Sunday, June 25, 2017

Take-Forward #allwrite17 Reflection One

When I attend a conference I take with me several goals:  rejuvenation, learning, take-aways, and take-forwards. This week I attended the All Write Conference in Warsaw, Indiana.  I want to share with you a take-forward, or something I know I am going take and implement in my classroom this fall.

The "Lee Anns" and my new friend Chiper photobombing behind me.
I had the honor of meeting Lee Ann Spillane on day one at the opening keynote by Lester Laminack.  I first "met" Lee Ann online through blogging and Twitter, and I knew she was presenting at this conference.  She walked in and sat in the front row.  I knew by her glasses that it was her, so I introduced myself.  We went to a few sessions together that day, and she had dinner with us that night.  She is a true delight!

On day two I attended her session, "Blueprints of a Lifetime" and want to share one of two take-forwards.

Sentence Completions

On the first day of school, Lee Ann has students do sentence completions. This is a form with a sentence starter, and the students add their thoughts to complete the sentence.  That night she reads each and every one of them and adds comments, questions, and book recommendations.  This is a great getting to know you activity, but oh, so much more.

Why I Like this Idea

  1. Many of us use some type of reading survey to learn about student interests and their view of reading and writing. This is a survey but also a formative assessment.  
    • Can the student write a complete sentence?
    • Can the student use punctuation correctly?
    • Do they like to read and write?
    • What kind of books do they like?
  2. Knowing our students' interests makes it easier to recommend books.  Several of these questions give us an insight into their likes and dislikes. I can immediately make a first book recommendation right on their survey.  It sets the tone that "reading is important in this classroom, and I am here to help you find the perfect book."
  3. Responding back to students that first day tells the students that they matter.  It is the beginning of establishing those positive relationships and building a literacy community right from the start, which we all know is so important.  
Student/teacher Letters

The second day the students receive a letter from the teacher and are asked to reply.  This is an extension of the sentence completions.  

Why I Like this Idea
  1. We always do a baseline writing. In the past, it has been some type of writing prompt, and the students moan and groan.  My students come from a prompt writing environment (that's for another time, another post).  I plan to use this letter as my baseline writing sample.  Through this letter, I can receive the same data I would get from a prompt; only the students should be more engaged because they are writing and telling me about themselves.
  2. Again - data!  The letter takes the sentence completions a step forward, and we are able to see more of their writing and use it as formative assessment.
    • Can they write in paragraphs?
    • What kind of vocabulary do they have?
    • Can they use different types of sentence structures?
    • Can they clearly write and organize their thoughts and ideas?
    • Can they write with descriptive details?
    • Do they use correct grammar?
  3. I can use this writing sample to help set their first writing goals (another post coming up) and put it in their writing wallets (another post coming up). 
Lee Ann has written several blog posts about these two ideas.  If you want to read more, you can go here and here and her blog Portable Teacher. You will also find a copy of the sentence completions that Lee Ann has so graciously shared with readers.

Next post I will share with you another take-forward from Lee Ann's session:  using a blueprint to generate narrative ideas.

Hope to see you back tomorrow!


  1. This WAS an awesome session! Those sentence starters are an amazing idea and I love how Lee Ann led her students thru the letter writing. I will remember this session always!

  2. Thanks for sharing your take forwards. I teach the same students each year, but this would be a great idea for when I get a new one. I really want to put All Write on my list next year.

  3. No matter how many great sessions you attend at AllWrite, there are always more that you miss. So glad to get your notes about this one. Great ideas.

  4. Thank you for this idea! I am going to do the sentence completion activity today with my students.