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Full Day Institute Focuses on Helping Teachers Develop Stronger Student Writers

by Kathy Ganske
March 5, 2014

The International Reading Association (IRA) is pleased to continue the tradition of offering full-day Institutes before our Annual Conference. This year in New Orleans, Institute Day is May 9 before the IRA Conference begins on May 10. Reading Today Online asked all of the Institute Chairpersons to answer a set of questions designed to give our readers and all prospective attendees a better understanding of the insights and benefits they will gain from attending these day-long programs. A PDF fact sheet covering this Institute is available for presentation to your principal or superintendent along with your registration and travel request.

Institute 06:
Writing Moments: Tapping Opportunities to Develop Writers of Argument, Information, and Other Texts, K-12
(Session 2081)

Kathy Ganske
Kathy Ganske

Chair: Kathy Ganske, Vanderbilt University

What are the professional urgencies and issues that your Institute is designed to address?

Because writing is essential for literacy, the Common Core State Standards (2010), and life, we cannot fail to develop teachers' expertise in teaching writing. Concerns about children's writing achievement and the impact of low writing achievement on their lives and ultimately society as a whole have been strongly expressed (e.g., National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2007; National Commission on Writing for America's Families, Schools, and Colleges, 2003; and the report on Writing in the 21st Century, 2009).

In its 2003 report, the National Commission on Writing asserts that "the importance of writing-for critical thinking and communication skills, for success in school and the workplace, for self-realization, and for its central place in school reform-cannot be overemphasized" (p. 29). Yet, students write very little time in schools. According to Applebee and Langer (2013), for the typical secondary student this amounts to 1.6 pages of writing per week in English and 2.1 pages for all other subjects combined. Is lack of teacher knowledge part of the problem?

The Commission's 2003 report lays bare some of the issues contributing to writing achievement concerns, such as the fact that practicing and pre-service teachers typically get very little instruction in how to teach writing. This Institute will provide multiple opportunities for literacy professionals and classroom teachers to develop their expertise in teaching writing, especially nonfiction- and informational-text writing across the disciplines.

What types of literacy professionals is your Institute designed for?

  • Beginning Teachers
  • Classroom Teachers
  • Librarians/Media Specialists
  • Reading Teachers/Specialists/Coaches
  • School or District Administrators
  • Special Education Teachers
  • Teacher Educators
  • Title I Teachers (US Only)
  • Undergraduate or graduate students

How will your Institute benefit those professionals, and what will their takeaways be?

Teachers and educational leaders who attend this Institute will learn effective responses to the following challenges:

  • What is disciplinary literacy and how does it differ from content-area literacy?
  • What research-based strategies and techniques are most effective for developing learners' abilities to write engaging nonfiction texts of various genres and to respond to texts in critical, evaluative, and reflective ways?
  • What types of environments and materials (digital and print) further students' confidence, engagement and proficiency in using writing as a tool to express and learn?

Are any post-conference follow up activities planned for attendees of your Institute?

Contact information will be provided so that attendees may submit follow up questions or contact presenters for additional PD.

How will your Institute be presented, what is the sequence of topics and speakers?

This institute has a stellar line-up of four keynote addresses focusing on:

  • disciplinary literacy: what it is and why it matters
  • practical research-based suggestions for tapping teachable writing moments in the disciplines
  • writing nonfiction poetry
  • the sharing of personal nonfiction writing techniques by a notable author

Three breakout sessions are also planned, each offering options across the K-12 band, so participants can choose sessions that match their interests and needs. Sessions afford in-depth exploration of genres, mentor texts, techniques, and technology and attend to the needs of diverse learners.

Keynote 1
Disciplinary Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Timothy Shanahan

Breakout Series I (participants choose one)

  • Strand A (Grades K–2)
    Guiding Young Learners to Higher Levels of Achievement in Writing Informational Text
    Tony Stead
  • Strand B: (Grades 3–6)
    Responses, Persuasions, and More: Linking Writing and Reading throughout the Day
    Kathy Ganske
  • Strand C (Grades 8–12)
    Integrated Literacy: Writing Our Way into the Core of Our Discipline
    Jim Burke

Keynote 2
Discipline-based Writing: A Practice Whose Time Has Come
Carol Jago

LUNCH BREAK (on your own)

Breakout Series II (participants choose one)

  • Strand A (Grades K–2)
    Writing in the Disciplines Using Digital Tools in K–2
    Carole C. Phillips and Karen Pelekis
  • Strand B (Grades 3–7)
    Using Tech Tools to Read, Write, and Respond to Disciplinary Texts in the Middle Grades
    Robin Jocius
  • Strand C: (Grades 8–12)
    Writing from Sources in the Disciplines: Tips for Engagement and Digital Tools, Too
    Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Keynote 3
Finding the Heart of Nonfiction through Mentor Texts
Georgia Heard

Breakout Series III (participants choose one)

  • Strand A (Grades K–4)
    Writing Across the Day with Mentor Texts
    Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli
  • Strand B (Grades 4–8)
    Writing to Explain and Inform
    Laura Robb
  • Strand C (Grades 8–12)
    Scaffolding Evidence-Based Responses to Literature
    Sam Patterson

Keynote 4
It Was a Dark and Stormy Night? Reading and Writing Dynamic Nonfiction
Seymour Simon

What modes of presentation will be used?

PowerPoint presentations will be used to show connections to research, highlight examples and artifacts, and describe strategies and techniques. Classroom and student artifacts and examples will be reviewed. Teaching strategies will be demonstrated and modeled. Video- and internet-clip examples will be incorporated, and there will be simulation with active participant involvement.  Case study will also be utilized.

What types of audience interaction are planned?

There will be Q & A and turn-and-talk time during the breakouts.

What handouts will be provided and in what form?

Participants will receive a program booklet that includes the day’s schedule, blurbs on each session and keynote, and presenter bios. In addition, breakout sessions will provide handouts in hard copy or make them available or digital transmission.

Does your Institute lend itself to team attendance by teachers and administrators from the same school or district? If so, what how will the various attendee perspectives be addressed?

Teams across the K–12 grade range will find that the structure of the breakouts will allow a team of three to gain access to all aspects of the Institute.

Registration Information: This preconference Institute will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 9, 2014, before the International Reading Association 59th Annual Conference begins on Saturday, May 10, 2014 (and runs through Monday, May 12, 2014). Register online at for this or another Institute and/or to register for the annual conference. Call 888-294-9167 or 415-979-2278 to find out how to register by phone, fax, or mail. To learn more about conference events in New Orleans, visit the annual conference website and the online itinerary planner (iPlanner).



1 Comment

  1. 1 Leonora Fe M. Malabonga 07 Mar

    Congratulations! The subjects you have chosen for discussion will be of great help for the teachers, they will truly develop learners' writing skills using the technique they will be  learning from you..I dream of attending the convention for the second time but I don't have enough fund for the fare...more power to you, God bless.



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