All-Write Summer Institute 2008: Day One

Today I’ve been able to soak up thinking and ideas and general good stuff from:
Penny Kittle.
Lester Laminack.
Katherine Bomer.

My, oh my! To say my brain is swirling would be an understatement. How do I even begin to capture my learning and thinking and growing? I think I’ll begin a list of stuff that is sticking with me and may ultimately change me:

  1. I think Penny Kittle may be my professional hero. Her calm, down-to-earth approach to teaching is refreshing and liberating. Notebooks are at the heart of her teaching. She insists that teachers keep one too. Her goal when working with student writers is: “To help kids have a purpose that will drive them to becoming better writers.”
  2. Unlimited choice is no choice at all (Penny). We must guide writers into finding topics that are meaningful, hence the importance of copius notebook writing.
  3. Writing Relationships by Lad Tobin has influenced Penny’s thinking. I want to get my hands on a copy of this book. 🙂
  4. Lester: If you can’t get children’s attention without yelling, then you need to get another job. AMEN!
  5. All three referenced the remarkable similarities in workshop teaching at all grade levels. This was one of the things that struck me the most when I began working k-12. I was thankful for the reminder. Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching. It doesn’t matter what grade you teach or the kinds of kids in your classroom. Good teaching is good teaching. Period.
  6. Use a legend when marking a mentor text (Penny). What a great idea to help scaffold students when they are unpacking a mentor text by using a legend or a key. For example, underline things that create an image in green; mark sentences that are less than five words with blue.
  7. Penny shared these powerful beliefs: Literature is hijacking the language arts curriculum. However you do it, you need to fight for curriculum. High school students need to find a place for meaningful, powerful writing in their lives.
  8. At the end of the day I attended a double session led by Katherine called: Teachers as Writers. The whole point of the session was to work on our own writing. Katherine challenged us to write the thing that is obsessing us or that we care most about. To write something close to our bones. And so I made a list of some of the ideas that are tugging at my soul right now. Things I’m trying to make sense of, but are at that fuzzy edge of understanding. Then I was brave and wrote from the list. And it was difficult. Maybe I’ll post more about it. Katherine gave us homework — to work more on our writing.
  9. Carol McCloud, The Bucket Lady, was also leading sessions. I wasn’t able to attend one, however, I heard rumblings of her inspiration throughout the day. The general idea is that everyone is walking around with an invisible bucket and we are responsible for helping to fill each other’s buckets. Check out her website, Bucket Fillers, for all kinds of inspiration and ideas. The weekly email is excellent and the book is great too!
  10. If you’ve never met Katherine Bomer, please know that she is as genuine and warm and kind as she is on the pages of her writing. She took an extra moment to compliment Two Writing Teachersand validate the work Stacey and I are doing. Wow! If only she knew what an encouragement she was — talk about filling someone’s bucket!
  11. And Katherine’s key note: Reading [Student Writing] Like an Artist will have to have a post all it’s own!