I attended the All Write Summer Institute in Warsaw, Indiana and once again I was enriched with so many ideas that already have changed my thinking. My thinking as an educator was challenged and I am thankful that my teammate, Sarah, attended so the fun started with our 3 hour car ride to Indiana.
Carl Anderson, author of Assessing Writers presented the opening keynote with a call to action for writing workshop. He discussed several key competencies that will help students be successful in our technological society along with the importance of structuring the environment of classrooms to foster creativity. One important goal of WW is to have students be innovative and allow for them to choose their own topic along with genre. In order to build a passion it can take 10,000 hours - he connected this to the student who wants to continue to write about the same topic over and over. If the writing is changing each time, then the student is thinking and continuing to work on the craft of writing. First light bulb, I have to admit i have been the teacher that nags students to change their topic after the 8th story about fishing. It is important to show students through our own writing that it is a lens of experiences - bring all of them to your writer's notebook. Finally he closed with a quote from Ken Robinson, "Imagination is the source of creativity." He connected that to Rosa Parks when she chose not to get off the bus. Her imagination enabled her to choose a seat on that bus and the rest is history.
Next I heard Jeff Anderson, author of 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know opened his presentation with the first page from Out of My Mind. He read it to us aloud and then showed it us. Then he shared Clementine and modeled for us his thinking about the introduction. He asked about the power of language along with key question: What do you notice about the text? He showed us how to use a 4 Block strategy to record what students notice about text with various categories: strong verbs, compound sentences, and imagery. Second light bulb moment for me because the text he chooses is the same book that he would book talk to the class to hook a reader-once he taught the lesson he passed the book on to a student-brilliant!!
My next session was Penny Kittle, author of Book Love she spoke about developing passion, depth and stamina in readers. She expects her students to be reading and importance of knowing our students as readers because she conferences with them often. Her goal is for every 10 minutes of SSR she can complete 3 conferences. She allows her students to control their reading lives. She discussed how it is mandatory to give students time to sink into their book. My third light bulb was the importance of students needing grit and perseverance for reading along with a strong reading community including asking students which books she should purchase for the classroom.
Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, author of Forest Has a Song: Poems shared her passion for poetry. Just listening to her read the poems was inspiration to continue celebrating Poetry Friday in my classroom. My favortie quote that she shared from David McCord "A pearl is a poem that is wrapped." She suggested several ways to build poetry rituals including putting a poem next to the door and as your class leaves for lunch/special a student reads the poem. The importance of different voices and students will memorize the poem that they can then carry with them. Hide poems around the room and the reminder that poetry allows us to link all other forms of writing. My fourth light bulb was a reminder that poetry is powerful for ALL readers and short text can allow ALL students success both in reading and writing.
Finally Kate Messner, author of Capture the Flag was the closing speaker if you attended the evening dinner. Her opening was about her Dream Mentor team and the importance to not only have mentors that you know but also to have those mentors who may not even know you admire them. The importance of adopting mentors as I am a reader to notice how the book is being written and why do I like it so much. My final light bulb who is on my mentor team? She also shared her research experiences for her new book and how being brave (including a very large ugly poisonous snake) along with being afraid is important in our lives. She shared her TED talk experience and how afraid she was but the lessons she learned have allowed her to have other amazing experiences because she said "yes"
"Failure is a way to learn" and "You can only be a mentor if you know about challenges" These two quotes are going to be very important as I reflect on last school year and begin to think about next school year.