Friday, February 13, 2015

Creating Conferring ToolKits with the Gift of Time!

What happens when you have three principals dedicated to quality writing instruction, one literacy coach given the go-ahead to just "make it happen," 60 teachers willing to create and collaborate, and three hours devoted to professional development?  A whole lot of collaboration and creation around teaching and learning happens- that's what happens! 

Yesterday, we were given the gift of time.  We had three hours to give teachers to learn about and create conferring toolkits for use in the writing workshop. What a gift!  Our teachers came together, collaborated, and shared so many wonderful ideas and tools for helping students with writing.

How we made it happen:


  • Our three principals supplied our teachers with binders, page protectors, dividers, post-its, and index cards.
  • I provided them with ample copies of the checklists, annotated writing samples, progressions, and a few other tools included from their Writing Units of Study.  Although our teachers have access to these materials in their own kits, I provided the copies to prevent a long line from forming at the one shared copy machine.  
  • Teachers brought mentor texts, samples of their own students' writing, scissors, glue sticks, already started toolkits in some cases, and a lot of positivity and creativity!
Instructions & Presentation:
  • I spent a few days before the workshop creating a presentation with a lot of visuals to share ideas.  Most of the ideas I brought to the presentation  were directly learned from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project summer institutes and work in our Palo Alto schools with Teachers College staff developers.
  • The presentation lasted about 25 minutes with a few opportunities for our teachers to talk with each other around the questions How's it going? and What are your ideas? 
  • Check out the presentation here:  Creating Conferring Toolkits  48 slides are included in the entire presentation.  A few are seen below.

Workshop Time:
  • After the presentation, our teachers had about two hours left to collaborate and create.  And, collaborate and create they did!  It was so wonderful to walk around the room, listen to great ideas, contribute to cross-school collaborative conversations, and just take in the positive energy our teachers were collectively creating! 


  • Our most important outcomes are yet to be seen.  We have to wait to head back into the classroom with our toolkits to see those!  
  • However, teachers were able to share their created tools about half way through the workshop session.  Technology played a huge role here!  During the workshop time, I walked around and snapped a ton of pictures.  Rather than holding up their tools to share with the room, I projected pictures of their tools and added them to the shared slides (all teachers have access to view and review the slides whenever they wish).  Check out some of their tools below!

Feedback from Teachers:

  • After we cleaned up, I asked teachers to fill out a simple feedback survey via Google Forms.  All feedback was automatically inputted into a spreadsheet- how did we do anything before Google? 
  • The feedback was extremely positive!  Teachers truly appreciated the time.  Time is the biggest gift we can give our teachers:  time to talk, time to think, time to work together, time to drive their own creation of materials, etc…
  • Teachers also loved seeing examples from my toolkit and from the peeks we were given inside one of our staff developer's toolkits.
  • One a scale of 1-5, 1 being "not likely" and 5 being "extremely likely" all teachers reported a 4 or 5 when asked "How likely are you to continue adding tools to your toolkit?"
  • One a scale of 1-5, 1 being "not likely" and 5 being "extremely likelyall teachers reported a 3, 4, or 5 when asked "How likely are you to use your toolkit with students multiple times a week?"  Most teachers reported a 5! 
  • Many said they would have liked to have seen different ways other classroom teachers organize their toolkits.  If I do this again with other schools, I'll try to provide more examples of how to possibly organize toolkits- perhaps I can use the toolkits teachers created yesterday! 
  • Finally, teachers also expressed that teaching the Units of Study well is time consuming.  They'd like more time in the future to work on tools and to collaborate with each other again.  It is my hope that they can be given this time!  

I am really looking forward to heading into classrooms to see our teachers put all of their hard work to use!  What really matters is how these tools will help our students with the hard work of writing.  Writing is hard.  Writing well is really hard.  Tools help make that writing just a little less hard for our littlest writers.

Happy writing, friends! 


  1. Jealous in a good way your admin supports Units of Study. I keep working on my district to bring them. Loved reading this post and I love everything Teachers a College. Great job and great gift of time!

  2. Not too sure if my last comment went through. I just wanted to say thank you very much for this post. It is what I needed to help invigorate my writing teaching and help my beginning writers. I've been a bit stuck and I don't know how to help them but this post and your terrific slide show has helped immensely. I can't wait to go and get my Writing Pathways book from school and begin setting up my own writing toolkit. Those teachers were fortunate to have those 3 hours. It looks like it was time well spent. Looking forward to the follow-up.

  3. I loved every word of this post. Just fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing your work and inspiring me!

  4. Thank you for sharing Christina! How powerful it is to leave a professional learning session with a tool that teachers can personalize and USE! Best idea I've seen in a long time. Conferring is an area in which we can always improve.


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