Renters with homeowner mentalities (a must when living in NYC), Brett and I enjoy filling our Sundays with projects.
Our projects vary, as do the tools Brett needs. Last Sunday, we installed a new hook for a hanging plant that was too close to the window in the living room, attached brackets to the wall of the office for a writing desk, and added a shelf to the linen closet.
For each project, Brett made trips back and forth to get another tool. Sometimes, he stopped, mid-project, to go to Home Depot for something new or a tool he could not find.
You can imagine all of the time wasted and the headaches that ensued after sifting through the toolboxes to find each tool.
Brett knew he needed a better system.
My dad, our organizational guru, sent Brett a tool bag. Most of the time, this bag is a home for the essentials, the most frequented tools. Other times, it gets filled up for special projects. This little bag has made Brett’s work a lot easier.
Much like the way Brett tends to our apartment, bringing his tool bag from room to room, we tend to our writers during writing workshop. Each day, we gather or create tools for strategy groups, minilessons, and conferences. I often find myself, like Brett, running back and forth to find, recreate, or make new tools. Brett’s tool bag inspired me to make a writing toolkit. A home for writing workshop essentials, saving me time and stress, allowing me to maximize time with writers.
Like any organizational makeover, creating a toolkit might feel daunting. But setting aside a few hours will save countless more on daily preparation. If making a toolkit has been an item on your to-do list, or if your toolkit needs some revamping, let’s get started (video tutorials and tool downloads below)!
What Is A Toolkit and Why Should I Have One?
Some people have toolkits specifically for conferring. Others make toolkits solely to house demonstration texts and exemplars, or even as a catalogue of charts. I’m the kind of person who needs everything in one place, so I have started making toolkits for teaching specific genres. This coming school year will be the year I make a toolkit for every genre. Whatever intention you set for your toolkit, it is meant to make your life more efficient and more organized and help you stay prepared for any teachable moment.
If You’re Thinking, I’ve Wanted To Make a Toolkit For (insert time), But I Keep Putting it Off
|What feels tricky?||Let’s make it easier!|
|It takes a lot of time to make.||Find a colleague, or better yet, your whole grade team. Toolkits make for a super-productive professional meeting time or a fun summer afternoon project with a buddy.|
|I am not organized.||Toolkits will be your organizational lifesaver!|
|I’m not sure what to include.||Read on…|
This Will Be The Year
Start with the next unit of study you will teach. You can make additional toolkits throughout the year, ideally, one for each genre. After you make the first one, making the rest will be easier, as you can reuse many of the same categories and tools.
How To Make a Toolkit in 5 Steps: Video Tutorial with Narration
How To Make a Toolkit in 5 Steps: Condensed Video Version
Like Writers, Toolkits Grow and Change
In our home, new projects come up that require new tools. Brett’s tool collection keeps growing, and with it, his tool bag grows and changes.
If you’re making a toolkit in summer, you’ll be anticipating the kinds of tools you’ll need to support yourself with teaching a group of writers you haven’t met yet. If you continue to make a new toolkit prior to teaching each genre, as I do this year, you’ll also be anticipating the bumps and hurdles your writers will reach along the way. Continue to grow your toolkit while you are teaching a unit, and revise it after. What tools didn’t you use? Could some tools be filed somewhere else? Pro Tip: Keep digital copies or photos in Google Drive folders of items in your toolkit for when things get lost or written on.
A Final Mantra
Tools don’t teach. Whether it is a tool for yourself or a tool for writers, the power is not in the tool, rather it is in how it is used. Brett’s tools aren’t magic. They don’t build our projects. Rather, they make the steps easier. They make the projects last. So will the tools in your toolkit.
- Using tools will lift the level of your teaching, providing visuals and models for strategies.
- Kids use tools as scaffolds and reminders to help teaching stick.
- Keeping tools organized for planning and record-keeping will allow you to make more purposeful and responsive teaching decisions.
- Having charts and tools for writers on-hand will help allow you to maximize teaching time during independent writing.
Put these tools together, and you’ve got yourself one powerful toolkit to make for a more efficient, more organized, and more prepared year of writing workshop.
Many thank you’s to Gina Neumann and Shanna Schwartz, who taught me everything I know about making toolkits.
Articles, Downloads, and More Goodies
Toolkit Shopping List
Tools for Planning:
- Small Group and Conference Planning (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
- Small Group and Conference Weekly Planner (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
Tools for Teaching:
- Revision strips (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
- Picture box cutouts (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
- Demonstration text planning (Kelsey used for toolkit)
- This is the Year I’m Going to Create and Use Strategic Writing By Melanie Meehan
- USING YOUR OWN WRITING AS A TEACHING TOOL, by Beth Moore
- DIY Literacy, Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence By Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts
- The Writing Strategies Book, Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers by Jennifer Serravallo
Tools for Gathering and Recording Data:
- Class Grid Open-ended Notes (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
- Small Group Notes (as seen in Kelsey’s toolkit)
- This is the year I’m going to keep better records. By Stacey Shubitz
More on Toolkits:
- ICYMI: Conferring Toolkits Blog Series featured on Two Writing Teachers blog
- Maximize Independent Writing TIme by Creating Conferring Toolkits, K-5 #TheEdCollabGathering, Two Writing Teachers
- This giveaway is for a copy of Kids 1st from Day 1: A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom (Link to https://www.heinemann.com/products/e09250.aspx). Thanks to Heinemann (Link to: https://www.heinemann.com) for donating a copy for 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.