VCR Spring 2022 Conference Postponed!

The Vermont Council on Reading’s spring conference
with Ralph Fletcher has been postponed to April 28, 2023.

Our Vermont Council on Reading Spring Conference with Ralph Fletcher scheduled for April 29, 2022 at Sugarbush Resort has been canceled for this year.  While we were hopeful and put every effort into planning a safe, COVID friendly in-person conference, the events of this new year and the Omicron variant have caused us to have to cancel.  While we are saddened by this news, we are excited to announce that we will plan ahead to Spring of 2023!  We have a date secured with Sugarbush Resort for April 28, 2023.  With that in hand we will move forward with planning an exciting and engaging VCR Spring Conference and hope that our world will look a lot more “normal” a year from now.  Please stay tuned to the VCR website for more information on the 2023 conference, including speaker information.  Thank you for your support of VCR and we look forward to a bright future ahead!


Attention Writers!

Written by Jes Hathaway

Do you aspire to be one of the 100,000+ people to write a fifty-thousand-word novel in 30 days?! If so, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) might be the thing for you! Every year in November enthusiastic and determined writers from around the world participate in this ‘write’ of passage.  When I first heard about NaNoWriMo, I never thought I’d succeed, that I’d actually write 50,000 words in 30 days, but here I am, a NaNoWriMo winner!

What’s it like to write 50,000 words in one month? Remember the commercial for pizza bagels? “Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at supper time. When you can have pizza on a bagel, you can have pizza any time!” Now substitute the word pizza with some form of writing and you get the gist of how the month goes.

First, you have to conceive of an idea, no matter how far-fetched it may be. Where might one get an idea for a book? Imagination and creativity are key to becoming a NaNoWriMo winner. My book idea came from a dream of all things and will become part of a young adult science fiction series one day.

Next, you must carve out time to write. Nowadays most of us have our phones on us 24-7. It’s a natural place to jot down ideas. If you want to go the old-fashioned route, get yourself a cute journal. It doesn’t matter what you use, just be prepared to have something to write with or on when inspiration hits!

You’ve set yourself up for success. Now there’s just one last thing to do…write, write, write!! Write immediately upon waking up before your feet even hit the floor, even before that first cup of coffee! Write during breaks at work, during lunch, maybe even write in your head on the ride home from errands. Write before dinner, during dinner, and keep writing until you can’t keep your eyes open a minute longer. Many nights you’re up past 11 pm writing away. Just…one…more…. word.

By the tenth day of November, you’re up to 12,000 words, and you think, “Wow! I’m doing great!”  Morning, noon, and night, writing consumes your world.  Every word, big or small, counts!  Little by little your word count adds up.  It’s day twelve, and once again after 11pm, but you’ve made it to 14,000 words!  Now, you can sleep well.  May inspiration find its way into your dreams.  

It’s day 15, and you’ve officially made it halfway through the month!  You call upon your friends to send you inspiration, quotes, phrases, pictures, anything that you can write from.  You’ve reached nearly 18,000 words and in the back of your mind you can’t help but think, 50,000 words in 30 days, really?  Was I a fool to undertake something so huge?  But then two days later you hit a major goal: 20,000 words!  Well really, you’ve reached 20,135 words!  

Although writing is your world, you take the time to take care of yourself by attending a class at a gym or doing your own workout at home, but once that’s done, you’re back at it, tea in hand and getting those words down.  

As the days wind down, you set daily goals for yourself. Some seem unrealistic, but you are determined to succeed.  Plus, you still have some weekends to get those words in!  So, you set a goal of 5000 words one day, 3000 the next. Sunday Funday-you’ve knocked out 7804 words!  Not too shabby and above your original daily word count goal!  

It’s November 30.  You’ve reached the end of the challenge!  You’ve written as much as you can! It’s just about time for bed, just about time to close the chapter of your book, but before you close those tired eyes of yours, you must do one final word count.  It’s now or never.  

And there it is…50,159 words!  You made it!  You’re a NaNoWriMo winner! 

Young Writers Program logo

For more information about NaNoWriMo and all they have to offer, please visit

So, what is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides tools, structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds — on and off the page.

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.


A Day with Ralph Fletcher, April 29, 2022

Vermont Council on Reading

9:00-9:15 Welcome and brief business meeting

9:15-10:30: Lifting the Chill in the Writing Classroom

In recent years the writing classroom has become more academic and less student-centered. Real choice in writing has become an endangered species. I’ll talk about how teachers can bring back the spark and sizzle to the writing classroom. This session will springboard off my book Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact Low-Stakes Writing (Heinemann).

11:00-12:00 How Mentor Texts Lift Student Writing

Young writers need vision to get an idea of what good writing looks and feels and sounds like. The writing in a classroom can only be as strong as the literature that surrounds, supports, and buoys it up. This session will build on my book Mentor Author, Mentor Texts (Heinemann).  It will include a short writing exercise.

12:00-1:00 Luncheon and Awards

1:00-2:00 Engaging Boy Writers

 Empirical and anecdotal evidence shows that boys struggle in writing classrooms. Why is this so? What specific challenges (such as handwriting) handicap boys? How can we widen the circle and make the writing classroom a place where boys  can find their stride as writers? Ralph is the author of Boy Writers: Reclaiming Their Voices. 

2:00-2:45 Using Photography to Teach Writing

The world is becoming more visual. Students author their lives not with notebooks and pens but through the photos they take on their cellphones. The lexicon of photography (angle, focus, background, zoom) provides a language that is concrete and familiar to students, and one that will make it easier for us to explain the craft of writing. Ralph’s newest professional book is Focus Lessons: How Photography Can Illuminate the Teaching of Writing (Heinemann). 
Register on the Spring Conference page.


Thinking about My Writerly Self

Ellen A. Thompson , Ed. D

Ellen reading her book at a Room 6 Author’s Tea…long, long ago!

Am I a writer? 

What is a writer?

noun. a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist. a clerk, scribe, or the like. … a person who writes or is able to write: a writer in script.

Well, I can write in cursive – sort of.  I’ve always wanted to write using calligraphy.  I even bought the book and the ink and the nibs.  Still in the box.

I write a lot for others, but not so much for me.  Does that matter?  Should it?  This pandemic has made me more philosophical.  I question things more.  Am I a writer?  Or am I someone who writes?  There’s the question!

In 2nd grade I was a writer!  Really, I was.  My second grade teacher, Miss Connolly told me so and I believed her!  There.  She let me write all day long, anything I wanted to write!  I made up comics and stories.  I wrote informational books.  To this day, I am still not sure why she let me write so much.  My cynical self thinks she was taking a writing course and she needed student examples to get a good grade.  Did teachers take writing courses in 1962?  I don’t have any of the stories, so either Miss Connolly kept them all or my mom got rid of them in one of her annual purges of all things fun.  

I remember that feeling of putting the words down on paper and then reading them aloud to anyone who would listen.  I had one school chum who wrote along with me most of the time, so we were each other’s audience.  The other kids were doing regular second grade stuff, but not me.  I was writing!

It all seems fishy to me now.  I have a feeling I was one of those “smart” kids and not afraid to show it. Writing probably kept me quiet.  Could that be the real story?  My teacher needed a break, so she let me do what I loved best – write.  And read.  I was a voracious reader, too.  So many models for so much more writing to create.

Hmmm.  My destiny as a writer shaped by my vocality as a kid.  Could it be? Perhaps I have always had something I wanted to say.  Makes sense.  Writing does that for us.  It allows us to consider and reconsider our thoughts and ideas.  To make them measure up for others to see.  I know when I write now, I rewrite and start again many times.  This blog post has been in the making for months!  In fact I even missed my own superimposed deadline for getting it on the webpage.  Writing is also frightening at times. Will my words make sense? Do my words matter?  To me?  To anyone else?

So if I think about my journey as a writer, I have to consider all the kids who are just starting their own writerly quest and be sure that I am emparting what I have learned about myself as a writer.

  • Do our words matter?  Yes.
  • Is writing for others part of “writing”?  Yes.
  • Do writers’ need an audience for their writing?  Yes.
  • Do writers; need validation and feedback for their writing?  Yes.
  • Do writers’ need models of really good writing?  Yes.
  • Can we create our very own writerly self?  Yes.

It takes time to be a writer.  Everyone’s journey will be different, yet surprisingly the same.  We need others to support our progress and reflection.  We need to understand the myriad of ways words can be placed on the printed page.  We need time to develop as readers and writers.

Thank you, Linda Rief for inspiring me to get this post on the page!


The Dance of Personalization in Literacy

Written by: Chrissy Park

Changing the Way We Think 

As educators, we get used to teaching our units the same way each year. We rely on the greats to show us how to teach literacy using a balanced literacy approach. Jennifer Serevello, Lucy Calkins, Linda Reif, Lester Lamanick, and so many others have shown us systems, programs, and strategies to teach literacy concepts to children. Over and over again they have proven to be effective in teaching literacy to children and we have seen growth year after year. 

The one thing that all these greats have in common? They do not know our students. They are not in our classrooms and our students do not know them. We do not need to throw these great works out, we need to change the way we think about them. We need to include our students in their learning and allow them to understand how what they are learning connects with the world around them. The key to doing this? Personalizing children’s learning so they choose their own learning path, their learning targets, and understand how it connects to the world around them. 

Using Playlists to Personalize 

Over the last couple years I have been thinking about how to use personalization with elementary students, while also incorporating all the elements of a balanced literacy approach. Through working with the Tarrant Institute and Learning Lab I have gained the skills to create playlists in order to incorporate all these elements. These playlists are a way to restructure independent work time in your workshop block. It acts as a guide for children while the teacher is working with small groups and conferencing with students. They allow students who understand skills to move ahead and try skills that have not been taught in a mini-lesson yet. They also allow students who might need more time and practice with a skill to get that practice. They allow for true differentiation and personalization. 

What is a playlist? A playlist is a self guided path where students can choose skills and targets that they feel they need to work on. In this example of a 3rd Grade Nonfiction Playlist, students work on finding the main idea and supporting details as one of the skills in their path. They choose a learning target that fits where they feel they are at with that skill. After, they choose a resource and complete the activity that matches their learning target. Once finished with the activity, they submit their work on whichever platform the teacher is using and complete the reflection questions (For this playlist the platform used was Seesaw. Google Classroom and Google Slides also work well). Here is another example of a 5th Grade Nonfiction Playlist with different reflection questions. 

Incorporating Social Justice 

This year I realized that these playlists also lend themselves well to reflection around social justice topics. Using Learning For Justice, I adapted their Social Justice Standards into scales for my students to reflect on. The students used a playlist to explore topics like diversity, justice, and taking action. They reflected on these deep topics and conversations using book creator as a way to create their own Social Justice Reflection Journal. 

Playlists can also be used to teach mini-units or used for one week to highlight a social justice topic or event. For example, this year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day my students completed a one week playlist focused around equality. They looked at songs, past and present, and reflected on how they represented inequalities throughout history. This was a way for them to connect our classroom conversations with some self guided reflection around the topic of equality and inequality in our society. 

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance” ~ Alan Watts

Making 'Real-Time' Personalization Possible | MarTech Advisor

Over the last two years using these playlists I have seen a change in my students. They are excited for our literacy time and motivated to try out new targets after they have mastered one. They are more self-directed and they understand how their learning is connected to the world around them. Educators can feel that there is always something new to try and it can be overwhelming to do it all. I invite you to think of this as not something new, but a way to organize all the work your students have already been doing. I invite you to see the magic when your students are excited to push their thinking and work harder when given feedback. Most importantly, I invite you to join the dance called personalization. 

Chrissy Park is a classroom teacher at Burke Town School in Burke, Vermont.