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A Writing Wonderland Wednesday #NYCWPSummer17

5. What are your Aha! moments? We searched into moments of our teaching, conversations with colleagues or administration, professional development and readings and student work. After brainstorming our Aha! moments, sharing them, and then exploding into writing, we reflected on how important it is to write down all these moments as they happen, but the struggle is real at the end of a long school day. Julie had the great idea to start professional development time with some writing—Whaaaaaaat? Meaningful time to think and reflect during PD?? Genius! =)

4. Blackout Poetry is awesome! Even after the timer went off, we couldn’t stop working! Not only did we personally enjoy them, we saw so many ways of how we could use blackout poetry in the classroom—whether to have students focus on themes in a text, as an exercise of revising and editing, to visualize pauses and space, to highlight the delicacy of choice, or even just to show that mistakes are ok. Just black them out and let that take you into another direction!

3. We ran a marathon today! A Writing Marathon! We walked and we wrote and we sweated and we wrote some more. It was exhausting (in a good way of course), but so rewarding in the different ways we were able to experience writing and in being able to explore new spaces on campus. It made us wonder where in our schools and our communities we could write a marathon with our kids. Also, something Christy said during one of our share breaks that I loved: “Don’t apologize for making us feel something.” Yes! More feels please!

2. We ended the day with our writing groups. It’s been so encouraging to have people next to me as we struggled through our writing together. This is where I really see how different the process is for everyone and how beautiful it is that we can be more eyes and ears for each other during it. Saara and I walked to the train talking about how we wish we had more time with our writing group. Now that it’s over, two weeks feels too short!

1. That teacher struggle at the end of the day in six-word memoirs:

Just write 15 minutes a day.
Sit and stare at the wall.

May we fight the struggle and all write, write, write tonight for our share tomorrow!

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Terrific Tuesday! #NYCWPSummer2017

Today’s Fab Five spotlights the activities that we participated in within our classrooms and outdoors. We had the opportunity to determine issues of concern, discuss articles about social justice, explore quotes, and read storybooks. We even had a dance party!

5. Our morning Quote Walk gave us the chance to step outside of the building and study a collection of phrases etched into Lehman College’s walkway. We read the quotes, selected one that spoke to us, reflected on its significance, and shared our thoughts with a partner. Kimberly said that she was impressed with the inclusiveness of the quotes and the disciplines represented.

4. Our Storybook Stations revealed how useful picture books can be for increasing student engagement. We spent an hour reading different books and considering how we could integrate them into our instruction. The classroom was silent as we started reading through our stacks of picture books, but there were eventually bursts of laughter when we encountered amusing pictures or funny lines in the texts.

3. We grappled with personal and world issues in our Writing That Matters activity. We began by brainstorming issues that we were concerned about. Next, we picked one issue and wrote letters to two different individuals. This shift in audiences encouraged us to think about our tone and authenticity. Our letters were addressed to imagined husbands, product manufacturers, and young wonderers.

2. We squeezed in some time for an afternoon dance party. During our Circle Dance everyone contributed one movement whether it was a first position ballet stance, the Hokey Pokey, or jumping jacks.

1. We split into groups and analyzed assigned readings about social justice for our 3-2-1 Reading activity. We began by identifying what we annotated in the texts. Then we found three important ideas, located two quotes, and created one question. Our ensuing debrief session highlighted the challenges of our students incorporating research into their writing and writing about topics that they know nothing about. We talked about strategies for addressing bias and inequity as well as the elusive “how” and “why” of student writing.

Jessica best summed up our day when she said that she had many things that she wanted to “take back to the classroom, try, and revamp.”

It was a terrific Tuesday!

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Day 8- #NYCWPSummer17 This We Believe- a short film of our work in the leadership invitational at the NYC Writing Project!

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A Loopy Monday in the Bronx! #NYCWPSummer2017

5. We started our Monday morning off with some peanut butter… and ground pepper and cinnamon! Christy led us through sensory writing, asking us, “What stories do these sounds and smells bring up for you?” We listened, smelled, wrote, and shared. Abimbola shared with us her beloved Ground Nut Stew recipe and Angela infused us with enthusiasm, exclaiming that she couldn’t wait to add onto what she had started.

4. Then (drumroll, please… ) came our chance to publish our “This I Believe” statements. We conferred with each other for one final time, then posed for a photo, and recorded ourselves reading our statements in the recording studio next door.

3. When was the last time you wrote an essay? What was it like for you? In our Essay Workshop, we shared essay anxieties, habits, and dreams, and then worked in small groups to trace the shape of a few published essays. Our conclusion? We noticed a lot of looping! We all used circles and arrows in our diagrams to show how the writers we read returned to similar ideas and made connections throughout their pieces.

2. And then… We looped a little more by practicing some of Peter Elbow’s looping techniques on our inquiry ideas. Kimberly shared with us that she ended up writing a dialogue to a child to clarify her thinking. The result? “It was really helpful!”

1. Most of us finished the day by meeting with our inquiry groups and writing groups in the great outdoors. We tackled classroom constraints, brainstormed what we have the ability to change, and found where we crossed paths. And in writing groups we rounded out the day by hearing more of each other’s writing and pointing to the places that really resonated with us…

A beautiful day!

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Pot Luckyish #NYCWPsummer17

We started the day with a children's book about process and ended the day with a high level reflection on process... it's almost like our facilitators planned the whole thing!

5. After doing a picture book writing session with "Ish" by Peter Reynolds, we questioned the use of picture books in high school classrooms, and wondered whether students would object to it. Priscilla had a good point- "When do students not object? They'll object to a pizza party." An empowering question to ask whenever we want to try something new with our opinionated youngsters.

4. We did a "If these walls could talk" activity and a writing relay activity to begin to revise our ideas about the revision process. In our reflection of the "If these walls could talk" activity, Kimberly said something which stuck in my mind; "I kept bouncing between tensions and goals, tensions and goals..." Thinking about it now, I realize it connects a lot to my experience of an intense school year. Our dedicated teacher selves are always ping-ponging back and forth that way. Maybe that is why it's so nice to have a lot of reflection time this summer.

3. After spending some enjoyable time in our writing groups, we did an active listening 2 session. It was a pleasure to listen hard to my partner Sauna and to hear her encouraging feedback on my words.

2. Our pot luck! It was so delicious we all had to eat twice, and we had to tell ourselves we would eat a third time at three o'clock. Although we didn't manage it at 3 pm, at least we can look forward to next Thursday.

1. For the afternoon we had the pleasure of a long, focused art session, another feast, really. Priscilla and Christy laid out a treasure trove of materials and we delved in and created a piece that said something about our process. The artwork was incredible and we took it in many directions (pictures below!). In our reflection, Abimbola said, "it's interesting how we all selected from the same materials and yet we created such different products." As our newly created gallery reveals, it has been a great first week with a fascinating and unique group of educators!

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Perspectival Shifts in the Bronx! #NYCWPsummer17

Today was fantastic! There were so many wonderful moments that it will be hard to squeeze them into five, but I’ll try.

5.) We switched seats today! People decided to sit in a different place in the circle. This was a good exercise because, like our students, we can often settle into a comfortable groove and sometimes the best way to shake things up, as teachers and writers, is to see things from a different point of view.

4.) We started off our writing today by doing a postcard pass. We would get a random postcard and write a short piece based on the image on the front. Here were some memorable lines from our writing:

“Instead, the snow would form blankets of blue, each curve inviting a slightly different color—the result a sky beneath a sky.” –Nora
“Brisk, blue, unchartered. Empty of tourists, deterred by the weather, but the gulls still acknowledge and appreciate the deep, choppy waters.” –Kimberly
“I didn’t even know that cats could pucker their lips.” –Mayra
“Joyce loved Fred’s fingerprint zoo.” –Angela
“Why do all sea creatures look like our internal organs?” –Priscilla

3.) We worked with our inquiry groups for the first time! All the inquiry groups are off to a great start. One thing we noticed as we began to focus our areas of inquiry was the way that the different Circles of Influence (within the classroom, within the school, within the community/home life, the world beyond) overlapped.

2.) We had an amazing Point of View workshop where we continued a Sherman Alexie story and had lots of choices about who we could write about, what we could write about, and how we could write about it. People had different feelings about these choices. Chi said that she was paralyzed by all of the choices. Priscilla asked her how she dealt with that. She said “I had an urge to be more traditional – write from the perspective of one of the main characters, but I ended up choosing something that I liked and wanted to read myself, a more gossipy kind of writing. I had to allow myself to move away from a more traditional format.” Jessica liked the idea of choice and was excited by the possibility of helping students see that within any one story, there are actually multiple stories. Julie made an excellent observation that this activity helps students see that a text is really just a series of author choices. This insight can be a way for us to question the text and ask what and whom the author left out. So we are teaching our students to read as writers and to write as readers!

1.) Probably my favorite moment of the day (besides the fact that I got to commune with the beautiful black squirrels of Lehman College and make fun of the donut statue guy in the cafeteria, who we decided has gray skin but then took it back because it seemed like a colorist comment), was when Angela said that she is starting to work out how her teacher and writer self could be one! Now we’re getting somewhere, right team?

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We are down to the last day - as unbelievable as that sounds! Three weeks ago, today seemed soooo far in the distant. We have come a long way, have learned so much, and have met really wonderful people!

We started our day writing an ode to an everyday object. We reached into a bag and blindly picked our "thing". Mine was a little Buddah. Other objects included a Q-tip (unused), dental floss, chap stick, a small jar of jam, reading lights to wear around your neck, a cotton ball, a plastic egg, heart shaped eraser...and a few others. The odes people shared were fabulous! An anthology of odes might be on the horizon for the NWP...

We spent the morning in Amherst on a mini writing marathon. We split into our response groups and, with computers in hand, we scattered to different parts of the town. My group wrote until 11:30. That's when we decided to try out a new Tibetan restaurant for lunch.

Upon our return to UMass, we had a little bit of choice time. When we gathered once again, it was to discuss "Teacher as Researcher". Time to get down-and-dirty with our upcoming year long research projects. We contemplated our topics and asked ourselves the following questions:
- How will you extend it?
- How will you collect "data"?
- Other thoughts? Concerns? Challenges?

Then we met for a discussion with our response groups. We shared our thoughts and asked for feedback and advice for implementing our topic into the classroom. This was helpful. Our biggest concerns were around how to collect data and make it measurable. Elena recommended a great book to help with this process: Fundamentals of Educational Research by James H. McMillan. The book has chapters on gathering participants and samplings, quantitative and qualitative research, and much more. Looks very helpful.

On October 14, there will be a Best Practices workshop. The theme is "Composing Change - Equity and Civic Engagement Across Content Areas. We left class with this percolating in our minds. Our assignment is to write 3-5 sentences (including a catchy title) explaining our TIW.

This has been a wonderful group! We have gelled together perfectly. Our work space has become such a warm, inviting, positive place to be every day!

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Greetings from the Bronx! #NYCWPsummer17 kicked off to a fantastic start with 9 thoughtful, dedicated educators braving the cold indoors to join myself & +Christy Kingham! To celebrate, enjoy our first Fab Five of the season:

5. We enjoyed a read-aloud of Brianne Farley's "Ike's Incredible Ink" as we thought about our own writing processes, and wondered about what we could find on the dark side of the moon...

4. Julie shared some great writing advice wth us: Put your character up a tree & throw rocks at them...

3. We engaged in Active Listening and expressed our gratitude for each other's stories. Saara observed that saying "Thank you for sharing," can be empowering, especially for those of us who don't see ourselves as writers...

2. We shared our ideas for animating writing prompts for our students in a carousel, taking turns learning & leading. Our fellows breathed life into cold prompts with playlists, read-alouds, stations, partners, & props!

1. After our final writing break of the day, Sauna announced, "I'm done...And then, of course, I picked up my pen." We are so excited to keep picking up our pens with this crew!
Keep your eyes open for daily Fab Fives from the NYCWP #summerwrites17 fellows! 
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My WMWP Life-- Write Up 7/10-- So sorry, I posted this to the public site by mistake, here it is!
I can’t believe it’s already week 3 here at WMWP-- the program has gone by so quickly, but everyday has been full of rich and rewarding strategies that I am excited to bring into my writing practice.
Today, by perfect coincidence, the TIWs were both about improving writing in specific content areas. Nathalie’s TIW focused on developing science writing skills while Shannon’s inquiry focused on creating history-centered writing assignments for her students. We got to practice creating RAFTS, writing newspaper articles, and even holding a gossip conversation chain.
Both presentations reminded me that the skill of writing is cross-curricular, and as educators, we all need to make an effort, no matter what subject we teach, to teach writing. What also excited me was to see how I can incorporate science and history into my own classroom. When students see subjects transfer, they become more meaningful and ultimately engage students on a deeper, authentic level.


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WOW! So many moments are flooding my thoughts as I try to put today into words. We started the day writing about the "best gift" we ever received. The responses were a wide range of "I Love You, Auntie" notes, painted tree bark, a student “thank you” book, a garden, pets, and children. It made me think of how lucky I am to just be able to take this time to write. This time has been a gift!
Today marked the bittersweet end of our TIWs! An exciting accomplishment, but also a reminder that we are coming to the end of this amazing experience. Jess started us out with a workshop on reflection and the writing process. Encouraging us all to name our "Writing Monsters" and then taking us through a series of writing reflections with the goal of conquering what holds us back. Her whole presentation was an insightful and useful activity that put writing fears into perspective, and gave us an opportunity to move around the room sharing our own ideas about incorporating reflection into our teaching.
After lunch we regrouped for our final TIW with Elena. She focused on teaching empathy in our classrooms. This workshop was full of different activities and ideas for talking about and writing about emotions using personal experience and classroom texts. Each one of her four tasks gave us a different approach to fostering empathy, respect, acceptance, and kindness.
Both of these presentations were thoughtful, useful, and so important to how we approach teaching for all ages.
Added to this work was a visit from Heather talking about youth outreach opportunities and Tom came back to work with us on our personal blogs where we will be posting our research progress. We ended the day with letters to our "pre-Institute" selves which resulted in a boisterous conversation about our initial anxieties, the overflowing snack table, and our constant need to "wear layers!" Another fantastic day at the WMWP Summer Institute!

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