Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Summer Institute is up and running!

The Red River Valley Writing Project's 2015 Invitational Summer Institute began this morning at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Led by RRVWP Director Kelly Sassi with co-facilitators Pam Fisher, RRVWP Co-Director, and Karen Taylor, RRVWP Teacher Consultant, the Institute runs from July 7-July 23, 2015.

This year's Summer Institute emphasis is "Writing to Learn." The eleven participants are teachers of English/Reading/Writing and Social Studies at the middle school, high school, and university levels in Fargo, West Fargo, Valley City, Wahpeton, and Lakota, North Dakota; and Perham and Moorhead, Minnesota.

Several of the Summer Institute's activities, as listed below, are open to ALL RRVWP members. Please join us for these!

Write Around FargoJoin the SI participants to write around Fargo the morning of Friday, July 10. We will meet at the Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N., at 8:15 am to be grouped and receive our writing prompts. Email Pam Fisher <pamefisher[at]gmail[dot]com> if you plan to attend (so we can make the appropriate number of copies) or if you have any questions.

The RRVWP is sponsoring an Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop in conjunction with the Summer Institute. Assignments Matter is a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience that supports teachers in creating effective writing prompts for grades 6-12 across the curriculum. At the Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop, participants will be introduced to a framework for developing assignment prompts that are clear, concise, and connected with the Common Core State Standards.  Participants will generate and discuss classroom writing prompts paying particular attention to key concepts in the areas of reading, writing, synthesizing, and the application of content from all academic areas. Participants will also learn how developing effective prompts directly connected with the CCSS makes it easier to grade student work and how data from such assignments can help refine their teaching approaches. The Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop will be held omn Thursday, July 16 from 9:00 am - 2:30 pm. Those attending will receive a certificate of participation. Contact Karen Taylor at <ktaylor[at]moorheadschools[dot]org> if you have any questions.

Visitors' Day at this year's Summer Institute will be Tuesday, July 21, from 8:30-11:45, followed by lunch. All RRVWP members are invited to attend to write with the current SI participants, hear about reading and research conducted during the SI, and take part in mini-demos. Please email Pam Fisher <pamefisher[at]gmail[dot]com> if you plan to attend and indicate if you plan to stay for lunch.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Assignments Matter 2.0 Task Jam Workshop

All Minnesota and North Dakota secondary teachers are invited to an Assignments Matter 2.0 Task Jam Workshop.
Workshop Details
Date: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Time: 9:00 a.m.--2:30 p.m.
Location: 310 Minard Hall, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota
Facilitator: Karen Taylor, Red River Valley Writing Project/Horizon Middle School, Moorhead, MN
Description: Assignments Matter is a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience that supports teachers in creating effective writing prompts for grades 6-12 across the curriculum based on the understanding that meaningful classroom tasks create powerful student results. Assignments Matter invites teachers to collaborate using tools from the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) as well as protocols and processes common in the National Writing Project teacher community to create writing assignments for use in their own classrooms and to share with one another and with teaching colleagues nationwide.

At the Assignments Matter 2.0 Task Jam Workshop, participants will be introduced to a framework for developing assignment prompts that are clear, concise, and connected with the Common Core State Standards.  Participants will generate and discuss classroom writing prompts paying particular attention to key concepts in the areas of reading, writing, synthesizing, and the application of content from all academic areas. Participants will also learn how developing effective prompts directly connected with the CCSS makes it easier to grade student work and how data from such assignments can help refine their teaching approaches. 

Who can Participate: The Assignments Matter Task Jam 2.0 Workshop is open to any middle or high school teacher in Minnesota and North Dakota.  You will be joining participants in RRVWP 2015 Summer Institute.

Registration, Parking, and Clock Hours: There is no charge for this workshop, but participation will be limited to the first 25 people who register.  Those who register before 3:00 Friday, July 10 will receive a pass for free parking. Registration will remain open until Tuesday, July 14, but later registrants will need to park on the street or pay for visitor parking on campus.  Those attending will receive a certificate of participation for 5.5 clock hours.

What to Bring: Those attending will need to bring a laptop/Chrome book/Google capable device and be registered for a Google account previous to July 16th.  In addition, participants should bring a printed copy or have electronic access to a writing assignment/prompt they have used with students in the past or hope to use during the upcoming school year.

Lunch:   Participants have lunch on their own from 11:45 – 12:45.  The student union on campus and businesses near campus are open for lunch.


Questions:   If you have any questions on the preceding material, please contact coordinator Karen Taylor at <ktaylor[at]moorheadschools[dot]org>.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A reading challenge with Andrea Scherer, GF Book Club Coordinator

This year, I challenged myself to complete the Book Riot 2015 ReadHarder Challenge. The goal, according to Book Riot, is “to inspire you to pick up books that represent experiences and places and culture that might be different from your own.” When I decided to become a librarian, I knew that I would need to read more across the different genres. It’s something that I’ve been working on for years and for the most part I’ve been successful. This challenge, though, is introducing me to different perspectives on reading than I had previously considered. There are 24 different tasks, so to complete all of them, one would have to read two challenge books a month. I’ve read 13 so far, so I’m right on track to complete the Challenge, and have a few more books planned out. 

Here are the tasks and the books I’ve read so far (the one with asterisks are ones I plan to read). If you have ideas or suggestions for me, I’ll gladly take them and if you want to keep up with me, friend me on Goodreads.

·       A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: The Duff by Kody Keplinger (Keplinger was 17 when she penned The Duff)

     A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65The Heart Goes Last* by Margaret Atwood (Atwood is 75; the book comes out this year)

·       A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people):  I’m not positive what I’m going to read for this* – Press Play to Start edited by John Joseph Adams,  Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, or Grim edited by Christine Johnson

·       A book published by an indie press

·       A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky  (Grayson is physically a male, but identifies as female)

·       A book by a person whose gender is different than your own: Feast for Crows by George R.R.  Martin

·       A book that takes place in Asia: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

·       A book by an author from Africa

·       A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture

·       A microhistory: The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime* by Judith Flanders

·       A YA Novel: Half Wild by Sally Green

·       A sci-fi novel: Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie

·       A romance novel:  The One that Got Away by Bethany Chase

·       A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (incidentally, we are also reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, this year’s Pulitzer winner, for Book Club)

·       A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearean play, classic  novel, etc.)

·       An audiobook

·       A collection of poetry: Wind in a Box* by Terrance Hayes

·       A book that someone else has recommended to you

·       A book that was originally published in another language: Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (was originally published in Spanish)

·       A graphic novel, graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind:  I have read a plethora of  these – Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson, Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro

·       A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over): The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert 

·       A book published before 1850: Rob Roy* by Sir Walter Scott

·       A book published this year:  I Was Here by Gayle Forman

·       A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self improvement”): Art Before Breakfast by Danny Gregory (a book about including art every day, even when you’re busy)

-Andrea Scherer, GF Book Club Coordinator

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

July with the RRVWP

For those of you interested in continuing your learning with the RRVWP, we have the following opportunities available for you in July:

The Fargo Writing Group is meeting on Mondays in July from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm in Room 318 Minard Hall at NDSU. Contact Kim Rensch for more information or to RSVP: <renschk@fargo.k12.nd.us>.

In connection with the Summer Institute in Fargo, we have the following activities that are open to ALL RRVWP members. 

Write Around Fargo: Join the SI participants to write around Fargo the morning of Friday, July 10. We will meet at the Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave. N., at 8:15 am to be grouped and receive our writing prompts. Email Pam Fisher <pamefisher[at]gmail[dot]com> if you plan to attend (so we can make the appropriate number of copies) or if you have any questions.

The RRVWP is sponsoring an Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop in conjunction with the Summer Institute. Assignments Matter is a collaborative, knowledge-building and sharing experience that supports teachers in creating effective writing prompts for grades 6-12 across the curriculum. At the Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop, participants will be introduced to a framework for developing assignment prompts that are clear, concise, and connected with the Common Core State Standards.  Participants will generate and discuss classroom writing prompts paying particular attention to key concepts in the areas of reading, writing, synthesizing, and the application of content from all academic areas. Participants will also learn how developing effective prompts directly connected with the CCSS makes it easier to grade student work and how data from such assignments can help refine their teaching approaches. The Assignments Matter Task Jam Workshop will be held omn Thursday, July 16 from 9:00 am - 2:30 pm. Those attending will receive a certificate of participation. Contact Karen Taylor at <ktaylor[at]moorheadschools[dot]org> if you have any questions.

Visitors' Day at this year's Summer Institute will be Tuesday, July 21, from 8:30-11:45, followed by lunch. All RRVWP members are invited to attend to write with the current SI participants, hear about reading and research conducted during the SI, and take part in mini-demos. Please email Pam Fisher <pamefisher[at]gmail[dot]com> if you plan to attend and indicate if you plan to stay for lunch.


Grand Forks Book Club: For July, we are reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and meeting at Pam’s house on Tuesday, July 28th, at 5:30 pm.

Please join us for as many of these activities as you can!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sentence Sense Workshops

Area educators gathered June 16-17 in Fargo and June 23-24 in Grand Forks to participate in the Red River Valley Writing Project's workshop "Sentence Sense" led by Nancy Devine, RRVWP Writer in Residence, and Pam Fisher, RRVWP Co-Director.

In this one-credit workshop, participants explored what makes sentences effective and ways we as educators can help students generate content for writing effective sentences. (We also examined a strategy that is NOT helpful in generating quality content.) We wrote a lot, discussed how various sentence-generation strategies worked for us and how they might be used with students, and shared our writing with partners and via a culminating Authors' Chair session.

To see more photos of the Sentence Sense workshop, like us on Facebook.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer Reading with Pam Fisher, RRVWP Co-Director

Ah, summer! As a teacher, one of the things I like best about summer is the increased amount of time I can dedicate to reading. In a summer schedule packed with professional development and family get-togethers and weddings, I have to figure out how much reading can I squeeze in. And with the abundance of material available, what should I read?

As I belong to two book clubs, the Grand Forks Central Book Club and the Red River Valley Writing Project Book Club, some of my summer reading is "required." Beyond that, I am free to choose what and how much I'll read. This summer, I have set myself an ambitious goal of reading 21 books from a variety of genres.

My favorite, go-to leisure reading genre is murder mysteries, so I try to limit how many of these I read and then challenge myself to undertake different genres. I'll make it a point to read some non-fiction; this summer's selection is a memoir. I want to read some youth literature to keep abreast of award-winners and stay in step with what students may be reading; continue on or finish book series; and read professional literature, both about teaching and learning in general and about content specific to what I teach, Spanish.

As a writer, I am trying to improve my poetry, so I need to read at least one book of poems during the summer. I always have a quantity of books hanging around that I have started but not finished, and this summer is no exception, so I have tasked myself to finish one previously-begun book, particularly as this book is on loan from a friend. And, of course, there are novels that have been recommended to me by friends, bloggers, and some algorithm at Amazon.com, books whose colorful shiny spines entice me to include them on the list.

Here, then, are the book club selections, pleasure reads, and texts I have assigned myself to read (which I hope will be pleasurable as well) for this summer:

Book Club Reads: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, My Life in France by Julia Child, El Deafo (not pictured)

Memoir: Every Day in Tuscany by Frances Mayes

Mysteries and Thrillers: Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton, Agent 6 by Tom Robb Smith

Novels: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell, The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

Poetry: The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins

Professional Books (Education and Literacy): Mindset by Carol Dweck and Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher.

Professional Books (Spanish-related): Mi mundo adorado by Sonia Sotomayor, In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Started and Need to Finish/Borrowed Book: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Youth Literature: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams Garcia, Matched by Ally Condie, Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo