Wendy's Writing Project Blog

UIWP 2014 June 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 9:40 am

I ran into one of ‘my parents’ this morning. She had just dropped off her son for his first day of Reading Clinic. Both of us are lucky to have the University of Illinois in our backyards. He is going to get some excellent support in building his reading skills and I have an opportunity to reenergize and refuel my professional life. I will spend the next 14 days with a group of teachers who have come together to grow their practice around teaching writing. My goals for this summer are to provide everyone with a comfortable environment to stretch their thinking and reestablish habits for sustained reading and writing. Above all, I hope to add to the network that shares and supports as we all work toward a common goal. (It would be exciting to drop-in on my friend and read with him.)

UIWP 2014 here we go!



Automaticity vs. Fluency September 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 1:13 am

Two week’s ago, district K-2 teachers received a day of professional development led by Jan Richardson. I sent two tweets that morning:
1. What do you value in reading, @Unit4Schools?
2. Jan Richardson: It is not about a number, but about what a child needs.

I get why we are looking into different programs and at different assessment tools. As a district, we aren’t seeing the results that we need. I am open to having this conversation. I am, however, very leery about practices and programs that may do more harm than good. The practice of using AIMS web to not only benchmark, but provide weekly progress monitor seems just steps away from detrimental actions. Susan Dougherty Johnson and Melanie Kuhn only validate my concerns in their chapter Automaticity versus Fluency: Developing Essential Literacy Abilities with Print. No one is arguing that important literacy skills such as letter id., phonemic awareness, fluency, etc. shouldn’t be taught. So far, I don’t (or rather hope) that the implementation of letter naming, phoneme segmentation, nonsense word fluency, etc.) hasn’t led to instruction on how to conquered the assessment, but with teacher accountability of student performance looming, it is only a matter of time. Kids will be instructed on how to ‘beat the test’ instead of how to develop as a reader.

It is nice to have some ammunition against a practice I’ll continue to advocate against.

Luckily, AIMS web isn’t the only assessment we use, though it has become what determines if diagnostic assessment is needed. As the district prepares to adopt new literacy curriculum. We need to stay mindful of what we value in reading, and make sure we look beyond the number to find what our kids need.


Handbook of Effective Literacy Instruction: Researched-Based Practice K-8 September 1, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 11:19 pm


I reflected on what I thought I do in the classroom to motivate my students before I reading Roerig, Brinkerhoff, Rawls, and Pressley’s contribution, the first chapter of Taylor and Duke’s Handbook of Effective Literacy Instruction: Research-Based Practice K-8. I didn’t think on it too long, but jotted down:
Share my passion for learning
Reinforce good habits and behaviors
Build independence
Allow for student choice when possible
Set goals and confer with students– giving them what they need when they need it. As well as
allowing students to self-select goals
Co-construct assessment guidelines that values their input
Advocate for best practices with parents and colleagues

After reading the chapter, nothing seemed brazenly new or out-of-the ordinary from what I was trying to accomplish in my own room. There were two sections that caused the to pause. The first was on page 29, when they mentioned giving students “active tasks to do while reading independently” before cooperative learning. I wondered if I needed to rethink how my kids were doing independent and partner reading. Why can’t they just count on independent reading as a time to just read? And what happens when the book they have chosen doesn’t fit the task? They can’t work on identifying characters if they have chosen to read a nonfiction book. I think this active practice they speak of would work best for me to do during guided reading lessons.

The final ‘Looking Ahead’ section of the chapter caused me to shut down. When offered 18 questions to ponder, I choose zero. There’s a whole year’s worth of ideas for professional development here, which might prove useful to teams who only need to focus on motivation and nothing else.


#pb10for10 August 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — uiwpwendy @ 11:27 pm


For the past four years, teachers, librarians, and parents (aka Book Lovers) from near and far have participated in an event called Picture Book 10 for 10 via hosts Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning and Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community. Each August 10th, participants share a list of 10 picture books they simply can’t live without. This is no small feat. I thought I would just focus on a category (10 of my favorite biographies, 10 books that build character, 10 books that will make my kids laugh out loud, etc.). I failed that task. I was not only torn between themes, but by the books that would be left out if I were to take that route. Below are 10 I pulled from my stacks for 2013. Just because.

Click on each book for author/illustrator/publisher information.

20130808-231001.jpg …because I’ll have kids who love fractured fairy tales.

20130808-231332.jpg …because I’ll have kids who love animals, especially ferocious ones!

20130808-231623.jpg …because I’ll have kids who will fall in love with Mr. Magee and Chris van Dusen’s craft.

20130808-232102.jpg …because I’ll have kids who looove to use exclamation marks in their writing!!!!!!!!!

20130808-232240.jpg …because I’ll have kiddos who love to blurt out answers.

20130808-232751.jpg …because I’ll have kids who will love reading about a unique cow who, when milked, gives ice cream. Blimey! Who wouldn’t?

20130808-233100.jpg …because my kids will love seeing how pictures can hold more meaning than words.

20130808-233254.jpg …because I’ll have kids who will love hearing my cranky voice when I read this aloud.

20130808-233711.jpg …because I’ll have kids who love math.

20130809-120412.jpg …just because I love everything about this book.

Each book holds a multitude of teaching points that I’ve chosen not to get into for this event. (We’ve got many #pb110for10 lists to read today!) The most important outcome is this:

It will be impossible to be in my classroom and not love to read and write, thanks to these great books and more.

I can’t wait to get the year started!


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: