Ways to Study the Teaching of Writing with Your Colleages: PD Ideas for Inside & Outside the Classroom K-8

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by Anna Gratz Cockerille

Albert Einstein once said, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and should cease only at death.” In no profession is this commitment to lifelong learning more important and more apparent than in teaching. Teachers know we are never finished learning. We spend our time not in the classroom studying, observing, discussing, and collaborating in order to become the best teachers we can be. 

Fortunately professional development opportunities for teachers come in nearly every style, size, and price range. Whether you are a novice teacher or a seasoned pro, there is new knowledge out there waiting for you. Here are a few ideas. 

To learn more about the teaching of writing: 

  • Write. Arguably the best way to become a better writing teacher is to write. When you write yourself, when you go through the process you will ask your students to go through, you face the challenges they face. You discover ways to surmount these challenges, and then you can teach your students to do the same. Put another way: it is very difficult to be the best writing teacher you can be if you don’t write. 
  • Watch colleagues. Teaching is a profession in which intellectual generosity knows no bounds. Find time to stop by a colleague’s classroom while writing instruction is happening. Go in with the stance of a learner. Study the teacher’s moves, and then study the students. Make note of what the teacher does that most inspires the students.  
  • Read together. Choose a professional text with a focus that matters to you and read it with a group of colleagues. Among many others, we recommend The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, by the great Colleen Cruz, who is moderating this week’s chat. 
  • Study student work together. Ask a group teachers to grab a few pieces of student work at a range of levels, and meet with each other to discuss what you see. It will be fascinating. 
  • Tap resources in your school. If you have the good fortune to have a literacy coach, a lead writing teacher, or an administrator whose focus is writing in your school, make the best use of that resource that you can. Invite them into your classroom. Ask for feedback. Ask for tools and tips. Don’t wait for them to come to you. 
  • Join Twitter chats. If you are planning to attend tomorrow evening’s Twitter chat, congratulations, you already know the power of this free resource. Join as often as possible to connect with teachers from around the country and globe who are on about the same things. 
  • Join the blogging community. More and more teachers are sharing their experiences in the classroom through personal blogs. Whether you take on your own blog or you read those of others, a wonderful, welcoming community of learners awaits you. 
  • Attend live professional development with experts. You may be lucky enough to have a literacy consultant come to your school to give you personalized support. Or, you might have an institute or one-day workshop happening in your area. Do everything in your power to attend these. 
  • Come to an institute. Nothing compares to the experience of attending one of the Reading and Writing Project’s five-day institutes. See here for details.  

Believe it or not, this list is hardly exhaustive. Join Colleen and the TCRWP community tomorrow night to share ideas for other ways to study the teaching of writing with your colleagues. Get ready to unlock your best teaching self yet. 

Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @colleen_cruz tomorrow evening to chat about professional development ideas for the teaching of writing.  

Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.


    Anna Gratz Cockerille

Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series.

Anna was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College, and taught at several TCRWP institutes, including the content literacy institute, where she helped participants bring strong literacy instruction into social studies classrooms. Anna also has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and Navigating Nonfiction in the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Most recently, Anna served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.

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