Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Month of Thanks: Still Thankful #2- #20

I meant to post more thankful things. I spent the month being very thankful. Here's more:

#2 My Family: I am thankful for my husband, kids, dog, parents, extra parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, and everyone in between. I am thankful for the friends who seem like family, too.

#3 My Friends: Friends and neighbors have helped us grow a lovely life in Ann Arbor. All we need now are some local grandparents!

#4 Running: Starting the day with a run is so lovely. I am glad that my body is able to do this.

#5 My School: I love my job. The students, the colleagues, the building administration. What a blessing it is to spend time with readers.

#6 Musical Theater: If listening to XM Broadway is wrong...then I don't want to be right.

#7 Christmas Music: Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. The very next day, you gave it away.

#8 Minivans: We drive the van not just for the luxury, but also for the performance. It's like that thing is on rails.

#9 Town Living: Even with all our juggling and busy schedules, we can get everywhere pretty quickly within town. The close proximity enables us to be more involved in our community.

#10 Tap Dancing: My tapping is limited to the kitchen once or twice a month- but it still makes my day.

#11 Books.

#12 People who do more for my kids than I can: coaches, teachers, friends, neighbors, grandparents... Thank you.

#13 My children's teachers: The stars are aligned in Ann Arbor- what a delightful year for our 4th grader and Kindergartner!

#14 Lucy Calkins: As I just penned a letter to Lansing about some ridiculous proposed legislation, I reflected about my advocacy for best practice instruction for students. My work with Lucy at Columbia really provided an amazing entry point into the profession of teaching. Her demanding standards shaped and informed my pedagogy.

#15 Blue Skies

#16 Hot Coffee

#17 Soup

#18 The Ann Arbor District Library

#19 Hiking, biking, skating, and blading with my kids

#20 The realization that this list could go on and on...

So thankful for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Month of Thanks #1: Neighbors

In November, I often feel overwhelmed with the goodness of the world and its people. I've decided to keep track of thankful things. Ideally, I'd post everyday-- I'm sure I can think of more than 30 things-- but I think I'll just focus on staying thankful, not having "perfect attendance."

Giving Thanks #1: Neighbors

Our little street is the best-kept secret in Ann Arbor: best neighbors in the world. As always on November 1st, I am floored by the Halloween decorations and the generosity of my neighbors. This teeny, tiny little street will work together to fill your pumpkin bucket.

I am thankful for neighbors who:
watch my kids,
watch my dog,
watch my house,
make me run,
loan me some chicken broth,
let me take their coffee pot,
smile sweetly when I break their lawnmower,
encourage our ice rink,
host my kids to swim,
have us over for dinner, and brunch, and Superbowls,
babysit my daughter,
endure my neighborly chit-chat,
continue to open the door when my kids ring the bell,
make us laugh,
make us feel safe,
and make our street feel like home.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"A Physical Book is Like a Shark"

Today I read this:

"...a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is."(Neil Gaiman)

And then I read this:

"Everyone deserves access to many books, as many as they wish, but also to the well-worn cover that, years later, still makes their hearts thump." (Pam Allyn)

And I wanted to tell you tonight. 

The paperwork and the glow of the screen will wait. 

Now is the time to read.


Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Watson's Go to Costco, 2004

When we first moved to Michigan, I had left the realm of first grade and was staying at home with our infant son. For a little study project, I asked my upper grade friends to recommend their favorite read alouds and  Christopher Paul Curtis's  The Watson's Go to Birmingham was on so many lists. So of course, it was the first one I read. I loved it- I was talking about the Watson's like they were my friends. I was in a new town, with a new baby, not working for the first time ever and was pretty isolated...until I met the Watsons.

One day in Ann Arbor, Mr. TRWH and I loaded up our tiny black Honda Civic with the baby and all his accessories for a trip to Costco in Brighton. On the way up, there were signs for Flint!  I got so excited and started saying "Ooo- Flint!" every time I saw a sign. Every time. The whole way. After reading TWGTB, Flint seemed so magical to me. US-23 was an inspiring place to be.

We got to Costco and went in to shop. I talked about the Watson's the whole time. Mr. TRWH's interest was starting to wane. "You don't get it. You really should read it." I said. He looked at me added the case of chick-peas to the cart.

One the way home, a car with Alabama plates came up on our left on the majestic US-23. I started pointing and hyperventilating, bouncing up and down in my seat, pointing more.

"Look, look, look, look, look, look, look!" I shouted. "Alabama!  Alabama plates! The Watson's!  It's the Watson's! The Watson's!"

Mr. TRWH looked over at the Alabama car. Then he looked at me, calmly and evenly and said, "Well, actually, if the Watson's go to Birmingham,  then they would have Michigan plates. That's not the Watson's."

Well, there you go.

* Our family had the pleasure of meeting CPC at the Ann Arbor Book Festival in 2012. And Mr. TRWH laughed, slapped his leg, and was as starry-eyed as I was. The infant son was now an 8 year-old and CPC was simply amazing to him. His storytelling even maintained our 4 year-old daughter's interest. CPC's short talk was intensive PD for teaching writing and information for living well in this world. An amazing man!
I told CPC this story in person. I am not sure if he thought I was crazy or charming or both.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer Slump

Last summer was a great summer of reading. I read so many new favorites and felt so refreshed by my reading. This summer I feel like I am in a reading rut. I’ve read enough and am still on track for my yearly “book a week” goal, but I still feel a little blah about it.

I think I know why: I am uneasy. I am still on the lay-off list for my district. Now, I think it’s highly unlikely that the district won’t have a place for me doing something interesting this fall. This problem has an end-date. (And if it doesn’t, then I’ll have the mental anguish of trying to stay calm and work through the sad fact that I wasted time worrying about the wrong thing all summer, which would probably bother me more than worrying about the true situation at hand.)

I have a low-level of unease that floats about me and it is disturbing my reading life. Frankly, it makes me kind of mad. But it’s also been a huge lesson: being a reader and choosing to be engaged with your reading life is a conscious choice and it might, at times, require some special arrangements due to mitigating circumstances. I guess I needed a reminder about this.

So many students can have instability and unease as a backdrop in their lives: they need a little help navigating their way back to a reading life. Personally experiencing this (again) has given me a lot to think about as a teacher. For me, I know my unease is temporary and much more shallow than what others are managing. Still, I need to look for a way back to engagement and remember that there are some tricks. The last three books I read, while interesting, did not fill me up in any way; they were factual, kind of depressing, and dryly written. Not the right thing for right now.

The most powerful way out a reading rut is to find the right thing to read right now. That could be something light, something shorter, something longer but with short chapters, some short stories, a different genre, something familiar, something new, something sad, something happy, something easy... If it’s not the right thing, find something else. I need to figure out how to lead myself back to my regular habits. 

I think it’s a good back-to-school reminder to remember that living a reading life is a choice and that sometimes there will be obstacles. I know that living a reading life is living a richer life and that I’ll find my way back. And this year and in years to come, I hope I continue to help my students stay on –or return- to the path of a reader.

I think this just may get me out of my reading rut...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Forbidden Fruit...or Lasagna

Earlier this week at the library, I watched a first-grade sized reader joyfully find a book about dolphins and share it with her mom and sister. I was all gooey about watching a young reader find a book that fit. But then, the mom said, "No- you can't take that one. Not nonfiction. Nonfiction doesn't count for summer reading."


Now that's crazy talk. My head was spinning with all the ways reading nonfiction can enrich your life as a reader, all the things it can teach you about organization as a writer, how empowering it is to find study topics that engage you...

The mom kept talking, "I. said. no. nonfiction." They walked to the computer catalog and looked up books for her, the older sister smugly holding a chapter book, the little one flipping through her dolphin book while the mother clicked, clicked, clicked.

I felt like I should say something.

Now I probably didn't have enough information here. Maybe there was something crazy going on with this kid. Maybe she was obsessive about nonfiction books- some sort of informational junkie. Maybe she has a photographic memory and will bore countless strangers with dolphin facts.

My new philosophy is this: "Say less." (Also known as "Trying to mind my own business.") So I did not intervene. I said nothing, but felt a deep sadness for this little nonfiction habitue who just wanted to learn about dolphins. I was so disheartened that a parent would manage their child's reading life in such an intrusive way. Who does that?

The next day, I was back at AADL with Fran and Claudia to turn in their summer reading sheets and pick their free books. (Woo-hoo!) Fran looked for a while and then picked a reasonable chapter book, Chomp. Now, it's not as appealing as Hoot or Flush, but I think he'll love Carl Hiaasen*. Wow. I did not intervene and my kid chose well for himself!
Seriously- who could resist this "snappy" cover art?

And then Claudia needed to choose. First she chose a Geronimo Stilton. Well, I thought, it could be worse. But there's no way I'm going to read that to her- it's not my scene. I know kids love it, but there's better stuff for her right now. She's only 5. I encourage her to keep looking on a different shelf of the cart. She pulls some crazy thick young adult chapter books out. Clearly, not the right shelf. I redirect her again.Then she found the licensed character books. Oh, horsefeathers. She picked a Pokemon reader; I shook my head. (Do kids still even play Pokemon?) She knows nothing of Pokemon. She picked a Lego Ninjago reader. (Kill me now.) 

"No, Claudia, don't pick something about TV- pick a book."

She held both crap-tastic books tightly in her hands. I showed her some really amazing picturebooks they had on the shelf and the new Bink and Gollie. Her knuckles grew white on her books. She wouldn't budge. 

I tried to explain, "Claudia- those are fine books to read, but they're not keeping books. Today, you get a book as a present. You should pick something you'll want to read over and over."

"I want these."

"Claude, you can check out a copy of those, but you need to chose something else for your keeping book." And I went on, "Or you're not taking a book today." Now I wasn't budging. 

Claudia glared at me, but her eyes caught a Garfield. "Fine." She resumed her stare. "I'll take this."

It was Garfield #53: Garfield Brings Home the Bacon.  I gave up. I smiled. "Wow, Claudia. Francis loves Garfield- I bet he'll read it to you. Now you have your own Garfield book! This one looks really funny. It's your first comic collection."

Surprisingly, Garfield eats a lot of lasagna in this book.

She carried the book to the van, still staring at me, and only diverted her eyes when she wanted to read her new book on the way home. Fran complemented her choice and peered over and read her a page. She got excited about words she recognized and seemed happy with her choice. 

As we drove home, I had a painful realization that I just interfered in Claude's reading life just as much as the nonfiction-snuffer-mom. Even if I have seen her choose "TV books" in the past and watched her abandon them minutes later, it was her choice to make from the cart. I began to judge myself very harshly: Was I helping her make an informed choice or simply intruding?

And then I realized that I was celebrating her choice of a Garfield book. A Garfield book! This was clearly her choice, not mine. Although critical about lasagna-cat-comics now, in elementary school I started quite a well-visited and cherished Garfield collection, so perhaps this is a necessary development for a reader. 

Now my head is spinning with all the ways Garfield can enrich your life. Perhaps we'll do some nonfiction reading about cats next.

*Hiaasen- always present in my lessons on polishing and titling. He's the master of the clever, multiple-meaning one word title.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lots Going on in There

What's going on in Fran's head...Thanks to his art teacher for the opportunity
 for so many projects and curriculum connections this year.
My head feels like this- but with all sorts of feelings spilling out.

Way too many feelings: excited with the successes of my students and progress at year's end,  inspired by my students' excitement about taking home some forever books, challenged by how much work is still to be done, tearful that the year is ending, and thrilled about starting summer with my kids and my library card

Right now, the Board is going through the Budget. Oh, Michigan...please fund your schools. Communities shouldn't be struggling like this.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What a Year

Tonight, as I am thinking about what to say at Commentary at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, I am overwhelmed by the hard work and fabulous progress of my students. It has been a good year in Reading Intervention. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to collaborate with classroom teachers to facilitate such an effective intervention for young readers. It has been an honor to watch my students grow, change, and progress. I am so hopeful that next year's students will have the same opportunity for extra help.

Tomorrow, it's book day in Reading Intervention. I will send home the writing books, a bookmark, the check-in cards. But most importantly, the kids will pick a little stack of books to keep forever. Thank goodness for these donations. I know everyone will have a little stack of books until the "Bookmobile" starts its deliveries on July 2nd. I knew that minivan would be good for something...

Oh, yeah- that's my sweet ride...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End of Year Goodness

It's been an extra busy spring in Ann Arbor with advocacy for Reading Intervention, extra meetings for the AAPS budget crisis, and of course the pink slips...

It would have been busy enough ending the year with my readers, my daughter graduating from PreK, and my son moving on to 4th grade. Let alone the kid sports, DQ trips, hospital volunteering, grocery shopping, 10K training, gardening, and school events.

Tomorrow is our last day at Stone School: our littlest one is leaving. She made Annie, her teacher, a little card:

Dear Annie, I wish you could be my teacher forever. Your Student, Claudia

I was handling all the end of year stuff well until Claude wrote this note. I said the words slowly with her and she wrote the sounds. I started crying when she turned her tiny left thumb upside-down to make finger spaces between the words. Oh, my. Finger spaces. My baby is ready for Kindergarten.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Early Intervention Works

Spread the word: early intervention works!

Be sure to check out www.a2ri.com to stay informed about the current status of Reading Intervention and the AAPS Budget Crisis.

Please sign to indicate your support for this valuable, effective program.

BUDGET FORUM TUESDAY, May 7th from 7:00 pm -8:30pm at Pioneer High School Cafeteria. The forum will start with an informational session and then have time for small group input that will shared to the whole group at the closing.

Also, a General Meeting for the school board is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8th at 7:00 at the Ann Arbor District Library (downtown branch) on the 4th floor.

Make sure your voice is heard.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cutting Reading Intervention?

I think I need one of those "Keep Calm" signs.

Or maybe it's not really the time to be calm anymore.

Reading Intervention, the only early intervention provided to K-2 readers in my district, is on the chopping block. In the next few days, I will be talking and more and more about the enormous implications of this possible decision.

Early intervention works. Prevention is cheaper than remediation. Kids matter.

And now- I am an unintended advocate and activist. Please join me!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Reading Mentor #2: Grandma Verry and Francis

My next two reading mentors are teachers of a good skill: knowing what to read next.  Francis (pictured below as a baby and avid reader of the Maisy books) and my Grandma Mary Verry, both reminded me to be a reader who hooks into a series.

Two of my favorite readers: Grandma Verry and Francis, October 2004.

My favorite story about my Grandma as a reader was when she found a new book series, "The Cat Who" series by Lilian Jackson Braun. She found this book series when she was struggling with Myasthenia Gravis, and I love that she was so excited about finding it and also that she chose to use some of her very finite energy for reading. I hope I continue to find things to read that bring me joy throughout my life like my Grandma.

Francis must be following in Grandma Verry's footsteps.  He has relied on series books to guide him as a reader this past year: Henry and Mudge, Horrible Harry, A to Z Mysteries, Secrets of Droon, Star Wars Graphic Novels, Dragon Slayer's Academy, Captain Underpants, Captain Fact, Encyclopedia Brown... Fran reads about 10 books into a series and then moves onto something new. As someone who finishes a series- this is crazy to me.  But also, another lesson from a reader: move on when you've had enough.

Who would have thought looking at them when they met that they would remind me that I can hook into a series so I always have a book on deck.

And now, I wait for this next book to become available to be my book on deck!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March is Writing Month? or Bird-by-Bird: Advice for Writing and Life

Fran was really excited about studying biographies at school. He picked Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman pilot, (over LeBron James) for his project. The first thing I did was grab him some books from the library. He did what any respectable biographer would do, he read them, and then he talked about them.

So a few days later, he brings home his biography from school... It was really accurate, it had solid mechanics, and it was very...well, concise. Since more than one session had been allowed for writing and he had more to say about the topic, I thought perhaps it needed to be a little longer. Like many 3rd graders, it seemed like he just needed some help figuring out how to use structure to tell it long.

A lot of 3rd graders tell the whole thing in a paragraph. Or write a really long, well-crafted beginning and then get tired and rush the rest. But each part needs to be developed, and this is where structure comes in.

So I did it. I told Francis the old "bird-by-bird strategy" from the famous grown-up writer Anne LaMott. Basically, it goes like this: her brother left a huge project on birds until the day before it was due. Her father, also a writer, remained calm. He got her brother some bird books from the library, sat at the kitchen table with him, and told her brother to relax-- just take it bird-by-bird. (Anne tells it better.)

Just take it bird-by-bird.

Such simple advice. I've found that most tasks, both in writing and in life, seem so much more manageable if taken bird-by-bird. So that's what we did: Fran set up a timeline and figured out his sections. We labeled his draft with each "part on a page" and he worked bird-by-bird in a few short work sessions to finish it.

Now he had used this "timeline and each part gets a page draft" strategy before with both his personal narrative story and his fiction story this year, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you to just take it bird-by-bird.

Yesterday we were driving in the van, chit-chatting about how his piece had changed. I hoped I was hearing his words, not the words he thinks I want him to say about his process. Every writing teacher worries (sometimes) that a teaching point was too heavy-handed, that the teacher, not the student owns the strategy or craft applied, or that students just say what they think we want to hear so we'll leave them alone.

But Francis reminded me that this work was now his own by closing our conversation by saying, "Well, Mom. Now I know I can write long if I just do what that famous writer's brother did... just take it bird-by-bird."

Monday, March 4, 2013

My Pappap (Reading Mentor #1)

It might surprise you to hear that my Pappap was a reading mentor to me. My Pap was brilliant-- a flexible problem- solver-- but he did not have an opportunity for formal schooling after middle school. He worked in the coal mines, and also became skilled as a naturalist and an electrician. He was the busiest retired guy I ever met.

But the thing I will always remember is how much Pap loved a good mystery- he read everything from Ellery Queen to Encyclopedia Brown! He loved reading trivia. He also read the morning and afternoon paper- he did word puzzles, logic puzzles, number puzzles. He loved the comics.

When I was little, the Field Guides Pap often read seemed boring to me. But his love of nature helped him find a study topic that interested him. He wanted to know more about the animals in the woods, so he read about them. He knew about animals, trees, and how to find delicious berries- because he read about them and then he experienced them.

People who knew my Pap might think of tools and machines when they think of him, and I do, too. (I also remember drilling a hole in his workshop floor while he helped me with my Girl Scout Woodworker badge!)  I will always remember his humor, his generosity, and especially his reading. Pappap taught me that readers find books about what they want to know about it the world- and then read them! I used to think that being a reader was just reading high-brow canons, but Pap taught me that readers alone choose the reading that is important to them.

My Pappap

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Claude's Current Favorite

Claude is currently gaga over Marisabina Russo books. I had the privilege of hosting her (back in the day) at my school in NY for an author visit- and she is simply marvelous, both in person and in print. I love her books for little ones, like The Big Brown Box and also her books for older children, like I Will Come Back for You.

My favorite birthday gift for a toddler is The Line Up Book; like all of Marisabina's book, she really understands kids, their feelings, and positive family dynamics.  I love using her books with young writers- especially because she is an author/illustrator, like my students are.  Her nice mix of dialogue, details with pictures and words, and story shape and structure are just divine.

Claudia has fallen in love with Hannah and all her stories. Her favorite right now is The Trouble with Baby. Claude was drawn to the title; she's always looking for trouble. I can only imagine the seeds Marisabina's books are planting for Claudia's own writing in Writing Workshop in Kindergarten next year!

Check out Marisabina's books at your local bookseller and from your library. I know we have plans: a big stack of her bunny books on hold at AADL and some out-of-printers coming from Amazon.

Little Miss Trouble reading The Trouble with Baby.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Yearly Book Goal

So I have heard about some crazy goals of readers, like reading 365 books in a year, reading a  book each day in the summer... And in Jnauary, I was thinking that I had a bum year reading and didn't read as much as I thought I should.

And then I looked over my reading log, and I saw that I read about 52 books that I could remember! I felt so busy, so I was surprised that I still had made time for my own reading life:

52 books that I could remember!

The Thirteenth Tale
The Book Thief (loved this!)
Prairie Tale
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch (also read The Wilder Life, but in 2011)
Hunger Games Series 1-3
City of Thieves
The Marriage Plot
Vision Book (title?)
And Then There Were None
The Hound of the Baskervilles
Magnolia Wednesdays
Regatta Mystery
The Reliable Wife

Professional Books:
Picture This: How Pictures Work -Molly Bang
Show Me A Story: Why Picturebooks Matter
Beyond Leveled Text
When Readers Struggle
2nd garde Calkins
Teach Like a Champion (blech!)
The Fluent Reader
Teaching Children who Find Reading Difficult
Choice Words

Kid Books:
Lemony Snicket #5
A- Z Mysteries A-E, H
Droon Series 1-6
Stone Fox
Incorrigible Children-3
The Mighty MIss Malone
Tales of 4th grade Nothing
Time War Trio 1-3
and more picturebooks than anyone would care to count

Not too shabby! I was surprised by how many I had read. It's interesting to see how professional reading and "kid" reading takes a big chunk of time.

Favorite thing from 2012? Schooled and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. Kiddie Lit rocks my world!

Goal for 2013? To keep a better log and to update the blog more with my reading. Also, use my reading projects to inform my writing projects- and carry them through. I am pretty sure I'll hit 52 in 2013. I am working on book #16....

All this really validate how useful book logs can be, both for a reader in the "real world" and in the classroom.  Such a handy list to keep! Try it yourself and let me know how it goes.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Is Reading Month 2013: Reading Mentors

I have been compiling a list of reading mentors. These reading mentors have shaped who I am as a reader, a writer, a teacher,  a person, or all of these things... I plan on profiling them this month at TRWH. I hope that I can be a reading mentor to people in my life (and in my classroom) this year for March is Reading Month and beyond.

Right now- grab a scrap of paper.
Write down people who shaped you as a reader.
A friend who loaned you a book?
A teacher who elevated your thinking?
A librarian whose read-aloud made your heart fill?
An aunt who delivered the perfect book whenever you needed it?

What did you learn about yourself-or about other readers- from your reading mentors?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Phew. I made it!

Ahh...under the wire. One post for February!

I've written many posts in my head on the treadmill, and forgotten them.
I've had incredible a-has about reading and writing workshop while driving for school pick-ups, but they now elude me.
I had an epiphany about raising readers and writers and the role of home, the role of school, and the role of the inner life. But I can't remember the details.

But most importantly, I have reiterated to myself the power of chunks of time for daily reading and writing. Even if I don't publish daily, daily reading and writing exercise my literacy muscles, which help me as a teacher, a parent, and as a reader and writer.

Now, many great thing were accomplished this month:
  • The kids got to ski! (Michigan...best state ever!)
  • We skated on Lake Huron...with Mackinac Island in the background.
  • I read some great professional books, kid books (Mysterious Benedict Society), and even a grown up book!
  • I volunteered at 826 Michigan with Colby Dog. (And at Mott, too...)
  • Two more book series found by Francis: (Origami Yoda and Michigan Chillers).
  • We hosted some dinners, brunches, and playdates.
  • I kicked up my running again. (Stinkin' treadmills....)
And plenty of balls were dropped, too...

Here's to March! And a Happy March is Reading Month to You and Yours!

Muffin skating on (the Great) Lake Huron!

Fran in a game...

Just goofing off,  Mackinac Island in background.
Say Yes! to Michigan!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

5 Things About...Series and 5 Things About Minilessons

Teaching workshops well changed who I am both as a teacher and as a citizen of the world. (Melodramatic, yet true.) It is such a privilege to set up a  learning environment, providing direct instruction with plenty of time for work and inquiry, for my students. Workshops involve significant rigor and are so essential to raising rabid life-long learners. 

I've been thinking a lot about how to refine and acknowledge aspects of workshop teaching, reading, and writing in the past weeks, and have decided to start a new posting series called 5 Things About... 
Here's the first musing: 

5 Things About Minilessons in Elementary Classrooms:

  1. Minilessons follow a minilesson structure. (Connect, Teach, Active Engagement, Link, Mid-Workshop Teaching Point, Share). Minilessons are 5-15 minutes long. (Occasionally 20 for upper elementary.) Runaway minilessons divert minutes away from student writing time and conferences. Knowing what students are doing and what they need next helps me plan for concise, focused teaching.
  2. Minilessons almost always happen in the meeting area. In the meeting area, books and working charts support the learners. Charts are a great resource; they can reinforce and reiterate the work of the community.
  3. Minilessons need to be mini enough to provide adequate time for work at writing spots.
  4. Minilessons provide direct teaching and establish a sense of community, identity as writers, a spirit of inquiry, and rigor. (Strategy groups and conferences provide differentiation.)
  5. Minilessons end back in the meeting area with a "share" where you reiterate or extend the teaching and/ or talk about process. Share is a confusing term-- students may or may not share writing-- and direct teaching or writing tips are offered from the teacher or fellow students to the community of writers.

I could have said more, but I also could have said less. Those were just 5 things I was thinking about minilessons...