will never be a huge fan of Common Core State Standards, I’ve never “hated” them. Accepting WHAT we teach will always evolve. Just like everyone else, I’ve worked within my little world to figure out HOW to make it happen. It isn’t like I was going to cease their existence.

Ignorance can be bliss. I’ve been irritated by this man ever since. How can something David Coleman, lead architect of the CCSS (who, incidentally, has absolutely no experience teaching K-12) , said two years ago bother me now?

Because I care about what other people think and how they feel. I teach my kids to care about themselves and have empathy for others. I believe in a world that cares.

When looking at Coleman’s quote in context, it appears that he was directing his comments toward narrative– toward stories. Our world is built on stories. Ruth Ayres reminded us in her poignant keynote at last year’s All Write Conference that our stories matter.

Let’s pretend that our stories don’t matter, Mr. Coleman. Why in the hell did you prioritize opinion writing? Did you forget that nobody cares what we think?

I’m so confused.

I will fight this distraction to remember some of the main points of his presentation:

How he used Tom Friedman, Tony Wagner, Young Zhao, & Ken Robinson to call on us to be agents for change. That we are losing creativity. The relationship between nations with high test scores having the lowest creativity. That if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. That it is the creative people who have initiative.

He spoke to the trend to offer less choice during writing workshop, with a connection that offering choice will unleash creativity. Because when students make choices during writing workshop, like through topic and genre, they are taking initiative.

The start to All Write 2013 reaffirms that not everything is right in our profession.


My Basket Is Full

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 12:54 am


My head has been swirling since my return from All Write 2013 in Warsaw, Indiana last week. Passing through the Egg Basket of the Midwest on my way home, I was reminded of how full my ‘basket’ really was.

It is past time to sort my thoughts and reflect how I will use my new learning. All Write reflections will include the following tag:



The Power of Choice June 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 9:51 am

Summer. The time of the year when I can wake up at a slower pace. I can decide if I want to go to 6:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m. aerobics. I can decide if I want to go pull some weeds or fix the family breakfast. I can bike to school instead of drive. Not having piles of papers to grade, RtI data to evaluate, and lesson plans to write in the evening allows me more time to read. I’ve come out of hibernation to check my Twitter feed. And look here! I even found time to write. Having time to consider options and make choices is something I appreciate. Everyone does. It makes me a happier person and more pleasant to be around. Having time to engage in healthy reading and writing habits makes me a better teacher.

Reminding myself of the importance of how having choice has made me better shouldn’t feel foreign. Choice is something I want to believe I promote in my classroom, but I wonder if it is something that is in constant flux. Time and curricular constraints seem to limit the ability to chose. Or is it an excuse? I’ve always believed in seeking ways to intentionally incorporate choice, but I think I’ll work even harder. I’ll work hard to find the time and make it a priority. Maybe if you share a way you incorporate student choice, it would motivate me even more.


The Foundling June 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 7:57 am

Zia from Wendy Maxson on Vimeo.

Another highlight of the University of Illinois Writing Project Summer Institute is sharing the first digital narrative video projects. We joke about it being a “kumbaya moment”, but it truly is a feel-good activity to culminate the first week of deep emersion. This project is a lot more than getting a chance to explore how to shoot footage, choosing clips to tell a story, and learning some of the bells and whistles that is available with movie editing software today. It is about getting to know new friends.


Regenerating June 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 8:55 pm

What a rewarding week it has been! I’ve had the pleasure of spending the first of three weeks with a group of the most dedicated teachers. Teachers willing to give up their summer to write, read about writing, and teach other teachers about writing, and share best practices. It is what The University of Illinois Writing Project is all about. I can’t tell you which part of my day is my favorite, but one of the many highlights from the week came from a demonstration to an approach to teaching presented by Ms. Mary Poppins Biddle. She shared her years of experience and wisdom as she led us through ways to generate topic choice and get kids, as she would state, to find their backbones and just try it! We all deal with the “I don’t know what to write” whine– coming from our own voice or student voices. One powerful activity she offered was for us, the students, to think about what we know because we were there. To me, the “what do you know” prompt took me to more details than thinking about a list of meaningful things, places or people. I was able to quickly come up with many ideas that I’d enjoy writing about. The following is my quick write list of things I know because I was there…

Vitor’s Bistro has the tastiest seafood frittata (and pecan eggrolls and french toast and creme brûlée coffee and…)
Hamster balls probably aren’t made for 45-year-old fat ladies
Charlotte Danielson has to be one of the most difficult people to listen to
Ryan can even coax a 15-year-old to share his voice
Bagpipes can kill you
Spaghetti DOES grow on trees

I hope I can carve out some time to write about a few of these this summer!


This year’s process June 10, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 10:49 pm


I’ve had a chance to illustrate my writing process once a year for the past four years. I am able to create a new image every year. We’ll call them “drafts” since my writing process is never done. There are constantly ways to improve and make it a more successful. This year’s image attempts to capture the absorbinant amount of time I spend fantasizing about the completion and success of the writing instead of the focusing on the actual task at hand. Last year’s process can be found here, when Hollywood tornadoes filled my mind more than the actual horror we’ve witnessed. I also reenacted my process on video one year. I’d like to believe I’ve grown since then.

Sometimes I do wish I could just wave a magic wand.