Spotlight Article
Our July Institutes
July 11, 2011 at 7:27pm

It is quiet, here at the Reading and Writing Project, and throughout Teachers College. The front steps to Zankel Hall are no longer filled with teachers from across the world, reading, writing, drinking iced coffee, and catching a moment to breathe. Cowin Center is no longer filled to the brim with people and ideas. Chairs in all the classrooms are back in their even rows, facing forward. The 1400 participants from last week’s Reading Institute (and the 1200 from the preceding week’s Writing Institute) have all returned home.

Participants in Small Group

This year’s participants hail from a total of 43 countries and even more states. As always, the group contained several hundred administrators—some in first year sessions, designed for them, and many in the advanced sessions, where they learned alongside the teachers who have also been studying at these institutes for many years. Several hundred participants were attending their sixth, seventh or even fifteenth institute!

Participants in Small Group

The schedule at this summer’s institutes was different than previous years, and the responses to the new schedule are still being studied. Instead of starting the day with a keynote, participants dove right into content-specific study groups and courses, convening for keynotes at the end of the morning, for primary, or the afternoon, for upper grade and middle school participants. This seemed to shift the emphasis away from keynotes a bit, and to the substantial work being done in the courses and study groups. Many advanced participants joined TCRWP faculty in the work of developing Common Core aligned performance assessments and, especially, seeing ways in which these could inform assessment. This involved developing and using rubrics to help design units of study, minilessons, record keeping sheets, and small groups.

Participants in Cowin

The institutes also emphasized opinion and informational writing and nonfiction reading more than in previous years. Participants, for example, devoted as much time to writing essays as to writing narratives, and most of the afternoon advanced sections revolved around nonfiction reading and writing.

Peter Johnston was the keynote speaker at the final day of the reading institute, speaking at Riverside Church, where he emphasized the importance of the social community as an educational force, helping children construct roles and identities as powerful, active learners. Sarah Weeks was the closing keynote speaker at the Writing Institute, regaling us with one funny story after another. Ask any participant to catch you up on her keynote!

Participants by Riverside Church

For all of you who attended the July Institutes on the Teaching of Writing and/or Reading we thank you for coming and making our institutes complete. Many of you commented on what a great learning experience this was. Some comments were: “The large group and keynotes were engaging and inspiring, while the small group sessions kept me grounded and focused.” “Gives me a clear vision of how to teach and move kids through the skills.” And when asked what worked well for you in your section one participant responded, “Actually, working like a student. I read and was pushed to think and made to practice skills. We need to practice these skills to make us better educators.”

Participants Studying

There are two more institutes scheduled for this summer. The Reading Institute will be from August 8-12. Keynote speakers include Lucy Calkins, Ellin Keene, Jim Howe, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Carmen Agra Deedy. The Writing Institute will be from August 15-19. Speakers include Lucy Calkins, Kevin Henkes, Carl Anderson, and Georgia Heard.