My Summer Writing Retreat

Our district English Language Arts consultants, Fran and Colleen, offered two 1-day training sessions this summer to help familiarize teachers with the common core standards for writing, with an emphasis on informational writing. Both sessions provided lots of time for teachers to write. Fran and Colleen stressed that if we expected our students to write, we needed to write ourselves. Each session started off with teachers writing about a summer memory.  After everyone wrote for about 15 or 20 minutes, we talked about our process. As we chatted about all the decisions we made as writers and shared snippets from our pieces, we asked each other questions about the details in the pieces or noticed craft. Teachers then had an opportunity to learn about or review Barry Lane’s technique for playing with time called Explode-a-Moment. We went back into our summer memory pieces and decided where we wanted to slow down time.

We also read about how to create a sense of era from the book Nonfiction Mentor Texts (pages 93-94) by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli. Each time we revisited our pieces, we applied our new learning. The experience taught me that if I was going to help kids love writing informational and opinion pieces as much as narratives, I needed to write informational and opinion pieces. At the very least, I needed to expand my understanding of the range of informational writing. As much as I love new learning, the most enjoyable part of the training sessions for me was the writing and the talk about the writing. Maybe someday I will get to attend a NWP summer institute. Until then, I’m happy to keep writing along with my district colleagues.

I wrote about the summer I went to gymnastics
camp. I tried to create a sense of era by
including details about the 1972 Summer Olympics.


  1. HI Diana,
    Welcome WRITER! So good to know that the approach of the writing project continues to thrive. Too bad it isn't respected enough to continue its necessary funding. I hope you get a chance to get to an SI but the future looks dim. Some writing projects are already forced to close their doors.
    But it's good to know that you are a writer no matter what!

  2. This experience was short but clearly useful. I am glad you shared a picture of your notebook. Work in progress. I hope to read about your gymnastic camp one day.

  3. Sounds like a great experience. I wish we would do something like that in our district. Maybe I'll have to start the experience!

  4. Great to hear about your day & the different ideas worked on. There's so much to share with students, isn't there. I loved seeing your notebook. One of the teachers at our school did the NWP the past two summers & has so much to say about it. I hope you do get to go!

  5. This experience will be invaluable to the teachers who took advantage of the opportunity to learn about nonfiction writing. The common core standards will be a challenge. Kudos to you and other staff members for getting a jump start.

  6. The more writing teachers write, the better they are able to teach writing - I think it's wonderful that your colleagues can form an informal writing seminar in your district...that's perfect!

  7. Fun to read about your experience! I led a small, but similar activity during our professional development session as a staff last week. I can only hope that if someone were going to write about it, it would be as positive and affirming as yours is! :)

  8. I always learn something from you, can't thank you enough.

  9. Why is it that your workshop on Common Core sounds so fun and exciting but when I hear that our district wants a common curriculum based on common core I start to shudder. Oh wait...I work in Chicago. I think I'll try it your way instead! : )


  10. Lane, Dorfman, Capelli... so many excellent resources! Sounds like you're doing some fantastic work.


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