Wednesday, March 13, 2013

#Slice 2013: 13 of 31 Kate Roberts Workshop

#Slice 2013: 13 of 31- One More Saturday Reunion Workshop

For the month of March, I am participating in the #March2013 Slice of Life Challenge, hosted by Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres at With many other bloggers, I am writing every day. Feel free to link up to some of the posts and add your comments.

In my post on Sunday, I wrote about two of the presentations that I attended on Saturday (read this post here) and yesterday, I wrote about two more. The final workshop that I attended was given by Kate Roberts and it was full of ways to work with struggling writers in any grade at many different levels. 

Creating Toolkits to Make Differentiation Visible in Writing
Presented by Kate Roberts

Kate began the workshop asking where demonstration writing lives in our classroom and most of us realized that demonstration writing really only happens during mini-lessons. From there, she was free to make some really important points about how we think about demonstration writing during our writing workshops.

  • If students are not at the level we are teaching, then the lesson doesn't help them. The idea of "watch me be awesome, now you go be awesome" doesn't work for the struggling writers. (for any of you who are reading this, can't you picture Kate saying this?)
  • Our writing notebooks serve as great models, but not as demonstration texts.
  • We as teachers need to assess ourselves: Do we know the specific strategies that students need to get better?
  • We can teach students from the place where they are if we write like them and then demonstrate how we improve from that spot. Write a few lines (doesn't have to be a lot!!!), writing like the writer in your class and then show them how to work through it!
  • Put simply, write like your students, know specific strategies to teach them, and give them a chance to practice those strategies.
  • Offer students choices of strategies--if you are working on narrative text and your student doesn't elaborate well, offer a choice of dialogue, inner thinking, or phrases that lead to thinking or dialogue.
  • If we want kids to write about what matters to them, then we have to write what matters to us.
Kate has created a customized sketchbook of her "tools" for various units of writing. She has written a few lines that show predictable problems students have in those units. On the page her her notebook, she has her demonstration text, her choices for strategies, and a space for practicing. This way, demonstration writing is living not only during mini-lessons, but also within conferences and small group instruction. Over the summer, if not before, I know that I will be making a toolkit for many of the writing units that we teach in our district, really targeting the predictable problems. Feel free to share those, as I will be writing like our students.

That's all the sharing that I have from the Saturday Reunion. The next one is October 19th and I hope many of you make it as these days are exhausting, but truly inspirational. In the meantime, the Teachers College website,, also has many free resources to explore and Kate Roberts has an amazing blog that she shares with Maggie Beattie Roberts,

Tomorrow, I return to some creative writing.


  1. thank you so much for this amazing write like them and have a demonstration notebook to use...xo

  2. The demonstration notebook sounds interesting. Need to think more about that.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I try to write like the kids when I model, but I had never thought of giving them a choice of a strategy to try. Lots to think about.

  4. Ok...that demonstration notebook idea is something that I need to do right away. What an awesome idea!

  5. I like the idea of having a demonstration notebook that can be used like a toolbox with students. I will definitely be thinking about that and possibly putting my own version together for next year.

  6. I like the demonstration notebook idea -- it is fabulous. Hmmmmmmmm. Thank you, Melanie, for bringing the Saturday Reunion to me in the Midwest!!!!!

  7. Will bookmark to be read again this weekend:) Thank you for sharing great ideas!

  8. I love that you can do so much in one day, although exhausting as you said Melanie. But what a day! Thanks for telling so much! I like the idea of the demo notebook.