Technique Thursday: A Change will Good You Good


A Guide to (Teacher) Self (Workshop) Improvement

July 6, 2017

Let’s say you (or I) want to improve upon our writing workshop,  what might we do?

Apply anything you want to change to this model. 

When we think about getting better at anything, there are so many metaphors for improvement.  Insert your best improvement metaphor here.  What made you want to improve?  What did you notice that you didn’t like?  What could you keep but improve?  Make a list right now…

It’s difficult to target what might be getting under our skin about the workshop.  The workshop has 3-4 components:  minilesson,  guided practice which includes strategy groups and conferring,  and independent practice.  I would include share and a quick tip time too.  

In his book,  The Construction Zone,  Terry Thompson writes about focus, flexibility, responsibility (by student), and feedback.  The focus is our road map.  I often talk to newish teachers about ‘trying to teach everything’ until they have a solid vision of their destinations.  I want to amend that in light of clearer, more concise thinking.  If I could envision what I wanted it to look like and sound like,  what would that be?   Maybe you are in a place where you can picture that.  If not,  here are a few ways to get there.  

Reread  The Guide to the Writing Workshop by Lucy Calkins.  

Think about each part of your workshop:  minilesson,  gradual release, conferring, conferring notes, goal setting, independent work,  interactive writing, and share.

Think about how to leverage your reading work with your writing work

What strong minilessons and gradual release/strategy work do you have in your reading workshop that gets to author’s craft/technique/mind work?  For example,  if you can teach structure in informational reading,  it’s not a long journey to informational writing.  


Watch videos (TCRWP VImeos are great),  other teachers,  your students.  Have someone teach your students, video your own workshop, or watch someone else teach.


For me, planning is about assessment and observation.  IF you’re planning now for an unknown future class,  what did your last class succeed/struggle with?  One thing I’ve noticed is looking at the grade before and ‘pre/reteaching’ is so helpful.   It’s also helpful to do a quick/flash draft to see what your students are starting from.  Use a checklist or rubric to see what techniques you want to focus on?  


What is the most difficult thing for you?  For me,  it’s narrative.  Read blogs,  read books, practice,  write… One blog is key, Two Writing Teachers

One last word about success,  change,  and getting it right.  Generally,  if it feels wrong,  we should think… is this fun?  My friends,  Clare Landrigan and Tammy Mulligan, reminded me last week to keep a playful stance about the WORK.  Good advice.  


Tear It Down (Coming Soon)

Tear it Down (Coming Soon)

May 30, 2017

The gas station on the corner that I pass every day is torn down. It had a Dunkin’ Donuts inside. The gas was always expensive. I think it used to have a car wash. I rarely got gas there. One morning there was a sign that a new station was coming. The next morning in its place was rubble. Today along with the two backhoes is a chain link fence and a sign that says coming soon. Coming soon…
We hold on to a lot of things. As teachers, we hold onto books we love, lessons we are familiar with, assessments that we have always done…we have always done. When things become actions we can do without thinking, sometime we do them without thinking. I like to think I’m not too bad with change. In my career, I have had a great deal of change come upon me not entirely expected. Perhaps we all think we are good with change. Granted we change those students in front of us each and every year. But deep change, I’m-going- reconsider-what-I’m actually-doing change might be more difficult.

This week I’m going to thinking about what I should tear down and what’s coming soon.

Time to Rally #sol17


Good to Great SOL #23

March 23, 2017

let your dreams be bigger than your fears and actions louder than your words. 


I drove home Tuesday exhausted.  Not from the hard work but from a challenge put in front of me. I didn’t handle the challenge well, speak well, or really react well.  I talked it over on the phone with my older son.  I told him I felt stupid.  I can’t remember ever really saying that about myself before now.  He asked me if I was too old or really not smart enough to understand.  Both of those things cut me to the quick.  I wrote yesterday’s post about it.  I didn’t find comfort in any of my comfort routines.  I walked the dog.  I changed my clothes.  I didn’t even want to cook.  I fell asleep in my reading chair at 8:30 p.m. without reading anything.  This isn’t me,  I always rise… or do I?

Students are limited by teacher’s comfort zones.  

If that is true then when I am limited by my comfort zone, the teachers I collaborate with are limited by that discomfort and so are their students.  In other words,  SHAKE IT OFF RIGHT NOW!  I’m a thinker and a planner,  so I’ll avoid a little,  read a lot,  think some more, and then get on with it.  If I am assisting in creating 21st century thinkers, classrooms, learning plans, and environments,  I have to stretch myself.  I have to find my own zone of proximal development and dig in.  My enthusiasm is directly connected to some other humans willingness to give things a go.

So for today,  I’m going to walk the dog, make some dinner, read lots of blogs, and some other things, and I’m not going to be old, or stuck, or even stupid.  I’m going to put on different glasses and view things differently.

As a union organizer I know said, “We should strive to make hope possible instead of despair convincing.”  If you want that in a more global perspective than my little pity party, watch the Black-ish episode called LEMONS.

and lastly,


good to great



Grateful to be part of the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.  Thank you to Two Writing Teachers.  Read some exceptional blogs here.