Writing Clubs: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community in the Writing Classroom

by Fran McVeigh

Wakelet archive of chat tweets here

On Thursday, March 31, 2022, the #G2Great chat featured Lisa Eickholdt and Patricia Vitale-Reilly discussing their book Writing Clubs: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community in the Writing Classroom. Neither author is new to #G2Great. Lisa was a guest host at #g2Great for The Power of Student Writing as Mentor Text on September 3 and 10, 2015 and Patty was a guest host on June 8, 2017 for Engaging Every Learner and October 19, 2017 for Supporting Struggling Learners. This new text about Writing Clubs has a magical and practical feel after the disjointedness of education in the pandemic years.

The subtitle says: Fostering Choice, Collaboration and Community. As I reflected on that phrase and thumbed back through the text after our chat, I chuckled to myself. Of course the three Cs were in alphabetical order. However, the most logical place to begin is community and then work backwards through the remaining Cs. Let’s get started.

Why Community?

The Writing Clubs that Lisa and Patty describe in this book are based on a writing workshop classroom. That means that certain conditions already exist and one of the most important is community. The trust. The respect. The safe environment. All writers value each other and their experiences. That power of a community naturally and planfully evolves into a collaborative setting when teachers capitalize on the time that is available for students to write.

Ideas for building community from Lisa and Patty:

Why Collaborate?

Pre-chat Quote

Research on the power of talk appears across the content areas. The increase in engagement, written production, increased depth of thoughts . . . all are possible with collaboration. The teacher has some decisions to make. Should students work as partners? Triads? Partners squared with a second partner group? Space determines some limitations and yet technology can transcend physical space when students are ready to read, review and offer feedback on each other’s work.

Why Choice?

Choice.

Do students really have choice?

What’s the reality?

Do students “get to choose” what they write about in their student writing notebooks? What they write on a daily basis? When they write? The formats they use? What do we know about what students WANT to write if we would only let them?

Consider this . . .

Conduct a status check for students. Then also conduct a status check for teachers. Move into a deep look at writing identity. If the writers have a timeline of their writing identity, have them code the times when they had choice in their writing. They may code choice of topic separately from choice in format. What information are you looking for? What information will guide your future instruction?

Why does choice matter? Carolyn succintly says it here.

When teachers responded to a question about choice, these kindergartners had 95% choice. Some high school students had little to no choice in writing. Similarly, college students had few choices.

So are students writing because they are compliant students? Do they view themselves as writers? Are they writing enough to improve? Where do they go for feedback? Do they have real audiences? Real purposes to write?

And then Part 2 of the book . . . Chapters 3 – 8 . . . the good stuff! Complement Clubs and Stand-Alone Clubs

“I barely have time to teach all the requirements. Where will this fit?”

Teacher question

Maybe you will find logical places in your calendar. Those few days before a longer break. A more casual setting during state tests. Those final days of a semester. Where writing clubs will fit for you and your students may need more exploration, but make a plan. Don’t let it fall off your radar.

The good news is that Lisa and Patty provide the rationale for complement clubs in process, craft, and digital clubs. Stand-alone clubs are genre, author, and conventions clubs. And (drumroll . . .) these clubs can be face to face, hybrid or digital learning. The frameworks have considerations for each type of learning environment.

So many resources. So many opportunities. So much joy in writing.

Lisa and Patty provide examples such as the chart below on collaborations or possible authors, or a month long outline of a club. These examples make this book a necessity for any teacher looking to ramp up their writing instruction and student engagement in writing! With Lisa and Patty’s expertise as your guide, you can consider the clubs that would benefit your students and begin immediately!

You’ve read a lot about the chat and the book from my perspective as a writer and reader helping folks navigate the writing terrain that I see and hear in districts. Let’s hear from the authors about their intentions and expectations for this book!

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would  have in the professional world? 

Patty began using writing clubs in her classroom years ago and saw the tremendous difference it made with her students. She loved how these clubs fostered choice, collaboration, and community. When she shared this idea in sessions she and Lisa were leading, the participants wanted to know how they could implement writing clubs.  After seeing the teacher’s excitement, the idea for the book was born. 

We have seen the impact writing clubs can have on students’ writing. Providing students with time to collaborate with their peers on self-selected writing projects and studies, can reignite the workshop classroom. We hope teachers will take the idea of writing clubs and run with it. We give examples of six types of clubs teachers might implement, but we’d love to see what new clubs teachers come up with on their own. 

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will  embrace in their teaching practices? 

The title of the book really says it all. In particular, the words after the colon: Choice, Collaboration, and Community. We believe these three C’s are the key to excellent writing instruction. Our book puts forth methods and ways to promote each of these concepts. Our hope is that teachers will incorporate these ideas into their instructional practice as we believe they make a world of difference in kids’ writing. 

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in  mind?

As writers, we have witnessed firsthand the power of collaboration and feedback. Lisa belongs to a critique group that meets once a month to discuss each member’s current picture book. Patty has her own writing posse who she meets with to flesh out writing and professional development ideas. We have learned that writing well is a lifelong pursuit and receiving peer feedback along the way is invaluable. In addition, it’s fun! Our meetings often include food, wine, and books (some of our favorite things). Teachers are expert at taking something adult authors do, and finding a way to put these ideas into practice with students. Writing clubs are a great way to bring the idea of critique groups into our writing work (keep the wine for the adults though :)).

Concluding Thoughts

This quote …

plus a bit of “Joy Writing” or “Greenbelt Writing” (Hat Tip to Ralph Fletcher) needs to inform our educational practices. How, when and where we incorporate low-stakes writing, more choice, collaboration and increased community is literally up to us. This book, Writing Clubs, gives us the tools and the best advice from two author-practitioners who have worked successfully with writing clubs!

___________________________________

Additional Resources:

Writing Clubs Study Guide Link

Lisa Eickholdt Link

Patty Vitale-Reilly Link

Seven-Year Anniversary: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space

by Mary Howard

You can access our Wakelet chat artifact using this link

When each January arrives to boldly mark the start of a new year, it awakens a sense of eager anticipation for all that stands before us and precious days ahead just waiting to be lived. Like other new years that loom large in our view, 2022 brings promises of hope for what could be at a time when the world has given us challenges like we have never known before. While Covid 19 is not yet in our rearview mirror, a new numerical combination of 2-0-2-2 beckons us to dream of better days ahead.

Your #G2great co-moderators including me, Fran McVeigh, Brent Gilson and Jenn Hayhurst share that same sense of hope and possibility as we enter 2022. But each new year also brings an added meaning to each of us. Every January since 2015 we turn our attention to the chat created on January 8, 2015 with a ten-week study of the book that inspired it: Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann 2012). That ten-week exploration has led us to one joyful knock on the anniversary door after another that inspires us to gaze back across the years and contemplate brave new conversations ahead.

To launch #G2Great Year 7, we celebrated a topic that has been our heart and soul from the beginning: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. Admittedly, we are selfishly motivated since we personally long for a space where we can think, wonder, and explore alongside dedicated educators. We would love to think that all teachers reside within a schoolwide community of learners, but we know that this is not reality for many educators. Invitational discourse has been the driving force of #G2Great chat since its inception and that vision continues. We embrace collaborative inquiry and have experienced its impact in action each week. We are honored to step into 2022 armed with our own curious wonderings along with those that each of you carry into our chat.

Since we were very intentional about crafting our anniversary chat topic for 2022, I’d like to highlight it from a twitter perspective: Lifting Our Professional Voices in a Collective Gathering Space. In this post, I’ll reflect on what drives our commitment to allocate time and energy for collective professional growth using twitter as our platform and how this can support shared learning and the continued professional growth we all desire.

Acknowledging our Professional WHY

We can’t discuss professional learning and our dedication to lifting our own voices in the company of others without sharing why we made a choice to bring #G2Great chat to life for seven years and counting. As professionals, we are fueled by our desire to deepen our understandings about the teaching/learning process and the research that supports and enriches those understandings. We know that no program or quick fix solution will ever be a worthy substitute for growing knowledge. We have seen blind faith in products lead to dependency as publisher fueled tethers distract our view and blur the lines of our professional responsibility to children. We created #G2Great chat in January of 2015 because we recognize resources with a strong research foundation can support our thinking, but it is flexible professional decision-making grounded in research supported knowledge that matters most. This inspires us to use #G2Great as a social media platform where we can merge our collective voices to build a dual lens of reflective practice through our eyes and yours. Ultimately, we know that our goal is to sharpen our view of thoughtfully responsive instruction.

Priya Parker beautifully illustrated our #G2Great WHY in The Art of Gatherings: How We Meet and Why it Matters. Our commitment to using social media as a gathering space around a particular topic affords opportunities to make sense of our educational world within a learning community. Through the process of lifting our collective voices each week, we put our hopes and dreams on display in fast-paced twitter conversations that can serve to extend and strengthen our beliefs and understandings on invitational thinking playground we created for that purpose.

Expanding our Professional Growth Reach

Seven plus years ago, social media was barely a blip on my priority radar screen, evidenced by the twitter eye rolling reflecting my disdain. But then one day I was invited to lead a twitter chat. After one “No thank you” after another followed by more eye rolling, I reluctantly agreed. As it turns out, this hour chat was life-altering and when Jenn Hayhurst and Amy Brennan invited me create a chat around my book a week later, I didn’t hesitate. A twitter convert suddenly emerged from the ‘not me’ ashes.

What changed? Suddenly, this eye-rolling gal from Oklahoma who spent most of her time alone on the road could engage in professional conversations with educators from all over the world no matter where I happened to find myself. Even after all these years co-moderating #G2Great chat, I still feel a sense of anticipatory elation each time I sit in front of my computer ready to engage in celebratory discourse with new friends and old. The chats we collaborate to create each week are the gentle nudge we need to revisit, reflect, and often revise our thinking and that nudge explodes in technicolor view on Thursday nights at 8:30 ET. I never cease to be amazed by how much I feel supported as a professional during the course of our twitter ponderings alongside others. New acquaintances have blossomed into trusted friendships across the years, and the generosity and dedication of educators has been overwhelming.

An Insider’s Perspective of a Twitter Chat

While I have certainly been twitter blessed over the past seven plus years, this seems like a good time for you to see the impact that our twitter chat is having on other professionals. As you read the inspired tweets from our #G2great chat last night, I hope that it just might entice you to join the conversation.  

I’d like to take a moment to depart from sharing tweet collections and celebrate one new #G2Great friend. This week, fourth grade teacher, Laura Reece, joined us for her first twitter chat. I am still inspired by her enthusiastic joy!

Last night Laura’s enthusiasm was a reminder that if we are going to ask our students to step into discomfort for the sake of learning, we should be willing to do the same. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your belief in your own professional responsibility to your students and sharing your love for teaching with us.

My Final Thoughts

I’m so grateful for the conversations and collaborations I have engaged in over the years. I am so grateful for that memorable day I chose to leave my twitter eye rolling days behind me and venture in to the power potential of the chat conversations we have come to cherish. Yet, I’m always surprised that so many educators have never experienced the gift of passion-fueled twitter dialogue that is only a reach away and accessible twenty-four hours per day.

As I come to the close of this post and the beginning of another year of engaging conversations, I’d like to pause to send a note of appreciation to each of you who join our chat on a regular or occasional basis. YOU inspired us to create #G2Great in January 2015. YOU inspire us to look forward to another year each January since then. YOU are the reason we stepped happily into year seven. YOU heighten our desire to explore the topics, authors, and twitter style discussion that we are grateful to support. All of our planning for each chat is done in YOUR honor because you ARE #G2Great and YOU motivate each of us to imagine new professional conversations as we lift our voices across another year.

Thank you for infusing professional passion into our #G2Great chat.

PAST ANNIVERSARY CHAT ARTIFACTS

Just as I have done in each anniversary post in the past, I’d like to share the artifacts that lovingly reside in our  Wakelet home awaiting others to follow across 2022 as well as the 271 blog reflections that extend and support each one. We look forward to adding more as we chat across 2022.

Anniversary Chat Artifacts on Wakelet

1st Anniversary chat

2nd Anniversary chat

3rd Anniversary chat

4th Anniversary chat

5th Anniversary chat

6th Anniversary chat

7th Anniversary chat

Anniversary Literacy Lenses Blog Reflections

Year 1: 1/5/16 (Blog Post launch)

Year 2: 1/5/17 The Gifts of YOU

Year 3: 1/4/18 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 4: 1/10/19 (Curiosity Crew collaboration)

Year 5: 1/9/20 WHAT IF?

Year 6: 1/7/21 Courageous Conversations

On our 5th anniversary, I wrote a post about the book that launched #G2great and have shared it in every anniversary chat since then: 10 Lessons Teachers Taught Me About Good to Great Teaching by Mary Howard 

What matters most?  Reverence or Relevance?

By Fran McVeigh

In the week leading up to this chat on July 19, 2018, I wondered about the title and where it would take the chat. I consulted the dictionary and the thesaurus. I even discussed the topic with a co-moderator. I wanted an idea or a theme in mind to “jump start” my thinking. A spark.  An angle. A beginning point. After all . . . I was going to be at #ILA18 and my goal was to not spend all weekend writing a blog post. So here’s a small snapshot of what I discovered.

Synonyms for Reverence (Source link)

Synonyms for Relevance  (Source link)

Reverence:  High opinion.

Relevance:  Pertinence.  

The “or” in the title suggests one or the other.

Flip a coin. It’s a high opinion.  

Flip again. It’s pertinent.  

But . . .

I have this queasy feeling in my stomach.

When is high opinion enough?

When the teacher says, “I like it.” ???

When the teacher says, “It has research to support it.” ???

When the administrator says, “This is what I bought.” ???

When is pertinence enough?

When the teacher says, “This is what my kids need.” ???

When the teacher says, “It worked this way for my students last year but I think if I try this one little change, it may work even better.” ???

When the administrator says, “Have you checked with others about this idea? And with whom?” ???

Before you make a decision about what you want (those things you revere) or what is needed (or relevant), let’s review this curated sample of #G2Great community tweets. The link for the entire Wakelet (archive) is at the bottom of this page.

What are our beliefs?

Meaningful, purposeful work:  What are we in awe of?

Goals:  What are we in awe of?  What do we believe is best for students?

Collaboration and Goal-Setting:  How do we keep students at the center?

Time:  How do we allocate and use time to reflect what we revere and what is relevant?

Talk:  How do we ensure that students talk more in the service of learning than the teacher?

Eureka . . .

What if, instead of trying to decide whether we need to start, continue, or stop doing something because of its reverence or relevance, we decided that both factors would be part of the same lens or filter? What if reverence AND relevance became a double simultaneous filter for reviewing and reflecting on our teaching needs and desires?

And as I participated in the chat in the midst of a group of #G2Great dear friends,

Quietly

Concentrating

Reading

Writing

Giggling occasionally

Greeting passer-bys

Reverence and relevance both merged together in Brent’s Canva of a quote from Dr. Mary Howard here.

. . . amazing child . . . notice and nurture . . . incredible potential . . . that resides in each child . . . without exception!

If that’s our vision and our goal how can we not use our understanding of reverence and relevance together?

And now that you have read through a curated set of tweets, just think about what learning in our classrooms could be if we asked students to “curate their learning daily.”  What possibilities do you envision?

Copy of Wakelet here

 

Exploring Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential with Dennis Schug

By Jenn Hayhurst

Title

On September 1, 2016 #G2Great concluded our five-part leadership series, Exploring Seven Big Ideas to Maximize Schoolwide Potential with guest host Dennis Schug. Dennis is the principal of Hampton Bays Middle School in Hampton Bays, NY and he reminded us that leadership and learning go hand-in-hand:  “It’s critically important that we as school leaders model that we’re learners first. Our colleagues and students will follow.”     

How do we get to that “sweet spot”  Dennis describes so that we can encourage learning and growth for all members of a school community?  Promoting a positive school environment begins with three building blocks: Communication, Collaboration, and Professional Learning.

Everyone who participated in Thursday night’s chat embraced these building blocks and began an important discussion that needs to live beyond our chat. How do we continue to evolve our practices to expand our circle of influence? Learning and leadership are both within our grasp, and this how we will begin to unlock our personal and professional potential.  The conversation that followed revealed the dedication and “can do” spirit that these remarkable educators bring to the table every day when we open up…

Building Block One: OPENING UP  to what is possible – a  free flow of communication:

Building Block One: Dennis inspired us all to think about how communication opens the door to professional learning. My friend and mentor, Amy Brennan has been know to say, “I think better in the company of of others.” I completely agree! It is our professional responsibility to engage in a healthy back and forth dialogue about the issues that matter most in our schools.  This is extremely complex work and it requires us all to think deeply to find common ground. The time is now to build on a plurality, through compassion and a shared vision that welcomes many views and ideas:   

Building Block Two: OPENING UP  to more – unconditional collaboration:

John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”  To this I say, Dennis Schug, you are a leader to admire because you began a conversation around the importance of collaborative work. As you said, “In 2016  isolation is a choice.”  Our students will inherit a world that depends on pragmatic problem solving and we can all lead by example. Let’s look for opportunities to learn together:

Building Block Three: OPENING UP  to vitality – professional learning in action:

Great leaders are like beacons who light the way and begin a chain reaction for professional learning and growth. We selected lighthouses as the images for our administrative series because great leader like Dennis Schrug are sources of enlightenment. They take away the darkness and bring clarity where there might otherwise be confusion. They achieve this through supporting professional learning.  This is the spark that lights the fire  inside all of us to learn and grow.  We can all be learners. We can all be leaders. We can become beacons who light the way for ourselves, each other, our students, and their families:

How can we work together for what is in the best interest of our students? We begin by saying “Yes.”  Yes to what is possible if we open ourselves up to communication.  Yes to more if we open ourselves up to collaboration.  Yes to vitality if we open ourselves up to professional learning.  Dennis you made us think of our collective potential and have inspired us all to dream. You have stirred our excitement for a new school year. Thank you for hosting #G2Great and for your service in the name of students everywhere.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 1.39.43 PM

 

 

Teachers Doing the Work: Thoughtful Planning For Intentional Read-Aloud

Jenn Hayhurst

Burkins & Yaris Quote for blog post

How can we use read-aloud as a springboard to reading, writing and thinking? This was the question that sparked the first of a #G2Great four part series: Teaching With Intention Maximizing Our Instructional Power Potential. Our chat on April 21, 2016 has come and gone but I am left feeling refreshed and renewed as I begin this post. Even though educators came to this conversation from different points in their careers, everyone learns from each other. What does this plurality of thinking offer us? Clarity.  It is that clarity and our ability to respond to our own questions about read-aloud that help us to maximize our professional potential.  

Q1 How can we more intentionally frame read-aloud to increase student engagement in ways that maximize our instructional POWER POTENTIAL?

Takeaways: Real engagement is not show and tell, it is experience and learn:

  1. Read-aloud energizes engagement through student interests
  2. We elevate our students’ status and create relevant experiences
  3. We move away from compliance towards ownership
  4. We create readers who love to read

Q2 What do you look for when using read-aloud as a flexible instructional springboard?

Takeaways: Stories and ideas flood students thinking through read aloud:

  1. This creates an intellectual and social context for learners
  2. Reading aloud opens pathways for communication, to promote deeper understanding
  3. Making room for students to talk, draw, or write is a scaffold to express abstract thinking in tangible ways

Q3 Read-aloud is a powerful framework to build language & vocabulary. What can we do to intentionally enhance those goals?

Takeaways: It is our own questions that help us to grow:  

  1. Begin by starting with texts that you love, then find out what your students love. How do we use this fertile ground to grow relationships?
  2. Instructional planning is organized around meaning making. How do my students learn best so they can access this text?  
  3. Whenever we stop the flow of the story be mindful of the enjoyment factor. How do I use the structure of different genres to select my stopping points and demystify the author’s craft?
  4. Build vocabulary lessons from context to allow students to practice and transfer. How can I use the classroom environment to promote transfer for all students?   

Q4 Peer collaboration and sharing is a crucial aspect of read-aloud. What is your favorite approach to bring readers and books together?

Takeaways: Read-aloud is an experience that we can use to structure meaningful collaboration:  

  1. See students for who they are and let their interests drive them
  2. Plan in options for collaborative learning
  3. Use  kidwatching to gather formative data

Q5 How can we integrate writing so the writing will elevate the academic AND emotional experience of the read-aloud?

Takeaways: When I put these tweets together it’s pure instructional magic:

  1. Reading multiple versions of a story reveals the author’s craft so students can attempt to transfer learning to their own writing
  2. Considering what a student decides to write about reveals their perspective to us while promoting engagement

Q6 Varied flexible reflection options after read-aloud allow us to create a more personalized experience. What options do you offer?

Takeaways: Read-aloud and reflection work hand-in-hand:

  1. Give students options to make a choice for how to reflect: written, partners, groups
  2. Don’t let this dynamic learning end in elementary school.  Middle schoolers need instructional techniques like turn and talk to engage their reflections too

Q7 Based on #G2Great chat tonight, what is one instructional shift you will make so that your read-aloud is more intentional?

Takeaways: Teachers are willing to modify their practices based on their own learning. Professional collaboration allows us to fine tune our practices:

As I reflect on our #G2Great chat on read-aloud I am reminded how important it is to collect students’ thinking through: anecdotal note taking, reader’s notebooks, post-its, and exit slips. I use each of these things to look for patterns in their thinking. This is live data that can help me to differentiate and drive comprehension instruction with even greater intention. My collaboration with Jill DeRosa  a third grade teacher in my building, elevates my thinking around keeping the child at the center of all we do, by asking the question: “Where is the child in all of this?” We responded to this questions in two recent posts, Unlocking Each Other’s Potential and You Can’t Do This Work By Yourself

Each Thursday night #G2Great teachers from all over the world come together to do the work that we need to do to become more skilled at our craft.  To think about ways that will help our students thrive and grow.  Thank you for helping me to think deeper and longer so that I can continue to grow my practice. As each of us grow together, it is our students who reap the benefits of our collective learning.  

Learning in the Company of Others

By, Jenn Hayhurst  

Soaring

On January 7, 2016 #G2Great took a look at the past and future when ur topic was: Looking Back So We Can Look Ahead

My hope is that more educators will make the choice to become connected in 2016.  Whenever I bring up Twitter to my colleagues who are not connected they inevitably say, “I just can’t get the hang of it.” or “I tried it but it I don’t know what I’m doing.” and the favorite “How will it help me as a teacher?” I get it.  Twitter moves quickly and it can be hard to figure out what it is, and what it really offers us.  However, Twitter’s impact on me has been profound, it has shaped 2015 into a year of daily reflection.

I’m far from perfect.  Many times I try to do something new and I fail, and then I fail again. But failure doesn’t define me because I am a learner. Now that I have Twitter in my life I can share my experiences and learn from others who embrace failure for the sake of learning. They understand that through failure we explore a better future for the students.  If we stray from students we are going in the wrong direction.  This has to be my take away reflection of 2015.

It’s been a year since we began the #G2Great chat and now more than ever I am feeling the impact of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  Twitter allows me to share my thinking in the company of others and for others to share theirs with me. Thinking through this plurality sharpens my lens as to the kind of teacher I have been, and the kind of teacher I aspire to become.  The teachers who join in the chat each week bring perspectives that are shaped by experiences and shared values.  They are what connected educators call my “dream faculty.”   These are people who I admire.  I wonder what would it be like to actually work in such a district, although now that I have taken Twitter to a new level it feels as though they are always with me.  Their advice and passion lingers long after the chat ends.

My Thinking After Twitter - What Matters Most (1)