Writing Workshop 101 – Maggie Moon

EARCOS March, 2009 – Session Notes (my thoughts in italics)

  • Students learn at different rates – instruction should be differentiated
  • Be engaged in authentic work – give them strategies for where writers get their ideas from (key to writers workshop)
  • Explicit instruction going on
  • Students need a model – do writing in front of them.  You can use mentor text, show them writing (it doesn’t always have to be yours)
  • Your goal is to give them strategies to try, and encourage independence and choice
  • When you are modeling – don’t give them a perfect model – step by step feel to it, show yourself having a struggle, (students see the action in detail – they see you struggle) try to write things close to what your students are writing. What you are making as a model is as close to what your students are writing.
  • Goal of unit-of-study is to have a container that is holding everyone together
  • Good writing workshop has a layer of assessment – formal and informal – informs you what you will be doing with your whole class – perhaps the whole class is not getting the concepts that you are introducing. What will you teach more of, less of?
  • Possibility of Writers Workshop 3-4 times a week within a balanced literacy programme – in order to fit everything in – not ideal but could still work (perhaps this is how to fit in specific grammar practise – out of 6 day timetable, one day is grammar lesson not writers workshop)
  • Workshop Structure:  45 mins: Minilesson (10mins) Worktime (30mins – changes over time, teacher confers while students work, one to one conference, small group work: Mid workshop Teaching point (2-5mins) – take something that you have noticed – manage any little thing back to the whole class. Teaching Share (5-10mins) take time to reflect, work with writing partner, ask questions.  You can stretch the workshop out to an hour if students can stay focused on the writing -the ones that have been writing for a while.
  • Mini lessons more than 10mins are maxi-lessons (be clear, concise, planned ahead of time) This is an area that definitely needs to be a focus for me – mini lessons are way tooooo long!!
  • Folders and Notebooks – Upper Grades (3-5+) use Writer’s Notebooks and Drafting Folders. Notebooks are for collecting entries.  Writing Folder for the drafting process – write a draft, and revise it.
  • Writing Process for Writers Ages 4-7/8:
    • Immersing
    • Rehearsing and Planning
    • Drafting
    • Revising (taking words out, making sentences better)
    • Editing  (fixing mistakes, punctuation, grammar)
    • Publishing (final product – making your final product – want this aspect to go as quickly as possible)
    • Celebrating!! (share the pieces with the class, invite people in, blog? principal, kinderbuddies,writing contest, published authors)
  • Writing Process for Writers Ages 8++
    • Immersing
    • Generating (Collecting) Entries (in the writer’s notebook)
    • Choosing a “Seed Entry” (still in the writer’s notebook)
    • Developing and Nurturing
    • Planning and Drafting (see their seed entry differently – don’t copy it – model this) draft on computer – print out Version 1 then make revising changes so that you can track.  Take advantage of spellcheck (that’s what we do).
    • Revising
    • Editing
    • Publishing and Celebrating (ideas: Museum (comment sheet underneath), Group sharing, blogging – authentic audience, Author’s Chair)
  • MiniLessons (sense of gathering on the mat area – not at the desks)
    • One, explicit teaching point
    • Student gather at a meeting area
    • Teaching points fit together to create a “Unit of Study”
    • Four parts to the lesson – predictable structure – connection, teaching, active engagement, link – how does this fit in with what we are trying to do, not just another task.
    • Important for kids to see teaching point in action
  • Publishing – ok vrs perfect – if it’s taking a long time you need to consider how much of the writing process you are knocking out.  Suggestion from audience – partner/peer editing
    Some units could be teacher-formal editing but not all (Maggie took a post-it and kids had to find the words that she found – don’t write all over their writing – it’s a respect thing.  ELL different ball game for them – they are learning a new language – more time to help them with the editing to help them to learn rather than the focus on the final product – the more you do it for them, the less it becomes their work.  Drawing, then labelling, scaffold works well for ELL students – this is still writer’s workshop (think how can this go for them based on what works for them)
  • One to One conferring:  Has a consistent structure (if you have 20 students in your class- across a week you see all of your students at least once – conference times vary but they are not 20 minutes long!!)  Research – talk to student, see what they are doing, watch them; Decide (quick decision – compliment and then Teach) Coach:  Link:
  • Writing Centres – tape, pencil sharpener, stapler, scissors, date stamps, paper choice, drafting paper, mentor texts, reference materials – don’t be the gate keeper!
  • Writing Partnerships – may or may not be ability based, meeting on a regular basis, to read their work aloud, ask questions/advice of their partners, and to give feedback – this needs to be modelled, taught – watch them, make notes on what they aren’t doing so well in this part and turn it into a minilesson.  The longer you can keep these partnerships together, the better.  At least some span of time – you can change after several unit of studies.
  • http://unitsofstudy.com  One way the year of writing could go – it is a RESOURCE – you could follow directly but you don’t have to.  You should make adjustments to fit in for what your students need.
  • Units of Study – Grade 4/5  A version of how a year could unfold
    • Launching the Writing Workshop (routines etc)
    • Raising the Quality of Personal Narrative
    • Realistic Fiction
    • Personal Essay
    • Writing Fiction, HF, Fastasy or Mystery Making RW Connections
    • Literary Essays or Fournalism
    • Content Areas Writing, Writing to Convey Ideas and Information
    • Memoir – The Arto f Writing Well
    • Independent Reading Projects / Revision
  • Essentials for the success of Writing Workshop:  Don’t wing it – planned ahead of time, waht do you want your students to practise, what do you want your students to create.  Covers the level stands or school benchmarks.  Lasts between 3-6 weeks (typically 4 weeks)  Strikes a blaance between teaching, assessing, teaching assessing
  • Maggie did a little small moment mini-lesson – she wrote a story about snorkling with Diane, we then turned and talked about our ideas for our own small moments:
    • Turn and Talk – is the active engagement part (Link – so this is something, where any little story that happened to you and you’re trying to make it sound like it is happening all over again.
    • Dark rain clouds were building up in the sky.  I hope we are not going to be flying through that rain as we walked down the ramp into the waiting airplane.  I put all our luggage in the overhead locker and (I really struggled trying to write like it was happening, I kept wanting to write in the past tense!!)
    • Reverse pyschology – cut off the writing on a high note – don’t fall into the trap of letting writing going if it’s going well.  When something matters to you – when it’s meaningful it’s much more powerful – that’s why you don’t limit the choice.  The big goal is to just let’s all write!  This is not the final product – it’s a collection of entries – one of those will be revised.
    • Have struggling writers “underline” the words they don’t know how to spell.  Writers try their best, sound words out, make sure they are not blocked from writing.
  • Maggie will email powerpoint
  • Get your own notebook – have to be self-disciplined about it.  Start writing because you will learn what to teach when you go through it.  Make your publication dates public.
The Power of Skype and your PLN

The Power of Skype and your PLN

The Most Amazing PLN Anyone Could Ever Ask For

This post’s feature image taken by my good friend Rachel; I’m “sitting” on Amanda aka HeyMilly’s “lap” and AllanahK skyped me in! This is the power of skype & your PLN!

My fabulous colleagues back home in New Zealand have been enjoying the Learning@Schools09 Conference held in Rotorua.  When my good friend (and one of the first people in my PLN) AllanahK tweeted that she was organising a “Matt-style” dance at the start of Wes Fryer‘s Keynote presentation, I couldn’t resist the urge to tweet back “Can I skype in?”

Sure enough – at 7.15am Bangkok, Thailand time, and 1.15pm, New Zealand time, she did just that- skyped me in so that I could join in the dance too.  It was brilliant – almost like being there.  I was able listen to Wes’s Keynote until Allanah’s battery finally died.  I wish I could have been there in personal to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and learn new things from incredibly talented people.

Video Proof!

Unfortunately the background music “Dancing with Matt”, got pinged by YouTube as copyright material.

Putting it Together!

I originally used jing to capture the screen on my laptop (‘cos that’s all I had), then discovered that it saves as .swf. Drat! Because that means it’s not editable (without the Pro version – funny that?).  So here’s the master genius work around I used:

Step 1:  Grab Jeff Utecht on his way out the door – (‘cos he has ScreenFlow)
Step 2:  Replay .swf on his laptop and re-capture using ScreenFlow – saves as a .mov, edit as you go
Step 3:  Import into iMovie – add titles and credits
Step 4:  Play real “Dancing with Matt” video on YouTube to capture the soundtrack using Audio Hijack Pro
Step 5:  Import audio into iMovie – adjust sound levels
Step 6:  Upload to teachingsagittarian’s YouTube channel

(Did I mention that I love my mac laptop?)


I love the play on words for LAN – traditionally known as Local Area Network – and it’s use lately for local educators getting together to watch and discuss the K-12 Online Conference offerings.

The extremely wonderful Kim Cofino, graciously hosted ISB’s first K-12 Online Conference LAN party last Saturday morning, in downtown Bangkok. She’d already downloaded most of the videos, set up the TV and sound-system AND had breakfast on the table with helpful supplies from us all.  Of course I must mention that Kim has a presentation along with another fabulous educator, Jen Wagner in this years K-12 Online Conference.  “Connecting Classroom Across Continents: Planning and Implementing Globally Collaborative Projects” in the Kicking It Up a Notch strand.

Bangkok K-12 Online Conference LAN Party

The conversation was flowing, rich and authentic as we shared with our fellow colleagues what we thought might be of interest to them to watch.  The two presentations decided upon were Chris Betcher’s  and Alice Barr, Bob Sprankle and Cheryl Oak’s Keynote in the Getting Started strand.  This was to be the 3rd time I’d seen Chris Betcher‘s presentation “I Like Delicious Things: an introduction to tagging and folksonomies and STILL I learnt more tips from it.  The amazing Silvia Tolisano skyped in from Jacksonville, Florida and did a fabulous job of explaining the difference between delicious and tagging to one very keen teacher sitting in the room who really wanted to understandwhat she’d just witnessed in a presentation.

Our LAN party was so successful and so authentic that it was decided we just could leave it at one party.  This format is now set to become a regular occurrence, rotating between venues close to school and venues downtown.  It will always be open for everyone, anytime they feel they can make it. There’s a wealth of talent and knowledge and ideas out there just waiting for us to tap into. And the conversations that arise out of just watching a presentation for 12- 15 minutes is phenomenal! I really can’t think of a better way to receive personal Professional Development.  What’s even better is the  K-12 Online Conference is available anytime convenient to you.  Heck, there’s still K-12 Online Conference 2006 and 2007 presentations on my list to watch that I still have access to!

Here’s to the next LAN party in two weeks time – if you live in Bangkok – hope to  see you there – if not, and you think you might want to skype in and be part of the conversation, we’d love to hear from you!

I wonder which presentations we’ll watch this time?

LAN-it-Up in Jacksonville, Florida

It was an absolute pleasure to be invited by Silvia Tolisano to skype-join in the conversation at their school’s K-12 Online Conference LAN party “last night” or earlier this morning (for me.)

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

The timing was perfect – albeit they were having a wine (early evening) and I was having a coffee (early the next morning), the conversation was very interesting and most enjoyable.

My understanding of how Silvia had set up the LAN party was there were several rooms set up with various conference presentations running in them so that teachers could choose which presentations interested them the most.  Then when those presentations had been viewed, everyone met together in one room and discussed what they watched and what they understood or took from it.

The power of sharing ideas, thoughts and understandings, whether you are having conversations face to face or skyping into them is so strong.  The power of discussing what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard and how that affects you is even stronger.  There were presentations I heard teachers talk about that I hadn’t considered watching but now I will because I’m curious and inspired by their thoughts.  I’m now personally connected to some of those teachers even though the chances of us meeting face to face are relatively small.

If you haven’t considered watching K-12 Online Conference 2008, I really think you ought to.  And then find someone who’s watched it too and have a conversation with them – they don’t even have to be living in the same place as you!  Better still, inspire someone else to start watching K-12 Online Conference presentations too.

I’m Not Kidding

I’m Not Kidding

Presentation: I’m Not Kidding … IT really is this easy

I shared my excitement at this opportunity to present at Learning2.008 Shanghai here. I am not kidding. It really is this easy to bring IT (Information technology) into the classroom.

In this 45 minute presentation for Learning2.008 Shanghai, I’ll be sharing (along with my special guest star Sam the Kiwi) just how we do it!

Unconference – Conversation about Best Practices

Unconference – Conversation about Best Practices

Live Blogging: What is Best Practice?

Facilitated by David Jakes and Clarence Fisher during a Learning2.0 Conference unconference session.

The conversation was rich, it was real and it was authentic.  There were lots of questions, lots of discussion, not lots of answers.

The Questions

  • Is it making the task authentic?
  • Is it making the teaching and learning transparent?
  • Is it building relationships? Is it collaboration?
  • Is it using the right tool for the job?
  • Is it establishing the climate?  Is it transferring knowledge?
  • Is it accepting the differences?
  • Are you applying technology in the right way?

The Discussion

It doesn’t matter how you engage the kids – the key thing is that you are actually engaging the kids.  But is there a danger that it’s easy thinking?  Thinking of the guy that just lectures and the kids dig it!  I bet he’s passionate!

Teachers telling teachers what they are doing?  Find out what others are doing – are we overburdening our students?

If we make a list will that lock down what best practise is?  Is this dangerous?  Isn’t best practise really about meeting the child where they are at and moving the child on?

A conversation participant mentioned location – what was best practise in a classroom in Africa where she was teaching before is certainly not best practise in the International School classroom she is in now in.

We looked at Darren Kuropatwa’s blog to see the practise that he has going on in his class through technology. Building a community.  Megacognition – Scribepost – I want to look at that.  The blog has feed windows brings in classrooms from around the world.  His kids can virtually visit other classes.  All of Darren’s classes are podcasted – whiteboard work has been uploaded up to slideshare.  He has 4 of his own children, so this is not a man that spends all his time on the computer! It obviously has to be dead-easy system- apparently he has it set up so that this takes about an extra 10 minutes of his day.  All the work of the class is on the web.  Accessed and re-accessed anytime, anywhere.

Processing My Thoughts

So is best practise about offering the tools that are right for each student’s learning?  What does this mean for the teacher that is not comfortable with all this technology?  What if you think these are really great ideas and you strive to be the best teacher you can be and you just don’t know how to do this stuff?

I really admire the work of Darren Kuropatwa – but I don’t know how to begin with half of the stuff he’s doing?  I know that I have the resources at my fingertips and the personal learning network to learn how though – and is that really what best practise is all about?

Is best practise whatever engenders our students to learn whatever it is that they need to learn both within their own communities, and outside those communities?

At the end of the day does best practise mean it’s all about the relationships we build both inside and outside the classroom?