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Teacher’s College Writer’s Workshop Institute: Writing Volume

Volume of Writing

How many baskets does Steph Curry shoot in a week? What about Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals?  The volume of their shots in a week far exceeds the volume of their shots in official games. We are well aware that Curry, Ronaldo, and all top athletes need that volume of practice and repetition to perform. So let’s transfer this to writing.  A book, short story, article, or a poem is a professionally edited version of a huge volume of its drafts. This is not a  new comparison or idea;  analogies of writers to athletes, musicians, dancers, and skateboarders have been around for a few decades. But when Emily Strang-Campbell and Mary Ehrenworth of the Teacher’s College  Reading and Writing Project reiterated them last week at the Teacher’s College Summer Writing Institute, it was a helpful, clear reminder. As Mary says, a student’s volume of writing during class writing time is paramount; students learn to write and practice writing by writing in a non-threatening, practice-field environment.

I am applying everything below to myself; I have already written more, and with more focus and clarity.

How to get writers to write?

I am still shocked when students tell me that they don’t write for an extended, designated time of 20 minutes per class in English or humanities classes.  And my blank notebook is a whining reminder of the writing I haven’t done. But I remember how hard it can be to write without accountability.

  • Mandate and designate a specific amount of writing time.
  • Put a timer on
  • Require a heads-down, dancing-pencil act of writing
  • Monitor and redirect lazy pencils
  • Have some strategies for those reluctant writers who will stand you down (more on that in another post)
  • Dole out quick stamps or magic check marks for students when they finish the required writing volume

Where to Write? 

I’ve strayed from the writer’s notebook into my keyboard, but The Writing Institute set me straight. I’m back to eliciting ideas and focusing on evidence in my notebook with some drafting too. And it is so much better! Here is why:

  1. I can generate more ideas and remember more evidence when I create webs or maps
  2. I can organize the thoughts in my web
  3. The claims I write are clearer
  4. I chart out the paragraphs of a piece

We should plan, generate, and organize a piece in their notebooks.  Drafting takes place on notebook paper or on a keyboard. Here is my web on literary devices used in “Angel and Aly” by Ron Koertge.

Pre Writing Web


What to Assess?

  • Assess for writing volume. It is the writer’s obligation to write the three full pages that you designated.   Grammar, syntax, and mechanics do not need to be assessed or edited on webs, maps, and lists for generating a piece. John Grisham’s editors don’t see his plans or his drafts, so they don’t (and wouldn’t think of) correcting grammar, syntax, and mechanics.
  • Assess for staying on topic for the most part. We all have tangential ideas, and that is OK.
  • Assess for genuine effort.
  • Assess for focused, engaged writing behavior.

And this is my first draft on a theme and literary devices in “Angel and Aly.”

Draft in notebook

Creating a writer’s workshop environment takes time, trial and error, and lots of energy. Setting up your writer’s practice field will be so worth it when you and your students see not only how much has been written, but at the end of the process, how well. Check out the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project and  Heinemann for materials and how-to’s.






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Right On Reading and Writing!

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Right On Reading and Writing

Kids tend to lose reading and writing skills during the summer. So keep reading and writing going in a fun, relaxed way with Right On Reading and Right On Writing.

Literacy skills are like riding a bike or swimming; the more practice and repetition, the better reading and writing become. And, learners need lots of positive reinforcements to keep it all up. Choose a program that best suits your child. All programs are customized and personalized to the learners so that materials and motivators fit the student’s needs and interests.

Right on Reading!

A reading workshop format that your child will love! Readers will have a choice of reading materials that will incorporate age appropriate books, websites, magazines, newspapers, and controlled readings specific to reading proficiency. A mixture of voluntary, independent reading, reading with partners, and teacher read-alouds will be used along with guided reading and comprehension strategies. And, plenty of fun games, activities, and rewards too!

Right on Writing!

A writer’s workshop format that your child will love! Writers will write a variety of engaging products from creative selections to How To pieces that appeal to kids. In addition to writing fluency and vocabulary enhancement, sentence structure and grammar will be presented in fun activities and games. Participants will choose a final writing project to present to you and the class on the last day.

Right on Reading and Writing!

They go hand in hand! The combination of reading and writing is vital for academic and life skills. Reading is the best teacher of vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar.  Participants will read different age-appropriate selections and create a piece of writing in response to them that incorporates elements from the readings. Fun, engaging activities and games will be incorporated too.

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Online Tutoring

Direct Connect Tutoring

School Year 2016-17 starts in a few weeks! Are you and your student(s) ready? A major component of School Year Prep is scheduling activities, lessons, practices, games, and competitions in small, finite time-blocks. One student’s schedule can be like a Rubik’s cube.

Online Tutoring

So get ahead and schedule academic activities and support now. My new Online Tutoring services provide students with their skill and content needs via SKYPE and virtual white-board software.  All that a student needs is a computer or a mobile device, and we can connect face-to-face, screen-to-screen via the Internet. Students who engage in online, or virtual tutoring, give it rave reviews for convenience, privacy, and focus.

  • No carpooling or transit time to tutoring sessions
  • Easier on the family schedule
  • More opportunities for the busy student to get tutoring sessions

I provide tutoring services for critical reading, writing, language arts and English content, Spanish,  and study skills for all ages. Given my wide range of teaching experiences in several different types of schools, I can customize a program exactly to a student’s needs.

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Summer Skills Practice

CF tutoring 1 card

Here are my favorite Apps and video tutorials for subjects that require memorization, retention, and linear skill building. Our digi-kids love apps, but at times there is no better drill and practice material than a good, old fashioned note-card or a folded sheet of paper. The key is interacting with content and skills, and then tons of repetitions.

Flash Card Apps

I’m a fan if the student CREATES HIS OR HER OWN FLASH-CARDS. Lots of students think that the secret to academic success is using the pre-made flash-card sets of other student-users; I’ve seen too many kids fall in to this trap.

Quizlet. The now old stand bye. Electronic flashcards and automatically generated tests. The tests are the most effective feature so make sure your student uses them.
Study Blue. Beautiful e-flashcards that can include photos and images.
GFlashPro. Interfaces with Google Apps and Google Docs. Most students use these at school so this is an easy add-on.


Khan Academy. So perfect for grades 8-12. Great reviews of hard-core academic subjects with crystal clear explanations and visual supports. College entrance test prep too.

Spanish Grammar Tutorial Videos. Grades 7-12. The Sr. Jordan videos are short with lots of visual supports.

Foreign Language Practice

Conjuguemos. Grades 7-12. Verb conjugation practice for SEVERAL LANGUAGES.

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Summer Reading and Tutoring Tips

Summer Reading

Even though I crave a summer afternoon of reading, I’m well aware that most kids just do not. I choose my books and wait for them with an anticipation like that of awaiting a midnight ice cream cone. Students generally don’t choose exactly what they are to read for the summer; they are assigned it, or they are tasked with choosing a school-sanctioned book from a categorized list. It just doesn’t hold the same appeal to them. So, I’m still trying to make school-assigned summer reading enticing to my own high-schooler. And the summer books need to be read, understood, and analyzed enough for students to do well on a book-test or project lying in wait in August.

Bottom Line: Reading is now looking at a page. Comprehension and Analysis requires engaged interaction with the reading selection. Read as: summarizing, taking notes, making vocabulary lists, brief analyses, plot lines, and time-lines.

Reading- Setting a Scene

My reader battles sudden, deep drowsiness when he lies on his bed to read. So a student could read best in a

  • quiet, comfortable place at home where he or she doesn’t spend a lot of time
  • At the kitchen table while dinner is begin prepared; noise tolerance a must
  • A home office desk

Remembering and Keeping Track of the Reading

Reluctant writersVoice Memos on a smart-phone. After each page, chapter, or reading session the reading records what he or she remembers or thinks is important. This can then be emailed. And from the emails- the reader can copy and paste it all in to a Word Document.

Techie Readers

  • Write summaries of reading sessions in to a Google Doc
  • Write summaries of reading sessions in the Notability App for ipads.
  • Create a slide-show or a simple slide-show-movie. After each reading selection, the reader types a summary in to Power Point or Explain Everything. The reader then narrates the writing selection in to the slide show’s voice-recorder. Readers can also create visual slides of images and pictures that have his or her narration of what happened in a reading selection.
  • Create a podcast of the readers’ narrated summaries in Garage Band or Audacity.

Notes- the Basics

  • Interactive Notebook. Readers keep one composition book only for the summer reading books. Summaries, Time Lines, and Plot Diagrams can be done and kept in one place.
  • Stickies App or Program for Apple. Readers jot down a summary and important points of a selection in a sticky. They can then be copied and pasted in to a Word Document.
  • Notes App for i phones. Same as above.

Readers Love Company

  1. Google Hangout for a reading group to write/discuss the book.
  2. Group Text. See above.
  3. Reading Buddies Q and A. Two readers with the same book take turns asking and answering comprehension and analytical questions about the book.
  4. Edmodo Chat about the book if the school uses Edmodo.


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Nos Vamos a Mexico * Let’s Go to Mexico

I’m so thrilled to start using Nos Vamos a México with my KidSpanish I and II classes this spring semester. Teaching with a culturally rich and visually beautiful book is my favorite!  We’ll be learning about  Mexican geography, The coast or las costas, the Mayan and Teotihuacano pyramids, or las pirámides, and so much more about my very favorite country- México, el Encanto. Click on the book above to see where you can get it, or contact me.