Powerful, Practical Professional Development
for Writing Teachers K-12
This fall of 2021, earn three graduate college credits (per unit fee is $150) and grow as a writing teacher through one of two Professional Learning Communities offered by the San Jose Area Writing Project. Facilitated by skilled Teacher Consultants, these workshops offer practical and progressive practices to bring back to your classroom immediately. TC River Brown will dive into the writing workshop with K-6th grade teachers. Martin Brandt, author of Between the Commas, will delve into analytical writing with 7-12th grade teachers.
Participants will enroll in Open University and will meet together on campus for all four dates. Classes are held at the SJSU campus from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM and will include morning snacks and a light lunch. The required attendance, professional reading, and final paper complete requirements for the SJSU college credits.
Registration Closed on Friday (09/10) at 8:30 PM
We’re offering up to ten $450 scholarships to pay for your credits! We want to support the growth of young teachers and their professional development, so we'll be prioritizing teachers in their first five years and those in financial need. Send in your intent of registration now!
Teachers of Grade K-6
Reading and Writing Our Way into Workshop Fluency
Facilitator: River Brown, Teacher Consultant
This invitation to four active sessions is for new and experienced teachers who want to sharpen their teaching for the writing workshop.
Gain confidence and competence in process writing that grows students into proficient and eager writers. Teaching writing well is as rewarding as it is challenging. This PLC is designed to support your teaching by giving you time to reflect, offering practice in a community space, sharing insights and tools, and by celebrating your growth. Discover or remember how your workshop teaching creates equity and community in a classroom of engaged writers.
Note: All participants will receive a copy of Jennifer Serravello’s book with video resources, Teaching Writing in Small Groups K-8. If your school/district does not have Units of Study for Writing, click here for affordable purchase options.
Session 1, September 11, 2021: What Do Writing Teachers Need?
These challenging times are showing us all that we need to practice being compassionate with ourselves and give ourselves the opportunity to ask, “What do I need as a writing teacher?” In our first PLC, we will explore and define what these needs are and find a way to break with the long standing tradition of valuing correct writing in schools without providing a map of how to get all students to good writing. Curriculum doesn’t teach, of course. We do.
Revision is powerful, not only because rewriting is the key to good writing, but because we can revise our teaching, by reflection, by reading, by authentic feedback, and with imagination and courage to outgrow ourselves. Revise our teaching with curiosity: knowing that teachers in successful writing classrooms ask a lot of questions. Plan with kindness for ourselves: knowing that teaching is a complex process that happens over time, like growth in writing.
Teachers will bring their first batch of student narratives, probably on-demand, unrehearsed writing to this session. We’ll turn our writer's eyes to student work: focusing on what students can do and looking into our curriculum for how and what to teach next. We can see teaching in student work.
As this session focuses on our relationship with writing, we’ll launch our own narrative -- perhaps the prologue to our teaching story for this year. May we find the energy to teach writing as a full subject, drawing strength from our classroom experiences, energy from interactions with kids who grow, who write things that amaze us, and from the community that forms through listening and caring.
Since many districts assess narrative writing in the early fall, our cohort will focus this session on key elements in the UOS narrative units for K-6 in the context of what I need as a writing teacher. In addition to student writing, bring your UOS [if you have them], a composition book, pen, computer, water bottle, etc.
Session 2, October 16, 2021: What Do My Student Writers Need?
We will focus up close on our workshop classrooms to define our own students’ needs as an adjunct to the work we did articulating what I need as a teacher. This session our focus shifts to the genre of writing lively informational pieces, so plan to bring some early student opinion writing, preferably the generic on-demand pieces.
The UOS guides show how to demonstrate “writing moves” which are the teaching points that both teachers and students can internalize and use as mental prompts as they write informational texts. Lucy Calkins’ work clearly articulates what writers need in general - for example, writers need to be increasingly independent [agency] and to write fluently. While we deepen our understanding and practice of process writing, we will look at our current students’ work through several vital lenses. One lens will be to identify and articulate what our writers need. As you plan for your writers to develop their informational teaching pieces, I’ll demonstrate rewriting TOC’s to organize their thinking and elaborate on their topic up front.
To compose next steps or direction, you’ll produce a TOC and informational piece that combines your needs and student needs with your current insights into your classroom. Midway, before our next session, you’ll receive a google form to input your needs for the session 3 agenda. You are coauthoring our next session, because teachers, like writers, need choice!
Session 3, November 6, 2021: How Does Effective Feedback Power a Unit of Study?
Wrapping up informational writing units and moving into opinion pieces, [even if you won’t be teaching opinion writing until next trimester] we will practice individual and small group instruction, known as conferring. By now you’ve read at least two chapters of Jennifer Serravallo’s book, Teaching Writing in Small Groups. You will take various roles: student, teacher, facilitator. We can even give writing conferences to writers who aren’t with us: because, as usual, bring in some recent student writing, please!
The real plans for this session will come out of your choices and suggestions for what we do in this session. For example:
Partner practice to hone needed skills in demonstrating opinion writing mini lessons.
Do a process with mentor texts to examine the value of good collections for your writing workshop and practice reading as writers and articulating what we notice.
Discuss grading options and leveraging student goals.
Your workshop needs/goals by this point may include increasing student autonomy, including real audiences in writing celebrations, or perhaps designing your own units around a theme or literature study. We will coauthor most of this session with our previous [October] reflections.
Session 4, December 4, 2021: Putting It All Together and Learning to Trust the Process.
Workshop inherently develops deep listening and respect for the perspectives of others. By now our cohort will likely be fluent with most of the main components of the writing workshop. Again, we’ll take time to look at our current student writing so that we celebrate areas of growth, both for the student and for your teaching!
Using the UOS progressions both for the writing process and for the genres, we can chart your expansion as a writing teacher. We will allow time to discuss areas of work in your small groups where you need more confidence or more study.
Reflection writing will include setting intentions to sustain what you have begun. This work, plus your writing from sessions 1-3, will form the draft for your final paper, which will be due the following week. Plan to share small moments and teaching anecdotes that will reinforce your joy – and our shared joy -- in teaching writing.
Teachers of Grades 7-12
Teaching Analytical Writing: What it Is, and What it Ain’t
Facilitator: Martin Brandt, Teacher Consultant
This invitation to four active sessions is for new and experienced teachers who want to sharpen their teaching of analytical writing. Participants will purchase a professional text to support this exploration of analysis.
When it comes to analytical writing, we teachers find ourselves in contested ground, struggling between the allure of the prescriptive approach—which can be rigid and restrictive—and temptations of a more open-ended approach, which can lead to disorganized and incoherent work. In this Professional Learning Community series, we will strive to find some effective middle ground that balances the teacher’s need for structure with the student’s need for flexibility.
Session 1, September 11, 2021: Think About It: A More Generous Understanding of Analysis
When we talk about analytical writing, we are usually thinking of a precise set of discrete skills and characteristics—all very academic, but which generally succeed in shutting out a great number of our students. Perhaps a broader, more generous understanding of analysis is necessary. In this session, we will discuss the possibilities of greater confidence and growth for our students if we were to understand and teach analysis differently.
Session 2, October 16, 2021: What is “College Ready” Writing? Using a More Generous Understanding to Bridge the Gap
The refrain “You’ll need this for college” is one of the most popular items from our rhetorical arsenal, but which we often use to justify work that is not necessarily preparing our students for college. In this session, we will discuss how the things we consider necessary for college often differ from what the colleges themselves want, and how our broader definition of analysis can help us to bridge that gap.
Session 3, November 6, 2021: Adding Your Voice to the Discussion: Inviting the Self into Analysis
One of the most common misconceptions we struggle with is the notion that writing analytically means removing yourself utterly from your work—a popular approach that leads to much misery, for both the student writer and the teacher reader. In this session, we will discuss ways not simply to tolerate the individual voice in analytical writing, but to encourage and develop it.
Session 4, December 4, 2021: An Irresistible Prejudice in Their Favor: Assessment through Understanding
How does the classroom experience change when we broaden our idea of analytical writing? And how does it change the way we understand our students’ work? In this session, we will discuss how we change our approach to assessment and evaluation once we’ve broadened our understanding of analytical writing.