Thursday, December 15, 2016

DIY Literacy Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence

Last month I travelled with DIY Literacy Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, enjoying it all.  I had recently heard Kate speak at our local Literacy Connection session and wanted to dig in deeper.  If you are looking for a little professional nudge, over the upcoming winter break then this book might be for you to look at.  I felt more positive, hopeful, and gathered some tips to make my own work and the work of my students more meaningful.

These are nudges I found to try within my own work.

- start demonstration notebooks to show students how during conferencing and not just in literacy, try one for math
- get the teaching tools off the walls and into the hands of students with bookmarks
- personalize bookmarks with strategies and steps to help students own the learning
- carefully think about the how to demonstrate bigger strategy ideas
- try micro-progression to show the desired outcome and journey learners can take

Here are some quotes that are sticking with me and might interest you in looking at this book more.

"True learning happens when students get the instruction that fits their needs, have the agency and motivation to work hard, and remember and recycle what they've learned."

"Research also shows that people who write down their goals and share them with others are 33 percent more successful in accomplishing these goals."

"Each tool focuses on a skill students need (what they need to learn to do better) and strategies (ways to help students learn and perform that skill on their own).

"Your students can be more thoughtful about what strategies they use in their reading and writing, and they can hold onto your teaching as time goes on.  They just need a little help."

"When we find ways to differentiate our teaching the conserve our energy, we are able to do more than just deliver lessons."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tending to our Hearts {Slice of Life}

It's falling at a light steady pace.  There's a rhythm and a sense of calm within my sight.  A glistening brightness is covering our view.  It starts to call my name.   I find out it's inside recess and that doesn't feel right.  The temperature is warm enough and I wrestle with a few thoughts.  Sure there's an accumulation on the ground.  Sure the playground is not black.  Sure the students don't have boots.  Then my thoughts stop wrestling and I listened to my heart.

Students need fresh air.  Students need to be free.  Students need to be kids.  Students need to run, giggle and embrace the magic that is happening outside.   We snuck outside for 10 minutes and those ten minutes were filled with joy, laughter, excitement, smiles, and delight.  My heart was fuller and I like to think I took time to tend to the hearts of my students.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers group for hosting our writing community and you can enjoy other slices from today by stopping by the link provided.  Thank you for stopping by. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

It's More than Okay it's... {Slice of Life}

"Saying no, is self care."

I stop and wonder, what did Nancy Jane Smith just say to me?  She gives a few examples of how and why we might say no to doing things during the holidays and then this - "It's a form of self-care, so reminding yourself that you are taking care of yourself by limiting all the activities you're engaging in."

And then, while I continue to paint my master bathroom I have a little conversation with myself as the brush goes up and down, side to side.  It's okay I said no yesterday and didn't go to work.  It's okay I stayed home when the day before I was hoping my voice could make it through a bare minimum mini-lesson.  It's okay I took a day off from work because I was sick and not someone else in my family.  I was doing self care!  It's more than okay I was doing self care!

Slice of Life PS - Painting is a great way to catch up on podcasts!  Nancy Jane Smith can be found at Stories From a Quest to Live Happier podcast and here is the transcript for the episode I am referring to.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers group for hosting our writing community and you can enjoy other slices from today by stopping by the link provided.  Thank you for stopping by. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Writing and Erasing Do Go Together {Slice of Life}

Paper.  Pencil.  Time at the airport.  

It's been a long time since I wrote anything in length without a keyboard.  My longest paper pencil piece of late might just be - "Mom and the dogs are out for a walk."  I had clearly decided to leave my laptop home for this trip and knew I had an article idea to play around with.  I found a comfortable spot.  I pulled out my new notebook, my mechanical pencil, and started writing.

The writing was flowing and then I needed a revision.  I saw a need to use different words.  This was a brand new notebook.  I didn't want to cross out and keep going.  I tell my students this all the time.   I know it's okay to cross out and keep going.  I knew I should practice what I "preach" but  I was actually quite proud how neat my handwriting was and I didn't want to change that look.  My problem wasn't going away, my words needed to be revised and moved around.   I decided this was my notebook and I knew how I wanted it to look so I used the eraser to revise my words.  This felt very awkward to me.  I had to remind myself an eraser is like the backspace button on my keyboard.  I consciously decided to use my pencil eraser a few more times and was very pleased with the results.  I actually liked using an eraser.  My writing was still neat, my thoughts were clearer,  and the eraser had become a great tool to have.

This may not seem like a big writing decision; erase vs cross out, but it was a struggle.   I encourage my students to cross out and keep writing; it keeps their ideas flowing, focused, and the erasers are used up really quickly otherwise with plenty of led to be used.  I never get out the pink eraser blocks from my closet because it's one more thing to think about, keep track of, and I think writing decisions can be made too quickly because erasing is easy.  However, on this day my ideas kept flowing, they were focused and the eraser was helpful.  Maybe my classroom writers need erasers as an option beyond the one on the pencil that gets used up too quickly.  

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers group for hosting our writing community and you can enjoy other slices from today by stopping by the link provided.  Thank you for stopping 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Ultimate Goal of Planning {Slice of Life}

"So, you're a teacher?"

"Yes, I am."

"Good for you," with a pat to my knee.

I shared I'm currently teaching second grade and the conversation went back and forth a bit in a predictable pattern of how cute the students are and interested in learning.  Then this dear, kind, older gentleman went on to tell me how much he liked learning math, especially geometry.  His teacher gave them an assignment one time to prepare a lesson to teach others.  He had fun doing this assignment and always thought fourth grade would be a fun age to teach.  

This past weekend at NCTE, Ernest Morrell encouraged a packed house to think about our planning. "Have you created that unit, where they will tell their grandkids."  He calls this the grandchildren test.  Maybe we should name it something more global.  I had a gentleman in his eighties tell a complete stranger about a math project from his own school days.  Not a story from one of his five children that are grown adults but from his own experience.  

Here are some ideas to ponder as we plan units...
Have you created that unit, the stranger test?
Have you created that unit, the airplane neighbor test?
Have you created that unit, that will make someone sixty years later smile and tell their story?  

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers group for hosting our writing community and you can enjoy other slices from today by stopping by the link provided.  Thank you for stopping by.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Top Ten Things I Heard that Filled My Heart at #NCTE16

As I sat in the Atlanta, GA airport last night I looked around at the nine of us visiting with each other and thought I leave with a full heart.  My heart is full because I felt encouragement, hope, and warmth while I attended NCTE.  Yes, the temperature was warm when we landed in Atlanta and enjoyed our lunch outside but the warmth in my heart is from spending time with friends.   

Friends is defined at as; a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard or a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter:

These definitions help me make sense of why my heart is full.  I spent time with old, new, and wanna be friends.  I passed lots of strangers but I never felt uncomfortable. I felt this year especially, the NCTE planning committee, volunteers, and attendees all came to give each other a lift because we do have common feelings about the work we do and live within our classrooms and out of our classrooms.

This list of Top Ten Things I Heard that Filled My Heart at #NCTE16 will just touch the surface from my two days, if you would like to know more about something let me know.

10.  "Words alone can make a story hard to figure out but illustrations help pull the story through." - Erin Stead.  She gave an example of just the words for a picture book without the illustrations; typed on one page and then we read the words with the illustrations spread across pages.  The meaning was truly stretched and strengthened.

9.  "It's not about a level, it's about a process.  We want the same effort for print and meaning strategies.  They often become unbalanced." - Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins

8.  Author, Kate Kine hated hyphenated words as a young reader and now she makes sure they don't show up in the books she's writing.

7. Matt Glover encouraged teachers to give students choice for the type of genre they want to write and not just topic choice within a school year, and shared several examples of just how powerful this is. 

6. "Conferencing gets to the heart of lifelong reading." - Karen Biggs Tucker

5.  "Trust your wisdom and connect it to observation and data ." - Terry Thompson

4.  "Our job is to watch, to notice and listen so closely, so we can connect those dots." - Tammy Mulligan and Claire Landrigan

3.  We often feed into their weaknesses, why not feed into their strengths.  We saw an example where painting led to powerful writing.  "I chose orange it makes me think of disappointment."  Cheryl Tyler

2.  "Creating is not magic, creating is for everyone." - Bill Bass

1.  "Students need to read powerful stories of the human condition.  Courage is not something you say but something you manifest." - Ernest Morrill

Monday, November 14, 2016

Learning with Kate Roberts and The Literacy Connection

This past Saturday, I took time to learn with our local professional group The Literacy Connection and Kate Roberts.  Kate Roberts came to spend time with us as we think through her new book, DIY Literacy.  Kate is delightful, uplifting, and offers sound advice as we think about instructing our students in reading and writing.  The only downside to our day together was the lack of wifi which limited our tweets for sharing our learning.  While it was great to stay in the moment, I might have shared these thoughts.

Look for the moments when you are frustrated and/or you say things in your head, I've already done this or said that - that's when a tool might be needed.

We want tools to be personal, responsive, supportive and lead to independence.

We have this weird idea – kids should be working really hard all day, its not healthy or necessary.

A bit part of tool making is personal, it isn’t perfect.

More tools are better than perfect tools.

I know this past summer the #cyberpd community read this book and had lots of grand discussions around it.  Authors Kate and Maggie released some wonderful videos at the website for readers to watch.  I have a confession, because this book is marketed for third grade and up I didn't order it for my summer pd stack.  I knew I was missing out on something but was determined to stick to my already purchased reading plan.  I think this book is going in my bags to #ncte16.  I'm so excited to read and learn more about demonstration notebooks, learning progressions, and chart planning.

Kate will be back in the spring, if you are local and would like to hear her speak.