collaboration · conferring · nurturing · professional development · responsive classroom · tcrwp · Teachers College · writing workshop

Finding Our Teacher of Writers Superpowers

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As we begin our second week, students at my school are thinking about their hopes and dreams for this year. I am thinking about my hopes and dreams too, for myself, and for all of us who teach writers. This year I hope each of us finds and nurtures our teacher of writers superpower.

My hope began with a conversation with my colleague Melissa. On the second day of school, Melissa walked into my classroom, grinning from ear to ear. She couldn’t wait to share what she’d done that day in writing workshop, and more importantly how what she’d done had made her feel.

Melissa attended the June Writing Institute at TCRWP, and her learning  there led her to think about how to become more effective at conferring with her second grade writers.  She created a conferring toolkit. If you don’t have a conferring toolkit and need ideas for how to build one, I suggest you watch this recording. Several of my TWT colleagues shared excellent ideas here at last spring’s Ed Collab Online Gathering. 

On the second day of school, Melissa used her toolkit as she conferred with her second grade writers.

“I felt so empowered. My experience this summer learning with others, and also putting together this toolkit, helped me feel so much more confident. I was ready to jump in with conferring right away.”

Of course, it wasn’t just the toolkit. It was the time Melissa spent planning what to include in her toolkit. It was the care with which she selected mentor texts, and created demonstration pieces. It was the confidence she built thinking through possible conference scenarios. And it was the chance to learn from and with others. Melissa discovered her teacher of writers superpower.

Let’s face it. Teaching writers and facilitating a writing workshop is not without challenge. The experience takes many of us out of our comfort zone. Let’s make this the year when we think about zeroing in on one part of our practice and strengthening it until we can think of it as a superpower.

On the second day of school, Melissa launched her writing workshop with great joy and impressive calm. And, on the second day of school, Melissa used her teacher of writers superpower to conduct more effective conferences with the writers in her classroom.

Melissa and her conferring toolkit

What are your teacher of writers hopes and dreams this year? Perhaps you want to tighten your minilessons. Maybe you want to tackle assessment or record keeping. Could be you’re thinking its time to learn how to support writing partnerships better, or broaden your repertoire of sharing experiences for your writers.

This year I hope each of us will identify and develop a teacher of writers superpower. We can’t all get to The Reading and Writing Project for an institute, but there are plenty of other things we can do to hone our skills.

  • We can do an online search to see what resources are out there.  (Be sure to use the list on page 27 of DIY Literacy to evaluate the quality of what you find in your search.)
  • We can search back in the “Archives” or “Looking for something” sections at the bottom of the TWT homepage

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  • We can collaborate with  colleagues to strengthen a particular skill by planning together, observing each other, or reading and discussing a book or chapter relevant to our focus.
  • We can take advantage of the new, free online videos at TCRWP.    
  • And we can mine the incredible resources on Twitter by showing up for chats, searching hashtags and following educators who share information that will help us grow. 

The start of a new year is a great time to set professional goals. Here’s to hopes and dreams, and the pursuit of our teacher or writers superpowers. I hope you’ll keep us posted.

3 thoughts on “Finding Our Teacher of Writers Superpowers

  1. The link for the toolkit recording does not seem to be working – and I am so interested in using this as a tool for my teachers to reflect upon. Any way you can re-provide the link?


  2. Your post made me reflect on what might be my superpower. When I dug deep I realized that my greatest writing teacher superpower is my unquenchable hunger for reading. I search for the authors with voices that speak to me. These voices have all influenced my own writing development over many years. I think that is what I would share with my students at this point in my life. Let’s not forget the importance of good reading as we teach good writing. Thanks for the post that inspired such reflection.


    1. You’re right, Lisa. The toolkit isn’t the super power. Rather, it is the time spent making meaningful selections about what goes into the toolkit that matters.
      On a related note, I recently spoke about getting kids to view writing with proper conventions as their super power. I think reshaping grammar/spelling instruction in this way can be helpful to kids. If we can use conventions in a powerful ways (i.e., to tell our reader what to do/as “stage directions” as Natalie Babbit says), then we have power over our readers.


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