Monday, June 25, 2012

All Write Summer Institute

Mindy Hoffar and her peeps run an incredible Summer Institute every year in Indiana.  Last week was the annual event. It was a two day institute. Last year, a group of Twitter friends decided to attend. We had such a great time that we all returned this year.  I did a few sessions on Thursday and stayed for the 2nd day of the conference.  It was such a great few days. Not only was it a great institute, but it was so fun to see good friends.  There was a group of about 10 of us from Central Ohio (several from Dublin) and lots of other friends from around the country that we got to spend time with. Such fun learning with friends.

Not only were the sessions great but being there with friends made the institute even better. Not only did we have meals together, runs together and late night snacks together, but we had carloads of us drive in from various places around the area.  The car ride alone, talking to Karen and Tony for uninterrupted hours, was some great professional learning in itself.

We started the conference with a fun dinner at the Boathouse restaurant in Warsaw. Ruth took care of making the plans and we all had a great time catching up.

I couldn't possibly share all that I learned or all that I left thinking about. But I thought I'd share some highlights.

One of the things I left with was the overall theme of the two days. It was an unplanned theme, I think. But every speaker seem to be giving similar messages about bringing joy back to the classrooms--remaining grounded in our work with children.  It was great to hear this in so many ways, from so many brilliant people.

The Twitter friends getting ready for Ruth's opening keynote. (You'll notice that Tony is following Paul's Rider by leaving an empty chair next to Paul.)

Ruth Ayres gave one of the most brilliant keynote I've heard.  She was genuine and graceful and smart about all that she said. Her keynote title alone was brilliant. The keynote was titled, "Mandates, Standards and Evaluation: Can Teachers Still Change the World?"  She reminded us about being joyful in the classroom. She reminded us that we control our attitudes. She reminded us that, yes, we can change the world.  Here are some of Ruth's most brilliant quotes from her keynote:

Our mission should be one of story. Story allows us to change the world.

Living your story may be the most important thing you do in your classroom.

The decisions you make are based on knowledge and research and wisdom.

It's time to trust ourselves again and do the things needed for students' well being.

And a quote Ruth shared from Hal Bowman, "It's really not that complicated.  All you have to do is send them home a little bit better than they came to you in the morning."

Ruth reflected on her keynote on her blog, Two Writing Teachers.

I was able to hear Jim Burke talk about the 4 Cs of writing.  He talked about the importance of commitment, content, competency, and capacity. He reminded us of the importance of time and the unique work of academic writing. He also talked about the recent emphasis on reading in schools that has really impacted writing instruction. Jim gave me lots to think about. I want to think about what his thinking means for elementary students. I loved his ideas about digital essays and the ways he used Google searches to help students build background knowledge. My favorite quote from Jim was:

Writing is probably the largest orchestra your brain will ever conduct.

The dinner event was held next door to the hotel and Ralph Fletcher was the speaker. He talked about writing notebooks.  I could talk about his session, but instead I want to share some info on his upcoming book, Guy-Write.  It is a book for boys about writing.  I love the boy audience and Ralph is the perfect person to write this book. Ralph brought me a copy of the book (due to be released in early July) and some of my tablemates were a little jealous. Granted, I was a little bit excited about getting the book and I may have shown it. (I believe Paul called me "smug.")  And I didn't have the empathy I should have for others at the table who did not get a copy of the book. Even after I saw their shocked and sad faces. But, I understand there was a plot to steal the book....

If you have heard the rumor that I did not share the book, let me assure you that it was merely a rumor. Of course I shared the book. Here is proof:

Paul looking at Franki's copy of Guy-Write

Not only did we get to hear Ralph at dinner, but I also went to his morning session on Mentor Texts. He had us write a bit--you can read a poem that Mary Lee wrote in this session on last week's Poetry Friday post.  A few of my favorite quotes from this session include:

Those of us who teach writing need to take advantage of short texts.

Don't squeeze all the juice out of a mentor text.

Patrick Allen and Ruth Ayres did a session together on the impact our own reading and writing have on our teaching. I got to this session a bit late so I missed the first 20ish minutes.  Ruth talked about the importance of "nudging joy" and asked us to ask ourselves, "Are the kids in my classroom feeling this kind of joy?"  She talked about the importance of teaching that nourishes, nudges and strengthens.  Two quotes that I loved from this session were:

The best professional development is to build our own reading and writing lives. (Ruth)

I want kids to leave with a little text in their hearts and minds. (Patrick)

In the afternoon I went to a session by Patrick Allen on Synthesis.  Patrick so understands reading instruction and strategy instruction.  I have heard him talk about conferring with students but had never heard him talk about synthesis.  An important thing he said that I am thinking about was the way he talks to his studnets about what "wise" readers do instead of what "good" readers do.  

What matters most to student learning? Thinking, Understanding, Decision-Making, Purpose

Thinking strategies are intentional plans readers use to help themselves make sense of their reading.

I got to hear Donalyn Miller talk about the ideas behind her new book about authentic reading.  She asked us to think about whether we were creating independent or dependent readers in our classrooms. There was a ton to think about. During Donalyn's session, I took this photo of our friend Stella who was busy taking notes (while also tweeting on the iPad!) and doing lots of thinking, as we all were! Love this picture of Stella!

Two favorite quotes from Donalyn were:

We need to spend some time explicitly teaching reading habits to kids.

We are not expecting kids to read nearly as much as they are capable of reading.

Katie Wood Ray ended the conferences with her keynote titled,  "Holding on Tight to What is Common to Our Core."  As always, Katie's talk was amazing. I have read everything she's ever written, heard her speak more times than I can count, and I am inspired by her every single time.  She talked about the impact of Common Core and the power of writing workshop and reminded us that we know the growth our students make because we have writing workshops in place.  Some favorite quotes from Katie:

Ways of being with children in classrooms will not change.

You will always own how you teach.

Nationalization of curriculum will not negate the beautiful truth of individual children.

She ended by saying, "We teach children. That is my stance."

You can go back and see all the tweets from the conference by searching the Twitter hashtag #allwrite12.  So many great things shared through Twitter during the two days.

I am already looking forward to next year's All Write Summer Institute!


  1. Love how you continue to share your learning and push our thinking all the time. Great synopsis of what you heard/saw. Think I'll post mine tomorrow for Tuesday Slice of Life.
    Spent many hours yesterday re-processing what I heard during our car ride and at the conference, and then came up with some action plans for myself. What an amazing experience All Write was!!

  2. What an amazing conference! What a line of incredible speakers, authors, & presenters. A big shout out to Mindy Hoffar and all the people behind that made the All Write Institute possible. Franki, when they announced Penny Kittle for next year, I seriously coudn't keep my contentment inside. I'm such a fan of her work....and on top of that, Terry Thompson and Carl Anderson. Oh yes, sign me up please. Hopefully I can take more Whitehall peeps with me next year. Thanks for a great synthesis Franki!

  3. Yay! Loved All Write and the speakers next year sound amazing! :)

  4. Sorry I couldn't make it, Franki, but thank you for this small reflection. A lot of great people were presenting. WOW!

  5. Franki, this was such an amazing conference. The company, the speakers, the sessions, locations, and organization was all high quality. I hope I can take more Whitehall friends with me next year. And can I just say that when they announced Penny Kittle coming next year, I couldn't hide that much happiness. Love love love her work.

  6. Amazing amplified by Twitter and blog reflections. Thanks for sharing. Your reflections give much to ponder.


  7. Wow! It sounds like it was amazing. I wish I would have been there. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into it.

  8. Wow Franki! Great reflections from a fantastic conference. I attended many of the same sessions and have many of the quotes you shared in my notebook too! I have enjoyed reading several different blog I think it's time for me to pull out my own notebook and write my own reflections down!

  9. All I can say is, I hope the next All Write Institute does not fall on the last week of my school year, as it did this year! Sounds like an awesome experience for everyone.

  10. Thank you for all of the shares. I'm going through and highlighting some of the lines to keep sharing and remembering throughout the summer and as the fall rolls in.

  11. I've wanted to attend this conference for the past two years with conflicts each time. I loved reading this post with your important take away ideas. Thank you!


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