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Dreaming Big for This Year’s Writing Workshop

A bead of sweat forms just below her brow. With her head down, it dares to fall. Legs stanced, the bead travels centimeters to the corner of her left eye. Three, exhale, Two, lips pursed, One-BANG! Power pressures every muscle forward. She’s hurling her legs to a sprint. The bead flattens, spreading across her eyelid. It’s there–a distraction–as she rounds the corner toward her first hurdle. Hup, hup, hup, hup, six more, each one feeling like the last as she throws herself through. She thinks she’s forgotten to breathe when suddenly struck by the ribbon draping her chest and shoulder. Feet slap the ground in a braking motion. Head back, the bead joins a tear. She inhales, sifting air through the awestruck hand over her mouth.

Success is rarely an accident, and we don’t jump all the hurdles. We crush some, kick some, completely miss others. Runners don’t blame the hurdles; they study them. Runners train to beat the hurdles, and not just jump one–but ten–in a row.

When I think of the hurdles in education, I am reminded of buzzwords like mindset, grit, and rigor. Each of these words has a dark side if we aren’t careful. Sometimes we begin initiatives in the spirit of these words, but when results of these practices don’t yield a certain level of performance, these words can be turned on their head and used against their intended purposes. We can look at the practice as flawed. We might see ourselves as flawed or even our students. On a track, hurdles are predictable, lined up in rows, and in plain sight. Even then, we can still fall. Truthfully, practices worth the investment have a lot of experience, research, time, and care living underneath their results. This makes investing our time in these practices worthwhile.

All week long all of us here at Two Writing Teachers will be encouraging you to find that one thing you’ve tried and maybe given up on, maybe been too overwhelmed to even consider and really turn it on its head with focus, deliberate practice, and anticipation for hurdles. We hope to get you ready to clear your hurdles and make space for what may seem impossible. This is the year you will conquer new elements within your writing workshop practices.

In their book, Kids 1st from Day 1, Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz (2018) tell us,

“The real key is how we see setbacks, because let’s be clear, we teachers encounter a lot of them. If you see a setback as a threat to your identity (“But I am supposed to be good at this!”) it is very hard to confront it and learn from it. But when we are able to see setbacks as a natural part of learning and living, look at them honestly, and come away with some valuable feedback about what to try differently next time (there will always be a next time!), then we live as teachers who constantly grow and develop and constantly improve and refine our practice.” (p. 4)

We hope you will look at your writing workshop, choose the elements to focus on for the year, and really look to see what catalyst is needed to create the reactions and responses necessary for true transformation and improvement. Look to our list below to begin getting inspired today with the descriptions of our upcoming posts through the week to start dreaming big and making this the year.

Here is the line-up:

  • Later today, I will share strategies on how to use writing partnerships more purposefully within the writing workshop.
  • Tomorrow, Deb will continue the series when she unravels the ways we can integrate technology into our workshop time.
  • On Tuesday, it will be Lanny’s turn to encourage you to write alongside your students.
  • On Wednesday, Melanie will guide you with practical ideas on creating strategically written texts.
  • On Thursday, Stacey will tackle record keeping and share usable techniques to keep better records all year long.
  • On Friday, Kelsey walks you through creating and using a writing toolkit.
  • On Saturday, Beth will help you organize and grow your mentor text collections.
  • On Sunday, Kathleen will get you thinking about your workshop structure when she tackles share time.
  • Next Monday, August 13th, Melanie will come back to roll out of all the links from the series and the winner of our giveaway!
  • Also, on Monday evening, August 13th at 8:30 EDT, Kelsey will moderate our #TWTBlog Twitter chat continuing the conversations about your big dreams for the year.

If that’s not enough to get you excited to tackle a big dream, take a little inspiration from Audri. We can all learn a little something from Audri.

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of Kids 1st from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom . Thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy to one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a copy of this book.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of Kids 1st from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom,  please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, August 12th at 6:00 p.m. EDT. Melanie Meehan will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. His/her name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, August 13th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Melanie can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Melanie will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – KIDS 1ST. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Betsy Hubbard View All

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.

46 thoughts on “Dreaming Big for This Year’s Writing Workshop Leave a comment

  1. This is such a timely topic, of course. As August creeps forward and I really have to think about going back to school, this is the perfect series for getting a head start on what I want to change, retool or try out in writing workshop this year. I look forward to reading the rest of this series and to tomorrow’s chat.

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  2. Love the positivity in this post, especially this line, “This is the year you will conquer new elements within your writing workshop practices” as I work to improve writing conferences with students.

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  3. I am looking forward to expanding on student choice in writing this year! It looks like these blog posts will be so beneficial. Looking forward to reading them!

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  4. I am looking forward to expanding on student choice in writing this year! It looks like these blog posts will be so beneficial. Looking forward to reading them!

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  5. What a great analogy with the hurdles! It is so true that our challenges are not always predictable. All classes are different and so to are their experiences as a writer. As the teacher, our job is to be the lead researcher. Dig in. Be reflective. Listen. Form Relationships. Teach from what we see in our classroom. I look forward to this week to get ready for our new year of writers!

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  6. It seems like every new school year I start with new ideas to overcome the hurdles I’ve experienced in the past. Maybe it’s time to tweak the implementation instead.

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  7. Thank You for all you do on this website.
    This fall I need to learn how to make the writing partnerships more meaningful for my 3rd graders!

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  8. Audri’s Monster Trap is amazing and a perfect example of how we want all of our students to learn and think. Yes, there will be failures, but how do you deal with them? That is the real difference between success and failure.

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  9. It’s easy to get caught up in the all the practical work like readying the space that is necessary to “open” a classroom for the year, when in fact the real work is to prepare to teach our students from day one. Here in Washington students don’t return until after Labor Day so I’ve got time to contemplate and prepare – this blog is fueling my dreams for writing workshop.

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  10. I just finished rereading Katie Wood Ray’s In Pictures and Words…and I am so ready for this series. i know your ideas will help me cement my dreams for this year with my writing project. Thank you!

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  11. Thank you for this inspirational kickoff! I love the analogy comparing the runner training for hurdles to the teacher preparing for writer’s workshop. Your post encourages us, almost gives us permission, to reflect on our identity as teachers of writing. By committing to areas that need fine-tuning, we will grow and our students will thrive, too. Thank you for your wise words. Looking forward to dreaming big w/TWT this week! Thanks for the chance to win this new resource, too!

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  12. Wow, I can’t wait to see all the posts this week! This is perfect timing to start planning for the upcoming school year with a great mindset!

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  13. This was such a perfect blog to the start of the school year. Thank you for such positive words and motivations. How we see setbacks is so important. Excited to read the rest of the blog in this series.

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  14. Stacey I had the pleasure of meeting you at TC this week. I am looking forward to keeping the learning going through this great series.

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  15. Thank you for the reminder that setbacks are a normal part of teaching and that we should face them honestly. We tell our kids to do this; therefore, we need to hold ourselves to the same standard!

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  16. This quote spoke to me, “The real key is how we see setbacks, because let’s be clear, we teachers encounter a lot of them. If you see a setback as a threat to your identity ” How many times have I thought failure identified me!? This is a great set up for the blog series. I also love the Rube Goldberg machine. I’ve done these with my students and sure needed this video that shows how to overcome failure by trying again and again.

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  17. I can’t wait to share this video with colleagues and students. You’ve inspired me to tackle something new. Looking forward to this series.

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  18. Teaching is one of the few professions where we have the opportunity to “start fresh” each and every year…..thanks for the chance to win! This book is on my wishlist!

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  19. Thank you for sharing your ideas and expertise! I’m eager to learn from these posts and strengthen writing workshop for my students.

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  20. This is what strikes me most:

    “When I think of the hurdles in education, I am reminded of buzzwords like mindset, grit, and rigor. Each of these words has a dark side if we aren’t careful. Sometimes we begin initiatives in the spirit of these words, but when results of these practices don’t yield a certain level of performance, these words can be turned on their head and used against their intended purposes.”

    I think also of the word fidelity. While adhering faithfully to sufficient workshop time and structures for is vital to its success – to student success – if the structures and approach aren’t well-established in the teacher’s mind (along with a passion in the teacher’s heart for writing & teaching it), then “fidelity” becomes an onerous burden. The workshop will be abandoned because “it doesn’t work” or “it’s too hard.”

    So what a treasure trove of resources TWT offers here to keep that dark scenario from happening! Always building capacity, always encouraging. Thank you all.

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