PD for Writing Teachers: STEM Workshops, Rockstar Camps, Twitter and More!

Professional Development

PD for Writing Teachers: STEM Workshops, Rockstar Camps, Twitter and More!

By Teresa Ozoa     Oct 16, 2017

PD for Writing Teachers: STEM Workshops, Rockstar Camps, Twitter and More!

This article is part of the guide: Putting It Into Words: The Future of Writing Instruction.

“Must be nice to have summers off!”

All teachers hear this statement multiple times in their careers. Indeed, as an English teacher at University High School in Irvine, I glory in my summers—but not to sleep in or binge on Netflix or even to travel for weeks at a time. Rather, I recharge myself with self-designed PD.

In edspeak, PD is the acronym for professional development—not an addictive controlled substance. However, my husband would argue that I am indeed addicted to learning experiences each summer when I should probably be helping to organize the garage.

I LOVE to learn. What follows is my idiosyncratic list of suggested PD for writing teachers during the summer and into the school year.

1. CUE Rock Star Teacher Camps

Summers and school year, mostly in California, one- to two-day workshops, very affordable, free if district-sponsored. I attended my first one, a three-day workshop in Manhattan Beach, in 2014, and now I both present at and attend them in northern and southern California. Most teachers know that we learn from our students, and the highly interactive, practical model of CUE Rock Star camps exemplifies the best in collaborative learning. While the focus is on educational technology and lesson design as opposed to just writing instruction, I have always discovered innovative applications in my English classroom of tools and ideas gleaned from CUE Lead Learners.

At various Rock Star camps, I have learned such things as:

  • Google Apps for streamlining my workflow and collaborative writing among students
  • Multimedia production with apps such as Screencastify and GreenScreen by Do Ink, for demonstrating student learning and flipping my classroom
  • Formative assessment tools like Padlet, Socrative, Quizizz, and Kahoot!
  • Design thinking for stimulating creative problem solving
  • Engaging problem-solving and collaboration for students and staff with BreakoutEDU
  • Much more!

2. CUE Fall Conference and Annual Conference

October and March, two-three day conferences, registration fees. Among the myriad hour-long sessions and 90-minute workshops, teachers can find so many fantastic ideas and resources for writing instruction. (If I’m presenting, I guarantee to include gold nuggets for English teachers in my session.)

The three keynote speakers always provide inspiration and cutting-edge ideas. Some of my recent favorites were LeVar Burton (Reading Rainbow and, of course, Geordi La Forge), Brad Montague (Kid President), and Sir Ken Robinson (best education TED talk EVER). Check the website for registration information and videos from past conferences.

3.UCI Writing Project

Workshops (fee) and Summer Institute (stipend) in the summer, other events during the school year. Writing Projects across the country offer similar workshops; check out the National Writing Project website for local contacts. My experience as a Fellow in the 2009 Summer Institute and subsequent optional monthly gatherings have formed the foundation of my reading and writing instruction. We began examining the details of the Common Core State Standards years before their rollout in school districts.

This summer I had the privilege of co-presenting with Heather Wolpert-Gawron UCI WP’s first five-day workshop called Enhancing CCSS with Technology. During the school year, I’m looking forward, as always, to UCI WP’s Annual Conference in December, which features luminaries in the world of writing instruction.

4.Orange County Department of Education

Year-round, fees and stipends. One of my favorite PD experiences ever was as one of the few English teachers at a STEM workshop sponsored with stipends by my county department of education at Urban Workshop. Not only did we have tremendous fun with hands-on making, but we also shared knowledge and ideas across the curriculum. Again, this was not explicitly PD for writing teachers, but the week-long exposure to design thinking and self-selected lifelong learners inspired my instruction.

Over the years I have also attended afternoon workshops about writing instruction from presenters such as Kelly Gallagher.

5. Twitter

Practically 24/7, people to follow and chats to participate in, free. Wait, what? I expect you’re doing a double-take. But I’m serious. Twitter is more than political rants or celebrity sightings. At the oddest hours, I’ve found links to previously unfamiliar resources such as Edutopia, and access to English instruction gods and goddesses such as Jim Burke and Carol Jago. Pick your experts—they probably have a Twitter presence or at least a website. Or find a blog or website you like, such as Kelly’s Blog (Kelly Gallagher) or ReadWriteThink and look at who THEY are following. Many interesting groups have presences on Facebook, too. (Worthy of a post of its own!)

Even more fruitful are links and ideas in any of the numerous weekly Twitter chats. My favorite is #caedchat, Sunday nights at 8 p.m. PST. The friendly and knowledgeable moderators post six to eight questions on a topic of interest using the convention Q1 #caedchat and participants respond with A1 #caedchat so anyone, in real time or later, can find the conversation by searching #caedchat. I’m proud to have met many amazing educators online and IRL (in real life) from first exchanging tweets. Check out the list of edchats and educational hashtags on Cybrary Man’s website for anything from #1stchat (teachers of 1st grade) to #aplitchat (teachers of AP Lit) #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) and so much more.

PD doesn’t have to be dictated by administration or have its effectiveness diluted by grumpy co-workers. It’s incredibly meaningful when teachers choose for themselves. Lift your head up from the grindstone of daily planning and grading during the school year to find inspiration on the internet, and, even better, find something to re-energize yourself on your “summers off.”

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